Category Archives: What not to say to a widow

They said what ??

Welcome back to my next post of 2017, see I kinda promised to keep it going and here we are.

If you missed my post from the other week, you can click on it here.

But, now onto this weeks thoughts…

Firstly, if it wasn’t hard enough losing my husband at 30, worse still, was that I apparently did not receive my copy of the ‘how to grieve and move on after loss, in order to not offend or disturb anyone else’s life‘ handbook.

I mean really, that could have saved so many other people their sleepless nights, worrying about what I was doing, right?

Apparently how I dealt with Nick’s passing, had such an impact on how others treated me and definitely what they thought of me. I’ve written numerous times about how I felt I didn’t grieve properly, based on societies expectations.

I didn’t have a breakdown, I didn’t cry for days on end, I didn’t wear black, I returned to work fairly quickly and worse still I remarried. Oh the horror!

And because of all these things and many more, you can catch up on some of what i’ve already written by clicking here and  here for my funeral posts, I found myself constantly being watched for when they all assumed, the final straw would break me and it would make everyone else feel better to finally see the young widow inconsolable.

That was all in the early days post Nick’s passing but truth be told, I still faced judgement over my life decisions long past it.

When my now husband and I started dating, I constantly heard that it was ‘too soon’, ‘it wasn’t appropriate yet’, and ‘that I should wait a while before I told anyone’.

But what is the rule on how long before exploring a new relationship, because again, I didn’t get the handbook???

I have no idea why it impacted anyone else, I was still mourning the loss of my husband, I felt ‘relationship guilt’ for seeing someone else, who by the way, was very respectful of my situation, and I was also beginning to find my new normal and that was all ok with me.

Luckily for me, my own family and even Nick’s were very supportive, and this made things a lot smoother.

But once ‘friends’ found out, they suddenly distanced themselves from me. Apparently, ‘they couldn’t see me with anyone else’, ‘it didn’t feel right to them‘, ‘they were sure, Nick wouldn’t be happy’, and ‘they would never do what I was doing.’ All of these things were nonsense and those that knew Nick, knew he wanted me to be happy.

And my favourite comment, ‘Nick would be turning in his grave if he knew’, what a crappy thing to say to a widow!! And what does it even mean?!? I’ve also heard, ‘he’d be doing cartwheels’, let me assure you, he wasn’t that agile. I’d like to think he’d be giving himself a high 5 instead, over how great it’s all worked out.

All of these comments and judgement were never helpful, it just made me question my friendships and what I was doing, even though I knew it wasn’t wrong. And yes, these things were said to my face, not behind closed doors.

Hard to imagine, right?

And because of this, most of those friends never took the time to get to know my now husband, choosing instead to just fade from our lives with their own small minded opinions about us, including that I must have never loved Nick because I have now replaced him?!?

Oh yeah, that must be why I still have his photos up and write this blog talking about him.

I’ve had widows write me to say they found their next love within months of their partner’s passing, and another widow who writes me often, who suggests within 12 months most of his widowed friends had new partners but then I know another widow who has hidden her boyfriend for years to please her strict family.

What people need to understand is there is no time limit and for the most part, the widow is probably already questioning themselves enough, without the added interference of those around them.

Isn’t it wonderful that people who have gone through such a loss, can have a second chance at love again. Isn’t that worth being supportive. You may not understand the situation, but while you sit on the couch next to your partner watching The Real Housewives of wherever, maybe spare a thought for the friend of yours, widowed or even just single, sitting home wondering if they’ll be alone forever.

But ultimately, I choose to forgive the stupid comments and move forward with my life at my own pace, like Mother Teresa said, ‘if we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive’.

You don’t need to be a widow or have a friend go through this type of loss, the message is simple, keep your judgement to yourself. Most of what you say, will get back to whoever you’re talking about, and it will be hurtful. And like the old saying goes, ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say….’ well, you get the point.

