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How to Treat a Newly Widowed Person

Updated on August 1, 2013


"Tomb" by tiverylucky
"Tomb" by tiverylucky | Source

The Newly Widowed

When you are recently widowed, especially when your spouse died suddenly and unexpectedly, your mind is in turmoil, for, in an instant, your life completely changes. Not only have you lost your chosen partner, but everything that you and your spouse planned, hoped and dreamed dies too. Most people are sensitive and feeling however, some people say the very first thing that comes into their heads.

It is no comfort to tell the newly widowed that they are young and will find another mate, they do not want another, especially when their spouse died only weeks ago. The future is a dim and distant country, the newly widowed are stuck in the past and the terrible present, trying to swim through treacle.

There are many practical things that the newly widowed must do to secure their own survival in the light of the new and terrible circumstances. They may seem to be coping well. Do not be fooled, the widows or widowers, who cry and show their feelings may be the ones that are, in reality, coping better than those who seem to be getting on with the things that need doing and coping amazingly. Those who seem to be coping may, once everything is done, can fall apart.

Be sensitive to how the newly widowed may feel and be tactful. Most people do not know what to do or say, when a friend or relative has lost their spouse, it is fine to put that into words and actually say that you do not know what to say or do. There may be practical ways in which you can show that you care. The newly widowed person may not be eating properly, cook them something tempting. He or she may appreciate your offering to accompany them to do the things that they need to do. Providing a listening ear and encouragement is also a comfort. As is doing something nice for the person. A card saying that you are thinking of him or her during this difficult time. All these things show the widowed person that you care. Perhaps you have some financial or legal skill, which could help the bereaved person navigate through the minefield of formalities that must be completed when someone dies or a practical skill that you could put to good use on the person’s behalf.

How to treat the newly widowed

People feel helpless when a friend or relative loses their spouse, sometimes friends and neighbours may cross the road to avoid, what they perceive as the difficulty of speaking to the newly widowed. However, although it may save you from social embarrassment, it is very hurtful to someone, who is already suffering huge pain. Acknowledge the person just as you would normally, be guided by his/her actions and words. S/he may want to talk about the lost spouse or s/he may want to stick to mundane or every day topics, follow his or her lead. It is fine to express your sorrow or shock, and acknowledge the death, but do not dwell on the topic unless the widowed person wishes to do so.

Treat the newly widowed just as you would anyone else, but perhaps with a little more sensitivity. Do not worry if the person cries and do not worry if they do not, both are perfectly normal reactions. Try to be empathetic without being overly mawkish. A newly widowed person has lost their partner, they have not suddenly grown two heads. S/he needs that little bit more sensitivity and compassion than usual, but s/he is still a human being needing whatever small comfort that others can provide.


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