How to help newly widowed Mom to get over Dad’s death requires a lot of time, effort and patience.
Women who are widowed early or late in their marriage require a strong support system. Grief affects everyone differently which makes it is difficult to know what to do
Grief is not just an emotional feeling, but it affects how a person thinks, behaves and even what they believe. Here are some common reactions:
- Physical reactions: Sleep disturbance, weight loss, feeling weak or faint, etc.
- Cognitive reactions: Short-term memory loss, difficulty when it comes to making decisions, suicidal thoughts, etc.
- Emotional reactions: Anger, sadness, depression, numbness (not able to feel anything emotionally), depression, etc.
- Behavioral reaction: Blaming others, neglecting oneself (health and hygiene), loss of interest to work. Use of abusive substances (eg. Alcohol, drugs, medications), etc.
- Spiritual reactions: Being angry at God, losing faith in God, changes in belief and values after death of a loved one
How To Help Newly Widowed Mom (10 Actionable Steps)
Here are 10 ways you can support a grieving Mom:
- Attending to Mom’s needs
- Avoid saying unnecessary comments
- Comfort Mom with supportive comments
- Talking about your own feelings
- Asking specific question to show concern
- Help to coordinate funeral arrangements
- Attend Dad’s funeral
- Give Mom space to heal and regroup
- Monitor Mom’s self-care habits
- Assist Mom with the grieving process
- Seek help from mental health professions
- Prove your dedication to be always present
- Include Mom in your holiday plans
- Help your Mom find joy again
Attending To Mom’s Needs
After Dad died, it is important to show Mom that she is not alone. Sit with Mom and actively listen to her as she tells you what happened and acknowledge her feelings. This can be extremely helpful with her grieving process. You need to be there to reassure her, talk to her, and calm her in every way.
- When you see her face to face, give her a hug. Hug her for as long as she needs
- If you live far away from your mother, contact her by telephone and let her know that you’ll be on your way to see her.
Avoid Saying Unnecessary Comments
While the intentions may be good, there are some comments that might be perceived as offensive instead of minimizing the sadness from your Mom’s loss. The last thing you want is to hurt mom with harsh words when she is at her most vulnerable. She may not be ready to hear certain type of comments such as:
- I know exactly what you’re feeling
- It is all God’s plan
- It must have been for the best
- Dad’s in a better place now
- You should be feeling better in no time
- Don’t mention about the timeline for grief, because grief has no expiration date. Let your Mom heal on her own naturally, at her own pace.
As a rule of the thumb, avoid trying to make things better by saying something unnecessary or uncalled for. Accept the fact that you may feel awkward and helpless. Most mistakes happen because you aren’t prepared and you say things to try and hide or overcome these normal feelings.
Comfort Mom With Supportive Comments
Instead, try comfort Mom with supportive comments. These are extremely sensitive times, so try to limit what you say to supportive and positive phrases that acknowledges the situation or express your feelings and concerns.
A grieving Mom needs to feel like her kids care for her. Prepare yourself by knowing what to say. Be present in the moment, and trust yourself to know when to speak and when to stay silent.
- Offer sincere condolence. “I am so sorry for our loss Mom”
- Provide open-ended support. “Mom, do let me know if you need anything, I’ll always be here and am willing to help in anyway”
- When Mom is upset, she may not think clearly and might not be able to tell you how you can help. Try taking initiatives or provide suggestions such as ”Let me help pack the house today”, or “I’ll help you with groceries shopping today”
- Offer silence but be present in the moment. If your Mom isn’t ready to talk, its okay. Don’t feel like you need to fill the empty silence, being there physically is just enough.
Talking About Your Own Feelings
Talking about your own feelings and showing your vulnerability can provide a sense of normalcy and comfort to your grieving Mom. Tell your Mom how much you missed Dad and how you are able / unable to cope after his death. Tell your Mom what did you miss about Dad. Share with her how he has changed your life and how he will be remembered.
Asking Specific Question To Show Concern
It is always a good thing to check in on your Mom to find out how is she doing in terms of grieving. However, when you’re trying to ask her a question, try not to leave it open-ended.
Very often, I hear people say that the hardest question people ask is “How are you feeling?” A grieving person typically struggles to answer that question as they are unsure if it is a genuine question or just more of a friendly greeting.
A better question would be to ask “How are you doing in terms of grief? Are you coping well after Dad is gone?” This helps to let Mom know that you genuinely care about her wellbeing since Dad’s death.
Help With The Coordination Of Funeral Arrangements
Making funeral arrangements for a loved one may be one of the most difficult things in life. If you’re Mom is feeling distraught, assume responsibility and take on the task for funeral arrangements. Friends and family can also offer help with other related task as needed:
- If you’re uncomfortable going to the mortuary to make funeral arrangements, tell yourself to be courageous. Tell yourself “I need to be strong for my Mom right now, that’s what needs to be done, so I got to get it done. She needs my help.”
- If your Mom wants to be part of the funeral arrangements, accompany her to the funeral home. She needs your presence to help make decisions about the service, locations, final resting place, etc.
- If your Dad had made pre-arrangements for his own funeral (which lessens the burden on the family), try locating important papers that he has prepared.
- Help make a guest list and contact everyone to let them know about the funeral service. You can craft an email to let everyone know or build a website for Dad’s departure – a website that everyone can get information on the funeral service.
