Dear Thelma: Grieving and fearful after hubby dies


By THELMA

Do you need a listening ear? Thelma is here to help. Email lifestyle@thestar.com.my.

The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

Those contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935/ 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999/ 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); or Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929/ email sam@befrienders.org.my/ befrienders centres in malaysia).

Dear Thelma,

I'm a 35-year-old widow with two young children to raise by myself.

My husband passed away six months ago, and I'm still grieving his loss. I'm also very anxious about the future.

Thankfully, I have a job. While I love my job, the reality of single-handedly providing for my children while grappling with my own emotional turmoil is weighing heavily on me. Finances are going to be tight, and the prospect of navigating this journey alone is daunting.

I find myself constantly worrying about how I will manage everything – from ensuring my children have everything they need to supporting them emotionally through this difficult time, all while trying to keep afloat financially. I often feel overwhelmed by the weight of these responsibilities, and I fear I may not be strong enough to handle it all on my own.

I am unsure where to turn or how to cope with the challenges I am facing. How can I navigate this new chapter of my life while ensuring that both my children and I come out of it stronger?

Help Me


I'm so sorry for your loss. How shattering for you all. My deepest condolences.

I’m going to kick off with an observation: Kids need love to thrive. That’s it. As long as you love them, and they know that you love them unconditionally, they will be OK.

All the other stuff – holidays, fancy toys and so on – are nice but they’re not actually important. Love is key and that’s the stuff that’s free.

So, if you hug your kids every day and tell them you love them – even when they’re difficult or messing up – they’re going to be fine.

Having said that, let’s be practical and see if we can get you into a better space. You have a nice job but you are worried about money and other support, so we focus on that.

First, your loss is very recent and your grief will weigh heavily on you. Grief isn't just about loss; it also pushes low mood and stress. Typically, this leads to negative thinking.

Just like depression and anxiety, deep grief and shock makes us see the world through a thick black veil. If the sun shines, we can't see it.

I'm not saying you're not in a tough spot; I'm saying you need help with your mood so you aren’t overwhelmed by negativity.

To relieve some of the emotions, talk through your feelings with a supportive neutral person. As you are worried about finances, sign up for free mental health support with an NGO.

There are numbers above, but you can also Google free counselling from women's groups like All Women’s Action Malaysia (Awam) at 03-7877 4221 and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) at 03-7957 5636.

Ideally, you talk for an hour a week to a student counsellor. There’s nothing to manage or change as such; grief is natural, but talking will help you release your anger, sadness, and loss in a safe space.

Second, get an overview of your finances. Gather up your bank statements and credit card information, and visit Bank Negara’s credit advice agency at akpk.org.my. They offer free financial advice and, from my experience, they're nice with it.

If there are debts or outstanding loans, they may be able to reduce them or get you a better deal. They can also advise you about any grants or allowances you might secure as a widow.

If you’re a Muslim lady, also check in with Sisters in Islam (SIS) free legal aid services at 03-7960 8802 and 012-812 3424. There may be support services that aren’t well advertised, but that NGOs will be knowledgeable about.

Third, gather your support network. You'll have friends and family, but also list people you like to chat with too, old friends you see once or twice a year – anyone who makes you smile.

It is practical, because you will need help, but seeing it in black and white will give you a boost.

Fourth, there are many mums who are in your situation. Go online and see what groups are near you. Religious groups will have resources, and there are also Facebook single mum and single parent groups.

At night, when your kids are asleep, you can network with other mums to share your emotions. That will be a huge relief, as they will understand what you are going through. Also, look for ladies based near you, so you can investigate practical support like babysit swaps and exchanging gently used toys.

Finally, your kids will be mourning too. They will need gentle care that friends and family can offer. If you think they need more, talk to your counsellor to see what help is available for them too.

You can do this and you are not alone. Please reach out for the support that is out there and know that I’m thinking of you.

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