Lost my brother little over a month ago in a tragic accident.  He was in his mid-thirties and left behind two kids under 5.  I didn't get to say goodbye.  Our last conversation was a text thread.  He wasn't much of a talker.  We were a pretty close family as far as spread out across the country families go.  It's misplaced I know but the first 3 weeks of dealing with his death was all of us- my mother included- submerging any sign of our grief and catering to his widow.  Still is.  To go into the details is too much for me to even think about but it was clearly communicated that because of their relationship the rest of us didn't really have as much right to grieve as she and the emotional upheaval and biting retorts have lead us to not to grieve around her at all.  The last family function revolved around her.  Not making stressful situations, not saying anything for fear she would be hurt.  I don't understand how, as much as someone is hurting, they can make the presumption that no one else is entitled to hurt either?  One would think it would induce more compassion and understanding not exclusion.  Is this going to be every family get together?  All of us broken with grief and pretending none of us are because we have been told we have no right to be? I don't understand this at all.  My parents and I are the only three people in the world who knew him his entire life.  We played together, protected each other, both of us had our first real job together.  When I moved away getting together was hard.  We both moved in different directions but as time went on we found ways to do things together again.  I am trying to understand people do funny things in grief. But we are all sad and broken right now and the more this goes on the angrier I get- and I don't normally do this. Maybe talking it out will help.

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Comment by Marsha H on July 4, 2013 at 9:07pm

Hey there Montgomery ...  Thank you so much for letting me know you got my post.  Legacy has had some glitches in it recently.  A note came up saying basically I was not approved to connect with you, yet I had no problems before.

This site has saved my life many times because as you already know when we lose a loved one we would rather have gone with them than stayed and go through the hell of grieving and grieving doesn't come with an instruction book so it's one scary ride into the mystery of life with so many unanswered questions. All of us on here are true blue and we call ourselves 'extended family' (you of course are welcome into this little family) and we're good listeners and share other's grief along with no judgment on how a person feels.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

There are no words to comfort a person in grief and all one can do is be there for a shoulder to cry on or cry along with the person grieving.  Unfortunately, there are sides taken to a large degree where families are involved.  I try to remind people even on this forum that we are not the only ones grieving and so is family or even friends.  My husband's best male friend is grieving so hard, yet finds comfort in visiting me helping me with the heavier chores and we help each other through the grief.  My husband was just not a husband to me, but a son and brother.  His parents have passed away, but he has 2 brothers and a sister and unfortunately I am not close to them now for good reasons.

I don't think your brother's widow intentionally wanted her friends to have the ashes because when I grieved in the first year I was literally in a fog and felt like I was watching a movie with myself in it and the movie would end and I'd have my husband back.  Sudden death is extremely difficult and ALL of you are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress.  Yes, doctors have now put grieving under this heading.  I am so thankful that friend had the wisdom to differ from your brother's widow. I have my husband's ashes because we had discussed it and when it's my time my brothers wife is going to spread our ashes together at our favorite spot. The body is but a vessel, but the spirit goes on forever and I truly believe our loved ones are near us in spirit.

I would recommend that one of you from your family that can remain calm and compassionate towards your brother's widow approach her and they can talk and cry together and then warn her not to make any major changes in the first year.  We are not prepared to make good decisions at such a time and this includes giving away any personal belongings of your brother's.

Although the law is clear on a spouse having legal right regarding burial, personal belongings, property, etc., (unless there was a Will stating otherwise) the spouse has all the legal rights, but, that is no excuse for some relative in your family to be so cut and dried about it.  Of course you all count and it was a thoughtless and needless thing to say, but be prepared because unfortunately you are going to get more of it from different people and the main one is 'you should be over your grieving by now and getting on with your life  ... it's been a year or two hasn't it?'  That one really gets me!  You cry if you want too.  Most of us have been to other Memorials and I've never found a dry eye in the house.  You and your family grieve as you have to and don't be afraid to remind an insensitive person of this.  I am straight to the point with people such as this.  No, your sister-in-law did not instigate any of those actions, but when grieving it tends to go to the spouse and people are over-protective and without realizing it they should consider the immediate family of the deceased, but this isn't a perfect world.

Stay close to your brother's wife, because in 6 months or a little more these so-called loyal friends will start to disappear (it happens to most of us on here) because you are no longer a couple.  They don't know what to do with widows/widowers so they simply bury their heads in the sand.  Your sister-in-law is still just that 'your sister-in-law' in shock, not knowing what she is doing and you and your family's patience just being there will be worth it in the end.  She will need all of you sooner than you think and all of you will need her.  Remember, this is the woman your brother loved so please be patient and remember who she was before your brother passed away.

I hope I have helped in some way being a widow myself (not a young widow and no children) but it hurts everyone that loved the deceased person.

