What can you do when someone loses a spouse? Cheryl Conklin of wellnesscentral.info has some practical advice, some of which involves preserving memories and treasures.
The death of a spouse is perhaps the most agonizing loss anyone can face. The hurt goes beyond the surviving partner to afflict friends and family as well. Erasing the grieving party’s pain is beyond the power of any human being. However, there are ways you can help those who’ve lost their beloved life companion.
After Someone Loses a Spouse, be there–Now and Down the Road
A grieving person often receives a mass outpouring of sympathy for the first few days and weeks after the death. She may get dozens or even hundreds of phone calls, letters, cards, and even gifts. In most cases, the level of support soon abates. People resume their daily lives while the survivor feels alone and abandoned.
Why does this happen? For most of us, the task of earning a living leaves us precious little time left to focus on family and social responsibilities.
Here are some practical ways to support a grieving loved one for as long as is needed:
- Writer Michael Lewis suggests you act as a gatekeeper between the surviving spouse and others. To understand why this is crucial, put yourself in the place of the grieving party. You’re exhausted, bewildered, and enraged. Your strength is ebbing and your personal defenses are almost nil. Do you really need the stress of playing hostess to a flood of faces, even friendly ones? No, you don’t. Those wishing to offer their condolences may have nothing but the noblest of intentions, but the needs of the survivor come first. Protect your loved one from feeling overwhelmed while he or she is emotionally vulnerable.
- After a while, when you feel the time is right, attempt to reintegrate the grieving person into the life of the community. Sooner or later, he or she will miss the companionship she enjoyed prior to her loss. Offer to help her reaffirm old friendships and associations (without pressuring her, of course). If she refuses, then accept her choice graciously.
- Withhold judgment as she expresses her feelings. Losing a loved one stirs up a myriad of emotions. Sometimes these take troubling forms. Those in mourning may show anger toward doctors, family members, the deceased, or even you. Let them do so; it’s all part of the grieving process. Your duty is to support them, not to evaluate or criticize.
- In her article for Huff-Post, author Christy Heitger-Ewing stresses that loved ones should resist the temptation to offer easy answers. We’ve all heard phrases like, “At least he’s in a better place,” “Be glad her suffering is over,” or “Heaven knows the reason, even if we don’t.” Avoid using those platitudes as a form of comfort. Some forms of loss defy quick solutions, including the death of a loved one.
Grief Support: Preserving Yesterday’s Treasures for Tomorrow
One way to help those who mourn is to preserve treasures of the past for the benefit of future generations. It’s these treasures that can offer comfort to someone in mourning, but they can also feel like a heavy weight and might need to be put away for safekeeping, especially if the mourner sells their home. You can be a boon to the bereaved by helping prepare necessary documents, organizing medical information, and safeguarding precious heirlooms from the ravages of time:
- Always wash your hands before handling documents and other paper records and avoid applying lotions or creams. You can also use white cotton gloves for added protection.
- Clean jewelry with a soft-bristled brush and mild soapy water, never with abrasives like toothpaste.
- Never press the pages of vintage books together tightly. This can crack the glue that helps hold the spine together.
- Refold antique quilts and other textiles several times a year. This will prevent crease lines that could damage the fibers.
Helping Memories Live On
One of the most therapeutic ways to honor the memory of a lost spouse is by helping the bereaved create a record of their memories. Helping your loved one write down memories to create a book, a scrapbook, recording memories on audio, or exploring their ancestry not only benefits them, but current and future generations as well.
Nothing can bring back the past, but the ideas here can help to make the present a little brighter. That’s something for both you and your loved one to keep in mind as your loved one looks to the future.
© Cheryl Conklin 2022
Cheryl Conklin is a hobbyist writer. She is also a blogger, adventurer, traveler, and creator of Wellness Central. She uses wellnesscentral.info to share her thoughts on wellness along with the great resources she finds on her own wellness journey.