When your friend’s spouse dies, the last thing they want to hear is that you know what they are going through.

Actually, you don’t.

Losing a spouse is different than losing a parent. It’s different than losing a pet.

Even if your spouse died, your experience with grief may be different than your friend’s experience.

We’re all wired differently.

There are five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

But everyone experiences these stages differently. Some may linger in one stage longer than others.

In my practice, I work with surviving spouses. By the time they contact me, they are exhausted with others telling them what to do with their money and life.

During our meetings, I have a chance to get to know them and their experience.

Some are understanding when others say something inappropriate such as “Your spouse is in a better place.”

Other surviving spouses become withdrawn or frustrated with friends who are not sympathetic.

One client mentioned she had a friend who told her, “It’s been over a year – just move on.” My client’s response? She decided to move on from that friendship.

Death is an uncomfortable topic, but it’s part of life. If you have a friend who is a surviving spouse, avoid using common clichés.

Just scroll through Facebook comments to see what I’m referencing.

Make your comments sincere and honest. And it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say.”

More importantly, be there – not to entertain your grieving friend with endless chatter. Be there in silence – stop talking and listen to what they want.

They may want silence with you holding their hand.

They may want silence while you hug them as they cry.

They may want silence to gather the courage to express their feelings.

Many of my clients cherished the friends who sat with them in silence. While it may seem uncomfortable, it’s sometimes the best thing to do in this situation.

Losing a spouse is indescribable. Even if the spouse was ill for a lengthy period, it’s still a loss.

Step outside your comfort zone and reach out to your grieving friend. Offer them your time to fill the loneliness, even if it means sitting in silence.

(Update to original post from July 24, 2017)


Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA®, RICP®, is a Managing Director at 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  comprehensive financial plans, divorce financial reviews, and 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.’”