I read an article today called How to Talk to a Grieving Person. As I read it I related very much and by the fourth paragraph I found myself wanting to give my paragraph by paragraph version. So I did and this is what I got:
It all started with the line: "What’s worse than that is insincerity; what’s worse that that is inaction." This topic has actually very much been on my mind this week. I received hundreds of messages after Jhonny died. I couldn't tell you everyone I received a message from. But I do remember people I did not receive a message from. This is not by effort. I am not trying to remember who these people are. I just simply do. I also do not have any ill-will towards them. I imagine they have their reasons and that a fear of saying the wrong thing or not wanting to impose on my space are often among these reasons. But what I have to say about that is, it really doesn't take much. "I'm so sorry" is perfect. "I have no words" is also perfect. And I have yet to speak with a widow that is upset about someone contacting them to give their condolences. If you feel like the person grieving is being bombarded then just send a message on Facebook or by email. This is hardly intrusive. Although many widows may not, I went back weeks later to read messages that I may have missed in those early days. I may not have responded because I just couldn't but most of the people who wrote were not writing expecting a response. They were writing to express their love and support. And that is exactly what I felt.
I love talking about Jhonny. He always was and continues to be my favorite subject. For the first month I wasn't really interested in any conversation that did not have to do with him or with the general subject of loss. I wanted to hear all the funny stories and memories of him. Or I wanted to talk to other people and hear about their stories of loss. Everything else seemed trivial.
I can barely "like" a post on FB half the time let alone pick up the phone to makes plans or ask for a favor. The people in my life are the ones who are putting themselves there. And I am so grateful. This is 3 months later and I still have wonderful people who just understand that my ability to plan and give and reach out is just not what it once was. These people still show up. Which is really meaningful because it is about this time that most of my world seems to go back to their lives (as I of course want them to do; I want them to LIVE). But the once overwhelming amount of support slows down and I still don't know how to reach out for help. From day one to now, I have not had a single instance where I felt like someone was pushing themselves on me. I guess this is important for me to say because I imagine that this might be a fear for some.
On more than one occasion I have said, "such and such happened a month ago or two weeks ago..." What that really means is "Such and such happened a month before Jhonny died or two weeks before Jhonny died." In those moments when I say this it's because I feel like all the time that has passed since his death are in a void. It's like time stopped. I have not unpacked his suitcases that I brought home from Europe. His shoes are still sitting at our front door. His favorite iced tea is in our fridge. I don't know when any of that will change.
Regarding The Year of Magical Thinking... I did read it (thanks Betsy Blankenbaker and Lacey Smith for sending it). It was the first thing I did and maybe the only I did in that first month that actually took me out of my own story. I appreciated it a lot. My story was very different that Joan's (the author). I didn't relate to a lot of what she said and yet I also did relate and find connection. I understand everyone has their own timing and triggers and challenges. In my world I know more young widows that most. We all loved and continue to love our husbands deeply. I don't think any of us would change a thing about our time with them. But I understand more than ever that we all grieve differently and although we have a lot in common we will never fully understand one another. No one will ever understand exactly what it feels like to be in my shoes nor I in theirs. So if there is one thing I would ask to avoid saying is "I know how you feel" unless you follow it up with "and yet I do not know at all."