THE BLOG
12/17/2012 08:15 am ET Updated Feb 16, 2013

When Family and Friends 'Forget': 6 Essential Tips For The Widowed

As defined in Webster's Dictionary, widowhood is characterized as:

"One who is made to be widowed by or through the loss of a spouse and who has not remarried".

However, in what is known as Widowed World, widowhood is defined as:

"A 'club' that absolutely no one willingly joins; a state of existence that will upend your life as you knew it and forever change the rest of your life from what you had previously and carefully designed into a scary and uncertain future."

Some of the most common complaints I receive from those in the "club" include the following:

**"Since my husband died, all of our friends have forgotten him and disappeared."

**"I haven't changed, but everyone around me is treating me differently. And that doesn't count the people who just left my life without a word."

**"I guess I'm not allowed to talk about my wife anymore. No one else wants to, that's for sure. But she's still in my heart and no one understands that."

While people really haven't forgotten your beloved; it is going to be much easier for everyone else to move on with their lives than it will be for you. The fact is that no one else is going to be affected by the loss of your spouse in the same profound way that you are, for one obvious reason -- they aren't the widowed. Absolutely no one is going feel this loss in the same way that you do. Furthermore, it's a well-known fact that people are generally uncomfortable with the topic of loss and honestly do not know what to do with you or for you.

It is also an unfortunate reality that some of the people who you once believed to be dear friends (or even family) might choose to leave your life for a myriad number of reasons. There are people who may be uncomfortable with being around you, now that you are no longer one-half of a couple. Others may take aim at or otherwise criticize the manner in which you have chosen to handle your Healing Journey. Most disappointing (and disgusting) are those who believe that since becoming widowed, you have suddenly transformed into a scheming "man-trap" or "babe-magnet"; ready to pounce on unsuspecting and innocent boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives or significant others in an attempt to spirit them away.

Part of your transitioning into a life post-loss includes dealing with relationships that may be in flux, evolving or perhaps even disappearing altogether. Following are six important tips on how to handle these changes in order to facilitate your ultimate healing:

**Learn to let go: It is incredibly difficult to let go of friendships and relationships on which you may have once heavily depended -- but if people consciously choose not to be a supportive part of your Healing Journey, let go you must. You have had enough negativity in your life and if those around you are not able or willing to be part of your healing process in a positive way, they do not get the privilege of being a part of your process -- or your life -- at all.

**Respect the different loss perspectives: Your true friends and family will never "disappear"; however, they will move forward with their lives and they will be able to do so much sooner than you. You must respect that their healing processes are quite different from yours. Just as no one can reasonably expect you to rapidly recover from the loss of your beloved, you cannot expect others to grieve the loss of your beloved in the same way that you do.

**Get proactive: Understand that during this difficult time, people will want to give you space and time to begin healing... or perhaps just allow you some well-deserved rest. These same people are not going to want to bother you with daily phone calls or visits; instead leaving it to you to contact them. Choose to take the initiative. If you are ready for quiet socializing, pick up the phone and let others know that you wouldn't mind a bit of company.

**Fear not: Many will be afraid to bring up the subject of your loss as they believe that talking about the loss will be upsetting, when of course the exact opposite is true -- not bringing up your loss actually creates the proverbial "elephant in the room". In fact, you may be the one that needs to put others at ease. If you want to talk about your late spouse, go ahead and talk about them! People will take their cues from you and if you are fine talking about your beloved (especially if you are periodically smiling while you're doing it), others will be comfortable with talking about them as well. Share a wonderful memory. Tell a funny story. Most of all, do not ever be reluctant or afraid to talk about your beloved or otherwise worry about making others uncomfortable in doing so.

**Embrace who you have become: Even though you obviously still feel like "you" on the inside, the fact is that you have changed. It is impossible to remain the same person that you were prior to widowhood because the experience itself changes you forever. However, while the circumstances are undeniably tragic, most do not ever get to discover the true depths of their strength and the tenacity that it takes to recover from what may very well be the most tragic experience of their lives. You not only have that knowledge, you should embrace and take pride and comfort in that knowledge.

**Don't simply reach out for help with your healing: Reach up for help. Reach up to those who have gone before you; they are the people who will be only too happy to listen to your stories, your challenges and your fears. Reach up to those who will celebrate the triumphs on your Healing Journey; no matter how incredibly big or seemingly small. Reach up to those who show you how much they care and who will give you ideas and suggestions on how to make your journey into a new life as peaceful as possible. Reach up to meet some of the greatest new friends you will ever know. They are each waiting to embrace you with open hearts.

Because those of us in Widowed World not only understand...

...we will never disappear.

Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has been selected as a finalist for the Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com

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