WARNING: this post is full of curse words, tangents, and ridiculous (but only because they are so unbelievably stupid) TRUE comments people have said to me in the last year… and I wish it would END. I also have bolded what my immediate emotional reactions were, so don’t take offense, just know what goes through a grieving widow’s mind when, well, you say stupid shit. And unfortunately, my list is identical to all other widow’s I have talked to on online forums. Jacob would want all these phrases to end because they bring me such pain, and I sure as hell do. Here we go. *Also, I know that these comments are not ill-intentioned but I’m over the whole “people are just trying their best.” Try a little harder, people!
“Jacob wouldn’t want you to be sad – he would want you to accomplish all your dreams and goals.” No. All my dreams and goals were around and with HIM! Don’t you get it?
“You should try volunteer work!” Are you kidding me? I can barely get the guts to get out of bed. I hate that the sun is shining and the world is continuing without Jacob. My mind is in chaos. But sure! Let me start volunteering immediately.
“At least you had him as long as you did.” WHAT THE HELL? I WAS 25, HE WAS 27.
“I have been thinking of you lately, I just didn’t feel like calling or texting.” Oh, nice.
“Maybe I just don’t feel empathetic towards you because I don’t know what you are going through” Yes. Good point (this was from a “friend”) Thanks for the support!
“You should start to think about your future as a single female.” I can barely think of my next breath? Are you kidding me? Jacob is my one and only – forever.
“They are in a better place now” Really? REALLY? Please explain this to me. The only place he should be is with me in OUR shared life. How easy for you to say when my life is shattered and my future is gone.
“God will never give you more than you can handle.” Well, guess what, he has.
“You know that he cannot get into heaven until you accept his death” Fuck off.
“I understand” or “I know how you feel” NO YOU DON’T – STOP SAYING THAT.
“You need to let him go, or he can’t be truly happy. You are causing him pain” Fuck off even more.
“You’re smart, strong and resourceful- you’ll get through this!” Are you kidding? I am lying in bed – I haven’t eaten in weeks, I am free floating from the sky with the only person, the love of my life now dust. Gone forever. YOU TRY GETTING THROUGH THIS. ASSHOLE.
“My dog passed away last month, I know how hard this is for you.” I have no words.
“My 87-year-old Great Grandmother died last year, I know exactly how you feel.” Jesus. At least your comparison is to a human – but you visited her once a year. I SPENT EVERY SINGLE DAY WITH JACOB.
Point is – none of these are COMFORTING. They make us feel hurt. They are insensitive. And… I just don’t understand it.
WARNING: TANGENT COMING
I bet you have dealt with this same thing, people minimizing your grief or acting like it is something like yours. In the wise words of Megan Devine “Grief comparison and shared grief does not bring you, the widower, any comfort. It can feel like your own loss has been eclipsed by the speaker’s need to tell their own story- no matter how long ago it happened, or how irrelevant it is to your loss. Talking about their own pain is a way the person moves the focus off supporting you and onto getting their own needs met.” And the competition of grief? Yikes. I have seen this with my own eyes and it is ugly. This is something Megan Devine also summarizes in her book on grief (It’s OK that you’re not OK – which I highly recommend- buy it here). It was as if the words she was saying came directly from my soul. She says we need to talk about the HIERARCHY OF GRIEF. Divorce is not the same as the death of a partner. There is a hierarchy. I am sick of this “every pain is the same but different” bullshit. TOTAL BULLSHIT. Some pains are worse than others and you all know it. We all know it. Death of a grandparent is not that same as the death of a spouse. Death of a cousin is not the same as the death of a child. “YOU CANNOT FLATTEN THE LANDSCAPE OF GRIEF AND SAY THAT EVERYTHING IS EQUAL. IT ISN’T.” Can I get a Hallelujah?
Of course, everyone might be in grief, but the thing is – we cannot assign equal weight to all levels of grief – because this does not support the griever (me) (you) and all the young widows out there. But the truth is – and this comes mostly from the book I referenced earlier – defending the uniqueness or intensity of your loss against the comparisons of others is not going to make you (me) feel better. Pointing out the various orders of magnitudes of loss is not going to help us feel better. So, what do I do when someone tries to link arms with me in grief when they HAVE NO IDEA THE DAMAGE THEY ARE INFLICTING OR WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT? I just nod (maybe offer a forced smile). Leave the room. Not answer phone calls. Turn off my phone completely. Sometimes punch a hole in the wall. Cry into a pillow. Watch videos of Jacob telling me he loves me more than anyone in the world. Look at photos of us together. Scream at the sky. Think about how I was the only one that knew his adult self – and how he was the only one that knew me. How lucky I was that he picked me to share his whole self with. Cry some more. It all depends on the person, and what they said. Here is the thing – I know many of these people are just trying to say what they can, what they only know how to- and a year and one month ago, I might have said one of those stupid comments – but I also know much of what their words are doing is turning the focus away from my pain. For many, it is inconvenient for me to be in more suffering. Any suffering. But haven’t I suffered enough without having to worry about if I am too much of a burden on others? Give me a fucking break, here.
Okay, more comments:
“This experience will make you stronger! Buck Up!” TOUGH LOVE? NEVER WORKS, NEVER WILL.
“You can always try again-get another partner, have a child” HE WAS MY SOULMATE. WE DIDN’T BREAK UP – HE DIED.
“You need to put this behind you.” HOW CAN I PUT MY WHOLE PAST AND FUTURE “BEHIND ME?”
“You are so strong.” NOPE. NOT NOW.
“You need to get out of bed and start living.” AGHHHH, GRIEF HAS NO TIMELINE. AND I DON’T WANT TO BE ALIVE – GET IT?