Thanks for reading along and allowing me to brain dump my thoughts into something legible again.

And I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so write me and let me know.

Til next time, Michela xx

 

What Not To Say To A Widow – part 2

Hi again, thank you to everyone who wrote me following last weeks post, it seems to have hit a cord, so here’s the follow up, What Not To Say To A Widow – part 2.

So many widows wrote me with similar comments they received, and I was asked to include a bit more about what you might want to say instead to someone grieving.

I do want to add, i’m no expert in the matter, i’m just going on what I appreciated at the time of my loss.

I also want to acknowledge that I completely understand how awkward it is to hear of someone ‘young’ passing and not knowing what to say.

So please don’t be hard on yourself!

It is out of the natural order of death, to hear of a fit and healthy 32 year old, (as was my situation), dying and leaving behind a young daughter and wife.

We understand dying happens, we expect the elderly or our grandparents to pass away before us. We say, ‘wow, what great innings!’, ‘what a wonderful life they had’, i’d love to get to that age one day’ or ‘at least, they got to see their children and grandchildren grow up’.

We expect our parents will pass away, once we’re adults ourselves and whilst it will always be a sad occasion, it’s not beyond understanding.

They get older, just like we do.

But when a young person dies, who may be similar aged, it makes us question our own mortality.

Suddenly, we’re not invincible anymore, we question our life and what we’d do if in the same situation.

I know quite a few friends of Nick’s who took out life insurance once he passed.

The reality washing over them, that life doesn’t always follow the path you had planned for it.

I believe the same situation applies to parents who lose a child, no matter what age, it’s outside of the ‘norm’. We don’t know what the ‘right’ thing to say is. Those parents will never fully recover from their loss. Nick’s parents will live with their grief forever.

What could you say to make anyone feel better about someone’s life being cut so short in their prime? Well, not much really…

But, firstly, a few more distasteful comments that you should avoid saying, this from a widow close to my heart, who constantly heard, ‘but you look so good’, after the passing of her husband.

Just because you get up, dressed and maybe put on some makeup, doesn’t mean you are not grieving and hurting beyond belief, I heard this comment a lot too.

Society understands widows or those grieving to be disheveled in their pajamas, not well dressed and ready for the day.

We don’t want to be told we look good, we would prefer our husbands back.

The other comments I heard from a few widows were, ‘now you can get out and do things‘ or now you can start your life again‘. Not helpful, we are mourning the loss of our life as we know it, not looking forward to being alone and starting over. See what I mean ?

Now, onto what you might prefer to say in these times, well, none of the above firstly, or go and read last weeks post again and none of them either!

When I say just be there, do just that. As Christine one of my readers wrote to me, ‘I’ve had the wettest shoulders without ever saying a word‘.

Let the bereaved just talk and vent and don’t butt in and try and interject your words of wisdom.

Let them just talk it out, no interruptions.

Side story, one day as I was venting to a friend about my situation and maybe being a little irrational too, (it was about 4 weeks after Nick passed) she stopped me and said, ‘You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t with you’. 

That comment stung me like nothing else, it made me feel like I shouldn’t have said anything at all.  She shut me down so quickly, I felt like i’d best keep those thoughts to myself instead, that maybe I was being (god forbid!) difficult.

So, don’t do that!!

Don’t stop them talking, let them get out every irrational, stupid thought in their head, and make them feel safe in your company, no judgement!

Oh and bring around a tray of lasagna and maybe some wine, I promise they’ll appreciate it.

As i’ve said before, Cathryn, thank you for the pizza and wine Wednesday nights, they became my savior, I can never thank you enough for just ‘being there’.

Be normal, and talk about the person who passed, share stories, laugh at the memories, bring around photos you think they may not have seen before.

I loved hearing other aspects of Nick’s life that I wasn’t always privy to, like his work self and all the funny things that happened there or his time growing up.

