Here’s one question people ask me a lot.
“Tricia, I have a friend who lost her husband. I’d really like to give her your book to read, but I don’t think she’s ready. What do you think I should do?”
I do have some thoughts on this, and so I love this question.
People feel compelled to think for the brokenhearted. They want to protect them from any further harm, and they want to help line up the bricks of her path to show her what to do next. It’s a thoughtful, gracious protection, and to some extent, this is so necessary in the darkest parts of a crisis. It’s wonderful when the people around you can tackle the bulk of your decisions so you can have the strength and clarity to manage the ones you can manage.
But this is also true: She has lost a lot of her choices.
She’s lost the one she was going to do her life with, and a lot of decisions get tossed away with that one. She may have lost her capacity to manage more than one thing at a time. She may have lost her outgoing personality, and she’s learning to live inside a shell. She may have lost her joy. She may have lost her motivation to live. If she’s fortunate to have people bringing meals, she may have even lost her ability to choose what her family will eat for dinner, a downside that matters quite a lot to some people, actually.
One of the greatest gifts you can give a widow is Empowerment. Give her a choice and a voice. She doesn’t get to make very many decisions, so when you see one that’s wholly hers to decide, don’t decide for her. Give her the power of choice.
A girl should get to decide what books she wants to read. And she should get to decide, for herself, when and if she’s ready to crack it open. Don’t decide for her that she’s not ready. If you have a book—or a gift of any kind, for that matter—give it to her. She’ll decide when she’s ready.
It seems small, but in the wake of the greatest loss, when it seems all the decisions are made there’s tremendous personal power in getting the chance to say, “I choose this.”
Be it how she likes her coffee, where she’d like to drink it, and what book she’ll read today: Let her choose.
That’s how you can trust a widow. Give her the power to choose.
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My Favorite Book Suggestions for the Brokenhearted:
And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimed
By Tricia Lott Williford
A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss
By Jerry Sittser
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
By Ann Voskamp