Hang in there



Comment by A.L Montgomery on July 4, 2013 at 5:26pm

I did get your post Marsha.  Thank you all for sharing your stories.  It is comforting to have people who can relate share their responses esp. since having never met any of you, I know it is coming from your heart and not out of any ulterior motive.  In spite of the large number of supportive people around us, it is easy to tell they mean well but have an opinion based on whose "side" they feel they should be on or that they are telling us what they think we want to hear.  And while both sides of the family have experienced loss, it has not been in this way.    There was never this unspoken tension between the side who has all the legal right to the remains and belongings and those who are sitting tentatively on the sidelines hoping to be considered.  One thing that really hurt at the time- since then it has sort of worked itself out- was that his widow did not want to deal with the ashes and instead of asking any of his family, she told his friends to decide what to do with them.  Probably to show she appreciated their support- I am really not sure.  Thankfully, his friends differed to us.  I will always be grateful for that.  It still hurts that we were not included but I cannot dwell on it.  One of our own relatives actually told my mother that she shouldn't expect to have any say in anything because ---- was his wife and she was the one who really counted.   Legally- yes.  But what an insane thing to say at such a time.  It colored everything else.  One of the widows family relatives asked my sister not to cry in front of --- because it bothered her- on the day before the memorials.  ?!?  I am sure it's good It was my sweet sister who received this request.  I would have told her to go to you know where. I actually don't know that any of those specific incidents were instigated by his wife.  I can't imagine she would have meant that to happen.  It's just hard to understand how insensitive people can be.   Thanks for listening.  It feels better just to get this out. 

Comment by Marsha H on July 4, 2013 at 3:12pm

A.L. Montgomery ... Just left you a long post and hope you got it because it said the post would have to be 'approved' so I added you as a friend.


Comment by Marsha H on July 4, 2013 at 3:11pm

A.L. Montgomery ...

Thank you for answering my posts and I do appreciate it.  One thing on this forum is we often have much in common and know to some degree what is the norm for grieving.  There are many on this forum whose family is not close or expect them to be over their grief.  It just doesn't happen that way. I do understand how you feel about the loss of your brother.  My husband's brother in 1975 took his own life at the age of 25 and it fragmented the family for awhile, but time is a big factor and eventually we were able to remember him fondly and hold onto the memories we had of him.  I will admit the family was never quite the same after that.  I saw my husband go through hell over the loss of his brother as they were very close, but with time the healer he was once again enjoying his job, the rest of his family, myself and friends.  I know it is also difficult when people say that the deceased is in heaven and in good hands and one day we'll see each other when our time comes, but that doesn't help us earthlings who have to bare the intense grief we feel. Most of us on here wish we could join the one person that meant so much to us in life. 

I think your idea of getting your brother's wife to a group or private grief counseling is an excellent idea.  After my husband passed away I went to the Hospice Grief Counseling for 4 weeks (gave it the old college try) but it really didn't help me.  I asked counselor if she'd had a spouse who had passed away and her answer was, 'No, but I've been divorced.'  Say what?  I told her I had been divorced prior to marrying my husband and the only similarity between divorce and death was the 'D' and so I realized this counselor was completely text book in running the group (which, by the way most widows and one young widower slowly left one by one.)  I then went to a psychologist who dealt in grief and found that more helpful, but when it comes down to it grief is a private and slow journey. 

If your sister-in-law cries when you discuss your brother then let her.  Cry together!  Stepping on egg shells because you feel you will hurt her is not the answer.  It's not who needs to grieve the most, but all of you need to grieve.  Find a time when it's good for family and have your sister-in-law there and sit down and talk openly about your brother's fatal accident and just listen to one another and let the teas come, hug each other and let it all out.  It does realize the boiling pot of pressure all the way around.  She is very lucky to have all of you, but she isn't aware of that because like the rest of you she is in shock and in a fog that all this is a big nightmare and it's not really happening.  You only add pain to her life by talk sitting down and letting it all hang out.  She may be backing off for fear she doesn't think any of you will understand and communication Is everything. I just wish my family had treated me that way, but because of my age (no spring chicken) I opened up the path of communication and was shocked to some of my small family members teary-eyed.  Now we can talk about my husband's antics, the good memories he left behind.  There is not a day that goes by that with every breath and every heartbeat I don't think f my beloved husband, but, I honestly do believe he is with me in spirit as too many strange things happen and here is one of many:  Every time I struggle to do a man's work around my home I sometimes get exasperated and will sit and cry and say 'Hon, I just can't take this anymore.  I can't move on and I can't go back.;'  Each time I do this suddenly the phone will ring and it's one of my husband's friends or, it's my next door male neighbor that is suddenly there helping me.  It's truly amazing.  Talk out loud to your brother as there is peace in it. 

Keep having those special family occasions and invite your sister-in-law.  If someone brings up your brother that is just fine because sometimes widows as well feel by the silence of not mentioning the loved one that has passed away they get the idea everyone is not grieving as intensely as they are so they sit there in a fog just letting the family do their thing.  I hope you will trust me as being a widow myself that by opening up and not walking on egg shells will open up a gateway for each of you including your sister-in-law to feel free to share the pain each of you feel.  I agree, life sure can suck at times!

