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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): How Do You Help a New Widow?

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How Do You Help a New Widow?

As much as I hate this topic, I feel I have to at least touch upon it. At one point or another, as a military wife, you will know someone who has just lost their spouse. It helps to have an idea beforehand, how you can help and assist to make that widow's life just a little bit easier.

After the official military notification, you should think about becoming a part of the group of ladies who will help this widow. It is important that you not make any calls, visit or do anything until you know the unit has officially notified her. I know a wife who found out the roundabout way by phone gossip, that her husband was mortally injured. Please, please don't be a part of something like that. Play it safe and wait until you know they've been notified.

Your first call should be to your unit's family readiness group. Many units also have casualty assistance teams already in place. Know who your point of contact is...before the trouble starts..another good reason to attend an FRG meeting. In our previous units, our FRG would run sign-up lists to run errands, babysit, cook meals, or stand in as chauffeur. We would sign up to take meals, just go over and sit with the widow, do laundry, clean house, run errands, answer the phone and that kind of thing. Typically, the company commander or battalion commander's wife will take the lead on this.

If you know her well, just show up at her door with food that can be frozen or coordinate with other wives who will bring over dinner on whatever days and just let the wife know dinner is coming. We also made sure the refrigerator and pantry were full of snacks and drinks, especially if there were little ones. Most widows I know just wanted to sleep. We watched the kids and answered the phone...they absolutely didn't want to talk to anyone. We picked up relatives from the airport. We also had the chaplain with us when we first went over (after the commander and his team did the official notification...it's important that no one say anything or go over til this is done). The chaplain would also make regular visits. Take your cues from the wife and her state of being...she may need more or less company. You'll know if she wants to be hugged or just sat with or just left alone to sleep, knowing her children are safe and being watched. Sometimes this can go on for weeks. I once rotated with other wives, cooking, babysitting and cleaning for almost three months...we were worn out, but we felt it was our duty and knew that this would be something that would make our life easier if it was us instead of her, so we just did it!

What has been your own experience? How do you try to help out?

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3 Comments:

Blogger James said...

We just had a member of my pilot training class pass away a few weeks ago in an aircraft accident. The whole class got together to make sure that everything was taken care of, and the spouses spent a lot of time with his wife. Basically, we just tried to be on-call to provide anything that she needed. The whole base did an awesome job in stepping up and making sure that the family was taken care of and the proper respects were paid. If you don't mind, I'd like to link to the memorial fund we setup in case anyone wants to donate or just read more about my classmate.

Emmons Memorial Fund

May 19, 2008 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a military wife, but I am a widow of almost three years and am here to tell you that support from friends and family is so very important.
I got none. My family was not fond of my husband. My "friends" said they thought it best to stay away, why, I'll never know, as they surely are no longer my friends. And as for my Church "family" they also failed to make themselves known at the time I needed them most. My husband had a mental illness along with cancer, so the only thing I can think (to keep my belief in mankind), is that no one knew what to say or do at the time of his death.
Your way of doing things sounds so good compared to my experience and I want to add a few more tips.
Mow the lawn, come over on garbage day to take the cans out and again to put them back, walk the dogs and make sure they get fed, clean anything that is not personal, dishes, floors, bathrooms etc.
Call them just to say you're thinking of them. Take them for a drive or to the store or out to eat. Most important, remember they will need help for a long time. Just being there when they need to talk about their loved one will do them a great service. Thanks for your post. Carol

May 20, 2008 at 5:15 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

I am so incredibly sorry for your loss...I really am. A lot of times, people don't realize how they hurt others, just by staying away. When my mom was dying of cancer, it hurt her so much to have her friends just stop coming by and not even calling...I had one tell me afterwards, she just didn't know what to say...sometimes it's best to say nothing...just show up and sit with the person...bring them something that will bring them joy, talk about old times, just hug them...and like you said, just come over to work....you'll rarely be turned away!

I hope you have checked some of the resources online. There are so many widow support groups, message boards and organizations I have found...please use them...some are even local and can help you connect with others who know what you are going through.

May 20, 2008 at 1:47 PM  

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