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12 Things Not to Say to Widows or Widowers

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In the hierarchy of loss, losing a spouse is second only to losing a child. The “healing process” is slow and erratic. There isn’t a timeline, nor is there a quarantine period where wearing a mask is mandatory. Grief comes and goes. A smell, a song, a photo album and numerous other things can turn back the clock.

Grief is not exclusive to women. In fact, I think it may be more difficult for men to grieve because of our culture. The title of the song “Big Girls Don’t Cry” shouldn’t apply to just women.  Widowers go through the same grieving process as women but may feel that they need to suck it up and be strong and tough. Nothing is further from the truth. A grieving heart doesn’t know if it’s male or female.

In the course of my five years as a widow, I have asked others and have experienced some well- meaning, but counterproductive, comments. In the gallery above are a dozen comments not to say to a widow or widower. When talking with a person that has lost their loved one, patience and understanding might be what they need more than advice.

Even though they might eventually get to a better place after the loss of a loved one, always be careful with the words used with those grieving.  For a widow or widower, sometimes the simple everyday sayings are the ones that hurt to hear the most.


Barbara Shapiro, CFP, is the President of HMS Financial Group in Dedham, Massachusetts. She is a Certified Financial Transitionist, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and a member of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts. She is co-author of “He Said: She Said: A Practical Guide to Finance and Money During Divorce.”