Reflections: how you can help me…

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Morning view of the Hudson

I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and in perfect timing.

I arrived home this evening with a feeling of wanting to “meditate into my blog.” As I situated myself at the keyboard and started to open up the user interface to write, I received an email alert that one of my (now) dear friends had published a posting. The posting was based on a letter that a friend of her’s had written in her online widow’s group. The letter was about how others can help us — this tribe of widows and widowers who are bond together in our loss — as we navigate through our new life…This letter couldn’t have come at a perfect time as this is a subject I’ve thought upon for a while.

As I sat there reading the letter, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was reminded of all of the moments when someone would tell me that I was going to meet someone else in life or that death was a part of life and I needed to live life to its fullest. While I understand that friends and acquaintances were trying to be helpful, I know that they were frightened, too in trying to handle my grief — it was too close for comfort. This letter from a widow’s perspective is perfect for anyone in my life who has been unsure of how to approach me or what to do. This letter is a compilation from the anonymous widow, my dear friend Sarah Treanor with my own insertions:

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. If it makes me cry, its fine. It is comforting to cry. It is excruciating to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation and mood swings. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in great waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You can’t catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don’t know what to say, just gently say “I’m sorry”. You can even say “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and I want you to know that.”

Just because I look or sound good, doesn’t mean I feel good. I may be a strong person however ask me how I feel, only if you really want to find out and have the time to listen.

Please do not ask me if I am going to start dating again. I know you just are trying to make things better for me in finding love again. However I just lost my life partner and my mind is on him and preserving his memories and our traditions together. I can’t see a life with anyone else yet.

Days may get better but I will never recover. This is not a cold or flu. I’m not sick. I’m grieving and that’s different. My grieving may not even fully begin until 6 months after my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I’ll be over it in a year. I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the family we will never have and all the other plans we had for our future together. I became a different person because of him and am now a different person after him.

I will not always be grieving this intently, but I will never forget my loved one. And rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy or through my creativity and other times with a tear. These are okay.

I don’t have to accept his death. Yes, I understand that it’s happened, and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. I am not angry with him for passing away, I am angry that I am a part of a club that I did not ask to join.

Please don’t tell me what I “should” be doing, it makes me feel even more lost and alone. I feel bad enough that my loved one is dead, so please don’t make it worse by telling me I’m not doing this right. There is no right or wrong — there’s only “is.” And right now I am trying to do the best that I can.

Please don’t tell me to get on with my life. My life is going on, and I am thankful for that life but this will take a long time, and I will never be my old self again. A new person walks in these shoes, one with a hole in their heart a galaxy-wide.

I need to know that you care about me, I need to feel your touch and hugs. I need you just to be with me and I need to be with you. I need to know that you believe in me and my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don’t assume that I am too busy or that I have too many other people’s support and that you’ll be bothering me. If everyone does this, then no one calls, and no one checks on me, and I feel even more alone.

Please don’t say “Call me if you need anything.” I’ll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. Also please do not make ‘conversation only’ offers. “Let’s get together” — and then not follow up. I am sensitive in my grieving, but I’d rather hear you say, “I’ve been thinking of you,” than make a offer if you don’t mean it. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas…

a) Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can’t make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on the difficult day.

b) Give me a call (or even a heartfelt message on Facebook) just to see how I’m doing. I may not always answer, but leave me a message to let me know you were thinking of me. Please don’t give up on me because somewhere down the line, I will answer, or call back, when I am ready to share.

c) Mail me a very small, heartfelt, cheer up gift. I’ve had a few people do this and it has just made my heart glow and – some days – has been the shining jewel that turned my whole day around.

Please don’t judge me now or think that I’m behaving strangely. Remember I’m grieving and I’m still in shock. I am afraid. I am angry. I’m experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before and one that can’t be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes. Weddings, baby showers and other celebratory events are hard or me. Not because I begrudge anyone’s happiness for these are beautiful events that celebrate our humanity and the power of love. I am doing the best I can to be supportive. However above all I hurt and sometimes its hard to keep a happy face on. Therefore, sometimes it’s better for me to offer support in other ways.

Please keep inviting me out for coffee or for a walk. I may decline but will always appreciate being asked.

Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better, and then suddenly I seem to slip backwards. Grief makes me behave this way at times. Please don’t tell me you know how I feel. Words cannot begin to describe what I am going through. Sympathize with me, but don’t take away my right to my pain. I know that we all have our own life’s challenges; I’ve suffered loss and different challenges as well. I’ve lost my mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles and host of relatives. I will tell you now, while it really hurt to lose them I can’t begin to express the pain I feel now.

Remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss, when you need me as I have needed you – I will understand and come and be with you.

Thank you for your patience, for caring, for helping and for understanding.

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7 thoughts on “Reflections: how you can help me…

    Joy said:
    November 27, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    I have to thank you for posting this because, as someone who loves you, I often feel really dumb about what to say or what to do for you. I will keep all of this in mind every time. I’d also like to add a note to well-meaning friends: make sure that in your quest to help out a grieving friend, that you keep your focus on them and not on you. It’s easy to think you’re just trying to cheer someone up when, really, you’re trying to ease your own discomfort. It’s hard to watch someone cry or talk in the present tense about someone who is gone so you try to get them to stop. Don’t. If that’s what they need, then live through it. You’ll be ok 🙂

    Sarah said:
    November 29, 2012 at 1:43 am

    I love your additions. I am imagining this little note spreading like wildfire across various widow’s blogs over the years… each of us adding little pieces of ourselves to it. Maybe one day we will come across it again – years from now – with little precious bits of hundreds of beautiful, courageous, widowed souls added into it. ❤

    P.S. Your friend Joy is a smart cookie! Wonderful comment she left here! =)

    A wish | honeyimalesbian said:
    January 10, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    […] Reflections: how you can help me… (lightinthechaos.wordpress.com) […]

    His letter to me. « Dancing with Fireflies said:
    January 20, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    […] Reflections: how you can help me… (lightinthechaos.wordpress.com) […]

    christineeli said:
    February 21, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    That letter pretty much sums it all up.
    I’ve lost two of the people that are most dear to me my son Cody Johnson and my sister Barbra Eli. During this baffleing four years I’ve never felt so alone.I think that in the begining people don’t know what to do or say and than in time they just forget about it, but thats just the people around me I can’t speak for everyone else.

    Christine.E

      Val responded:
      February 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Good afternoon Christine and thank you for your note.

      Please accept my sympathies on the passing of your son and sister.

      Thank you for your message. I’ve found in this journey that grief has not been a “one size fits all.” I’ve experienced the lost of my parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins however I’ve experienced a greater shift in the relationships I’ve had with friendships since Derek passed away.

      Just as you’ve mentioned, people do not know what to say or they are uncomfortable with the experience which is why sometimes our friends tell us that “everything happens for a reason” or we will be okay soon. I’ve had people tell me “No worries you’ll find another husband” when they found out Derek passed. In the last eight months — I found friendships shifting where people who were front and center move towards the back as co-workers and people who I met at a widow’s group or online become my support system.

      While I know that you feel alone — know that you are not. We’re in a “club” that we didn’t ask to be in and there is a lot of anger and hurt that sometimes follows because we’re not only mourning the death of our loved ones but of the life we once had as well. And while it is my first time meeting you — please know that I am here if you ever need to talk, share stories or write whatever is on your mind 🙂

      Thank you again — V

    His letter to me. « Dancing with Fireflies said:
    February 7, 2014 at 9:58 am

    […] Reflections: how you can help me… (lightinthechaos.wordpress.com) […]

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