‘My friend’s husband has died heartbreakingly young and I don’t know how to help’ – Coleen Nolan

Dear Coleen,

I’m really struggling to support a good friend who lost her husband recently – he was only 38 when he died and she’s 36. They had two children together and the whole situation is heartbreaking. He’d been ill for some months, which was also very hard on my friend and she’s a shadow of her former self.

I’ve never been in this situation before, supporting someone who’s been bereaved, and don’t know how to do it.

Everything I say seems to land badly and now I’m worried about saying or doing the wrong thing.

I’ve even tried to cheer her up by inviting her out for lunch or a drink to help take her mind off it, but she’s declined all the offers.

I feel so useless and so sad about the whole situation – I’m married with kids myself and can’t imagine the heartache my friend and her family are going through at the moment.

Should I keep inviting her to things or just back off until she wants to see me? I’d love any advice on how to help her.

What would you tell this reader to do? Have your say in the comment section

Coleen says,

Well, you can’t cheer her up – not right now. Don’t force it because she doesn’t sound ready, but just let her know you’re there for her at any time of day or night if she wants to talk about it or just needs a shoulder to cry on, and then leave it at that.

You can also offer practical help, like looking after the kids or making some meals and dropping them off.

But when you lose someone, it can be exhausting if you have a constant stream of people coming round. Sometimes you need to be on your own to start coming to terms with things and let everything that’s happened sink in.

I hope she gets to a point where she starts reaching out. Bereavement therapy when she’s ready would be a good idea. I know it really helped my sister Linda when her husband died.

And be patient – coming to terms with grief takes time and different people grieve differently. Some people get comfort from carrying on, while others take a much longer time to get back to some kind of normality.

Let her know you’re there for emotional or practical support, and all she has to do is tell you what she needs. Good luck.

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