It can be tough to know what to say to someone after their ex spouse passed away. It’s a unique situation. And it’s delicate. Are there children left grieving? What was the relationship of the former spouses when one of them passes away? You don’t want to say the wrong thing, or come across insensitive. So what should you say?
Supporting Someone When an Ex Spouse Passed Away
Experiencing the death of an ex-spouse can be an emotionally overwhelming experience, and it can be difficult to find the right words. Here are five phrases that you can use to provide comfort and support to someone who is grieving the loss of their former partner. These were phrases that really meant a lot to my family and I when we went through our loss. To make sure you don’t say the wrong thing, I’ve also compiled five things to never say to someone whose ex passes away.
“I am sorry for your loss.”
This simple phrase acknowledges the feeling of loss that someone is going through and provides an opening for further conversation about their current state of grief. It was one of the most caring phrases because it allowed me to choose if I wanted to open up more to that person or not. Some days are just tough and it was hard to talk.
Death, particularly the passing of a partner or former spouse, brings up both past and present feelings. Let the person you’re talking to know they don’t have to explain those feelings to you—just expressing sorrow can be enough. That to me just meant the world to have that acknowledged with that simple phrase.
“You are not alone in this difficult time.”
My world after my exes death quickly became a small circle of people for a time. It’s was difficult to talk, eat or have any energy to do anything. At times I would feel numb and not have the energy to reach out to others. Knowing that I wasn’t alone even if I didn’t have the energy to reach out just always felt comforting.
This simple statement of support acknowledges the intense emotions a person may be feeling, while also providing comfort that they are not alone during a difficult time. Letting the individual know you are there for them can be both comforting and empowering – reminding them of their worth despite the grief they may be experiencing. Offer a listening ear and your presence, without judgement or interference.
“I am here if you need to talk or just want some company.”
At first it felt like we were flooded with support and company after my ex spouse passed away. Several months after when the pain and reality really set in the kids and I just wanted someone…anyone to talk or keep us company.
If you are looking for a way to comfort a friend or family member, remind them that you are there for them. Letting them know they can lean on you will offer the comfort they need while they process the significant life transition they are going through. Give them specific things that you are able to do for them–like coming over to spend time with them, grabbing lunch together, or talking through what’s on their mind.
“What can I do to support you right now?” “Do you need anything? Can I help in any way?”
Offer your support and let them know you’re there for them. Asking your loved one what they need during this difficult time is key to providing the most comforting words and actions. Your friend or family member may not be able to answer right away, but it will show them that you are willing to do anything you can in such a challenging situation. They may feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin with their process of healing, so this gesture of genuine care and consideration on your part could make all the difference.
This was always a nice statement but also difficult for me to know how to answer when I got asked this question. One of my neighbors offered to take my youngest daughter to practice so I could free up my schedule a little bit. Having that specific offer of help was much more easier for me to accept. An open ended offer was always more difficult to know what to ask for and not wanting to feel like I would be burdening that person too.
“I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you.” “Take as much time as you need to heal.”
Validating feelings someone might be experiencing is important in letting them know that there is no timeline for grieving and it’s important for them to take care of themselves during this time.
As someone who went through this, having someone acknowledge they were noticing how much pain I was in meant the world to me. I can remember my boss taking me into his office and telling me that he had heard what happened and that he knew my children were important. He told me to take the time that I needed to help them. He then let me know what the policy was at my company for taking time off when an ex spouse passed away and let me know if I needed more time for myself or the kids to keep in touch and we would work out something.
Don’t Do Nothing
Most of all it’s just important to let that person know that you are thinking of them. A quick text now and again means the world to me…even four years after my ex spouse passed away! It gets my kids through a tough time when a family member or friend says it to them too. And it’s one of the simplest phrases to say to someone. “Just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you.”