A colleague, Joan Price, recently lost her beloved husband, Robert. Many folks she encountered found it hard to say the right thing and too often she was asked, “How are you doing?" Joan wondered, “What was I supposed to answer? The truth was ‘Horrible, of course!’ but I restrained myself."
I asked Joan to share what she wished folks had said so we could learn how to better communicate with a grieving spouse. Joan reminded me that we each grieve differently and statements that she liked might not work as well with others. But these are her heartfelt suggestions:
1. “Tell me about him.”
With people who didn’t know him or barely knew him, this is a wonderful opening for me to talk about him.
2. “I miss him, too.”
From people who did know him, this is the perfect thing to say.
3. “Here’s what I loved about him” or “Here’s something special he did that I’ll always remember.”
How beautiful to add to my memories of him during this time.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons / It's JoJo
I was married to my husband for 31 years, and it seems that his family couldn't be more glad that I am out of their family now. My own 3 boys seem to think I am just a burden to them. They took all his things, and left me to do my own thing. Well, I don't know what my own thing is. I married him at 17 yrs old. I did not date prior to him. Of course, I had boyfriends, but not dates. Just school crushes and so forth. My husband Pete, was very active in motorcycle racing. I just went to basically support him and my boys. We really did not live for us, ever. I miss him so much, I don't know how to express it to anyone. Everyone in my family basically believes I should be over it soon! It hasn't even been a year yet. When my boys came up with the ideal of making his and mine headstone out of concrete, I couldn't have been prouder. But when they all got together to set our headstone, they forgot one thing. ME! They told his mom, who didn't have anything to do with him while he was alive. My daughter-in-law, whom he was not fond of either, got to be there, yet I who lived with this man for 31 yrs, had 3 children with and never missed his chemo appointments, not to mention everything else, was not told about the headstone being placed. I thought they thought I died too. Or maybe they wished I did. I know I wish it was me instead of him, but it wasn't. He was a heavy smoker, and I begged him to quit. I lost my mother to cigarettes also. Why is it okay to kill yourself that way, but not ok to just check out yourself. I know the answer to that. I am just putting it out there. I tried grief consoling, it was way too soon, I think. I don't know how to handle anything right now. I am so lost, hurt and confused I don't know what to do next.
It has been helpful for me to hear "I miss her too.", it helped me to feel and not just know I'm not alone. I've been comforted by all three of those statements at some point, what was not helpful was hearing someone give me a statistic on how long people grieve for a spouse especially since I wasn't looking for that. What was helpful was my family was there when I needed them, and found comfort with old friends. Those are the people who said those statements listed in this discussion, others seem to find a way with a tacit, I'm thankful the people who cared were there. I lost my wife on June 26, 2008, I was right by her side, "Till death do you part.", I worked with everything else in my vows; but this, who would have figured?
My best friend, my husband, died on July 31, 2009 and it seem as though it was only yestesday. He died suddenly of a heart attack. I really can't get pass that. I talk to him at 10:00am and 10:30am he was gone. We were together for 33 years and I can't seem to adjust, but with the Grace of God I am trying really hard. Our son just graduated from college in December 2010 and he wasn't around to see that and that is all he every wanted was for our daughter and son to do well. He enjoyed life and I know that he is with the Lord, but I truly would love to have him back with me. We were just in the prime of our life. Now I am all alone, will be retiring soon and don't want to be alone. People are always telling me that it will get better. They only thing that has gotten better is that I don't cry myself to sleep every night. But the loneliness, and the true love that we had for each other will never be again. I'm in a place where I do not want to be but I am learning to take one second of each day and not to sweat the small stuff, believe in god and everything else will fall into place. I am trying Lord each and everyday.
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