1200 Days a Widow

Twelve hundred days have passed since I stopped being a wife and started being a widow. It is a change in title that no one ever wants to experience but so many of us will. You might be surprised that I am still counting. Let me reassure you that I don’t mark off each day on a calendar and count them individually, but please realize that they do all count. The Birthday Days, the special to only us days, the holidays, the anniversaries of everything; from the first kiss, to the first I love you, to the proposal, the first dance, the first vacation, the first everything that was supposed to be followed by years more of first’s, second’s, tenth’s, twentieth’s and so many more.

Widowhood doesn’t end with a new relationship, a new romance, a new first kiss. Don will always be the person I thought I would spend forever with and didn’t get to. Will I fall in love again YES! Have I already fallen in love again and had my heart broken again, yes! Will I risk it all again for love, ABSOLUTELY!

Becoming a widow doesn’t mean my life is over it simply meant that my life as I had thought it would be, never will be. Twelve hundred days are many more days than Don and I did get to spend together but life is not in the quantity of someone’s days it is in the quality of the living of those days.

Don taught me to live all of my days with passion, love, inspiration, truthfulness, transparency, and humility. I try to remember those things every day. I still to this day do not watch television, drink alcohol, smoke anything, or let the balance of my bank account determine the generosity of my heart, my time, or my passion.

My job as Director of Community Development at Butterfly Wings is a volunteer position that may never earn me a dime but it is something that I am passionate about and that is what helps me honor the things that Don taught me. Will I ever be rich? Yes, rich with the love of my family and friends, rich with the fullness of heart that comes with helping someone out who needs a hand up, rich in the knowledge that I am a beloved child of God. Will I ever have enough money to buy a brand new car again? Probably not. Do I care? No.

Life is not about the destination, life is not about the journey either, life is about the person, and people you get to spend the journey with. My wish for you today on this 1200’th day is not that you never ever have to lose someone, because that is unrealistic and not how this world of mortal souls works, my wish is that you love the people that you are on this journey with and that you love them fully, without reservations, without limitations and my wish is that you feel that love in return from your family, from your friends, and from God, because you also are a beloved child of God.

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The Grief Calendar

December 3, 2016

It has been two years since I published the thoughts that follow. The anniversaries still come, the memories still bring a smile or a tear, the calendar continues to be a reminder of what once was, but it is also a tool to help plan what is to come. There have now been more milestones since Don died than we actually shared together. More birthdays, Thanksgivings, Easters, and soon Christmases will be celebrated since his passing.

As I look forward to more birthdays, weddings, graduations and celebrations of all kinds it is good to also look back and remember what once could have been, and thank God for what there still is. There is still love, kindness, forgiveness, family, friends, and hope! Hope for a future that contains joy, love, happiness, and family.

As we all look towards Christmas this year during Advent let us not forget that for some this will be the first Christmas without someone near and dear. So please pick up the phone, send them a note, or just visit the person who is missing someone for the first time this Christmas.

Christine

 

December 3, 2014

I seem to have a different relationship with the calendar since my world came to an end six months ago. The painful passing of time being marked in increments of greater and greater length. First it was hours, then days, weeks, now months. Each leap meaning I am continuing to live and go forward.

Going forward also means sometimes looking ahead, which is not the same as it used to be. Looking ahead to the next meaningful date on the calendar means mixed emotions at best, or with fear and dread of the survivability of the date most often. First it was the blur of days before his funeral, then his memorial service in our hometown, and now all of the little, but oh so meaningful, anniversaries from our way too short life together. The first time we met, the first e-mail, the first card, the first letter, the first concert together.

That first time we hugged and felt the spark of desire. The first look into his eyes knowing that I would never be the same again after sinking into the deep blue pools of love that they held. The first time my lips accidentally brushed his cheek as we embraced to say goodnight. The first kiss. The first time he said “I love you” and the first time I replied. The first time we danced and the delight in his eyes while we clumsily made our way around the room.DSCN7188 (640x434)

Little anniversaries that we celebrated in small but meaningful ways, flowers, cards, a special dinner at home or a night out to hear some music. We both kept a dated journal to remember special days. There would be notes tucked into books to surprise each other, or sometimes a special sweet treat from the freezer or the oven.

