How to Help the Grieving

Written by Dr. Virgina A. Simpson in “What Grieving People Want You

To Know.”

How you can help me 

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more

comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk

about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get

comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know

when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You

can’t catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid

to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I

most need to be cared about. If you don’t know what to say, just come

over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, “I’m sorry.” You

can even say, “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and want you

to know that.”

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I

feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I’m just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel

that you don’t see me.

I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I’m not sick. I’m

grieving and that’s different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after

my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I will be over it in a year. For

I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was

with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for watching our

children and grandchildren grow, the places we will never get to go together, and the

hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled

and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my

loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and

love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be,

and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear.

Both are okay.

I don’t have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has

happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just

not acceptable.

When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and

alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don’t

make it worse by telling me I’m not doing this right.

Please don’t tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start

dating again. I’m not ready. And maybe I don’t want to. And besides,

what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren’t. Whoever comes

after will always be someone different.

I don’t even understand what you mean when you say, “You’ve got to get

on with your life.” My life is going on, I’ve been forced to take on

many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think

it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So

please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and

support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget

and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your

hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need

to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in

my own way, and in my own time.

Please don’t say, “Call me if you need anything.” I’ll never call you

because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could

do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you

some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.

(b) Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday, and the

anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can’t

make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the

opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach

out on this difficult day.

(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I

may so no at first or even for a while, but please don’t give up on me

because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you’ve given up

then I really will be alone.

(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples,

to walk into events alone, to go home alone, to feel out of place in the same situations

where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don’t judge me now – or think that I’m behaving strangely.

Remember I’m grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel

deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I’m

experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before and one that can’t

be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better and then suddenly I seem to

slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don’t

tell me you know how I feel, or that it’s time for me to get on with my

life. What I need now is time to grieve.

Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding. Thank

you for praying for me.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss – when you need

me as I have needed you – I will understand. And then I will come and be

with you.

22 thoughts on “How to Help the Grieving

  1. This is so very true! I wish I could share this with my daughter and siblings. I feel my Dad is the only who has experiencing the same loss. He lost my Mother more than 17 years ago, and although he has remarried I’m pretty sure it’s just for company. My beloved husband, Bill, has been gone four and a half years. I get so very lonely. However I know I’ll never remarry. Bill was definely (sp?) the best thing that ever happened to me. I will love and miss him until the day I die.

    Than you for this wonderful post.

  2. Thank you for this post of April 16, 2014. My husband, Joe, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on 11/17/14 and passed away on Christmas night. I’m devastated, my grown children are devastated. I’m lonely and so sad. Everything stated in the post is so true.

    • So sorry for your loss Laurie. I lost my husband of 32 years of lung cancer after 4 months of chemo and radiation. It was so fast. I feel like we were robbed of everything.
      It must be so hard for you. I felt like our lives spun out of control.
      I can only imagine how things were for you. I hope as days go by you have some comfort.
      My only solace is that Eric is no longer suffering.
      Prayers for you.

  3. Thank you for putting into words just how I am feeling! I lost my husband 6 months ago and I am numb and just going through the motions. He was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer on a Monday and died three weeks later to the day. My son was living in NYC doing an internship after graduating from college in May. He came home to see his Dad and my husband died four days later. My son left a job and apartment in NYC to come home and be with me. He just got a call from the agency he was working for a few weeks ago. They offered him a full time position as a junior copy writer. He is so excited about the job opportunity and is going to live with the same guys that he lived with last summer. It all just fell into place very quickly. It is a fresh start for my son and I am happy for him He left on Saturday. I am now alone and can’t believe that within 6 months of my life both of my guys are gone. I haven’t been able to stop crying. I am so out of shape and depressed. Also dealing with aging parents who need 24 hour care. And, my house is falling apart! Having trouble with plumbing and heat. I am currently dealing with a leaking ceiling in my dining room due to too much snow on my roof. Just so overwhelmed! And, miss my guys so much! Sorry that I am rambling! Just signed up for Onefitwidow and looking forward to the support and encouragement from other widows.

  4. Thank you for this, I will be sharing it with many. My daughter just lost her high school sweetheart. 14 years together and a beautiful 9 month old son that brings joy, moment after moment. God bless!! -the mother of a grieving beautiful daughter!

  5. This simply touched me so deep in places that I can’t even begin to explain. This described every part of what I have been feeling. I lost my fiance 6 months ago tragically in a motorcycle accident. We were one week shy of our wedding date. We also have a 3 year old son together. This is soooooo hard. This grieving process has really been tough, especially this month for some reason. All of a sudden my emotions have come tumbling down on me like a ton of bricks. I feel so lonely. I grieve for me, for my son, and for everything that could have been.

