A colleague, Joan Price, recently lost her beloved husband, Robert. Many folks she encountered found it hard to say the right thing and too often she was asked, “How are you doing?" Joan wondered, “What was I supposed to answer? The truth was ‘Horrible, of course!’ but I restrained myself."

I asked Joan to share what she wished folks had said so we could learn how to better communicate with a grieving spouse. Joan reminded me that we each grieve differently and statements that she liked might not work as well with others. But these are her heartfelt suggestions:

1. “Tell me about him.”
With people who didn’t know him or barely knew him, this is a wonderful opening for me to talk about him.

2. “I miss him, too.”
From people who did know him, this is the perfect thing to say.

3. “Here’s what I loved about him” or “Here’s something special he did that I’ll always remember.”
How beautiful to add to my memories of him during this time.

Thanks, Joan!


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons / It's JoJo

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Comment by Laura D. Bannister on October 16, 2012 at 8:13pm

I was married to my husband for 31 years, and it seems that his family couldn't be more glad that I am out of their family now.  My own 3 boys seem to think I am just a burden to them.  They took all his things, and left me to do my own thing.  Well, I don't know what my own thing is.  I married him at 17 yrs old.  I did not date prior to him.  Of course, I had boyfriends, but not dates.  Just school crushes and so forth.  My husband Pete, was very active in motorcycle racing.  I just went to basically support him and my boys.   We really did not live for us, ever.  I miss him so much, I don't know how to express it to anyone.  Everyone in my family basically believes I should be over it soon!  It hasn't even been a year yet.  When my boys came up with the ideal of making his and mine headstone out of concrete, I couldn't have been prouder.  But when they all got together to set our headstone, they forgot one thing.  ME!  They told his mom, who didn't have anything to do with him while he was alive.  My daughter-in-law, whom he was not fond of either, got to be there, yet I who lived with this man for 31 yrs, had 3 children with and never missed his chemo appointments, not to mention everything else, was not told about the headstone being placed.  I thought they thought I died too.  Or maybe they wished I did.  I know I wish it was me instead of him, but it wasn't.  He was a heavy smoker, and I begged him to quit.  I lost my mother to cigarettes also.  Why is it okay to kill yourself that way, but not ok to just check out yourself.  I know the answer to that.  I am just putting it out there.  I tried grief consoling, it was way too soon, I think.  I don't know how to handle anything right now.  I am so lost, hurt and confused I don't know what to do next.

Comment by Maximo Lopez Jr on March 22, 2012 at 2:07pm

It has been helpful for me to hear "I miss her too.", it helped me to feel and not just know I'm not alone.  I've been comforted by all three of those statements at some point, what was not helpful was hearing someone give me a statistic on how long people grieve for a spouse especially since I wasn't looking for that.  What was helpful was my family was there when I needed them, and found comfort with old friends.  Those are the people who said those statements listed in this discussion, others seem to find a way with a tacit, I'm thankful the people who cared were there.  I lost my wife on June 26, 2008, I was right by her side, "Till death do you part.", I worked with everything else in my vows; but this, who would have figured?

Comment by Marsha J. Trent on March 21, 2011 at 7:21am

My best friend, my husband, died on July 31, 2009 and it seem as though it was only yestesday.  He died suddenly of a heart attack.  I really can't get pass that. I talk to him at 10:00am and 10:30am he was gone.  We were together for 33 years and I can't seem to adjust, but with the Grace of God I am trying really hard. Our son just graduated from college in December 2010 and he wasn't around to see that and that is all he every wanted was for our daughter and son to do well.  He enjoyed life and I know that he is with the Lord, but I truly would love to have him back with me.  We were just in the prime of our life.  Now I am all alone, will be retiring soon and don't want to be alone.  People are always telling me that it will get better.  They only thing that has gotten better is that I don't cry myself to sleep every night.  But the loneliness, and the true love that we had for each other will never be again.  I'm in a place where I do not want to be but I am learning to take one second of each day and not to sweat the small stuff, believe in god and everything else will fall into place. I am trying Lord each and everyday.