I have also “survived” the big dates on the calendar; Our wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, his birthday and my own. There are special dates in the Church Calendar that have great meaning to us as well. All Saints Day was a date not just to remember that he has gone on to join the Great Communion of Saints but it had special meaning to the two of us before this year as well. We had both suffered losses in our lives and it was through loss and through our faith that part of our connection was built. One of the early things Don did for me in our friendship was to go up in my place and bring home the rose offered in our local church for my Mother when I couldn’t be there that day due to obligations at school.

This week we have had the First Sunday in Advent and World Aids Day. A year ago those two dates coincided with Communion Sunday and I had the privilege of helping to serve communion to  Don for what I thought would be the first time. It was the only time I offered the elements to my husband and I am eternally grateful that I had that chance.

There are more dates to come as I look at the calendar and sometimes I am not sure if I can endure the memories and other times I know that without the memories I could not endure.

In this season of preparing for Christ, in this season of Advent, I will prepare my heart for the pain it must go through and I will prepare my heart for the JOY of Christ, because in  ‘All My Days’  I know that Christ is with me, just as I know Don is with me always.

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Making Peace With Grief

This article originally appeared in “The Yoke, Quarterly Newsletter” Published online September 1st 2016
Picture

The first time that I knew someone who died was when I was about six years old…

Grief is a fact of life; it is a byproduct of love and mortality. If you are in love with someone and that person is in love with you, one of you is going to be left behind without the other. Those car accidents, you know the ones I am referring to; where two people who are married to each other both die instantly,   that the financial planning experts and insurance salesman talk about, well they just don’t happen that often and thank God for that.

 I tend to be a “prepare for the worst and pray and hope for the best in life” kind of person. Unfortunately when my new husband went from vibrant health to death in less than half of a day, I was not prepared. You aren’t supposed to go from being a newlywed to being a widow before even celebrating your first anniversary. There is supposed to be some kind of warning, anything to give you a heads-up that someone is sick. I had no warning when Don died he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. His heart stopped beating in the emergency room with my arms around his head. The doctors tried everything they could but they could not save him.

 The first time that I knew someone who died was when I was about six years old and my Grandmother’s Brother died. I was very confused because I wasn’t crying and other people were, I remember feeling guilty. I remember my Great Uncle Paul as this very tall kind man who would play jokes with the kids and who had a miniature poodle. He was married to my great Aunt Helen who had red curly hair and was rather round when standing next to her tall and lanky husband. Children need to be told that whatever they are feeling it is appropriate and they need to feel that they can ask questions and that their question will be answered with respect and truth.

During the time in-between my first experience with death and my most recent loss of my husband I have been the person in my family who speaks at funerals, the one who comforts my family, the only person in my family to pray in public. I have lost four of my first cousins and been there for their parents and then I have been there for the passing on four uncles, my two grandmothers and tragically the burial of my two nephews and one niece under the age of seven. Helping a parent bury their child is something all Pastors dread. It smacks of unfairness in the universe; it isn’t supposed to happen that way. Children bury their parents and grandparents and the generation that has lived longer than them.  We aren’t supposed to say goodbye to our children it is not natural.

The ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono…

So how does someone make peace with grief? I don’t know the answer for everyone; I only know the answer for me. There is only one way to get through grief and that is by grieving. You do not get over grief, you cannot sidestep around it. You must go through grief in order to get through it. I took a year off from school after my husband died. I didn’t consciously intend to take a year off but thankfully I had wise and caring Deans and Professors who looked out for me. To me and many others making peace with grief means making peace with the person who died.

 The ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono: “A Good Goodbye” is something I find resonating with my experience. According to this practice there are four steps that one must take when saying goodbye to someone; 1) I love you, 2) I thank you, 3) I forgive you, 4) please forgive me, and then finally then Goodbye. We may not all consciously realize that we are going through these steps but they are usually there none the less.

