How do I support a new widow (my younger sister)?

My heart is aching.  My younger sister Gail’s husband David died suddenly at age 58 ten days ago.  Gail is 50; they’d only been married for 4.5 years, and they were BEST friends. 

They had no children together.  Gail was laid off from her job of 15 years 3 years ago and hasn’t worked since; Dave supported them by working really hard at his cleaning business.  Now she’s left with an empty house; a mortgage big enough where she’ll probably have to rent out their house and move in order to survive; and their two adopted beagles to keep her company.

Gail and David and my husband and I had been booked on a Caribbean cruise leaving a month from today; I was very close to them.  I often stopped by their home on my way home from work.  I was the one Gail called when David was taken to the hospital at 4:30 last Saturday morning, and she collapsed in my arms when the doctor came in and told us he was gone.

Now I just need to know–what can I do to help ease her pain?  Please, if you are a widow yourself, what helped you most right after your husband died?  I’ve stayed overnight with Gail several times, and we’ve had some good cries and a few laughs … we (and my other 2 sisters) email often during each day, and I’m acting as a sounding board as she makes decisions about the legal stuff, etc.

But what else would be helpful?  Were there any groups you joined that helped you grieve?  Books you read?  Places you went?

Thank you for any help you can offer.


p.s. My husband is a deacon at our church, so he’s helping with the spiritual aspects of her loss.

Posted in family & relationships.

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5 Responses

  1. LilTigg LilTigg says

    Just being there, loving and supporting her is probably the best thing at the moment. Make sure she has moral support when dealing with any legal aspects so she is not pushed into anything. Let her grieve at her own pace and always have open arms for her to fall into. I was thousands of miles away when my sister’s husband passed but I phoned, emailed and sent poems, letters, cards and gifts to show her I supported her.


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  2. Generic Image rosiemay says

    my older sisters husband died rather quickly three years ago. Diagnosed with mesotheleoma in Sept and dead by Jan. My sister lives overseas and it seemed like everytime i spoke with her she had such despair in her outlook and voice. She was 62 and her husband was 67. I sent her a book—-The  year of magical thinking by Joan Didion. Joan tells the story of her husbands sudden death and how she coped. My sister still refers to that book and quotes things from it. There is no easy way out of grief one just has to go through it and feel it and hopefully come out the other end not too damaged. Hope this helps

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  3. JoanPrice JoanPrice says

    What helped me the most was when people told me their memories of my husband and listened while I shared mine. It’s good to help her do things like notifying his insurance company and other financial stuff, making sure she eats, listening when she tells the same stories over and over.

    See if she’d like a journal to write in, which helped me a lot — I filled it with memories. I got help from Hospice, which offers wonderful bereavement support. I had more than one grief counselor, and meds for situational depression from my doctor when I couldn’t stop crying.  I think it’s too soon for books. I bought several and couldn’t manage to read them.

    Thank you for helping her.

    - Joan

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  4. Generic Image 123WASH says

    I remember when my hubby died.  I was 34 he was 32.  I remember vivdily that people wouldnt say his name.  It felt wonderful when the first person finally did.  Let her grieve in her own way. I know that I upset my family with some of the things I said and did during that first month or so.  Just listen and dont judge.  For me the second year was the worse.  People expected me to “be over” grieving.  Time will help and she is lucky to have you.

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  5. lv1958 lv1958 says

    Thank you to everyone who responded; these were all helpful comments.  My heart goes out to all of you for suffering this kind of heartache.  It does help to know that others have been there and survived.


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