This post is written to reflect the thoughts and feelings of a dear friend who was recently widowed. The statements are hers with some minor editing on my part. Not every sentiment expressed applies to every widow or widower or to every situation, but they are all reasons to stop and think.
She began her message to me with the words: "What NOT to do when a friend loses a spouse."
1. Don't start out by asking how he died and especially not where he died.
2. Don't assume that someone always uses e-mail. A phone call and a friendly voice are nice.
3. Don't start diagnosing what was wrong with him. It doesn't matter anymore.
4. Don't say "If he had just quit ....." It's beside the point, he's already gone.
5. Don't start asking what I'm going to do with his belongings before he's even in the ground.
6. When the obituary says "In lieu of flowers"...pay attention.
7. Don't ask what he was wearing when he died. Really??
8. Do bring food and sweets. Do use disposable containers.
9. Don't ask for something to remember the person by. The widow/er have already lost enough.
10. Don't post pictures of the deceased on social media. The surviving spouse may not be ready to see them.
11. Don't ask what you can do. Pick up a spare pack of toilet paper...the question is too hard to think about or answer.
12. Don't ask the widow/er to find photos for you. They already have too much to deal with.
13. If you had issues with the deceased, now is not the time to discuss them.
14. Do share wonderful, funny stories. The widow/er needs to hear them.
15. If you're going to fall apart, do it away from the widow/er. They are trying too hard to keep themselves together to have to worry about you.
16. Do give helpful, small gifts. Thank you notes, stamps, snacks, notepads.
17. Respect someone's space when their loved one has passed. Everyone grieves in their own way. Don't assume you know what is best for them.
18. Make yourself available and let the surviving spouse decide what they need and when.
19. Offer to make phone calls if the widow/er has no close family nearby to assist them.
20. Call and say you are heading to the grocery store. Is there anything you can pick up while you are there? If they are unable to think of anything specific, grab some basics for them.
My friend and I are in different states. This was the thing I could do for her. I know it helped her to be able to get it out there.