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Dear Ones,

I think this post by Robin Moore (who blogs at Fresh Widow) is so important that I want to make sure you don't miss seeing it:

Say his name: the #1 tip, and my reality

A long time ago, I wrote this post in draft. It didn't get very far.

But the topic is MY NUMBER ONE TIP for how to help a widowed person: SAY THEIR NAME. And it's also why I HATE that everyone ELSE thinks the number one topic on "how to help" is what NOT to say to a widowed person. Everyone publishes the list of what not to say. Because it's good SEO. People WANT advice. Magazine editors think it's "not as depressing" as the actual articles about our lives after loss (WTF?). Even grief counselors and "community leaders" dig into this topic with zeal.

Which SUCKS because it spreads the idea that you should be afraid of saying the wrong thing about a widowed person, when the chief problem of most widowed people after about the first two months is that NO ONE WILL TALK TO THEM.

In general, widowed people feel isolated. Sometimes, they feel they must have leprosy because so many people avoid them. (Don't think we can't tell. For a while we're in a fog, but we can be very perceptive, too, and more than a little paranoid.) I often hear from friends and neighbors who "would like to help" that they are sure the widowed person's close friends and family are in some kind of inner circle and stick around and support the widow. Sometimes, the closest people feel the most threatened or fearful. Widowed people describe their communities "disappearing" around them after the casseroles end. It's not universal, but in the U.S. and Canada, the rearranged rolodex is THE most common complaint by far.

Well, it underlies the most common complaint: people acting awkward and saying stupid things. But the lists of "what not to say" don't help.

I, for one, do not want to encourage people to be frightened of someone who has lost a partner. Many widowed people (not most) know that stupid things are not intended to hurt them, but they feel pretty damn alone when they hear "He's in a better place," or "At least you had a chance to say goodbye." (Let alone, "did he have life insurance?") Read on here > > >

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Marty, This is such an important piece. I have my own personal pain about this issue within my own family but I also know from talking to too many people that this is a source of pain for many who grieve and yes, for those around them who just get so afraid to speak the name of the person who died when we, the bereaved, so wish to talk about them...and often get afraid to bring up the name for fear of making others uncomfortable. What a trap that is. One of the greatest gifts I got about a month after Bill died was one of his caregivers asking me if he could come over some day and the two of us just go through pictures and for me to tell/share stories about Bill because by the time this wonderful male caregiver (Bob) met Bill, Bill was not Bill. We sat one Sunday afternoon for three hours doing just what he requested. He and his partner, Tom, have been together now 47 years and they both dread the day one of them dies. They have had me over to dinner many times and have made it known that whichever of them survives the other...they will want to sit with me and go through pictures and cry and laugh together. Thanks for posting this.

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She nails it. As does the video she links to on the things people say. That made me uncomfortable because people say similar things to widowers. Yikes.



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It is so true. I lost our friends when George died, it amazed me, but I find that isn't uncommon. While there are things people shouldn't say, there are some things they can and should do. One is "be there". The other is "listen". "Don't be afraid to say the departed's name. We want to know others remember them and care about them." "Don't just say 'If you need anything, give me a call.' Offer something and set a time to follow through. It's often hard for us to ask for help, we were used to being self-sufficient along with our partner." "Don't drop off the face of the earth if we seem to. We may go through a withdrawal period, but that doesn't mean we don't want your friendship, we're just going through a tough time. Hang in there, we'll welcome your being there on down the road when we're more able to."

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