I spoke about Nick all the time after he passed, it often garnered strange looks from people listening, but it’s how I coped. As much as it made others squirm and sometimes cry, it always made me smile being able to share those memories out loud.

I heard this from other widows too, that although it made their friends and family sometimes uncomfortable talking about those that had passed, it made them appreciate them all the more, and the life they had lived. It allowed them to focus on the positives instead of their new reality.

So, never be scared to mention those that have passed, use their name and acknowledge the life they had.

My favourite past time after Nick died was talking about him, I think this helped me through my grief immensely!!

Just acknowledging that although short, he had a full life and focusing on all the positives, instead of all the negatives once he was gone.

Sure, he’d never get to know our daughter, or have a chance to fulfill all his goals and dreams, but thinking this way was fruitless.

If I spent my time thinking about what he didn’t get to do, I don’t believe I would have been as accepting of his death.

Nick had a career he loved, he was in a loving, trusting marriage, he had a daughter he adored, friends and family he enjoyed spending time with, was well travelled and he was a happy guy who moulded me into the person I am today. See, all positives!

It doesn’t mean that after his passing, I didn’t wish he was around, but i’d think of the positives in his life and i’d know he was ok and it was what was meant to be.

So, don’t talk about the what they didn’t get to do, focus on the life they had instead, it’s what helped me through those early times.

To sum up my thoughts, listen without judgement, don’t interrupt, be there, use their name and bring wine, or chocolates will do too!

I hope you might have found some of this useful, know that nothing you say can ever take away their pain, but an ear to listen can go a long way.

Thanks as always for reading along and sharing, liking and commenting, I really do love hearing from you!

Til next time, Michela xx

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What Not To Say To A Widow

Welcome back to another post, today i’m writing about the comments I received once I was widowed.

I hope this might help others in What Not To Say To A Widow, I wish there was a manual I could have given out at the time!

I’ve already written about my worst comment from the driver to the cemetery on the day of the funeral, who said to me, ‘You mustn’t have loved him that much‘ because I wasn’t a crying mess in his car. You can read about that here.

But moving along to some others that I like to call the ‘At leasts’.. Whenever I heard a comment beginning with this i’d cringe, and while i’m being a bit harsh in adding these to my list…please use them with caution!

1. Being back at work one day early on, I was surrounded by a gaggle of women at my desk (I say gaggle because they really were like geese!) asking me all sorts of questions, when one of them asked where Nick was buried and I replied, ‘Yan Yean Cemetery’, it was then one of the ladies turned and said, ‘At least you know where your husband is!’ 

I was too stung by what she said to reply, but honestly, I would have given anything to have my husband late home from the pub with mates every night, then be buried in a cemetery somewhere! Am I right?

2. At least you’re young enough to remarry  this was uncool because well, my husband had ‘just’ died and I was in no mood to talk about a future relationship yet alone marriage. Give it a rest people!

And it also makes it sound as though, I somehow needed a man in my life to be ‘whole’ again. Heard this many times, hated it, smiled and nodded through gritted teeth always!

3. At least your daughter met him  again being a bit harsh here, but really she met him and lost him within 12 months, how much of that time does she remember – zero.

This goes hand in hand with the other one I heard often At least she’s young enough to not remember him, like somehow we should erase all memories of Nick and just go with the immaculate conception story instead.

On a side comment, my mum’s neighbour upon hearing I was engaged to marry John, came to visit and congratulate us, while instilling her words of wisdom along the same vein, saying, ‘Don’t mention Nick to Claudia and let her think John is her Dad’. My blood boiled, but again I thanked her for the suggestion and said we would continue to talk about Nick ,so she’d know who her Father was and how much he loved her.

I also have no problem with Claudia calling John by his first name and not Dad, because in her eyes, while he is a father to her, she has only ever know him as John and we are both comfortable with that. If she chooses later to call him Dad, then it will be solely up to her, no pressure from us or anybody else.

