If you google “Young Widows” or “Young Widows and Widowers” all you get are dating sites. I was stunned. As if the main point is to replace the person who died. From my clients, I know for a fact that replacing a beloved spouse is the furthest thing from the minds of grievers no matter his or her age.
Young widows are a sub-category of grievers. Not to sound so clinical about it., but age does make a difference in the way young widows are treated. People tend to say things such as; “You’re young. You will meet another special person. You’re lucky you are still young enough to meet someone else.” People! Please don’t say such incredibly thoughtless platitudes to someone who’s whole future just crashed and burned. Unless you have been through it and had the exact same relationship (impossible) with your partner, experienced the same situations, and planned the same future, please do NOT say, “I know how you feel.” “I understand.” “It’s for the best.” “Time heals.” “When are you going to get out there and date?” “You’re young, pretty, ____, so it will be easy for you to find another.” Trust me, none of the cliches make a griever feel better and could just get you punched in the face or at the least, unfriended.
So what should one say? The best advice I have heard given, “Don’t eat the fridge.” This is really sound advice. People deal with grief in a variety of ways. Many use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain. Some folks can’t eat. Some overeat, hence the crack about the fridge. My comfort food is dark chocolate. I use it for stress, grief, sadness, etc. Other things you might say that could actually help? “What can I do to help?” (Not let me know if I can help.) “Make a list of chores I can do for you,” “Everyone grieves differently.” “Whatever you are feeling is normal.” “I am here if you need me Anytime.” “I will be here when you need me.”
After the numbness wears off, you will be lonely. Try not to isolate yourself. Make sure you get enough rest. Stay hydrated. Surround yourself with supportive people. Find a grief counselor. Join a support group. There are online groups even if you can’t find one where you live.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came up with the five stages of grief for dying patients, not grievers. So, even though the descriptions fit, please remember there is nothing routine about grief. Everyone grieves differently, so the phases are not in order and not everyone experiences each one. Numbness, denial, anger, sadness, all for now.