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Helping Someone Who Has Lost a Spouse to Cancer

Jessica Bemis is a full-time, working mom of two who lost her husband to testicular cancer in November 2011. Since then, Jessica has been sharing her story on her blog, Hope for Young Widows and working to bring awareness and hope to women and men who have lost their spouses to cancer. In this blog, she discusses ways in which friends and family can help after someone loses a spouse to cancer.

Read Jessica's blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you need some ideas on how to help a friend going through the grief process after losing their spouse? I have put together a list of things that helped me while going through the mourning process.

Meal Schedule

After Jim died on November 20, 2011, I had so many friends and family members reach out to me and ask, “What can we do, how can we help?” My response, “I don't know yet.” The day he died, two of my friends took the lead and organized a meal schedule for me and my sons that went well into late February 2012. It was so wonderful knowing that hot meals were going to be delivered for us. People made us feel so special with the time and effort they put into the meals, especially for the boys since they can be picky eaters.


holidays with cancer

Since Jim died right before the holiday season began, and everything seemed so overwhelming…I didn't know where to begin to ask for help. I knew I would need help with decking the halls. Fortunately, I had already done most of the shopping so I could focus on the wrapping and decorating. Two of my cousins came to the house and decorated the Christmas tree (it looked beautiful). I was so gracious to them for just coming over, taking the lead and doing it, because I probably wouldn't have asked them to do so. My mom came to the house and helped me wrap all the gifts for the children, family, and friends. Another huge mission accomplished, but not by me asking - by her diving in and saying, “Let's work together and get this done while the boys are in school.”


It is always good to have a great babysitter to call on when you have to get things done or just need a break. Fortunately, I had a list of about seven babysitters I could have called on for help after Jim died. Some were mother's helpers and others I could hire to watch the boys so I could go out and run errands. Awesome babysitters ready and willing to help us out surrounded us.


Pet Care

The other awesome act of kindness that we received was pet care for our dog, Madison. A group of people hired a dog walker for about three months, and that was in addition to all of the friends, co-workers, family (and other dogs) in the neighborhood that were ready and willing to play and walk Madison almost any time of the day. It allowed me to focus on the house chores, the children, errands and so on. It was wonderful to know Madison was getting the exercise she needed and the attention she loves as well.

The Little Things

People so graciously took time out of their day to help us with so many tasks, but what stands out the most are the unexpected hugs, phone calls, text messages, emails, and cards from friends and family. They dropped off beautiful flowers, care packages filled with toys and games for the children, movies, and chocolate. Friends and family offered words of encouragement, love and support…that is what being a friend and having a family is all about…from this widow's perspective, you just want to feel like you are not alone. The grief process can be very isolating because peers aren't experiencing the same thing. I'm thankful for family and friends taking the lead and recognizing the need for a meal schedule, dog walker, babysitter, help with shopping, decorating and wrapping for the holidays. But, most importantly always sharing a smile, a hug, and a laugh with me.

Depending on the individual, after a person loses a spouse, they may feel uncomfortable asking for help. They may not want to make you feel uncomfortable. To them, it may feel like they are burdening you with their needs, and so they don't ask for help. Reach out and just let them know you are there for them. It will be so appreciated and truly brighten their day.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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