4. Continuing with the At leasts….I heard many times over, ‘At least you have your health.’ This is not a helpful comment, while I may not have a terminal illness, the emotional scars from losing a spouse or partner take years to overcome.

Insomnia, over thinking, anxiety and general sadness, make you not feel like yourself. And it is not healthy to be eating cheesy toasted sandwiches and popcorn every night, which may or may not have been my diet of choice!

I would have given anything to be the ‘sick’ one and take away his pain, I felt guilty many times during his illness that I was the ‘healthy’ one.

I add these At least comments to the list, because although they are said mostly with sincerity, using At least as your beginning, is a way of making light of what’s happened.

I understand it’s a way of looking on the bright side, but at that time, it might not be something you are capable of doing in the early stages of widowhood. They feel like a direct hit and a way of downplaying the situation.

5. Good on you for being in a new relationship, I couldn’t do that I love my husband too much’  This is a completely true comment from a family friend. Somehow insinuating, that I didn’t love Nick as much as she must love her husband, because if he died she could never be with anyone else! How very noble of her!

I heard this a few times when John and I started dating, the well done to me, like i’d won some award for moving forward, but the back handed comment, of it’s not something i’d do, if I was in your situation.

To this I say, us widows give ourselves a hard enough time moving forward without anyone else weighing in unannounced, making us feel worse.

I definitely had what I called ‘relationship guilt’ when John and I first started out, it seems unnatural to date again when your heart is still with your late husband, but you learn to work through those emotions.

If you’re lucky enough like I am, to have such a supportive husband, who’s patient and understanding, then that’s what will get you through, and not worrying about what other people are thinking of you and how soon, quickly, suddenly you find love again.

Because we all deserve a chance to find our round 2 of love and be happy.

6. I don’t know how you’re coping, I would have fallen to pieces comment, I know this comes from a good place and is all about making you feel good about the way you’re ‘handling’ things, but it didnt work that way on me.

It only made me feel inadequate, like I wasn’t grieving properly, that being calm and in control wasn’t the norm, why was I doing this so differently??

Besides, it was never a conscious effort for me to ‘be’  that way, so I never took this comment as a compliment, to me it sounded like, ‘you’re being weird, why aren’t you all emotional like I would be?’

7. Call me if you need your lawn mowed/you need food/ want to chat? I will not call you to get things done, if you want to mow a widow’s lawn, just rock up and do it, if you want to assist with meals, drop some at the door, if you want to me to chat about my feelings, just call and act normal.

I always hated these comments, I was far too independent to call anyone for help and it was a weird concept for me to ask anyone for food favours either. (Thanks though to my mum, sis and mum in law for feeding us most days!)

I think it makes you feel better that you’ve offered to help, but it means more if you just do it.

8. I know how you feel I lost my grandfather/neighbour’s mum/third cousin to cancer This didn’t make me feel any better, at the time, I was the only young widow I knew, it doesn’t compare to most other deaths. While every death hurts and leaves a void, losing your spouse/partner at 32 is a little out of the norm, especially being that I also had a young daughter.

Comparing that to your 80 year old grandfather dying, is like comparing my favourite classic red nail polish to one of my bright new neon colours, they’re completely different!

I’ll leave it for there for now, and will add this, one of the nicest, most sincere comments I ever received, was when someone would say, ‘i’m sorry, this sucks, I don’t know what to say.’ It’s honest and real and what connected with me the most, because there is nothing anyone can say at that time, that can make the situation any better.  It’s just sucks.

For anyone wondering what the ‘right’ thing to do is, just be there, hang around, be normal, let them rant and cry, listen, just do things without asking, bring meals, fill their fridge, be present. Don’t leave them alone to give them space to grieve, they will most likely prefer your company!

I hope I haven’t been too harsh with my list, I would love to hear your thoughts and if you’re a widow what crazy comments you heard!

Thanks for reading along,

Michela xx

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