When my mother died in December of 2011 she had been sick for fifteen months. As her caregiver I was with her pretty much around the clock for that time. We had opportunities to actually say those things to each other. We loved each other unconditionally and we were at peace when she passed. She was not the perfect mother, I was a far cry from a perfect daughter but none of that mattered. Love wins in the end every day. 

When I lost my husband in the May of 2014 we had no warning. We had no goodbye. Making peace with someone who has gone on before you is one of the hardest things to do in life. I easily told my husband that I loved him, I always will. I had to say I am sorry for my shortcomings in our relationship, and to do that without being overcome with guilt takes a long time. I had to forgive him for anytime he had come short of what I needed him to be. That was a simpler process. Thanking my husband for all that he brought into my life was also relatively easy. He taught me what love was; he stood behind me and always had my back. I did not know what real love was until I fell in love with him, but now that I know how wonderful love can be I also know he would want me to continue living my life to the fullest and he would be happy and proud of my accomplishments.

 We are never alone in this process.

You might say that if all there is to making peace with grief are those simple steps then why is it so hard to deal with the loss of someone we hold so dear? There are no two people who are alike in this world; therefore there are no two deaths in the world that we will have to deal with that will be the same. That is what makes us human, what enables to fall in love with someone and not someone else, and this humanity  makes us vulnerable to pain and grief and loneliness.

 It is the hardest thing in the world to keep on living when someone you love so dear has been taken so suddenly, but that is indeed the thing we must do; live! We must make a conscious decision every day, to get out of bed, to go to school or work, to care for ourselves.

 We are never alone in this process. When we weep God weeps and when we are in pain God feels that pain with us. God did not cause our pain. God did not “bring us to it, to bring us through it.” Death is non-discriminating and it is final, we cannot escape it nor can we really prepare for it.

Death is about saying goodbye but many times when someone dies someone comes along and brings joy to our lives after we thought all joy was lost. For me this person has been my granddaughter. Just this last weekend my oldest son married her mother and I am officially her Gigi from now on. Having a seven year old say that she wants to sit with me on a train ride ( completely designed for children to ride, meaning no leg room if you can picture it) is the greatest thing in the world. When this seven year old runs up to me and puts her arms around me, all the cares of the world disappear. I am a much better person with her in my life than before I knew her; and in a way that makes me at peace with the loss of my husband. In the end; even though I still miss my husband every day, I am here alive with my children and granddaughter and that is why Love Wins!

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Ho’oponopono: A Good Goodbye

Ho’oponopono: An ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness can teach us to have a good goodbye.

What is Ho’oponopono? It is four meditations, processes, or steps on the journey, if you will, of life and of death. Why do I say both life and death? Because death is ultimately about our life. The four steps sound very simple but like anything they are not as straightforward as we might hope.
  1. I’m Sorry
  2. I forgive you
  3. I Thank You
  4. I Love You

When do we have to say these words? Whenever life transitions take place. Young people must go through these steps when they mature into self-actualized adults and leave home and wish to have adult relationships with their parents. Parents must say these things to their children to accept them as fully grown adults with the rights and responsibilities to make their own decisions and live with the consequences of whatever decisions they may make. Adults go through these steps whenever they make major transitions in their lives, new jobs, new relationships, new communities to live in; all involve saying goodbye to what was before. Any time a relationship comes to an end, or changes from what it once was to what it will become we need to work through these things.

If parents are going to continue to be parents in the case of a divorce they need to say these things. They may not need to say them aloud to each other (although that wouldn’t hurt) but they need to process them none the less. 1) I’m sorry and 2) I forgive you  are vital if parents are going to continue being parents after a divorce. There simply comes a time when the adults must act like adults and remember that to put the children first and that means taking ownership that in every divorce there are two imperfect people who tried to make something work that did not work so both people need to say they are sorry and both people need to forgive, even if they never verbalize the words the feelings have to happen. The third and fourth phrases are also just as important 3) I thank you for trying to live the happy ending with me and even though it didn’t work I thank you for who you have been in my life. That might seem like a lofty thing to say to someone who has hurt you or betrayed you but at one point in your life you thought you were going to love this person for the rest of your life, right? 4) I love you, yes speaking about loving someone for the rest of their life, in most divorces that I have been familiar with there is some element to the idea that you will forever love this person in some way. Maybe it only goes as far as you don’t wish them to get hit by a bus but something inside you cares about their well being.