  6. My wonderful cousin sent me this to read. She lost her husband and her sister within one year. It explains so well what she is going through. She and I have become much closer and through this article I understand her even better. My only wish is that I have lived up to her expectations about what I can do for her even though we live 2000 miles apart.

  7. The most beautiful thing. all the things I feel. I almost feel as if I will disappear one day and no one will miss me. I blink in and out I can see myself in the mirror so I know I am still here. Every now and again I notice someone noticing me. It’s funny my husband passed away Feb.27, 2015 and people around me are already saying, you’ll be ok, no I won’t be ok. I know that and it’s ok. I sat out in the sun shine without him and it did not feel good that was something we did together. We would enjoy watch the sunset together. What people do not understand food does not taste the same. Life does not look the same. I just miss everything about him. Thank you for this post I will keep it and share it.

  8. It has been just over a year now since I lost the love of my life, my best friend, my husband of 52+ yrs. Last year was overwhelming — the grief, all the “stuff” to be handled and decisions. A year later, the “stuff” is settled, mostly, and some decisions are slowly being made but the grief and loneliness — no, they are there and more intense. Is it because there are less “must do” items? I don’t know. It just hurts so much. But it is friends like you who get me through each day and help me to remember the days of love and companionship. Thank you for being there and allowing me to share — albeit long distance.

  9. Thank you for this read when I needed it the most…now. I just lost my husband, father to my sons and most of all my best friend on 11/15/2018. It’s been 4 weeks and I’ve already been told, “You’re young….you’ll remarry….the boys will be fine” by his immediate family. The grief appears to belong to his Mother & his “actual” family will be just fine. My family & my extended family were his family & we’re completely devasted during this cancelled holiday season on our end. It appears some extended family members on his end move on quickly & have the most to say etc. since they played a very small role in his life. That’s where the anger lies when comments as mentioned in this article arise & stir up anger bottled up. My boys & I were Blessed to have the most wonderful caring man in our lives…that’s where I’ll go to heal. It’s one day at a time & there are days it’s one minute at a time. I’m grateful for these articles & sites to go to when I’m feeling grief beyond my control.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I’m so tired of people who still have their spouse telling me how to live, that grieving is a sin, that the need to make peace with God, move on, etc. There’s no getting over the loss of my husband. I know I will grieve for him til my dying day.

  11. Tomorrow would have been my 28th wedding anniversary. I lost my husband almost nine years ago. We found out he was cancer free on a Monday and on Thursday had a massive heart attack and never woke up. I miss him so much! Sometimes I still can’t even breath. January and July are the worst months of the year. I just want everyone to remember how great of a guy he was and I would give anything for that numb feeling again. I love each and everyone of you that have walked this path as well. God Bless!

  12. As we go through the motions of living , the pain and heartbreak of losing our loved ones, we do lose a part of ourselves in the process. All your dreams spin out of control, and you are left with memories. A truly great article.

  13. I am so sorry 😐 My husband has had a heart attack kidney cancer. He was in the military gone wounded he made it back. I still have him but each time he needs things happened my heart was broken I am lucky to have him right now we’ve been married almost 50 years. He still hanging on but it will hurt I know when my husband has had a heart attack kidney cancer. He was in the military gone wounded he made it back. I still have him but each time these things happened my heart was broke I am lucky to have him right now we’ve been married almost 50 years. He still hanging on but it will hurt goes. Thank you For sharing may the spirit to help you

  14. Although this appears to be an older post, it is so very true. 14 months have passed and I am still trying to find the person I am now as opposed to the one I was as part of a loving couple. I have had great help from a group I met at hospice, we are all in the same boat but not in the same place on our journey, but we try to help each other and we do understand what each is going through.

  15. Oh My Gosh! A dear friend gave me this article, and I cannot stop bawling. One month ago today my darling husband passed away after 16 years of chronic illness. My whole world is crumbling, and this essay articulates what I am unable to put into words! I miss him so much and am not really sad, because I know he’s much better off, but I miss him so! Thank you blessed woman for this beautiful prose.

  16. So true !! Hard to explain but this did quite a good job. Especially hard when your remaining family does not get it !! I not only lost my husband and friend…..I lost my remaining family as well. Which makes it worse !!

  17. Right now I can’t even breath! It’s pure hell!!! 4 months ago I lost my husband to mastacic brain cancer, love of my life! Everyone says there here for you! But all a lie!!!

  18. I lost my husband on Feb. 10, 2019. Seems like it’s been months. We were married36 years and he died of a heart attack in my arms. Took all of three minutes. I’ve never felt so alone and defeated. If it wasn’t for my five kids and my sister, I don’t think I would have made it.

Leave a Reply