Grief and anger can have a raw honesty about them, especially in bereavement. The following speaks for itself, reminding us that there can sometimes be no “right thing” to say to someone suffering a shattering loss. No one else’s reactions and emotions are the same as ours. In some ways it is impossible ever truly to come to terms with death: it is something which is both completely inevitable but at the same time utterly unacceptable. It is valuable to be reminded of that. Anne writes-
Thoughts following John’s death
If there is one thing that I am clear about, it is that nothing could have prepared me for how I would feel after John’s death. So thinking about it before and certainly before he became ill would just have been a process of trying to live in the future rather than the present. So in that respect I think that the important thing was to make the most of the time we were together rather than worrying about how to be in a future that could not be predicted.
After he died I felt for months as if I was experiencing a form of delayed shock. The illness had been so catastrophic and fast that at the time all he and I could do was cope and do the best we could day to day – especially as each day almost felt like a month as he changed so rapidly. I badly wished that we had more time to adjust. Just writing the words ‘he died’ is painful and I can only do it by standing back from myself to do it.
This is NOT to say that I am ignoring the event – how could I? It is with me all the time.
There are things that people said and did that I found difficult and sometimes very anger making – although they had the best of intentions.
I was sent books about death and dying. These books started by telling the reader that they must stop ignoring death and face up to it – and then giving a series of supposed stages of dealing with death as if there is a formula. This made me so angry I threw them away. Maybe they are good for people who have never encountered death – but insulting for someone living through the experience. And how dare they suggest that there is a formulaic process and that the person will come out the other end – to what?
Then there are the cards and poems all on the theme of “don’t cry for me” and “live my life for me” as if from the dead person. We ourselves had a card like that that we sent to people because John had found it comforting when his mother died. I find such a sentiment infuriating. Why shouldn’t I cry for the pain of loss? It is as if I am being told that I shouldn’t be sad, that I must get over it.
And then people keep on wanting to make funerals happy occasions as if being sad is wrong. I was glad that so many people wore black for John and that we had lots of flowers. It was important to express the sadness. Of course there was celebration but the point was to acknowledge the reality of him not being there.
Sometimes people ask how I am feeling – what do they expect me to say? I feel that it is better to let me start that conversation and if I don’t, then don’t ask me. Of course, I am living with being ripped apart and with no way of putting me back together. Then someone asked if I like living alone – what a stupid question, I have no choice about that.
Some words I find really difficult. The worst is ‘widow’ – I never use it unless forced to in official documents. As far as I am concerned I am John’s wife – even if he isn’t here any more.
I could go on. But now I find I am not sure of the best way to talk to others who have experienced the same loss. Maybe the best is to wait for that person to start the conversation. Or just say simply that I am sorry for their loss and leave it at that.