I've never been very good at asking for help – even as a kid I would say "I can manage it on my own". When I was widowed, I hated asking for help even more.
Sometimes I just couldn't frame what I was asking for because I was so low. Sometimes I didn't want to face people. But sometimes it was pride – I was ashamed that I couldn’t do it on my own. It was also pride that I didn't want to ask people into the house. It was a mess – because of the amount of stuff there was, because I wasn't looking after it and myself, because I didn't have time as I threw myself so deeply into work as a way to cope.
Slowly, I learned that it really is okay to ask for help, and that there is no shame in asking. That helping makes people feel good, and it helps them to grieve too. And that refusing help can mean that people don't offer to help you, or others, in the future. I still don't find it easy, and I can be clumsy in asking, but I am a little better at it now.
Hearing "what can I do", especially in those first few blurred days and weeks, is such a hard question to answer. One of the most useful suggestions from a friend when Tim died was to get a pad of sticky notes and a pen and to write down what I needed help with, and stick the note up on the wall. Then when people asked, I could just direct them to the wall.
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.