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How do you act around a recent widow for the holidays?

CJ2008

Ideal_Rock
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One of our close relatives recently lost her husband.

She's going to be spending Thanksgiving with us.

And it's dawning on me that I have no idea how to act. :???:

Everything I research is about helping the widow / er themselves deal with the holidays, but nothing for the family / persons around that person.

I keep having mental images where we're all laughing and suddenly I look over and she's depressed...and I feel terrible. :???:

I feel like maybe we need to hold back, to be kind of subdued? But then I'm sure she wouldn't want to feel as if she's bringing everyone down.

But acting is it's a regular holiday doesn't feel right either.

I'm starting to feel a little anxiety over this.

Any suggestions?
 

VRBeauty

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Just off the top of my head - don't act! Be yourself.

Acknowledge her loss... do ask how she's doing, give her a chance to talk about her beloved and her loss. Don't be afraid to mention her husband's name and to mention how much you miss his presence.

Offer her some things to do - helping you with the preparations, etc., if that's the type of person she is.

Is she actually staying with you, or just spending the day? If the latter, it would be kind to identify a bedroom or other space that she can escape to if she needs some personal "space."
 

Paz

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It's very thoughtful of you to worry about her feelings CJ2008, you're very kind.

This will be my first holiday without my dad, and the fourth without my mother, so my advice come from that perspective. You don't need to worry about toning down the festivites or acting any differently, that would probably make the widow feel bad. I would pay her special attention by making sure she isn't left alone in a corner (unless she needs a moment to herself), ASKING her if she needs anything, and allowing her to talk about her husband. So many people tiptoe around the bereaved and never mention the dead, and all we want to do is talk about the loved ones we've lost! If you knew her husband, share a story or two about him, I bet it will help her to know that your 're thinking of him too.
 

vintagelover229

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Do you have any pictures from family gatherings that you could make a photobook of or put in a frame? Maybe share some good memories/funny stories so he is there in spirit? Don't act any different but be kind and mindful towards her for sure, ask her how she is doing this is a first for her as well so she is adjusting just as much as the rest of the family to different events and the less pressure everyone puts on themselves (as long as they aren't going out of their way to avoid the topic all together, that isn't right either) the better. Just shower her with love!
 

jordyonbass

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Just be yourself around her, my guess is that's what she will appreciate the most. She is most likely coming to help escape what's happening to try and be happy for a short amount of time and not dampen the holiday for you and your family, so acting different to how you usually would may not help at all. In order to be sensitive about the issue I would recommend:

1. Ensure your family understands to avoid the topic of her late husband unless she decides to bring it up, she may want to talk about it so at least be open to it if she does. She would appreciate your accommodation of her feelings.
2. Keep a close eye on her during the time, if she appears to be depressed then maybe pull her aside privately and ask if she is OK and if you can do anything for her. Don't be upset if you have to drive her home in the middle of dinner
3. Give her a big hug when you first see her, you know those hugs that convey the message "we are here for you, let us all have a good time". Yeah, one of those!
 

Keeliamira

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My dad passed away two weeks before Thanksgiving 3 years ago. He and my mom were together for 42years when he died and were each other's first loves. The holidays that year were unbelievably hard. I echo what some of the other PSers said about not avoiding the topic. Avoiding talking about her husband will put everyone on edge including the widow. It might be nice to ask family and guest who knew him ahead of time to think about sharing their favorite memories of him around the table. Then when the conversation turns in that direction, guests can talk with love and joy about her husband without having to think up something on the spot. Sharing memories of my dad over the thanksgiving table was such a blessing and made him a part of the occasion in a really special way. I also think that even if his widow isn't staying at your home you should offer her a room into which she can retreat if she needs to. She may certainly get overwhelmed or emotional and want a quiet space. Losing a spouse or family member near the holidays is extra hard, imho, because their loss becomes somewhat linked to the holidays. I'm glad you are there to show your love and support.
 

