When someone loses their spouse, they no longer have their life companion. It’s a very difficult time dealing with both the emotional impact and basic day-to-day responsibilities.

In my practice, I work with surviving spouses. I help them sort through the financial stuff and set priorities.

During my time with surviving spouses, they share their frustrations with family and friends. They also share what actions have helped them through this journey.

From my conversations, these three items were consistently mentioned.

1- Listen and be comfortable with silence. 

Too many times when people visit a surviving spouse, they feel the need to endlessly talk. But it can be annoying instead of helpful.

Your time with your loved one is about their grief. Stop talking and start listening. They don’t want to hear about other people’s business or losses.

Allow them to share their past memories. Don’t interrupt or try to resolve their issues – just let them talk.

If your loved one doesn’t want to talk, then respect their decision. Be there to hold their hand even if it’s in silence. Having someone nearby can be very comforting for them.

2- Suggest specific ways to help. 

Immediately after the loss, your loved one will be bombarded by phone calls, texts, emails, cards, and many other ways people express sympathy. The difficult part will come the months afterwards when less people check in on them.

Reality will hit hard as they cope with the loneliness and having to take care of all the household responsibilities. Even simple tasks may become too overwhelming.

Offer to take on one or more tasks such as buying groceries, walking the dog or watering plants. If your loved one is drowning in paperwork, offer to help or find someone to help them.

Initially, your loved one may not take you up on your offer. They are working through a lot of emotions. Continue to be available and to offer specific help.

3- Be patient. 

The loss of a spouse changes one’s world. It’s different than losing a parent or a pet.

Whether death was expected from an illness or it was unexpected from an accident, your loved one is going through a very difficult time.

Someone who was once energetic and smart may all of a sudden become tired and foggy in thought.

Someone who was once very thoughtful may all of a sudden become forgetful.

Someone who was once very polite may all of sudden become rude and agitated.

All of these behavioral changes are caused by grief. Be patient with these changes.

Don’t rush them to get over it and move on with life. Let your loved one go through their grieving process on their own terms. Of course, step in if you have concerns about their physical health.

When your loved one loses their spouse, no words can ease the pain of the loss. Whether they were married for a short-time or a long-time, no one really understands their relationship and the magnitude of the loss.

It’s a time for you to be supportive and understanding without being controlling or judgmental. It’s a time to show the commitment you have for your relationship with them.  


Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, RICP®, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include developing spending plans, comprehensive financial plans, divorce financial reviews, retirement plans. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me.’”

More “Personal Relationships” Posts: