I lost my husband on June 15, 2010. He had stage 4 cancer and had suffered a brain bleed after chemo, so while his death was not unexpected it was still heart-breaking. Yet, regardless of whether your loved one is suffering from a long, debilitating, terminal disease, or dies unexpectedly, it is still a shock when they go.
What amazed me more than anything else after his death were the remarks I received. I am sure the people who made them meant well. Perhaps they didn’t know what to say, and said the first thing that came into their heads. But what I learned from this is what not to say to someone who is grieving.
Following are the top 10 worse things that were said to me after the death of my husband, and the replies I wanted to say.
#1 – “At Least You Were Prepared”
The widow hears: “It’s not as if he suddenly dropped dead”.
I don’t think I was ever prepared for his death. We found out in early May that he had cancer, and the doctor told us that with chemo, he could live up to a year. Without the chemo, he probably had 6 months. Unfortunately, it was only 4 weeks after his chemo that he passed away.
My assumption when someone says this is that they mean the suffering is over, and he has gone to heaven.
The widow thinks “Yes, we were lucky. But it wasn’t enough time.”
I suppose this is where the quote “It is better to have love and lost, then never have loved at all” comes in. Frankly, forever wouldn’t even be long enough!
Don’t believe outward appearances. I’m not brave. I did what I had to do: Take care of him in his final days; make funeral arrangements, and try to say good-bye. It is what you do when you love someone, and there is nothing brave about it.
This is a conversation to have with another person, and not the one that is grieving. The grieving widow is already re-living the experience, and having to tell it to someone else causes more heartbreak.
Everyone grieves differently, in a very personal matter. I do not know the grief you feel, and you do not know mine.
“The one thing I want is for you to bring my husband back and end the pain.”
From experience, I know that I will not ask you. Instead of asking what you can do, tell the person what you are going to do for them, and follow through with it.
#8 – “It’s Like Getting A Divorce”
She thinks “At least if we were divorced, he’d still be alive!”
I have been through divorce, and death is nothing like it! Yes, it is a tragic event, and yes, you grieve. But, in a divorce, there was a choice by at least one party to end the relationship. In our marriage, we didn’t choose to end it.
Do not ask this question unless you want the truth.
If I am with an acquaintance, I’ll say something like “I’m okay” or “I have good days and bad days”. The truth? I’m sad, I’m tired, I cannot sleep nor eat, and I miss my husband. How do you expect me to be?
I believe I had other things on my mind the evening my husband died. If it hadn’t been for my stepson making all the calls, probably no one would have known.
After my husband’s memorial service, friends held a barbeque luncheon in our yard. At one point during the luncheon, one of my husband’s closest friends approached and asked “What are you going to do with his tools? I’d like to have first shot at them.” I looked at him in disbelief! After all, my husband had only been gone for 4 days!
While the statements above were some of the worst I have heard, there are several more that you should never say to a grieving widow:
- Everything happens for a reason
- He lived a good life
- Now you have closure
- At least his suffering is over
- He wouldn’t want you to be sad
- How much life insurance and money did he leave you?
- When are you going to remove your wedding rings?
- When are you going to start dating?
- Isn’t it time you got over him?
Until you have experienced heart-wrenching grief, it’s difficult to understand. Your entire world is turned upside down, and it’s difficult to see beyond the sadness. What I have learned is this:
If you, or someone you know, loses someone, go with the grief. Don’t hide behind it, and don’t let anyone tell you how to act. It’s a personal tragedy, and only one that you can understand.
And most importantly, forgive those who say the wrong things.
Copyright 2012-2015 | TheWidowClifton
Originally published October 28, 2012 on Zujava.com
Have you lost a spouse or other loved one?
This article is about what not to say to a grieving widow. Do you have any statements to add? Or better yet, what types of things should you say or do for someone is grieving?