“You are lucky to only grieve for Jacob, I feel the pains of the world” LUCKY!?!?!??!?!?! Yes, a 25-year-old widow is lucky.
“You were apart sometimes, you did fine enough then” I don’t even have a response other than you are ignorant and stupid.
“You are so young, you have to find someone else, you need a companion.” UGH. WHEN WILL THIS END?
AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE AND TITLE OF THIS POST:
“Everything Happens for a reason” NO IT DOES NOT! TELL ME THE REASON NOW, GO AHEAD AND TELL ME THE REASON JACOB HAD TO DIE.
Well let me tell you everything said above is not only TRUE but everyone who said those awful things needs a “crash course on when to shut the fuck up.” One of my widow friends said that, and man was she right on the money. And the worst part is, you are only seeing half the list of what people have said. Here is the thing: like I said before, I know the comments aren’t ill-intentioned, but it comes off like a dagger to the chest. We are already grieving so heavily, that these insensitive remarks act as another punch of grief in the gut. We find ourselves having to defend our grief. We find ourselves victims of grief shaming. People tell us stories of other people who have overcome “far harder situations with much fewer resources” – as if that is supposed to soothe the
pain? Why is it so difficult for people to sit down and say, “Tell me about Jacob”, “What was your favorite story- or one of your favorite stories?” “When did you know you were in love with him?” “What was something only you knew about his life that would surprise other people that knew him?” “Tell me about your day-to-day living?” “What were his favorite books? hobbies? restaurants?” THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU PEOPLE. But instead, you offer shit advice. SHIT WRAPPED IN GLITTER as my therapist would put it. You hand it to me, with some idea that you are giving me some novel wisdom but all the while it is just another shit comment.
I know I seem fired up, but it is only because a distant “friend” of mine recently compared losing her dog to me losing Jacob. I got so angry. I lost my childhood dog 10 months before Jacob died. Jacob and I cried over that dog – Precious was just as much his dog as mine. But since Jacob died? WHO GIVES A SHIT. How could anyone compare such a loss? This is someone I laughed with, I made love to, I watched movies with, I made meals with, I shared an entire life with. Someone I met in 4th grade. My crush since 7th grade (12 years!) I was just so angry when I got that message I thought- first, I will take some of the drugs my whole team of doctors has prescribed me to ease the anxiety and depression (which never really works), and then second – write a blog post about some of the most insensitive comments told to me this past year. After looking up some other widow’s experiences, I was horrified to see my list was the same as theirs. I am sure if you are a widow reading this, you have a whole host of your own. PLEASE IF YOU ARE READING THIS AND YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS A WIDOW OR ANYONE IN MOURNING, AND YOU HAVE SAID SOMETHING LIKE WHAT I MENTIONED ABOVE – YOU SHOULD BE AWARE, AND CONSIDER APOLOGIZING. But, if you are going to be passive and only offer comments in a card or a text here and there, this is what you can say – “thinking of you” “sending healing light” “I love you” That is about it. And I am not trying to make you feel bad, but people need to be told when their behavior is damaging – we do it in all other life situations – why not in miserable grief?
What I wish more than anything is that someone would just show up and want to talk about Jacob. Real adult Jacob. Who he was from age 18-27. But no one does that, they tip-toe around his name and memory like it is some disease. And because many have guilt that they didn’t know him as an adult? They don’t want to hear my stories. Jacob was much different at 12 than he was at 16 than he was at 20 (when we finally started living together, I was 18) than when he was 25. People just want to hold onto their stories, instead of lifting his life and his pure joy to new heights and dimensions by listening more and adding more complexity to the beautiful human he was. If Jacob were here, he would say to me “It’s okay, baby, because you know what? You know of our life – and that’s good enough for me.” When I just wrote that, I broke down and started crying because I could hear him say that so clearly.
Sometimes you just have to let your grief exist between you and your soulmate, even though he/she is gone. I know it is so hard. I know.
I had this realization about six months ago… I felt so much more connected to Jacob when I was alone than with anyone else- when I was time traveling in my mind to memories or when I was writing about the adventures we took alone. Because, the truth is – it was just me and him. It is just you and your partner. And I am very sorry we both have to walk this path.
Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Some people get it worse than others – and life just does whatever it wants. I know friends and friends of friends who have a fraction of the love Jacob and I had and they get to get married, have children, and do everything we were planning on doing. NO, EVERYTHING DOES NOT HAPPEN FOR A REASON. People with no love, passion, or personality spend their long miserable lives together and we got robbed of all the joys of life with each other. Jacob talked about growing old with me almost every week, we loved each other so much it was almost unearthly. This was an awful tragedy. And instead of hearing that horrible expression “everything happens for a reason” what I would like for someone to say is “This really fucking sucks. How can I help you put the pieces of a broken life together”? or “This is an awful situation and all I can offer is to sit with you in your suffering.” These are the real questions and statements that everyone is afraid to ask or say – but unless they have experienced true suffering or life has brought them to their knees, they will continue to say… “Everything Happens for a Reason.”
I apologize for the angry post – but I really think people need to be aware of how damaging these comments can be… I promise next week won’t be as heated.
I am going to leave you with a new poem called “grief shame” (never before published).
sunset smothers out
all the light,
I am on my knees
make it how it was
yeah – just like
go speeding up
against all this wind,
I am matted in gold
that won’t let go.
people make me sick
once they find
someone they know
wave until they
always a moment
where they feel
entitled to go on,
about so little.
people make me sick
the way they
clean up their mess-
on the table
layered with oil
splattered with jelly
he never made me sick
an easy living breeze
on the fleshy skin
cotton rolling flowers
cool pink mornings
to my legs
under my hair
he was nothing like these people
people make me sick
once they finally discover
the pain I am in,
but I know,
anyone can do.