Welcome to Widow(er) Wednesday, where I share what worked, what didn’t work and what could work better.
How to support the grieving: Don’t give up on your friends (Part 1)
Don’t give up on your friends. Invite them repeatedly to social functions. If they decline or cancel keep inviting them. If you’re concerned ask them directly if they want you to keep asking them.
Fact: Widowed in my late 40’s the assumption was always that I was either divorced or my husband was at home. When the truth was told, it was the bombshell that ended many a conversation. Run away, run away, feel awkward- it was written all over the assumers face. What was I supposed to do? Lie?
I was having a hard enough time coming to terms with the truth myself without having to lie so that the person inquiring wouldn’t feel bad. I flat out didn’t have the energy. In the end, I became one of those people who steered clear of meeting new people during those early years. No point in poking an open wound.
It’s often difficult to be in social situations when we are grieving. Some remind us of our loss because others are with their loved ones and we are not. Others, especially those that involve meeting new meeting people can be, as illustrated above, downright painful.
However, when I repeatedly declined invitations or cancelled, those doing the inviting often stopped asking. I’m not sure what story they were telling themselves: perhaps it was that I was no longer interested in being their friend. Sadly, this was not always the case. More often than not I was still hurting and didn’t have the strength to be “sociable.”
Fortunately, some of my friends didn’t give up on me. I will forever be grateful to the friend who simply asked me flat out after I’d declined several invitations to his new home “Do you want to come or not? Do you want me to stop asking you?” His directness gave me the opportunity to simply say “No. I really want to come. I just can’t be around a lot of people I’ve never met before yet. It’s hard for me to walk into a room and have to share the story of the last couple of years and to watch them look at me with shock. Please keep asking. I’m sure it will get easier. I do want to come”
Whew! How liberating to simply get it all out there. He heard and respected my truth. He also learned a bit more about what goes on when we grieve and I learned I could explain what was my reality and feel supported. He did continue to ask (because we had confirmed in that one conversation that we still wanted to be friends) and I did eventually make it to his place.
As a matter of fact, it was me who recently pulled the gang together for Sunday breakfast (new people included). It does happen. It just takes time. Good friends help to make it possible.
Bottom line: If someone you love and care about has lost someone they loved, do not stop inviting them to be part of your life. Invite repeatedly. Be conscious of the fact that loss is a hard story, especially in the early years and our lack of knowledge around what it means to grieve can make meeting new people painful. Know that, when they are healed enough they will show up.
Note: Setting up a one on one get together is always an option. When we think about it, it’s not so hard, is it?
P.S. If you’re having a hard time explaining to friends why you’re unable to be your former sociable self feel free to send them the link to this post. Feel free to use my words, anytime.
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