How do you move forward after losing your husband?

I just received this email and I wanted to share with you my response. If only every friend was so conscious and caring about how to help their widowed and grieving friends:

I was reading an article in the Washington Post about young widowers and your story immediately stuck out to me.  One of my best friends loss her husband. He was kind, intelligent, funny, sweet, athletic, and just a great person to be around.  He went above and beyond in every aspect of life– particularly when it came to being husband, brother, son, and friend. He “wasn’t supposed to die.”
How did/do you move on after losing your husband at such a young age?  How do I help my friend to get by?  This is something I struggle with and I’m emailing you to see if you have any advice for navigating this very difficult time.  Please let me know. Thank you.


I admire that you care about your friend enough to seek out ways to help her. Your friend’s husband sounds very familiar to my husband-all those wonderful attributes that me, and the world, deeply miss.
I would never use the term moving on. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, when we hear that phrase, it makes us cringe. Moving forward just seems better-because moving forward doesn’t seem to exclude anything or leave it behind. Your friend’s support system of other widows she knows may only be people her parents and grandparents age which may make her feel isolated. In the first few months, I believe there is a part of us that wants to believe we are the only ones that feel this way and no one understands. As time progresses, and hopefully we meet other people in our shoes, we find that we aren’t alone. We are all eating away at this widowed journey, and feeling the same things, if at different times and in different ways/coping.
She’s coming out of the numb stage right now, most likely, and if the first 6 months weren’t tough enough, the next 2.5 years she’s going to need an active support system of PEOPLE who love and know her. It sounds like you may be the best person for that since you care so deeply for her. The next 6 months, as the numbness wears off, she’s going to feel everything that much more deeply and painfully. She no longer has to deal with as many of the logistics of death and may be back so some sort of a routine. But that routine probably isn’t something she wants. She wants her old life. She sees everything she has lost-not just her husband but any dreams of children they would (or would continue) to have, of travels, of anniversaries, of growing old together, of achievements together, of watching him thrive and age and be her partner for eternity. She doesn’t get that anymore. So now, she mourns not just his death but all of those dreams. Those secondary losses, when they hit you, they can be so destructive. This can be what leads people to isolate themselves, to go into deep depressions, to become suicidal. The best thing you can do is say his name. Share memories. Remember the good times, not the cancer. She saw a ton of pain in him as he battled his illness, I have no doubt. Any good memories of him that you can remind her of will help her to think of those instead of those awful times he sick. Those illness memories become a horrid flashback to a life we don’t want to remember.
Busyness can be good or destructive at this time. Take note of her schedule. If she has no time for anyone/anything, encourage her to take a break. Invite her on a quiet weekend away with just you two. She may not want to be a social butterfly right now. Take her somewhere that brings her joy-plan it-don’t let her stress about the details if at all possible. Support her in honoring traditions she wants to start. Maybe those are surrounded by his birthday, their anniversary, her birthday-moments in their joint life that will bring her bittersweet memories. Write her notes, cards, weekly. Encourage others to do the same. Mark on your calendar their anniversary and his birthday and remember to continue sending her cards on those days sharing your memories of him with her. Those are the best gifts.
Honor the quiet. There are no words for this. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the friends who were just there. No words, no reasoning, no platitudes, but those who showed up and stayed. Those who didn’t walk away. She’s going to lose a lot of friends in this. Friends who can’t deal with her grief, with his death, with hanging out with just her-especially their married friends. She has every right to be angry about that. If you know these people, continue to encourage them to reach out to her. The more of these people that stay in her life, the stronger her support system. Family means a lot, but friends you can share so much with. Losing them is like another death.
Don’t push therapy, meds, group support. Give her information, and let her do what she wants with it. Let her know what’s out there. I highly recommend which is an awesome online forum with lots of other young widows. is a great weekend-long camp that occurs annually in San Diego, Tampa (this March) and Toronto. It’s a wonderful experience to meet with other widows, all ages including hers, and to take some workshops to help. I run and lead tours as and I’d be happy to invite you and her on any of our trips together. It’s for widows and widowers only but I know any of the other widows would understand her bringing a friend along. Our next trip that’s open is Lake Placid, NY March 3-6. Depending where she’s located, a local hospice group may offer widow support. is another great way to find widow groups. Encourage her to connect but don’t push it. She will reach out when it’s her time to do so. Feel free to have her contact me directly here.
Mostly-after all this-be there. Be available, check in, don’t walk away from her. Be there in the quiet. Thank you so much for being her friend, for caring enough to ask how to help. And hugs and love to you on loss of your friend. He sounds like an amazing person that is truly missed from this world.

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