The Comfort of Friendship and the Benefits of Getting to Know Other Widows and Widowers
Friends we turn to in times of need
For some, forming friendships does not come easy. We need to get to know our friends and understand their strengths and weaknesses, and this can take time. If we assume that everyone shares the same values, we’re likely to be disillusioned and disappointed. It’s important that we’re not disparaging and accept our friends for how they are and not how we think they should be.
A good friend will not criticize you for having your own ideas, or try to compromise your principals. If you feel comfortable with a friend, and you’re not worried that by sharing your concerns they will try to make you think the way they do, you’re on to a winner!
Being able to listen is of particular importance within a relationship. If a friend will listen to what you have to say and remain non-judgmental, they will be the friends we turn to, in times of worry and stress.
The support of friends and family can be crucial for our recovery
The relationship we have with our friends and family is by far the most important element for our recovery in times of anxiety, hardship and, of course, loss. Without the encouragement of those who offer support, our recovery during and after a traumatic experience will be more difficult, and could take longer.
When I lost my husband it was unexpected and I was ill prepared for the turmoil that would envelop me in the days that followed. My ability to think clearly, and my search for a positive way ahead, was unequalled to any problem I had faced before. With two children, a mortgage, and with the Holiday Season fast approaching, emotional and practical solutions had to be found in order to face the future.
The selfless friends who came to my rescue
I gradually found these solutions because of the caring souls who came to my rescue. They encouraged me to focus on the planning of a funeral, helped support my children, and constantly reassured me when the going got tough. I will be forever grateful to those friends who stood by me when I was at my lowest ebb.
Good friendship, of course, comes in all shapes and sizes and it was the unselfish element that impressed me more than anything. Before my husband died I had had a conversation with a lifelong friend who was telling me how much she was looking forward to seeing her son, who was coming home from college for Christmas. I was absolutely amazed, then, when she arrived at my home the day following my husband’s death, with a basket full of ready meals, a couple of bottles of wine and presents for all of us. She was a pillar of support – especially in the evenings when we were feeling particularly bereft. Fortunately, I encouraged her to go home just before Christmas and she was able to enjoy her own family for at least some of the Holiday Season.
Having decided that we wanted to spend Christmas in our own home, I was greatly touched when the husband of another friend came to visit on Christmas night. He sat quietly with a glass of whiskey, while me and my children played Monopoly. Although it paints a funny picture, his presence was comforting, and showed a selfless concern for others.
Forming friendships with others who can relate to your loss
For all the support you may receive, finding common ground following bereavement can be a great help. Talking to others who have experienced loss encourages us to keep going. There will always be those who have been dealt a harsher blow and being able to offer reassurance gained from personal experience is rewarding. Hopefully, this is not something I will have to do too often, but knowing I have helped others because of my own ‘loss experience’ has been strangely comforting.
Being the odd one out
Initially, following the death of a partner, it seems that everyone else has a husband or wife to go home to, especially if you’re a young widow or widower. However, talking to others who have also lost a partner can be therapeutic and a great help when coming to terms with feelings of isolation.
With the guidance and support of our friends, old and new, and with the right mindset, we can cope with situations we may have thought would be insurmountable.
If you find that some friends or neighbors avoid the subject and are reluctant to draw attention to your loss, it’s probably because they are not sure how to react when they see you. It could also be that they have a happy marriage and the thought of losing their partner is just too hard for them to imagine. However, they will come to terms with your loss eventually, and your friendship could become stronger in the process.
Local discussion groups can help you come to terms with your new life
Developing an active social life will help with more than just feelings of loneliness. If you’re finding yourself feeling particularly low and depressed, making contact with others who have also experienced the loss of partner, can provide an opportunity to take your mind away from any debilitating thoughts, or feelings of isolation you may have.
The thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Joining discussion groups in your area can provide a good opportunity for you to open your heart and offer some encouraging words to other widows or widowers. Those who have also experienced the loss of a much-loved partner could become a great source of comfort. Reaching out to others may not only help you to come to terms with your loss, but also help them to come to terms with theirs.
There are many groups and organizations providing useful information about the early days of bereavement and how to cope.
Never doubt your ability to overcome loneliness or sadness. Help is at hand and will, in turn, provide you with the means to help others, should the need occur.