Assuming you’re a widow who wants to make friends (which is a big assumption, as many widows just don’t have the energy or motivation to start new friendships), how do you meet people? Some widows say the most difficult part of life after a husband dies is meeting new friends. These tips are inspired by a reader who wants to make friends while grieving and transitioning into widowhood. The problem? She doesn’t know how.
“My husband died six months ago and I have never been single,” says Trish on Starting Over in Your 60s After Your Husband Dies. “I am 62 and I have no friends. My kids have their own lives and this is completely new to me. My husband was my life. I know one day I will have friends but I don’t know where to start. I tried a support group but I don’t like the group. I want to get to know people and meet new friends, but I don’t know how.”
I’m sorry for your loss. My father-in-law died last month; I had no idea how difficult it is to say goodbye to a husband and father. You never get over losing a member of the family, do you? I can’t imagine what it’s like to grieve the death of a husband you’ve been married to for over 50 or 60 years…but I have glimpsed the depths of pain, and it is very sad.
Here’s a memorial I found in my local newspaper’s obituary yesterday:
The flesh of a peach, a dog or a person is all made from nature. Anything that is born from nature must return to nature. But we never really die, within all of us is a spirit. That spirit is what makes us want to give up each morning and sing with the birds. That part of us lives forever. Your husband had that spirit, too. His body isn’t here anymore for you to see, to touch and hold. He is now inside of you, where you can hold him in your thoughts, see him in your dreams, and touch him with your heart.
May your husband rest in peace.
4 Tips for Widows Who Want to Meet New People
The following tips for widows may seem insignificant, but little things make a huge difference. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it takes time to meet friends you actually connect with. For every 10 people I meet, I only want to spend time with one or two. We don’t connect with everyone, like my reader learned by going to a widow support group.
1. Adopt a dog
Are you a dog person or a cat person? If you have a dog that you take on daily walks, you already know that dogs are natural ice breakers and even friendship builders. A research study from the University of Australia showed that people with dogs are emotionally, physically, and socially healthier. Consider adopting a widow-friendly dog (of course, this depends on how old, active, and tolerant the widow is!). I have the perfect dog for a widow: my little white Bichon Fraise is a seven pounds and needs one 15 minute walk a day. All she wants to do is snuggle and cuddle, and she is the cutest little dog ever.
If you already own a dog, read Do Dogs Grieve? How to Help Your Dog Adjust After Loss. You may be surprised to learn how an owner’s death affects a dog.
2. Give something away
You have more time, energy, and resources than you realize. Maybe it’s too soon to clean out your husband’s closet or garage, but you might consider decluttering your own possessions. Decluttering can help you grieve your husband’s death and ease the healing process. Clearing out those crowded dusty old closets and drawers – not to mention the basement and attic! – will take energy and motivation. The payoff? You’ll find yourself feeling free-er and lighter with every box or bag of stuff you give or throw away.
If decluttering is out of the question, consider donating your time. Volunteering in the right capacity will help you make new friends as a widow. If you find the right volunteer role – one that challenges and energizes you – you’ll feel more connected and less isolated. You’ll meet likeminded people. You might even meet a kindred spirit! I started volunteering as a Big Sister almost 10 years ago; my Little Sister and I still meet every two or three weeks. Being a Big Sister hasn’t helped me make new friends because it’s just her and me on our visits. But when I worked at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Association in Calgary I facilitated the Big Grandparents program. The seniors (55+) would visit at the same time at a nearby elementary school. They’d play games, bake cookies, etc with their Littles. Many of the Big Grandparent mentors were widows and widowers; they formed great friendships over the school year.
You could look into local book clubs, bridge meetups, garden tours, seniors’ yoga classes, walking groups, and cooking classes. Those are traditional ways for widows to meet new people and make friends after a husband’s death. But what about reaching out of your comfort zone? You may argue that it’s too late to make your RV retirement dreams come true … but what if it’s not? You may also believe it’s impossible to meet new friends when you’re traveling as a solo widow … but what if you’re wrong?
If you’re a travel nut, start making vacation plans. Search the internet for “travel groups for widows” or “MeetUp groups for widows in _______” (add your location).
It’s hard to meet new people and make friends even when you aren’t a widow grieving your husband’s death. I know; I’ve been struggling to meet kindred spirits and build true friendships. I’m almost ready to give up, to be honest. I’m now happier alone than with people. But since all the research points to social connections as the key to emotional health and physical longevity, we should at least try to find friends.
As Helen Keller said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
4. Consider a group like the Widow Connection
How are you at making friends online? I’m terrible at it. If you enjoy being online (and you found me, so you’re doing something right!), search for widow friendship groups. Not only did I find a group called the Widow Connection, I even found advice about what to say – and what not to say – to a woman whose husband died.
If your friends and family say all the wrong things, send them these tips. If you disagree with any of them, share your thoughts in the comments section below! I’d love to hear from you.
7 ways to help a widow cope with her husband’s death:
1. Try to stay connected. There is already a huge hole in our universe. Do not assume widows need ‘space’ to grieve.
2. Please do say you are sorry for our loss. We would rather you tell us you do not know what to say than tell us your story of loosing your friend or even close relative We may be able to listen to your story later, but not now. Do not tell us you understand.
3. Do call and ask specifically, “Can we go for a walk together? May I run errands for you? Meet you for coffee? Do not say, “Call me if you need anything.”
4. Do refer to our husband’s acts or words—serious or humorous. We are so comforted by knowing our husband has not been forgotten. Do not leave our husbands out of the conversation.
5. Invite widows to anything. We may decline but will appreciate being asked. Do not assume we no longer want to participate in couples events.
6. Do accept that widows are where we are. Marriages are brief, long, healthy, dysfunctional, intense, remote. Death comes suddenly or in tiny increments over years. Again our experiences are so different, as are we. So is our journey through grief. Do not assume we go through the outlined grief process ‘by the book.’
7. Walk the talk. Do not make ‘conversation only’ offers. “We’ll call you and we’ll go out to dinner.”—and then not follow up. Yes, we are sensitive in our grieving, but we’d rather hear you say, “I’ve been thinking of you.” than make a ‘conversation only’ offer.
What do you think? You’re welcome to share your comments – big or little – below. Here’s something to write about: Who was your best friend growing up? Did you marry your best friend, or was he “just” your life partner and companion?
And here’s a question I’ve never asked a widow before: What don’t you miss about life when your husband was alive?
If you have no energy or motivation to meet new people or make friends, read Getting Through the Day When You’re a Grieving Widow.