Tips for When Friends Cannot Show Up When We Need ThemJanuary 5, 2016
Tips for When We Hear Something, Say SomethingJanuary 28, 2016
I had heard that her husband died several months before we ran into each other and although I had left a message of condolence, sadly, I found out when I saw her she had not received. I was glad to see her in person to offer my condolences.In the brief time we were together, we hugged and shared sweet memories. She suggested a topic for Sanity Savers. She asked that I write about helping people understand that when they meet someone whose partner died, that asking them, “How are you?” can be a really tough question to answer. She said she feels awkward whenever anyone asks her. She acknowledged that she is far from “fine,” but is hesitant to go into detail about how she’s doing with most people. A true assessment of how she is doing is somewhere between Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Traveling Through a Deep, Dark, Silent Tunnel with really strange narrations and conversations in own head.
Perhaps one of the following responses might work. Who knows? “Some days are better than others” or “Getting by.” “I didn’t think it would be like this” or “I’m really lonely.” “I keep waiting for him to come home” or “I talk to him a lot.” “I cry buckets but not in front of people” or “I never went through anything like this.” “I never believed he would die before me, (or more honestly, that he would ever die!) “Sometimes I wonder why I am living without him” or “He was my light and now that light has gone out.”
She reiterated that she is aware and appreciative of how lucky she is to have had a loving husband and solid marriage. So many people don’t. She also knows that everyone who inquires is interested in her and wishes her well. Their desire is to comfort. She just feels so alone. She often wants to be alone even though she says, “I know I shouldn’t and I don’t want to push people away.” “Unless someone is a widow or widower, they don’t have a clue…and even then, our relationship was so unique that I wonder how many people really know how I feel.” When someone says, “I know how you feel” I actually feel myself pulling away.
Maybe next time, when asked, she will say, “It’s very complicated and I see this process takes time.”
Maybe next time, the people who are inclined to ask “How are you?” will say instead, “I am thinking of you and know this is far from an easy time” or “My favorite memory of him is…”, or “I don’t know the right words to comfort you but I do want you to know that I care about you and feel for you.” Folks need not feel they MUST come up with the “RIGHT” words because there may not be any at this moment. It could just be sitting together, or something that shows they have compassion for where she is. She does not want to feel pressure to say she is feeling or doing anything other than what she is feeling or doing, and sometimes, she does not even want to share that with anyone.
It’s complicated and private.
But it is good to know that people care.