Tag Archives: inappropriate comments

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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The Funeral – The Final Goodbye

Today’s post The Funeral – The Final Goodbye is as you guessed correctly, about the day we buried Nick. I say, we because so many people came out to send him off, it wasn’t just me alone in a cemetery somewhere. (That could have been weird!)

THe Funeral - The Last Goodbye
Nick and Claudia, Nov 2010, on the day he sold his much loved bike

The day of Nick’s funeral had finally come.

The week had felt both long and short, like i’d just seen him just 10 minutes ago and 10 years before, all at once.

We had the viewing the night before, which you can read about here but, still I felt like I was having some kind of out of body experience. Probably because I was still in a bit of shock that Nick was really gone.

I was my usual self, with a side of sarcastic widow humour. I wasn’t moping around, I wasn’t crying uncontrollably, I just kept repeating to myself, ‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day’.

I knew i’d have all eyes on me, everyone expecting me to breakdown, ‘she’ll crack at the funeral, she won’t be OK during the service, keep an eye on her…’

Maybe I was being paranoid, but all week I had people telling me, ‘it’s ok to cry ‘, like I needed their permission to mourn my husband, their way.

My family all arrived at my home that morning for moral support, helping by dressing Claudia in a blue outfit i’d purchased for her during the week.

Another awkward shopping experience when the salesperson asked where she’d be wearing the dress and I replied, ‘her fathers funeral’, only to be met with a blank look, like i’d said nothing at all !?!

I busied myself getting ready, but all I wanted was for the day to be over.

Calling on Nick to help me get through the day.

‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day’.

I remember my mum telling me to put on waterproof mascara, so that my makeup wouldn’t run when I cried. I hadn’t even thought of it, but I also knew I wouldn’t need it.

Of course, i’d cried since Nick’s death earlier that week, but it was generally when I was alone at 3am. Never for long, but enough to let out some pent up emotions and feel sorry for myself.

I have never been a ‘public crier’, I never thought it was a problem, til Nick passed away and all anyone wanted was to see me crying, like it somehow would equate to how much I loved him, or how hurt I was.

I had decided to go to the church with my sister Franca and brother in law Eden, while the funeral car collected Nick parents, who also had relatives fly out from Greece. It was just easier and I wanted the support of my family around me.

We had arrived a little early to get seated, Nick’s family were already there. As I walked down to the reserved pew at the front, I saw a sea of familiar faces, nodding and watching me, as I walked by.

I felt comforted by the fact so many people had come.

While seated, I kept swiveling in my seat, craning my neck to see who was behind us, whispering to my sister.

The church was filled, but yet people were still squashing in.

Apart from our families and friends, who i’d expected to come, I was heartened to see so many of our work colleagues, neighbours and hospital staff there too.

I couldn’t help but smile, probably not the desired reaction for a widow on her husband’s funeral day, but I was happy that Nick had touched so many people, that they felt the need to come and pay their respects. 

It had that effect on people, even if you only met him for a minute, he made you feel important and worthy.

In all, there were over 500 mourners at Nick’s funeral, I know this because apart from the church and car park being filled with people, there was the visitor/condolence book, which held over 500 signatures and friends told me they couldn’t sign because there were no spots left, or they couldn’t get to the book through the crowd.

Were you there ? What were your thoughts on the day?

We had decided to keep Nick’s casket closed for the funeral service, having had an open casket for his viewing. But, before the service could begin Nick’s mum started screaming that she wanted to see Nick again for the last time.

It broke my heart, seeing her up there, crying uncontrollably, asking the church helpers to open the casket.

While it wasn’t part of the plan, these things go out the window, when it can bring a little comfort to parent’s grieving.

The service began, with the casket open but, it was a blur, I don’t remember understanding much of it, it was mostly officiated in Greek Latin with the priest throwing in some English towards the end.

I spent much of the time thinking about Nick watching all this and being chuffed at the amount of people that were there! I could almost here him saying, ‘Hey Chel, did you see who’s here, not bad, huh?’

And then the service was over, we had decided due to the amount of people who had turned out, we wouldn’t be doing the condolences at the church (where you stand at the alter and you shake the hand of everyone who has come.)

This is a very European thing to do and while I understand the tradition behind it, it wasn’t something I wanted to be doing, over and over again.

Still I kept reminding myself, ‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day.’

And then the casket was wheeled out of the church to the waiting hearse, while traditionally the wife would walk behind it, in everyone’s rush to get out, I found myself about 16th in line behind him. I don’t know what happened, it’s one of my biggest regrets of that day.

Then it was a mad rush to get into the funeral car, to get to the burial. Due to the amount of people, there was so much confusion, luckily friends had taken Claudia with them, but I lost my family, I was being pushed and pulled and people I barely knew were stopping me to pay their respects, it was a blur of faces and people calling my name.

I rallied Nick’s parents, knowing we had to leave the church to make it to the burial, they were also being stopped along the way. Nick’s mum could barely stand, due to her immense grief. We got her into the car and her sister (Nick’s aunt) came with us, the car was full.

I had wanted my mum with me for support, but pushed aside my needs when I saw how desolate Nick’s mum was, I knew I’d be ok and could catch up with my parents later.

Still I kept reminding myself, ‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day’.

We pulled out slowly from the church lot, people crowding the car, I imagine this is what it feels like to be rock star, so many hands knocking on the windows, not moving from the path of the car. If it wasn’t a funeral, I swear there would have been camera flashes going off!

But one of my most vivid memories, was when the car was pulling out and I saw one of my best friends from the hospital, Suzie our pharmacist, standing to the side with her husband. As the car slowly rolled past her, we shared a look, that just translated to ‘i’m sorry, this sucks.’ We didn’t need words.

She’d been there with us from the very beginning, and I knew Nick had touched her life in the most enormous way, as she did ours. We shared a bond, that continues today. That look from her, in a sea of madness, had an unexplained calming effect on me.

And then we were off, first to drive past our house to leave a rose at our door and then onto the cemetery for the burial.

I’ve kept that same rose on my dresser on top of one of my favourite photos of Nick, as below:

The Funeral - The Final Goodbye
Nick’s final rose

I’ll leave you with this final moment from that drive to the cemetery, as I sat in the front seat of the sedan with Nick’s family in the back, we had a young-ish driver who kept mostly quiet til he decided to talk to me.

I was sitting silently, staring out the window, chanting in my head, ‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day’, when he broke my concentration to say, ‘You’re not crying huh? Mustn’t have loved him that much’.

Those were his exact words that have rung in my ears ever since. I was shocked he could say such a thing, though he may have been trying to be clever and strike up a conversation.

His words have always haunted me, as a reminder of how small minded people can be!

I was beyond sad that Nick was gone, I was heartbroken and felt so alone, our daughter would never know her father, our life plans had been erased, our world had been shattered, the man I was to spend the rest of my life with was dead and just because I wasn’t crying, did not mean these things didn’t apply to me or that I had no feelings.

I’ll leave it here for now and will continue next week with the burial.

Thank you so much to everyone reading along, sharing on social media and commenting, I love hearing from you.

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Til next week, or maybe earlier ??

Michela xx

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