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I hope this is okay to post here, but it concerns the loss of a spouse so I figured it might generate some helpful responses. I had written recently that our small neighborhood lost a wonderful man in a tragic hiking incident. They buried him yesterday and as we watched the Mass via live streaming, one couldn't help but feel that our neighbor was really a remarkable person. He was giving, generous, loving and devoted to his faith and family. In fact, we learned that the day he died he'd been going up to the White Mountains of NH to practice and get in shape so that he could be ready to join his adult son on future hikes. 

His widow has handled things with grace in the aftermath, but now that the services are over and the family has mostly departed (she has an adult daughter staying with her for the next few weeks), I'm wondering how do you approach her? When should one reach out? No one wants to intrude of course, but then we want her to know we're here for her when the time is right. As others on this forum have lost a spouse, would you be able to share how folks approached you in the aftermath? I know that in a few short weeks with Spring upon us, we'll expect to see our neighbor tending to her flowers out front. Is a simple hello enough? Do you ask how the person is doing? I don't know what to say. 

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Many of my neighbors dropped by with a meal.  I can't tell you how helpful this was, for me, as I certainly wasn't in the frame of mind to even think about eating.

Most remarked "let me know if you need something."  This was so generous, but it leaves the "letting" in my court.  And of course, many of us at this onset really don't want to burden anyone by asking.  Or perhaps mention you're going to the grocery store and ask if she needs anything while you're there.  Small gestures like this.

So I would say drop off a meal.  Check in with the person once in a while, simply by phone call.  Just to say hi and let them know you are thinking of them.  And if the conversation goes nowhere, that's okay.  The gesture of reaching out is meaningful, trust me.  

I would say don't ask how they're doing.  Us widows/widowers know how we're doing.....  Just a show of friendship and knowing that you're thought of goes a long way.  

As I worked in my yard during the after months, neighbors would remark how beautiful my yard looked.  Made me feel noticed.  And sometimes we just don't feel noticed because people don't know what to say.  And that's not their fault at all.

I hope this helps.

Shirley

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4 hours ago, PhotoGuy said:

No one wants to intrude of course, but then we want her to know we're here for her

That fear of intruding stops many from being there and that's what they need...take your cues from her and realize that her response may evolve even as her grief and adjusting do.  In my situation, ALL of our friends disappeared overnight!  My husband's closest friends moved and left no forwarding.  Other said "call anytime" and when I did they said they'd call back...and didn't.  Others said "If there's anything we can do to help you, let us know."  But when my sink clogged up I called a very capable man in our church for help and he said "No."  My two best friends didn't even bother attending his funeral and no they did not have prior plans.  Needless to say this whole thing rewrote my address book.  I not only was dealing with loss of my husband but had to start all over again building friendships and support network!

My advice would be to stop by with a small gesture (casserole? flowers? Card?) or an offer for something specific, like mowing the lawn.  My sister is disabled and her neighbors were great, one brings her mail to her (it's 1 1/2 blocks down from her, across the highway, she doesn't drive), another takes her garbage to the can when she sets it on the porch.  Another installed a ramp.  People have been great with her, her friend and I give her rides.
Cliches of Grief - Avoiding the
Helpful-NOT!
Help another in grief

My mom (widowed 32 years) loved that I brought up my dad and talked about him.  She said so many acted like he never existed.  I know I appreciated so much someone bringing up my husband and recounting memories, saying nice things about him.  It helped me realize that I'm not alone in my valuing him.

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It sucks that no one seems to want to talk about Annette. For a couple of weeks, her sister shared some anacdotes about their childhood, and it was awesome, but that stopped. It seems that it's too difficult for her to deal with. Even her Dad is limited in talking about her. He'd rather talk about his dumb step-grandson. And she's all I want to talk about. 

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7 hours ago, shebert56 said:

I would say don't ask how they're doing.  Us widows/widowers know how we're doing..... 

I found people asking was helpful.  It was the ones that didn’t talk about him or address how my life really was harder to deal with.  I needed to know people wanted to know how I was feeling while I was grappling with the sudden being alone after decades with him.  I really valued those that weren’t put off by my crying and confusion.  All the whys I asked.  
 

I always cued off the person.  If they didn’t ask, I didn’t push it.  If they did I felt much better knowing I could talk if I wanted to.  Tho there were some that really didn’t want to know.  It definitely is a most confusing and tumultuous time.  
 

I turned away most meals an offers mostly because I didn’t want to attempt being social.  I may have hurried it along, but like Kay, people started to disappear fast.  I’m thinking about a month or two they stopped calling and I didn’t reach out to them.  I didn’t know what I was doing or wanted beyond this being some kind of nightmare I would hopefully wake up from.  Of course, that’s never happened.

I think your neighbor might like your asking how she is.  All it takes is a try and see how she reacts.  You mentioned things about her husband.  She may like to hear those were seen by others.   I think if you approach her when you see her, you can ask and get your answer.  She has her daughter now, but is facing a huge life change forever by herself when she leaves.  They’ll be in touch, but she’ll be alone physically and that is very hard to get used to.  I know I really appreciated my neighbors who were very helpful knowing they cared.  You have nothing to lose, could make a huge difference or find she just needs light interaction without that being brought up.  I hope you give her the choice.


 

 

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Thanks so much for the replies. This is really helpful. My wife lost her older sister a year before we met in college. She said her friends abandoned her, except for one. Since posting my question earlier today, I can tell you that we're setting up a series of visits amongst various neighbors, and each of us will bring a meal when we come. This neighborhood is so caring. They really do seem to rally around one another. Thanks for all the advice and for sharing your experiences.

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It is great that you live in such a caring neighborhood.  Mine is too but no one comes to visit, instead it's me checking on people, but everyone is friendly.  It wasn't that way years ago when my George died.  II think what you guys are doing will definitely mean a lot to her!  Kudos to all of you!

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One of our neighbors set up a Google Sheets calendar and we have folks signing up to bring meals to our neighbor over the next six weeks. Virtually the entire schedule was filled within a day or so. Nice to see this. One of our neighbors already has a breakfast date with the one who lost her spouse, just to get her out and talking to others again.

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That is so great!

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