The Things People Say

Or… how to seriously hurt a widow…

I was having a conversation with someone last night about where I live.  I’ve lived in the house where I am for the past 8 years… my husband’s presence is embedded in every nook and cranny, every fibre of the house.  No matter what I paint or what furiture I bring in, or how I move things around… I still expect to see him in the kitchen, in our bedroom or in the living room.

I still expect to see him there.

It hurts.

I try to keep busy – I blog, I facebook, I visit other websites, I talk to people, I invite friends over, I furiously clean, I play video games. 

I do whatever it takes to keep my mind so busy that by the time I go to bed… I’m so exhuasted I pass out.

Sometimes I drink to forget.

Sometimes, though, I can’t.  My mind won’t stay occupied and I become *aware* of the lack.  Aware of what’s missing.  Aware of who’s missing.

And it hurts.  It’s like a knife, sliding into my heart, hot, sharp and painful… it takes my breath away, it leaves me doubled over in pain.  If I’m lucky, I’m able to cry and release some of the pain.

I can’t shunt those moments of awareness away.   They hurt too much.

They are always lurking.

So this person says to me something like: well, it will get better… it won’t hurt so much eventually.

I’m like: it’s not the same.  Your husband was not living with you when he died.  You didn’t expect him to come home.  He was never getting well enough to come home.  He had lived his life.

And her response?   “Well neither was yours, either.”

Even now, thinking about that, the pain hits, sharp, hot, and unreasonably painful.

No, my husband wasn’t living with me when he died.  But 2 days before he died – I was still being told that he would get better and come home.   The day he died, the surgeon tried to convince us that there was still something that could be done.   Until he actually took his last breath – I still held hope that he *would* get better and come home to  me.

I sat there, kissing his forehead, hoping  beyond hope that his breathing would get stronger, his heart beat would get stronger, that his blood pressure would go up and he’d get better and COME HOME to us.

Her husband, on the other hand… was 95 and not expected to come out of the nursing home he was in.   There wasn’t hope.  There wasn’t a possibility that a miracle would happen and he would come home and resume his life and his role in her life.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not, in any way minimizing her loss.  Her husband died.  For that, I have compassion.  For that, I have empathy.  I understand how much it hurts that her husband died.

But she expected him to.  When she moved him into the home, she knew he’d never be coming out.

I expected my husband to celebrate 50 years of marriage with me.    Wandering around my house late at night, I see everything that was lost.  I am mired in the sadness of what isn’t here anymore.  

Trying to compare grief, expecting someone to be over it, or at a certain level of “over it” is hurtful and unreasonable.

Everyone’s grief journey is different.  Everyone grieves differently, everyone heals differently, everyone comes to a place of acceptance differently.

We all need to realize that… and be kind and compassionate to one another… after all – you never know what journey another person is on.


Mark's Urn


3 thoughts on “The Things People Say

  1. I understand and get it, and you are right. I am sorry that someone piled hurt on top of already profound grief.

    I’ve had that done to me as well. It feels like no one else could possibly be in as much pain as we are, I feel that way, that not even you can understand my loss – though your words express similar feelings.

    We were doing the final stuff round the house to be our way to Heathrow Airport on Christmas Day (to go cross country trek skiing across the arctic circle in Swedish Lapland) when my husband collapsed with a brain aneurysm. Completely unexpected, as you say.

    17 months later, I am still like you in profound grief and loss. I too kissed his forehead which had been sawed open to remove the large bleed and the brain sunken in – and my brave Edward fought and fought to stay for his Petal, but he just could not win, half his brain was missing.

    The other day – yesterday – I spent a penny (means in England used the toilet), but I spent a penny and forgot to flush. Later I went back again and saw the lack of flush in the toilet and said “ach Eddie forgot to flush again… ” forgetting even 17 months later, that he wasn’t here.

    Our love is deeply intwined and ingrained, and for that I am grateful, because he was such a wonderful man, and so I am Petal + Eddie now, a new person, but a person that feels that grave, profound, deep loss.

    I get it SunnyJane. Sorry too, for your loss.

  2. Rose Chimera says:

    I had one of those nights last night. Staring at the ceiling, getting up out of bed, wandering around all until about 4:30am. I like you try to keep busy, blogging or reading others blogs, FB…the games anyway. I surf the web, I don’t talk to many people though. And yes, like you I play video games. But sometimes, like last night nothing works to stop those thoughts racing ‘round and ‘round. If the standard on the depth of grief was if he “was living WITH you at the time of his death or not” well I guess I should be just a happy camper. Does it matter that he was “living” in the hospital with hopes that he’d come home? According to some, I suppose not. However, that’s just f-ing stupid if you ask me! So I miss my husband less, or should miss him less because he wasn’t HOME when he died? You should grief less too because yours wasn’t HOME? Give me a break! Those people only get to say something like that to me one time. Then they are out of my life for their cruel insensitive statements. Stupid things people say when they don’t know what to say…(staying silent doesn’t occur to them). I had one woman call me up one week after my husband’s funeral and asked, “are you better?” Uh…BETTER?! A week after his funeral? I hung up on her and never heard from her again. Such is the way of these things. Because it wasn’t just yesterday doesn’t mean we don’t miss our loved one. I know I miss mine. Every day. Every single solitary day. Sometimes the missing is intense and it hurts, and it stabs and I cry, other days its milder where I can breath normally and even sometimes laugh..its a little easier, but not easy! Never is it going to be easy I think.

    • no one can impose their timeline on us – we have to grieve our own way. i think when people say “how are you????” they want to impose a timeline of quickness because they feel bad about our loss and don’t at all know what to say or do.

      i think from now on i’m going to say, “i am dealing with my grief privately, on my own timeline, and need people that will be faithful friends for however long it takes”

      i think people try and pop in and out for a week or two thinking if just THEY have a crack at it, they can fix us – for whatever their reasons (perhaps to feel better about loss themselves that they’ve tried their hand at fixing us) when what we really and truly need are consistent, faithful friends. BUT YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE COURAGE TO ASK FOR THAT, I am learning!!! Don’t accept less, ask for faithfullness in friends or hit the road!

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