Aside from these times of transitions we need to say these things when someone is dying, when we are dying, or when someone we love has died. A person with a terminal diagnosis is grieving the loss of their own life and if time allows for peacemaking the final months, weeks, days of life can be a time of healing. When you are intentional in your life you say these things to the people you love every day of your life and therefore there is no incompleteness. If a life is cut short unexpectedly the loved ones of that person must work through these phrases. Love, gratitude, forgiveness and for anything we may have done that hurt our loved ones can be everyday practices that we incorporate into our lives so that we can live a life free from regret.

When my Mother was diagnosed with Stage four terminal lung cancer that has metastasized to her brain we were in shock but we had options and we had fifteen months to work through the four sentiments. We had a good goodbye. When my husband went from the picture of health in the morning to coding in the emergency room in my arms that night we had no goodbye, but yet I still had to work my way through each of these four sentiments on my own in varying ways. Almost two years after his death I am still working through these things. Grief knows no timeline and follows no calendar it is simply part of your being and you never return to the person you were before your loved one died, you become a different person every time you say goodbye.

I don’t mean to say that these four things are the only things that need to be expressed when facing the loss of a loved one, there indeed may be other things that we may want to say. What I am saying is that these things are necessary components to all goodbyes in life; growing up, graduating and leaving an academic community, breaking up with a companion or lover, changing jobs or retiring, dying or losing a loved one to death. If we make a practice of living our days as if we have no more days to live then we indeed might forgive and seek forgiveness more often, we might live with more gratitude in our hearts, and we might learn to love our neighbors and we might also learn to love ourselves in the process.

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Extrovert’s and Grief; Yes Some Things are Different

A quick list to highlight the tough stuff about grieving for those on the extroverted end of the spectrum

 

 You know grief is challenging your extroverted nature when;

  • You are quiet or don’t make eye contact for more than 12 seconds and everyone around you is asking, “What’s wrong?

  • You desperately want to hang out with your friends, but no one is calling because they assume you want ‘alone time’ after your loss.

  • You decide to go out, because you know it will help your mood, then feel guilty you went out because maybe your friends are right, you should want alone time.  

  • When you decide to take some alone time with your grief it is so unusual that your friends and family panic that you have spiraled into a bottomless pit of despair.

  • Talking about your emotions and the person you love is helpful to you, but it makes the people around you SUPER uncomfortable.

  • You keep excessively busy doing things and spending time with other people, only to realize what looked like healthy coping was actually avoidance.

  • When your grief group ends you desperately want everyone to stay in touch and are shocked when not everyone is on board with a grief happy hour.

  • You share your feelings, memories, and grief all over social media.Some other people think it’s creepy.

  • People around you think you are fine because you are out and about. You know you’re not fine.

  • You were already a bit more impulsive than you introverted besties, and now you’re unbelievably close to quitting your job, selling your house and moving to Bora Bora.

  • You see someone reading ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ on the subway and you can’t help but casually interrupt them to share that you read it too, right after your husband died.

  • People keep telling you that you need to take care of yourself and contemplate the deep impact of your loss, because they assume you can’t possibly be self-reflective or introspective.

So what can you do if you are an extrovert to help yourself?

  • Give yourself permission to go out and be with people.  It is not something to feel guilty about and can really help in your healing.

  • Plan for some alone time.  That may not always come as naturally, but time to write, journal, meditate, and be with your thoughts can be very important.  Carve out the time, even if it isn’t easy.

  • Tell your friends what you need.  What you perceive as them avoiding you may be them trying to give you space that they assume you want or need.  Let them know calls, texts, and get-togethers are appreciated.

  • Don’t fool yourself into thinking that keeping busy=healthy grief.

