Sunday, August 22, 2010


I never thought about it much, but sort of always assumed back in the pre widow days, that those that have gone through the loss would know what they were doing and how to handle it.


I guess, you would think after experiencing the death of my husband…I would be one of those people who knew what to say when someone else was going through something similar. That I would have some magical words of comfort. That I wouldn’t be as stupid as some of the people I have encountered asking those questions we widows or those that have lost someone dear always hate to hear.

Yup. You would think.

But because of the experience I’ve been through, it makes me more self-conscious than ever that I’m going to say the wrong thing. If there’s one thing I know by now it’s that what one person finds comforting will make another person want to smack you. So, most of the time, I just try and keep quiet and let them talk. I am not very good at that. But I try.

About a month ago a neighbor down the block lost her son. It was a very sudden death and very violent. Most of us on the block knew him but hadn't known that he was "in with that crowd". He was around my age. It was shocking, to say the least. And not knowning what to say to his Mom. She had been friends with my Mother in Law but I didn't know her well. A woman I knew from nods on the street and the annual block party. I watched people go up to her and say "it's good he went fast" or "the pain will pass" and other stuff. It brought back memories of my own.

I went up to give her a hug and told her that I was sorry and that my husband Jim had always enjoyed talking to her son when he was much younger. She smiled at that and said she remembered him talking about Mr. Jim. Then something happened. I started asking my neighbor questions about how her son and her history on the block here and how long they knew Jim's family, and such.

And then something interesting happened.

My neighbor’s face suddenly lit up (as much as it can when you’re fighting against the rip-tide of grief) as she told me about her husand and her moving here. About Jim's mom and her dragging their husbands back from the bar at the end of the street one night. She talked about Jim's siblings and her kids and the fun they had growing up. She shared stories about raising their kids and talked about the relationships they had with everyone in the room. I realized something.

We all just want to tell our story. She just wanted to talk.

Not about his death. Not about what had happened. But about the life. And about a person who would never be forgotten.

In everyone’s attempt to “say the right thing” in times of grief they’re ignoring a very simple fact that would save everyone a lot of aggravation. They don’t have to talk at all.

They don’t have to worry about whether saying, “I’m sorry” is going to annoy someone. They shouldn’t even attempt to look at the bright side and say, “Well, at least he went quickly.” They shouldn’t make a pathetic stab at philosophy by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” Or the ban of a widows (or anyone that has lost someones) existance....“He’s in a better place now.”

They just have to ask one simple question about the person who is gone. And listen.

I realized that the most healing time I had when Jim was gone, was just sitting around with friends while we talked about special memories and moments about us and our life together. Even in my darkest hour, I enjoyed strolling down Memory Lane with anyone who would take the time to listen. Don’t we all? I LOVE it when people ask me how I met Jim. It's a great story. There is fun in remembering what we all did as a group and cons we went to or costumes or parties. I love it when someone looks at pictures of us; Jim, me, them, other friends and we can talk about what was happening in the pics. I love it when we talk about things we had done with them, our friends, together.

I started this blog to share those memories. So that they wouldn't be forgotten and it has helped in my healing process. I thank those that have read this for years for allowing me to share Jim in this way. I thank my friends for listening to the stories when we are just sitting around remembering the past. For not be afraid to mention his name or bring up those memories.


Fast Film said...

great post, Betts

Bismo said...

A beautiful post, Betts, thank you!

Sharon said...

A very apt post, Betsy! You were given just the right words at the right time for a grieving person to hear. Her and Jim's common background was part of that connection and openness. She also may have been open with you because she knew you had recently experienced a loss of a loved one, and that you could relate.

I find that a card of sympathy with a thought or memory has opened doors for later conversations....especially with those I'm not extremely close to, but would like to encourage through their time of grief.

Blessings on the rest of your week,