You may already know how difficult it is for a grieving spouse to go to the cemetery after the funeral. But did you know that they might want your company? I didn’t. This was one of the things that surprised me when I recently spoke with bereaved spouses. Here are some other things bereaved spouses want you to know:
- The most helpful thing may be to check in after the funeral, and in the weeks and months ahead. Nothing elaborate is needed; a handwritten note or an email that says: ”Thinking of you and missing you.” If you want to visit, be specific; a phone call, phone message, or email that says: ”Don’t want to intrude but I’d love to see you. Thursday and Friday evening work for me. How about you?” Or, “Miss you. Can I bring lunch on Saturday or Sunday?”
- A bereaved spouse may compound their grief by second guessing whether they could have made their deceased partner more comfortable, less fearful, or made their remaining time better. In your condolence messages and in person you can comfort them by sharing, “You were a wonderful partner and did everything you possibly could to take the best care of Michelle.”
- When making a post-funeral visit, it can be hard to know if the bereaved prefer to talk and want you to listen or, if they would like to hear a story about their loved one. So take your cues; begin by listening. If they are quiet, ask, “I have a wonderful story about Ed. Would you like to hear it?” If they say, “Yes,” tell it; “Maybe later,” is your cue to keep them company and wait until a more appropriate time to share your story.
- Spouses are partners. So it’s not uncommon for the surviving partner to have fears or challenges, or both, when facing the future. Ask, “What is your greatest challenge?” or, “Tell me what you are worried about.” But only do so if you are willing to listen.
- In the days and months following the death, all the bereaved have left are their memories. Add to their memories by sharing personal anecdotes and stories. They’ll be happy to hear their deceased partner’s name and will most likely welcome an opportunity to speak about them; if they demur, honor their wishes.
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 Store. Click here to order.