- Determine who gets to speak at Dad’s funeral service. Is a pastor required? Is Mom, your siblings or relatives ready to give a eulogy speech?
Attend Dad’s Funeral (If Possible)
Funerals are ceremonies to acknowledge the ending of a person’s journey in life. It not only serves as a purpose for those who have passed away, but it is also an occasion for the living.
Be physically present at the funeral to support your Mother and family members. You will also experience your own healing at the funeral.
- Ensure that you have ample supply of tissue as this is an emotional period and tears will definitely fall
- Ask if there is anything Mom would like to say to Dad in private? You could help her to his coffin where she could say her last words to him
- Check on your Mom regularly to make sure she doesn’t get too overwhelmed. If there is a reception after the funeral, she will be expected to face many well-wishers. Ensure that she take breaks by removing her from the crowd for a short period of time.
Give Mom The Space Required To Rest & Heal
Once the funeral and reception are over, it is now time for reality to start kicking in. While the grief has already started since Dad’s death, Mom will now need to deal with transiting into living without a spouse. This is a sensitive and emotional period and it may require some hand holding, listening and consoling. The stress of a widow can be overwhelming, leading to depression, anxiety and even substance abuse/dependence. If you sense that Mom isn’t coping well, do seek appropriate help.
Monitor Mom’s Eating & Sleep Habits (Self Care)
Life becomes extremely difficult to live after the death of a spouse. A lot of energy is being expanded during difficult times, so it is important that essential survival needs are met. However, in period of grief, people tend to neglect their health – they start to believe that life may no longer be worth living, as such, they suffer such complex. Here’s what you need to do:
- Ensure that Mom is eating well and is not skipping her meals. People tend to lose their appetite or forget to eat during periods like this.
- If your Mom is not taking care of her own personal hygiene, this is the first sign of depression. Remind her that she hasn’t brushed her teeth or shower. Take the initiative to help her with laundry, wash the dishes in her sink, etc.
- Sleep deprivation or insomnia is also a common problem. If you notice that she has been repeating the same questions within a short amount of time, check if she has dark eye circles or ask her if she has difficulty sleeping.
Assist Mom With the Grieving Process
Grief is a subject that isn’t taught in school. Hence, after the loss of a loved one, a person is likely to be ill-equipped to understand and manage the emotional pain associated with grief. In order to heal a grieving heart, you first need to understand the 5 stages of grief. Only then, can a person grieve and complete their relationship with pain.
5 Stages of Grief:
- Denial: During the stage of denial, it gives you time to gradually absorb the loss event while u begin to process it. This is a common defense mechanism that helps you numb the pain of the recent loss.
- Anger: During this stage of anger, you tend to be angry at almost everything. You’re angry at the doctors for not helping your Dad, you become angry at yourself for not spending more time with Dad, etc.
- Negotiation: You start to negotiate and bargain with God, letting your Dad live another day and you’ll promise to do more charity works, etc.
- Depression: This is when you come to the realization that nothing can be changed and that your Dad is gone forever. You start to feel sad and upset all the time, being unable to move forward with life. This is the longest stage of grief.
- Acceptance: This is when you have accepted reality and come to terms with yourself that this will be the “new way of life”.
Seek Professional Help From Mental Health Professions
It takes a lot of courage and bravery to ask for help, so you shouldn’t expect that coming from your Mom. If you notice that your Mom has been struggling to cope with the loss, do engaged grief counselor for help. Alternatively, you can encourage Mom to join grief support groups in her area. Sometimes, speaking to a professional is the best help we can give ourselves as it allows us to speak our mind during these therapy sessions, without ever getting the feeling of being judged by our friends and family.
Prove your Dedication To Be Always Present
People who go through traumatic losses never really overcome grief, they just get “better”. As such, your Mom will need your continued support as life moves forward. Be kind and willing to help her whenever she calls for your help. Here are some suggestions to let her feel that she is always on your mind:
- Make a habit to call her everyday or every few days just to see how is she doing. It will only take about 10-25 minutes out of your day
- If you live close to her, drop by her house with her favorite dessert just to make her smile. Let her know you care for her enough by taking time out of your busy schedule
- If there are any house repairs that never got taken care of by Dad, make arrangements to have them fixed
Include Mom In Your Holiday Plans
When the holidays are approaching, plan ahead to see if Mom has anything scheduled for the day. If she is available, suggest how both of you could memorialize Dad. Perhaps you could do something together to honor Dad, it could be to read a poem, light a candle and pray, visit his grave, release balloons in the air, plant a tree and etc.
The reason why I am suggesting this is because many who grieved go into the holiday season feeling vulnerable and insecure, hoping that their children would mention or bring up about their deceased loved ones. When that doesn’t happen, they tend to end up heart broken or disappointed.
Help Your Mom Find Joy Again
There will come a time when your mom shows sign of recovery and allow goodness back into her life. She may begin to smile more often or become more interested in various activities. Once you have noticed that, seize the opportunity to invite her to do the fun activities that she likes. If she likes to bake, bake with her. If she loves music, go to the concert or musical with her. Let her take lead of what she wants to do, what’s most important is your company with her.
It can be hard to find the right words to say or find the right things to do to help a newly widowed Mom. The best form of support you can offer is sincere condolences and an open-ended support towards your Mom.
Remember, what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say and your actions will speak louder than words. Show genuine love, care and support, and I am sure your Mom will appreciate it very much.