Senior Resources » 4 Ways to Support Others After the Death of a Spouse

Since we moved into the Village at Deaton Creek, we’ve noticed many happily married couples walking hand-in-hand along the parkway. However, a lot of our neighbors are single—both by choice and circumstance. Getting a divorce is hard enough, but losing a spouse to death is devastating. Here are four ways you support a friend or loved one after the death of a spouse.


What shouldn’t you say to someone who just lost their spouse to death?

1. “I know how you feel.”

Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what another person is going through. And while showing empathy for others is important, we can’t always know what another person is going through. For example, if you haven’t lost a spouse, you can’t say for certain that you know how somebody else feels. Don’t assume anyone else’s feelings. Let them speak and be a shoulder to cry on. Be a friend, not a therapist!

2. “At least they lived a long time.”

Whether somebody dies when they’re eight or eighty, their loved ones will feel the loss. Just because somebody lived a good, long life doesn’t mean their spouse will suffer any less. While trying to find a silver lining isn’t a bad thing, it’s not always helpful. Try not to add salt to the wound in your attempt to be sympathetic.


So, what do you say to someone who lost their spouse?

1. “I am so sorry for your loss.”

Many funeral directors use this phrase at funerals. Take a page from their handbook and use it to comfort friends coping with the loss of a spouse. It’s simple, short, yet sincere. It shows compassion without assuming anything.

2. Say nothing, just be with the person.

Words can be comforting, but they can also get in the way. Your presence can be far more of a solace than any sympathy card or impassioned speech. Give someone a hug or a smile. Speak only if it’s absolutely necessary. Sometimes, having a friend nearby is all a person really needs.

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Originally published June 05, 2023

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