kenny

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jordyonbass|1479873611|4101717 said:
Just be yourself around her, my guess is that's what she will appreciate the most. She is most likely coming to help escape what's happening to try and be happy for a short amount of time and not dampen the holiday for you and your family, so acting different to how you usually would may not help at all. In order to be sensitive about the issue I would recommend:

1. Ensure your family understands to avoid the topic of her late husband unless she decides to bring it up, she may want to talk about it so at least be open to it if she does. She would appreciate your accommodation of her feelings.
2. Keep a close eye on her during the time, if she appears to be depressed then maybe pull her aside privately and ask if she is OK and if you can do anything for her. Don't be upset if you have to drive her home in the middle of dinner
3. Give her a big hug when you first see her, you know those hugs that convey the message "we are here for you, let us all have a good time". Yeah, one of those!
+1
Well put.
 

missy

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CJ honey, don't worry. I know by you and your dh just being there for her and being sensitive to what she is going through the day will go as well as it could.

She is grieving no matter what so remember that she might not be as cheerful or upbeat as her usual self and don't take that personally. Allow her to feel what she is feeling knowing this is a safe environment for her to be herself and feel the way she is feeling. No matter how that is.

Just ask her how she is doing, tell her you are here for her however you can be, and ask her not to hesitate asking you for anything. Just be your warm hearted generous caring self and that is the best way you can be. If she is a touchy feely person lots of hugs can be helpful but if she is not just be tuned in to her body language and what she needs and remind her to tell you what she needs.

I am sorry your family member is dealing with this and the holidays are going to be challenging this year perhaps the most challenging since it is a recent loss and trauma. She might just want to be around your loving family and feel comforted and safe by being with you guys on this difficult day and holiday.

Also don't forget about her (I know you won't) when the holidays are over as January and February can be difficult months under the best of circumstances so contact her, make an effort to visit her if that is what she would like and just be available to her to listen and allow her to share and cry and vent and whatever else she needs. Because the brouhaha and excitement of the holidays will be over soon and then she will be left alone with her thoughts and memories and sadness of missing her dh. So just be there for her after the holidays too.

(((HUGS))) to you and to her and I am glad you will be there for her.
 

retroglam

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My dad and brother both died just before Christmas time and I wholeheartedly agree with what others have said. Be yourself and take your lead from her. Provide an escape space where she can go if things get too much; a bedroom is she's staying with you or, if not, earmark a quiet space where she can retreat and let her know it's there for her use. Just know that by being with her and offering support and comfort when she needs it, you are giving her what will truly matter to her.
 

Arcadian

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Be yourself. She'll appreciate that.
 

maccers

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jordyonbass|1479873611|4101717 said:
Just be yourself around her, my guess is that's what she will appreciate the most. She is most likely coming to help escape what's happening to try and be happy for a short amount of time and not dampen the holiday for you and your family, so acting different to how you usually would may not help at all. In order to be sensitive about the issue I would recommend:

1. Ensure your family understands to avoid the topic of her late husband unless she decides to bring it up, she may want to talk about it so at least be open to it if she does. She would appreciate your accommodation of her feelings.
I was always told not to avoid bringing up the deceased name - in fact, sharing memories of the deceased with the widow/er is respectful and signals that you're not avoiding his/her name because it makes you uncomfortable and, more importantly, that the deceased hasn't been forgotten and that others remember him/her too. It's part of the grieving process and makes the widow feel less alone.

Obviously, if the widow/er isn't receptive and completely shut downs when her beloved's name is brought up, then avoid the topic but I'm not sure that should be the first step.

ETA: Thank you for posting this question. My friend recently lost her husband (in his 30s) and Christmas will be their first holiday without him.
 

