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When your Friends and Family Fail You - Jennifer Waugh

It’s statically proven that lack of support is a significant issue amongst widowed parents. In the initial days, weeks and if you are lucky months after losing your spouse I am sure you had an abundance of support. I was overwhelmed by how many people had offered our family support. Our fridges and freezers were over flowing with food. I was beyond grateful for the community of support. I asked my Mom to stay with us because I couldn’t bear to be alone. I remember one of my best friends calling me as soon as she had heard of my husbands sudden death and she said “you know I will be here for you for the long term right!?”(she never let me down). I remember having the thought cross my mind…”oh right, this support I am receiving now will not last forever”.

Knowing that the support would not last forever and soon I would be left to my own defences I tried to handle as many tasks as I could handle in the early days. And sure enough, the support began to quickly fall away within weeks of his death. Everyone else went back to their normal “happy” busy lives and we were left alone with our lives permanently fractured and I felt abandoned and alone.

Even my Mom wanted to leave after 3 weeks assuming we should be ok on our own by now. I had to ask her to stay longer and she thankfully stayed another 3 weeks. I still wasn’t ready at that point. I knew my girls needed and were craving positive male influences and I requested a few male family members to spend some time with my girls and give what support they could. In my mind I thought if 4 male family members would be willing to spend an afternoon once a month with them it would have made such a difference. I felt that my family would have had a chance to get to know my daughters more, my girls would have had some male support and I would have had a bit of a break every week that I felt I also desperately needed at the time. The feedback I got from my family was essentially I was asking too much. I’m not going to lie…”that really hurt”.

My husband had issues with his family before he past and as a result they showed little effort to reach out to us.

The support I expected we would get just wasn’t there the way I thought it would be after such a traumatic event. Essentially I had very little support from my immediate family except a few such as my sister who was amazing. I assumed that if everyone knew what was really going on in our life that they would help. But I learned over time that no one really knew what it was like to lose their spouse or to lose their parents like we had. I was angry, hurt and felt abandoned for a long time and it has been one of the most difficult challenges I have had to face through my grief. Can you relate?

What I learned from this experience was it’s not always the people in your life that you expect that end up being your biggest support. Sometimes support doesn’t look like the way you think it “should” through grief. What I found out was other people in my life that I never would have expected became our biggest support. What I chose to do was let go of expecting support from people in my life that were not available to give it and to appreciate and be grateful for those that did offer it.

What showed up for me is amazing people in my life that I realized were my true friends and became my “adopted family”. I had friends offer to help with my daughters, friends that helped with driving when I was stuck and my Grandma started doing weekly family dinners to bring some of our family together and partly I know to give me 1 day a week off from cooking dinner.

One of the biggest supports I have in my life is other widowed parents that I connected with. While it is not what you want to have in common with your friends the fact of the matter is that when you have friends that have a shared experience such as losing a spouse there is nothing like that kind of friendship and support. This is part of why I have created this community for you so you can also find that kind of support in others that have had similar experiences to you.

I learned to look for support for myself and my girls in other ways. Both my daughters joined rep softball teams with fantastic male coaches that have been a great influence for them. My oldest daughter found her passion in horseback riding and finds great therapy, support and friendship with an amazing community at her barn and works in exchange for riding lessons so that it is financially feasible for us.

Asking for help was never easy for me but I learned to ask for support whether it be help with driving, taking care of my kids (sometime so I could have some time to cry and sometimes to actually get done what I needed), yard work, moving things, house repairs/renovations, organizing and garage sales when I chose to let go of my husbands things. I realized that I wouldn’t get the help I needed unless I learned to ask for it. I realized that for many people (not all) they wanted to contribute they just didn’t know how or what to do.

Everyone’s experience of the support they receive is going to be different. I hope you have received all the support you need for you and your family. If you haven’t, I encourage and highly recommend to start with forgiving those who cannot offer you the support you would like and start looking for those who are willing and look for the little things that you can request support with that will help take the pressure off of you and your responsibilities. Show gratitude for the support you do receive and more will start to show up. Give up trying to do it all on your own. Give up being a victim and take action towards getting the support you need.

I would love to hear your feedback. Please comment below and share what kind of support has been the most helpful for you or what support you are going to ask for.

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