Consoling a Grieving Widow or Widower (Part I)


Knowing how to console a grieving widow is not easy.  I find I’d rather say nothing than say the wrong thing. 

Sometimes though, words are required.  Like any skill, having the right words to say at the right time takes practice and understanding of the situation.  To help you prepare for an uncomfortable situation, read on empathetically.  Preparing now will lessen your fear of hurting the grieving spouse or possibly ruining your relationship over saying the wrong thing and adding salt to a wound.

Often, when in public, the grieving widow or widower offers a strong front for the time being.  In doing  so, they often find themselves consoling those who came to comfort them.  The days and weeks following the death of a loved one is the time when emotions run high and even the most well-intentioned words can be misconstrued.  

It is our responsibility to be ready to support them.  This is a two-part series to review phrases to avoid (Part I) and phrases that are generally safe to use (Part II).   Review them, learn them.  Knowing what to say in the right circumstance will set you up to provide the kindness and compassion that’s needed in that moment.

PART I – Phrases to avoid using, why you should avoid them, and alternate options to use instead

Finding the right things to say can be just as hard as it is easy to say the wrong things.  

Take care not to fall for it when your loved one tells you that it’s better to say something than nothing at all. Saying the wrong thing can be damaging to your relationship. If you find that you’re uncomfortable around death and don’t know what to say, here are some examples of what not to say. 

Don’t say: “They’re in a better place.”

Undoubtedly, when hearing this, the widow will wholeheartedly disagree with you. To them, it may not matter that Heaven needs another angel. They’ll tell you that they need them here, or that their kids need them just as much.

A better option: “I know it must be hard without them here.” 

This works because you’re acknowledging that their death has created an irreplaceable void in their lives. 

Don’t say: “Everything happens for a reason.”

A natural part of grieving is comprehending the loss. This phrase is very insensitive.

A better option: “Sometimes we’ll never understand the reasons why things happen the way they do.”

This works because it acknowledges that there’s no comprehensible reason for why their loved one had to die.

Don’t say: “What are you going to do now?”

This well-intentioned question may be the breaking point for someone who really doesn’t know what they’re going to do now that their spouse has died. They may be feeling overwhelmed with what’s next and how to take care of everything on their own. 

A better option: “Let’s talk about how I can help you with the next steps.”

This works because you’re offering a solution to them that will help them figure things out instead of sending them into panic mode. 

Don’t say: “That’s too bad the kids won’t have both parents.”

This is a very insensitive and unkind thing to say to someone. They’re faced with having to move forward without the person that was supposed to be there to help them. They already know it’s going to be difficult not having them there. 

A better option: “I’m sorry that they won’t be here to see the children grow up.”

This works because you’re expressing lamentation over something that is regretful in a more caring and loving way.  

Don’t say: “You’ll feel better in time.”

When you say this to someone, you imply that this is only a passing thing. Your loved one may resent how quick you are to dismiss the relationship they once shared with their spouse. 

A better option: “Take all the time you need to heal from your pain and grief. I’ll be here for you.”

This works because you’re acknowledging that this is one of the most painful experiences of their life and you’ll be there to help them through it. 

Don’t say: “You’re still young, someone else will come along.”

The last thing a widow is thinking of when they’ve just lost their spouse is going out and finding a replacement. 

A better option: “You’re lucky to have found love with someone as wonderful as them. I’m truly sorry for your loss.”

This works because you’re reminding your loved one that love is difficult to find and theirs is irreplaceable. 

Don’t say: “They weren’t the greatest anyway.”

Keep the negative comments and opinions to yourself. There is never a right time to give your take on your loved one’s choices in love, and especially not the period when they’re grieving the loss.

A better option: “I’m sorry that you’re having to go through this pain and suffering.”

This works because you’re expressing solidarity with your loved one in their pain and suffering without any negative feedback. 

Don’t say: “Now I have you all to myself.”

This is a selfish way of saying to your friend that you love and support them through their loss. 

A better option: “I’ll be here for you through thick and thin.”

This works because you’re able to get the same point across without celebrating the fact that your loved one is now free to spend more time with you. 

Don’t say: “I know what you’re going through.”

It can be highly offensive to a bereaved widow when you say that you can relate to what they’re going through. Even if you’ve also been widowed and have experienced this type of loss, it can be hurtful when you compare their pain to yours. 

A better option: “It must be very difficult for you right now. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”

This works because you’re recognizing that it’s not easy losing their spouse without making this about you and what you went through. 

Knowing what NOT to say to a grieving spouse is a good primer (especially now that you have decent alternatives).  Be sure to read next week’s article Consoling a Grieving Spouse Part II, which will outline more phrases that generally work well to comfort, and why they’re good.

When facing the loss of a spouse it’s important for the surviving spouse to have a support team around them.  After the initial shock has subsided, the time comes when taking action on what’s next is imperative.  Having support partners like a well-trained and compassionate Estate Attorney, Financial Planner and Real Estate Agent can make a huge difference.   If you would like recommendations on local Bradenton|Sarasota area Estate Attorneys, Financial Planners or Grief Counselors, please email me at   Jude Creamer, Broker Associate, HomeSmart, specializing in facilitating real estate transactions for people in life transitions.

A special thanks to for the guidance contained in this article.

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I'm Jude and I love helping people
who are facing a major life transition
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Hi, there!

I'm Jude Creamer and I love helping people facing a major life transition embark on finding their happy place gracefully, methodically and with the
least stress possible.
Let me know how I can walk you step-by-step down the path to your happy place. 



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