Rockinruby

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CJ, I wanted to commend you for being so thoughtful. I think it says a lot about your character so I'm sure she will appreciate your efforts to put her at ease. People handle loss and grief differently so let her be your guide. If she brings up his name and talks openly about him then maybe she will be comfortable with others doing so. If she doesn't then just follow her lead and don't bring it up in public. Maybe just pull her aside and tell her that you truly care, but don't want to upset her by bringing it up. :wavey:
 

momhappy

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I would take cues from the widow and adjust my behavior accordingly. In other words, if she seems to want to talk abut her loved one/her loss, then I would listen and be supportive.
 

liaerfbv

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The tough part is everyone grieves differently. When my dad died, I wanted to talk about him. My sister however still won't talk about him (10 years later). I would find a time when she arrives to say - hey, I'm sure today is hard, I want to be here to support you. I am going to follow your lead if you want to talk about him at all, and if you need some alone time at any point today, feel free to use X room over here.
 

PintoBean

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What a thoughtful bunch we've got here! :love:

I think that the fact that you're pondering this question means that you will be a sensitive, thoughtful and caring host. I puffy heart you, CJ2008! Don't worry and just "do you" and it will be fine. :wavey:
 

CJ2008

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Thank you all so much. :wavey:

You are all so wise. :appl:

VRBeauty You're right - just even approaching it with a mindset of "acting" feels off when I think about it.

She is definitely not the helping kind. But still, it's a good idea to have a few things she can do...I can give her easy things (pour the wine, etc.)

Yes, she's staying with us overnight.

PintoBean you are too kind! :wavey: I puffy heart you right back.

I just know that these are going to be sensitive times for her and we could so easily do the wrong thing even when it's not our intention. This way at least I have some ideas under my belt that I plan on sharing with the rest of the guests so we're all on the same page.

liaerfbv Yes, we are all so different in how we do things and what we want and need.

I will do exactly that...I will tell her that I will follow her lead with whatever she wants or needs...or to just ask me.

I loved vintagelover idea to have a frame. So I printed out 2 pictures of him...one big one 8x10 and one smaller one like 4x6. but even with that liaer I will tell her I have them and that if she wants them out to tell me.

I will also ask her if she'd like us to make a place for him at the table - with his picture or without.

momhappy yes that is what I'm most taking away from this thread. Follow her cues. Thank you.

Rockinruby thank you <3 I just want to make sure we don't add to her grief, you know? And I do think that safest is to simply ask her, for her to know that she can come to me and say whatever and I will make it happen.

maccers I'm so glad that this post helped you also. Sorry to hear about your friend's husband. It must be so difficult.

Thanks arcadian. Yes I will try to do that. You all saying this really helps me to hear even though I still get pangs of anxiety thinking about it

Sorry to hear about your brother and dad retroglam :(( Thank you so much for your advice. I will make sure she has a place to retreat to. She is staying with us but even so it will be helpful for her to know that it is OK for her to just get up and leave if she needs to.

missy thank you for reminding me of some of the less obvious but so important things...like to not take it personally if she is not upbeat or cheerful...and for the period AFTER the holidays. I can totally see how that could be just as difficult if not more than during. :blackeye: That's when it might really hit her that yes, he really is gone. :(sad So thank you. Truthfully I will need to kick myself to make the effort to visit because I'm selfish with that. And not great with phone calls either. But maybe I'll come back here so I can remind myself that it would be a nice and kind thing to do.

Keeliamira Sorry about your dad. :blackeye: and thank you for the lovely idea to have some stories / memories ready in case the conversation turns that way. Being prepared will make everything flow so much more smoothly...and would probably make it feel "more" like he was really loved. Thank you.

jordyonbass I love the idea of having a few of those types of hugs ready to be given. Sometimes we try so hard to say the right thing when in reality a heartfelt hug can communicate so much. And yes, I do need to make sure my family is on board with being super sensitive to her because let's just say that some of the older people are not the accommodating type. Meaning they're not so open to asking but just doing what *they* think is the sensitive thing to do whether the person welcomes it or not.

Paz oh no, I'm so sorry to hear about your dad :blackeye: and your mom too :(( thank you so much for confirming that we don't need to tone anything down, that's what was causing me the most anxiety and it's so helpful to hear it from someone who's been on the other side. I hope your holidays are peaceful and warm and surrounded by love. Sorry about your dad. :blackeye:

I hope I didn't miss anyone.

Thank you all SO much.

Happy Thanksgiving.
 
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