The Best Way To Help Your Sibling After They Have Lost Their Spouse
There have been so many times this year when stop in my tracks and think about the fact that my 35-year-old brother became a widower. There is just something so powerful about that word, widow or widower. When you first think about that word, you might picture someone in their 80s, bringing flowers to the grave of their beloved spouse of 50 years.
But my brother was just 35, married almost 4 years when his wife lost her battle with depression. This event changed our family. We were suddenly, no longer the same.
All these months later, my brother is doing amazing, truly is amazing. He has found love again, and we are all so happy for him.
As I was thinking about this past year though, I couldn’t help but think about how siblings can help one another out. I know my brother has been there for me so many times over the years. My husband has been deployed four times, and he has been there. To play with my kids, or to be a listening ear as I told him how hard of a day I was having.
So when I flew into California on that day in February and hugged him for the first time after he lost his wife, I knew this was a whole nother level for us. My little brother had lost his wife, and now I could be there for him.
That first night, the four of us sat in my brother’s childhood room. I don’t even remember what we said, but we cried together. We were all still in so much shock that day. A shock that would last for months. Even now when I think about the phone call that let me know what had happened, I still can’t 100% believe it.
As an older sister, I want my brother to be happy. I want him to find love like I did. I want him to be able to have a family like I do. I wanted all this for him, and I felt like that night in February that all got ripped away. And my heart broke. I didn’t know how to make it better. I didn’t know how to help him.
But I tried and here is how I think someone can help their sibling that has lost a spouse:
Be there physically
If you can, go and be by their side. You can hold their hand, give them a hug, and know you are right there for them. Being able to be right by my brother’s side was helpful, and I know I would have wanted him near mine if I had lost my spouse. If you can’t be there physically, don’t beat yourself up over it, there are others ways to help, and you can go out at a later time.
Be there emotionally
If you can’t be there physically, you can be there emotionally. Even though I was able to be with my brother, I could only stay for 10 days. I had to head back home, and I knew that was going to be hard. But I also let my brother know I was always there for him. All he had to do was pick up the phone.
Listen, listen, listen
When someone loses their spouse, you need to listen to them. Even if what they are saying is just the grief talking. Be a good listener, let them vent, let them cry, let them tell you how unfair they feel it all this, let them know it’s okay to be sad, angry, or however they might feel during this time.
Help with little things
Help them with the little things. I was with my brother through all the details of planning a funeral. It was so very emotional for us. At one point, while touring cemeteries, we turned to each other saying that we didn’t think we would have to do this for each other while in our 30s.
Even if you can’t offer much, offer something. Maybe it is making a meal, maybe it is looking through their spouse’s phone for a phone number because they can’t, maybe it is helping them decide on a song for the memorial service. There are so many things that need to be done, especially when a young person dies unexpectedly. Be there to help with the little details, they will be very much appreciated.
Let them love again
There will come a time when your sibling will start dating again. It doesn’t matter if you think it is too early or not. Be on their side in this. Be a person they can come to about dating, about who they are meeting, and what they are going through. Dating after a spouse’s death is such an individual choice. Some are ready after a few months, others not for a few years. They will need someone to talk to about this, and you can be that person.
Losing a spouse is one of the hardest things someone will have to go through. It can be shocking, and as a sibling, you might not know how to be with your brother or sister who is hurting so much. Here is the person you spent your childhood fighting with and now all you want is for them to be happy and not be in any pain. It’s a strange thing.
Just be there as much as you can, let them depend on you, let them cry, and you will truly be able to help them through this difficult time.