“Unless you have been through it, you don’t understand it.”
I never thought I would be one of those people who said, “Unless you have been through it, you don’t understand it.” Yet, here I am, saying this very thing. As a member of the young widowed club, a club everyone who stays with their love “till death do us part” will eventually, though unwillingly, join, I am always appreciative when people express their condolences, even though it has been over three years since my late husband died.
What I do not appreciate, and the young widowed community will back me up one hundred percent, is when people offer their unsolicited advice about “moving on” or tell me that I “should” be doing something they think is beneficial based on their total lack of understanding of what it is like to lose a beloved spouse.
I realize that I will have both admirers and detractors when I put myself out there to talk about my program, From Loss to Love Again, and that I am going to receive praise, criticism, and unsolicited advice. I could sit back and do nothing, helping no one, but what good will that do?
I have said this before, and I am repeating myself, but unfortunately this message bears repeating: if you want to help someone who is grieving a loss, express your sorrow at their having lost someone they love and stick around. Offer your support, your listening skills, and your shoulder to cry on. Resist the temptation to offer unsolicited advice. Here are some things you really need to avoid saying, no matter how sorely you are tempted:
It’s time for you to move on.
No one will want you if you keep pictures of your dearly departed in your house.
Haven’t you mourned long enough?
When are you going to start dating again?
You have to let go of the memories of your late spouse to accept new love in your life.
You can’t keep talking about your late spouse with your new love.
Why don’t you just let him/her go already?
Why aren’t you happier?
You need to just focus on raising your children and not dating again.
It’s too soon for you to date.
These are just a few things that I have either been told personally or that others in the young widowed community have shared. If you are guilty of giving this kind of advice, please stop. If you are widowed and have been on the receiving end of this unintentionally (I hope) cruel and callous unsolicited advice, know that you have a lot of support from others who do understand what you’re going through.
It doesn’t matter to me if you have been widowed for ten years and you still don’t want anyone but your late spouse. I don’t care if you lost your beloved six months ago and you’re ready to marry again. These are your personal choices and it’s none of anyone else’s business, not even mine. You have to decide what is best for you. Let go of the hurtful words of those who are well-meaning yet haven’t got a clue. Know that you must honor your grief journey in whatever way you need to.