Adapted from http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/ written by Eleanor and Litsa

For more valuable information on grief and grieving visit http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/

 

 

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Thoughts of Hope From a New Widow

Nearly four years after beginning my journey in Seminary it has come time to stand and preach my Senior Sermon at Drew Theological School in Madison NJ. Preparing for this day has been something of a roller coaster to say the least. The joy of falling in love during my first semester and the amazing love that relationship brought into my existence coupled with the nearly life ending pain of losing my husband less than eight months after our wedding have changed me in ways I cannot regret. To do it all again I would make the same decisions all over again.

To love is to risk and to live is to love, life is a terminal condition and no one leaves this life alive. If we are to fully embrace this one precious life we have we will risk the pain of grief by exposing our heart to love. It is simply the only way.

My Constant Companions
Thoughts of hope from a New Widow by Christine J Baxter

Sadness you don’t own me

        No matter how you try

Sorrow you cannot defeat me

        No matter how you try

Grief you will not drown me

        No matter how you try

Pain you will not kill me

        No matter how you try

Joy you live within me

        I welcome you in

Love you can flow through me

        I welcome you in

Peace you can surround me

        I welcome you in

Grace you may walk with me

        I welcome you in

Survival you have found me

        Because I welcomed you in.

 

Feed Shark

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The People Who Are Still Here With Me

Music by Emma’s Revolution From the CD Singing Though The Hard Times A Tribute To Utah Phillips , Music owned by Koch Entertainment Standard Youtube License. Photo of Seminary Hall owned by Drew University Photo Credit Lynne Delade.

A look back on the happy moments in a not so happy year. Sometimes it takes looking at all of the smiling faces to remember that grieving is not always about tears of sadness. I could have used With A Little Help From My Friends for the musical backdrop but I choose Emma’s Revolution Hymn Song because if I ever had to relive a year like this one I would want these people by my side. There are a lot more people that aren’t pictured here that helped me make it through these last Eighteen months, they know who they are, I just didn’t happen to have a picture of them handy. I love them dearly.

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Grieving

I need to talk about my

A poem so true to my heart that if I had the eloquence to write as the author does I would feel truly gifted:

I need to talk about my loss. 
I may often need to tell you what happened-
or to ask you why it happened.
Each time I discuss my loss, I am helping myself
face the reality of the death of my loved one. 

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

Please don’t judge me now-
or think I’m behaving strangely.
Remember i’m grieving.
I may even be in shock.
I may feel afraid. I may feel deep rage. 
I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. 
I’m experienceing a pain unlike any i’ve ever felt before. 

Don’t worry if you think i’m getting better
and then suddenly seem to slip backward.
Grief makes me behave this way at times. 
And please don’t tell me you “know how I feel,”
or that it’s time for me to get on with my life.
(I am probably already saying this to myself.)
What I need now is time to grieve and recover. 

Most of all, thank you for being my friend. 
Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for caring.
Thank you for helping, for understanding.
Thank you for praying for me. 
And remember, in the days or years ahead,
after your loss- when you need me
as I have needed you- I will understand.
And then I will come and be with you. 

~Barbara Hills LesStrang

 

Taken from The Afterloss Credo

From the Book Afterloss by Barbara Hills LesStrang

 

I need to talk about my loss

The First time this poem appeared on my Blog was in March of 2012 Three months after losing my Mother at the age of sixty seven to cancer. It is not my poem but I live these words as if I had written them as do millions of other people every day.

 

 

 

A poem so true to my heart that if I had the eloquence to write as the author does I would feel truly gifted:

I need to talk about my loss.
I may often need to tell you what happened-
or to ask you why it happened.
Each time I discuss my loss, I am helping myself
face the reality of the death of my loved one.

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

Please don’t judge me now-
or think I’m behaving strangely.
Remember i’m grieving.
I may even be in shock.
I may feel afraid. I may feel deep rage.
I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt.
I’m experienceing a pain unlike any i’ve ever felt before.

Don’t worry if you think i’m getting better
and then suddenly seem to slip backward.
Grief makes me behave this way at times.
And please don’t tell me you “know how I feel,”
or that it’s time for me to get on with my life.
(I am probably already saying this to myself.)
What I need now is time to grieve and recover.

