The entire premise of this post is to give some direction to those who are currently supporting a young widower. If you have not had the experience that your friend or family member is going through. There is simply no way of “making it better” when someone has this type of life trauma. The awful truth is that such agony can only be endured, not cured. This kind of pain is inconsolable, but this doesn’t mean your impulse to help is futile. I hope that what I share here will also help those recently widowed too. I urge you to read it, save it and share it.

Katherine and I were like two young trees that grew up intertwined. But then one tree died and was removed, leaving the other appearing deformed. This was the only way I could illustrate to my friends on how difficult the sense of loss was to me. Still, it was simply impossible for my friends to understand the depth of the pain caused by grief. My friends and family really felt powerless to change the conditions that generated my pain. When I go back to the beginning I was so lonely. Being the surviving parent, my daughter didn’t need to grieve, why would she, being just 9 months old. I had to carry the weight of what she’d lost on my back too. Most of my days consisted of an endless one to one loop with her. She had no interest in hanging out with me, being a baby, she was just doing what she was supposed to do, and I don’t blame her.

Spain 2018, our first holiday together.

We all experience grief differently, we respond to it in our own way too. Some days I would become snappy, grumpy and the thought of being pitied would cause me to explode. I absolutely despised being pitied by people. I wasn’t always the nicest person to be around at the beginning. That was just how I displayed my distress. If I’m really honest now, having visitors was one of the things I found comfort in. particularly when they sat and quietly listened whilst I reminisced or verbalised something that was occupying my mind at that moment. I probably wasn’t the best company, but I really appreciated the empathy.

Often the best way to help someone grieving is to just be there. Anniversaries being a key time to arrange for yourself or others to be with that person. Such as a wedding anniversary or a birthday. These are times when we experience the extreme sense of emptiness and sadness. Try not to drift away and leave that person alone for too long. I understand everyone needs space and time, but not widowers – if anything, we need company. Especially a grieving single parent. I was always particularly touched by the actions of one of Katherine’s closest friends, Emma. She took the initiative to regularly visit us and she always asked how I was coping emotionally, she became my soundboard for a lot of things, even to this day. Katherine would have been so proud of her!

Last year I stumbled upon this poem titled ‘Hold me close and go away’ written by Emma Cobb in 2002. This is probably the most accurate way of describing how I became ‘difficult’ company for my friends and family at the beginning. I’d like to think it might also help you understand the mindset of someone you’re supporting.

Hold me close and go away,
Please visit me and please don’t stay,
Talk to me but please don’t speak,
I need you NOW – come back next week.

Emotions muddled, needs unknown,
To be with others or on my own?
To scream out loud? To rant and shout?
Or hide away and push you out?

I smile at you – “She’s not that bad”
I shout at you – “She’s going mad”
I speak to you – “What do I say?”
I show my tears – “Quick, walk away”

It’s not catching, the grief I feel,
I can’t pretend that it’s not real,
I carry on as best I know,
But this pain inside just won’t go.

So true friends, please, accept the lot,
shout, I cry, I lose the plot,
I don’t know what I need today,
So hold me close and go away.

The offer of assistance is something to really consider, but like me, many will hesitate to take you up on the offer. You should try to be proactive and take care of something that would be of help to your friend–cleaning, gardening, cooking or even just entertaining a child. Let them know you’re willing to watch their children if they need some time alone or help in other ways.

Here are some gentle but powerful do’s and don’ts that will help you reach out to your family or friend. This information was prepared by the charity ‘Care for the Family’. It’s not going to quell the discomfort of grief. Believe me, when I say, this list is better than nothing. It really helped me and my friends after I shared it with them. It’ll at least help provide you with a starting point on how to support them from day to day. Please also use the links I’ve supplied on the ‘Widower Support’ page of my blog.

Always remember you’re not a bad person for not knowing what to do.