Woman Concerned For Mental Health Of Friend Stuck In 'Grieving Widow Role'

There's really no right or wrong way to grieve.

woman at a funeral Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels

A woman with a friend whose husband passed away wrote to the advice column Dear Abby, wondering if the way her friend mourned her husband’s loss was normal. She qualified her query by explaining that her friend had been with her husband for 45 years, in a marriage that had “plenty of ups and downs.”

The woman felt concerned for her friend’s mental health because she seemed stuck in a ‘grieving widow role.’ 

The woman said that her friend constantly mentions her late husband in conversation, a habit that unnerves her. She also felt continuously put off by the way “her marriage now seems to have become the greatest love story ever told.” 


She was unsure if her friend’s behavior fell in the range of normal, as she reported it seemed excessive to her. She seemed especially concerned with the way her friend chooses to spend the anniversary of her husband’s death, noting that she stays home alone to mourn. She explained, “I hear how sad and emotionally drained she is afterward. I am at a loss about what to do, if anything.”

people walking in graveyardPhoto: RDNE Stock Project / Pexels


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“I don’t mean to be insensitive to losing a life partner, but I worry about her mental state,” she continued. She asked if there was anything she could say or do to lift her friend’s spirits, noting that she was also unsure if the grief counselor her friend had was actually helping her process her grief.

She received an answer touching on the adage that grief has no timeline and mourning has no set schedule.

The columnist was in a unique position to answer the woman’s questions, as she explained that she lost her own husband three and a half years ago, noting, “I am relatively new to the grieving experience.”

“Some widows and widowers are able to move on quickly,” she mentioned. “For others, it takes a long time for the ache to subside, and their spouse pops into their consciousness every day.”


person holding flowers outsidePhoto: RDNE Stock Project / Pexels 

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It appears that the friend takes some amount of solace in invoking her husband’s name through conversations, as it makes him feel close by, and makes the loss less acute, if only for a brief moment. 


The grief process is anything but linear, and it’s an immensely personal journey. I honor the people I’ve lost throughout my relatively brief lifetime by folding their memories into my days. I look at photographs. I tell stories. I drink orange juice from wine glasses, the way one friend did when she was still alive. 

As an important person in her friend’s life, the woman would be wise to offer her support in whatever way she can. Maybe that means cooking her dinner on the anniversary of her husband’s death. Maybe it means sending flowers. Or maybe, it just means listening and letting her friend mention her husband as often as she wants.

Everyone has their own ways of coping with the loss of loved ones, and no one way is better or worse than another. While it might seem that the friend is stuck in an endless loop of widowhood, that role is a major part of her reality. Not all wounds heal. Some losses stay fresh and raw, even years later. This woman’s friend might never move on from losing her husband.


While it’s true that we must be among the living while we’re here, on earth, it’s also true that loss marks a distinct before-and-after moment in the forming of our identities. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers mental health, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.