Most of all, thank you for being my friend.
Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for caring.
Thank you for helping, for understanding.
Thank you for praying for me.
And remember, in the days or years ahead,
after your loss- when you need me
as I have needed you- I will understand.
And then I will come and be with you.

~Barbara Hills LesStrang

Taken from The Afterloss Credo

From the Book Afterloss by Barbara Hills LesStrang

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Delicious Ambiguity

gilda-radner-perfect-ending-delicious-ambiguity (2)I promised you that there were more quotes to come and this very well known quote from Gilda Radner was right behind the Lou Austin quote from the other day. I have come to realize everything about this quote applies to my life but I am not quite sure I have found the deliciousness of it yet.

I fully relate to the ambiguity of the quote. I once thought that with someone to be my partner in life that I could do anything I set my mind to. It was the confidence of knowing that someone had your back, that someone believed in what you were doing, what you stood for.
Now that I am on my own again I seem to lack that confidence. It is funny because people remind me that I always had it before, and then I tell them , but that was before I ever know what love was, before I ever knew what it was like when someone really did have your back.
Standing on your own two feet to face the storm alone feels just fine if you have never known what it is like to have someone to stand alongside you and face the storm, but once you have had someone to face the storms of life with and that person is taken away, ambiguity is just the tip of the iceberg.

I get the feeling this quote will be on the refrigerator even longer than the last one.

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What To Say, What Not To Say, and Why

WHAT NOT TO SAY AND WHAT TO SAY TO A WIDOW OR WIDOWER AND WHY

Christine J Baxter

 

There is a learning curve that comes along with being a widow, and widowhood isn’t a course anyone willingly enrolls in. As a widow or a widower you quickly learn the phrases that hurt the most and the ones that help the most. Unfortunately, well-meaning friends and family members are often the ones who say these things. They just haven’t learned what not to say and what is best to say. Hopefully this list will shed some light on the topic.

 

WHAT NOT TO SAY

“At least you . . .” Whether the widow was married for six months or sixty years, it is never long enough. So saying something like “At least you had your dream wedding” or “At least you had a long marriage” doesn’t help. If the spouse died suddenly and someone says, “At least they didn’t suffer,” they are diminishing the suffering the widow is experiencing by not being able to say good-bye. If the widow lost a spouse after a long illness, people may say, “At least you got to say good-bye”—this phrase deals a double blow because it diminishes the suffering the widow/widower went through as the caregiver, and the bottom line is no matter how long the illness is ,no spouse is ever ready to say good-bye to the one they love.

 

“I understand.” No, you don’t. You are not me and you do not know my pain, my doubts, my fears, and my sorrow. You may know pain of your own, and your pain may be deep and wide, but it doesn’t give you the understanding of my own or anyone else’s pain. If you have lost someone near and dear to you, then you have a deep understanding of your own pain. If you have lost a spouse, then you have a much closer understanding of my pain, but unless you are me, walking in my shoes, living my life, you do not understand my pain.

 

“When my spouse left me” or “When I went through my divorce …” My husband/wife didn’t leave me, and we didn’t break up. He/she died, suddenly, unexpectedly and tragically, or painfully, slowly, and heartbreakingly. If you have an ex (boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, wife), that person is still alive. Recovery from a breakup is hard work; I have been divorced, and I know that it took me a long time to feel myself again and to want to date and have a social life. But this is death—finality: there are no second chances. If a couple has children, the widow/widower needs to deal with the grief of their children. Regardless of the age of the child, no parent wants to see their child suffer that kind of loss. If you are divorced, no matter how ugly the circumstance, the child still has a living parent. Even if it isn’t possible for the child to see the parent until the child becomes an adult, the parent still exists.

 

“Give it time.” This saying hurts even more, because the person who says it is usually someone who thinks they know how you feel and thinks they have been where you are right now and thinks that time will heal you. Time doesn’t heal wounds; time gives scars a chance to grow. A widow/widower’s heart will never be the same again; they will never be the same person again. In my conversations with widows and widowers, I have discovered they never stop loving and they never stop mourning their spouse. Yes, grief changes, but it never ends. In my experience as a widow, I have yet to have another widow or widower tell me to “give it time.”