I hope you continue to post and know that we are all here to help in anyway we can. 

Comment by Diane C on July 4, 2013 at 2:53pm

Sorry to hear about your brother A.L.,

I understand your blog about your SIL. My story is a little different, but the same in a similar way. Like Marsha, I also lost my husband to pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in June of 2011 and passed away on Aug. 1, 2012. I was lucky to have been given a year with him from diagnosis to death. I ended up sending him to Hospice for the final 33 days of his life. Those were the worst 33 days of my life also. During his time at Hospice he wanted no visitors. He did not want anyone to see him in this debilitating state. My family and our friends honored that request.I did contact everyone, including his two siblings who live out of state, daily via e-mail on his condition. His brother and sister came in to town to see him while he was still able to enjoy a visit with them. But they also honored my husbands request that they not come back to see him. When he passed away at 12:35 a.m., I called his brother who in turn called his sister. I then waited until morning to call my family. At one point I had to be reminded that there were others mourning his death.  I of course knew that, but my family felt they needed to be included more in my life. I was withdrawn and did not want to visit with anyone. But when I consented and had these visits, I loved hearing them talk about my husband. My father and my husband got along very well, my dad at one point said he wished my husband was his son. I now long for these conversations when everyone shares with me the stories of his life. I think it may be too soon for your SIL to feel comfortable with these conversations. But you should not tip toe around her either. You and your family need to grieve the way you all feel comfortable too. She will begin to get more comfortable and then will cherish all of these special memories. She may benefit greatly from a bereavement group, but only when she feels ready to join. It all takes time, but I hope she does at least opt to talk to a counselor.

Take care A.L., and I am sorry to see that you have joined our group. But you will find a wealth of information and help here.

Comment by A.L Montgomery on July 4, 2013 at 10:18am

Also, Marsha- so very sorry about your husband.  I cannot imagine not having close  family around to help absorb the stress and hurt.  Long illness or sudden death-  neither changes the meaning of the loss.  The most desperate hurt, for me, is the revelation that my brother is gone forever.  Whatever else people say about seeing him in heaven and all that- changes nothing about the fact that in the life I am living now he is gone for good.  What you said about wanting to be with your husband now instead of grieving- I have thought that too.  Like, I wish this living process would hurry up and be done with so we could all just be back together.  One of us did suggest the his widow that she meet up with other widows because we truly don't have any understanding of what she is going through.  It all just sucks.

Comment by A.L Montgomery on July 4, 2013 at 9:41am
Thank you Marsha. That perspective helps. I think we all avoid saying anything because we never know how she will react or what she will react to. Everything hurts so bad already that it's already difficult to be willing to share a vulnerable feeling or memory and having anyone at all criticize or reject it- the hurt is intense. She is a very big part of our family. This is the first time we have lost someone so significant. How do we avoid adding to her pain without becoming emotional zombies whenever she is present? Every holiday, every vacation, every significant celebration has always revolved around getting as many family members as is physically possible to join in- even if we have to ask each other to help pitch in monetarily. WE need a chance to sit down and talk together with each other and just open up. She will expect and need to be included in any future get togethers. No one would want to leave her out. But of course, when we are all together, she is there to and then we all just avoid our own personal pain to keep tensions at bay. I have no answers. Time?
Comment by Marsha H on July 4, 2013 at 3:31am

A.L. Montgomery ...  I am so very sorry regarding the loss of your brother.  Your story enlightened me as I hope it does others that not only the wife grieves, but the whole immediate family.  I have always wanted to know just what you described because my husband passed away April 27, 2011 of pancreatic cancer.  We were married for almost 40 years and I knew him for 45 years and we had no children.  My first year as a widow was intense and I was in shock and in a fog.  My heart ached so much for my dear husband and I was the main caregiver of a long illness with him.  Others weren't there to be that supportive or see what went on in the privacy of our home so it was a little different than a sudden accident, but, sudden accidents can often be more heart-breaking than having time to say 'goodbyes.' 

Please don't think your brother's wife is hogging the limelight in her grieving because each one of us grieves in a different time frame and also difference depth.  Your parents lost a son, you lost a brother, but please give it time and let your brother's wife deal in her time frame as she is in your brother's home clutching onto memories. 

I can honestly tell you to this day sometimes I feel like I wished I could be with my husband instead in this hell they call grieving.  It's not that I am leaving his sister out of the grieving process at all.  Instead of each of you hiding your grief from your brother's widow please talk about him and the fond memories each of you had and entice her to do the same.  Sometimes just letting someone cry it out or giving each other a hug does wonders.  Your brother deserves to be remembered for the person he was and don't let him down by dividing the family.  Patience is a virtue as is understanding that some grievers are slower to heal.

Big hugs (because you need it)


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