Comment by Gail R on February 22, 2011 at 3:01am
One of the best things that people would say to me is how much they knew he loved me. I know he loved me and he showed me but to hear others say how he shared with them how much he loved me really helps me. Also when they say how much they miss him also helps. He was a wonderful Husband, Father, Brother, Son and especially a wonderful "Big Daddy" (grandfather). His Grandchildren loved him to death and still when they see pictures of him they say "Big Daddy". I love to hear how much everyone loved him.
Comment by Pat Dunning on May 1, 2010 at 8:48pm
I lost my husband of almost 34 years in April of 2008. He was my best friend and I miss him terribly. It helps me when people tell me that they miss him too or share stories about him. I need to know that I am not the only one that misses him.
Comment by Brenda Van Ness on April 1, 2010 at 1:10pm
My sweetie passed away on December 14, 2008 and I still miss him terribly. We were married 4 days shy of 41 years and he was my best friend. We told each other everything and I miss our talks and looking into those beautiful blue eyes every minute of every day. I still have crying spells just thinking of him. I retired from my job as I couldn't bear to be away from home anymore. He found out in June 2008 that he had colon cancer and he was gone in December. Being alone has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life as I never was "on my own" before. I'm lucky to have my sons with me as they help me get me through each day. I would give anything to have him back even for one minute.
Comment by Yaca Attwood on August 13, 2009 at 8:03am
I miss my sweetie pie - he died on 29 June 2009, of liver disease. He had been so sick, for so long - he had severe psoriatic arthritis, muscular atrophy, hepatic encephalopathy, anemia, jaundice - a plethora of ailments. He insisted upon working nearly until the end - he hadn't been able to walk for over a year, so I had to get him on and off his scooter, and pick him up when he fell; I ended up having to change him (it is one thing to change a 5-month old, it is another to change a 55-year-old man [the changee is waaay heavier!]) I was relieved that his suffering came to an end, but I miss him so - I miss his sense of humor, his intelligence, his smell (he had such a comforting, manly aroma that just comforted me), his soft, soothing voice - I just miss _him_. I am alone now - I am able to go to work (I am a database administrator), but then I get home - and he isn't there
Comment by Diamond on July 30, 2009 at 7:46pm
When you have a mate that is so special that they are also your "friend" - it is the most beautiful relationship one can have. The words at Revelation 21:3,4 should be of some comfort to you. You are not alone you can always count on God.
Comment by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 13, 2009 at 7:22pm
I am so very sorry for your loss Julz. You and your mom will need time to process the loss. The best thing you can do for your mom is to love her unconditionally and keep the lines of communications open. Ask her what she needs and what you can do for her, but don't be surprised if she doesn't know. She's going to need to work through her grief and her feelings and needs will change - yours too. There is lots to read on LegacyConnect and different perspectives will give you insight and help you through your grief. Sending my sincere condolences to you and your mom.
Comment by Julz on July 10, 2009 at 11:29pm
My daddy died this week of a sudden heart attack and was gone within 30 minutes. We had no warning, no sickness, not even enough time to make it to the hospital to say goodbye. My heart is broken. Even though I'm 36 I was blessed to live within a mile of my dad my whole life. He stopped by at least twice a week just to tell me and my kids that he loved us. I'm so incredibly sad but mostly for my mom. They have been married since she was 15 and he was 16. For 42 years they have done life together. I would love support or encouragement about how to walk thru this with her. I would be there every stinkin minute if I thought that were healthy but I know this a road she has to walk with the Lord most of the time and rejoice when she lets me hold her hand. Even tonight leaving her house I could just see a zombie stare of disbelief. We are strong believers in the Lord and are comforted that HE is in a much better place and that this is temporary but what do I do to support her the best? Love and prayers to you all in this journey.

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