One of the biggest concerns or issues that I see widow(er)s discuss is their FAMILY. Whether it be a blood relative or an in-law, there are very few instances of smooth outcomes with the loss of your spouse, who is either their son, daughter, or in-law. Death leads to drama, it’s a definite connection.
I have heard horrible stories. Stories that leave you with your chin on your keyboard and your fingers wanting to type off a hate letter to the person that said those horrid things. Sometimes they come from well meaning people just wanting to help. Other times it comes from someone bitter at their own loss and looking for someone to blame.
If you’re a family member or in-law to someone who has lost their spouse there’s a few KEY things you should remember or keep in mind when attempting to help the widow(er) in your life:
- Your son/daughter/brother/sister married this person. They made vows, maybe even raised children together. ‘Til death to they part. Whether your son/daughter/brother/sister complained about the relationship or not, they chose to be a part of it. You need to accept that this person was loved by your loved one, and so should you.
- Money is not something you earn from death. No amount of money brings your loved one back. No amount of money makes the pain go away. Whatever financial situation you are in is not a determining factor in what you believe you have “owed” to you from your loved one’s death. If your loved one owes you money you need to go about collecting it in a reasonable manner or consider allowing them to be dismissed the debt. If you plan to collect the amounts owed, you should have proper documentation to back it up. The widow(er)s and children’s needs come FIRST. Do they have money for transportation, housing, healthcare, daily living? You are not the judge of that number, they are.
- You are not an advice giver. You are here to support. Call to see if they need dinner some night. Call to see if they need a babysitter. Call to see if you can treat them to something nice that they no longer can afford. Call to offer support, not advice that may not applicable to what they are feeling or going through.
- If you need support, you should seek it elsewhere. Look to your friends and your own personal support circle. When a person has lost a spouse they are already their own support and possibly their child’s support. They have given what they can and are trying to get through each day. If you need to grieve, find a close friend or counselor to whom you can confide.
- Death does not annul a relationship. You are still their mother in-law. You are still their sister-in-law, brother-in-law, father-in-law, friend. The role has not changed because one party died.
I am fortunate. My in-laws and I get along. We have struggled, no doubt, but there is love and understanding. I am fortunate again that my boy’s family is the same way, giving love and understanding. And I am also fortunate that my own immediate family has provided me an amazing day to day support system. Unfortunately, for many widow(er)s this is not the case.
Next time you pick up the phone to check up on a loved one who has experienced loss, stop thinking about your own role, and more about their needs.