Today I offer four tips on responding to death from my viewpoint as a recent widow. My words are not a template for dealing with a similar situation in your life. However, it may help you make decisions when you don’t know what to say or do.
Some Background First
My husband died one week ago. He taught history at the high school I attended and lived in the area his entire life.
His death marks my second time as a widow. You might think it would get easier, but it doesn’t. Nor is it a similar experience. For me, this is proof that dealing with the death of a close loved one is unique for each person, each occurrence.
Although I’m writing through the lens of my own experience, I feel it may help you in your experiences.
Four Tips on Responding to Death
- Above all else, respect the surviving spouse.
- Look into your heart before you act.
- Reach out with a loving, personal memory of the loved one.
- Listen without judgment.
Respecting the Spouse
Losing a spouse is about as intimate as it gets. No one else knows the reality they are facing. The first days are tough, both from an emotional standpoint and a logistical one. Shock has always been my first reaction. My reaction to shock is action. Even so, it’s challenging to sift through all the possible steps to take.
By respecting the spouse, you allow them to take the time they need. Furthermore, you communicate with them before acting yourself. The reason is simple. Your actions may further complicate and add unneeded stress.
Look Into Your Heart Before Acting
Even though we are all different, some things are universal. We often do something for a less than loving reason. However, if you can take a few moments after you hear the news of the passing to take some deep breaths and honestly ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Is it out of love or something else?” Then, consider how to best show support and love for all concerned.
Share a Loving Personal Memory
The sweetest moment this past week was a text I received from one of my husband’s close friends.
“For what it’s worth, he expressed to me his joy at reconnecting with you, despite me breaking his b-$$s about it.”
Of course, my first response was a smile and then a warm feeling in my heart. Next, my day suddenly grew even brighter when I read a Facebook message from a student who shared her favorite memory.
Listen Without Judgment
I know a lot about judgment. It’s taken me most of my life to release a great deal of it. But unfortunately, for many of us, stressful situations allow judgment to resurface.
As I spoke or texted with multiple friends, I found that if they judged me, I reacted negatively. However, my resentment softened and disappeared when they allowed me to let it out and gave me loving examples of what the person who judged me may have felt.
There are so many sources of stress and upset in our lives. Most of them are from situations outside our control. Although losing a loved one is inevitable, we always choose our words and actions. May peace and understanding be your guide as you navigate loss within your challenging situation.