 

“He/she is in a better place.” This amazingly hurtful comment frequently comes from a person of faith, somehow implying that where the deceased was here on earth wasn’t the most wonderful place imaginable. Every widow/widower believes that the best place for their spouse to be is happy and healthy here with them. I want to be perfectly clear that my pushback against this statement has nothing to do with a lack of faith. I fully believe that my spouse is completely surrounded by the most amazing love of God that could ever be conceived. In fact, I believe that love to be so great that it is actually inconceivable to me as a human. I think that the phrase “he/she is in a better place” is only the widow/widower’s phrase to utter, and no one else has the right to say it.

 

“Have you tried grief counseling?” I believe that grief counseling is a positive and healthy experience for widows and widowers to work through. Having said that, I do not believe it is healthy or kind for friends and family of the widow to suggest that they get counseling at the first sign of emotion or any tears. Your friend or family member has just experienced one of the most difficult losses they will ever live through. No matter how prepared or unprepared they might have been for the loss. their world will never be the same. Give them some time and space to heal.  

 

“You have been on my mind.” This comment usually comes from someone the widow/widower runs into at the grocery store or some other place of business. If you are thinking of saying this to a widow or widower, please think carefully before making the statement. Have you called, e-mailed, stopped by, or sent a card? If not, then clearly you have not acted as if they were on your mind, and for you to say so just because you have now run into them in public is awkward at best and really very hurtful because it just makes the person realize that you haven’t contacted them in any way.  

 

WHAT IS HELPFUL TO SAY?
“I love you.” Yes, it really is that simple. If you want someone to know that you love them, then just say so. It will mean the world to them to hear those three little words that they no longer get to hear from the person they have lost.

“How is your day going?” Yes, just ask this question and then really listen to their response. Simply asking “How are you?” is usually guaranteed to elicit a simple, one-word response and end the conversation, but if you really care enough to ask them how their day or week has been going or something even more specific, then they will know you really care enough to listen to the answer.

“What are the kids up to?” If the widow/widower is a parent, they are now a single parent. You may be giving them an opportunity to discuss new challenges in their life, or they may simply relish the opportunity to pull out the iPhone and show off the latest pictures. Children are usually a source of joy for the widow or widower to talk about—a bright spot in their life and something they will readily share. If you are uncomfortable talking about the deceased, then asking about the living members of the person’s family at least shows you care about their loved ones.

“Would you like to have dinner?” Yes, dinner, preferable to lunch or brunch—and maybe even with your family. See, that is the thing about being a widow/widower: friends invite us to lunch, and that really does mean the world to us, but when dinnertime rolls around, then it is family time or couple time, and since we are no longer part of a couple we don’t get invited to dinner. The same principle applies to weekend activities. Most widows and widowers are used to being part of a couple and a family, and they may not have single friends to do things with on the weekends. Suddenly they find themselves left off the invitation list for backyard barbeques, dinner parties, and traditional couple activities, leaving them feeling rejected and even lonelier.

“Can I come over?” Most people say, “Call me if you need anything,” and they actually mean it—but in reality the new widow/widower rarely knows what they really need, and what they need most is love. Call them and schedule a time that you can go to their house. Bring something they can freeze or put away to eat later, and offer to throw a load of laundry in or take out the trash. After the initial call, you might call on the way over and ask what they need from the grocery store. Do not wait for them to call and tell you what they need; they are too numb to know.

 

WHAT’S THE NUMBER ONE THING YOU CAN DO FOR A GRIEVING PERSON?

Say “Tell me about him” or “Tell me about her.” Ask how my spouse and I met or how we fell in love, what his favorite color was or what was her favorite food, what we did together for fun. Ask about our vacations or our day-to-day life—just ask. Ask to look at pictures or home movies. Share your own memories of the deceased with the widow. Yes, they might cry when telling a story or two, but it will be a good cry and not a cry from loneliness or pain. It will be the simple tears of a good memory that they have the honor of sharing with you.

 

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