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,