Friday, February 12, 2010

Stinking flowers

When people die, no one really knows what to do. Call? Visit? Send cards, casseroles or flowers?
I can personally say, that most of the above were very much appreciated. In the fog of grief, many of these overtures were not remembered, unfortunately. So, please, don't be offended if the thank-you card never arrives.
The sympathy cards were kind reminders that other people loved Jeff and missed him too. That we were not alone in our grief and that our family and friends were thinking of us.
The food was a lifesaver. My children were fed. There were all sorts of snacks for visitors to graze on. I never once felt the need to go to the store (even if I hadn't been on sedatives to prevent me from having the energy to scream obscenities into the void).
I found it hard after Jeff died to be at the centre of such hubbub and pain. I had difficulty feeling that I was needed to alleviate other's pain and suffering.
Talking on the phone was unbearable. Speaking face to face was often worse.
I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to communicate. I couldn't get out what I needed/wanted to say. And most often, I didn't want to say anything.
But the flowers were lovely....initially. They were thoughtful and generous. The sentiment was kind.
Then I had to water them. It was more than I could remember and wrap my head around. One more thing I had to accomplish with the energy that I didn't have. I'd sit in the chair by the window staring at the flowers that had adorned the church during his funeral. The happy pinks and purples with the vibrant greens. They seemed futile, smug and ridiculous. They screamed at me, "Life goes forward. We are happy, happy, happy flowers." I wanted to yell at them, "Fuck you, you preppy little losers. I hate you." Instead, I threw wadded up wet tissues at them with the vigor of one who despises something so intensely that thought may just blow it to pieces.
Then they began to wilt. And they reminded me that 'everything dies'. They rubbed my nose in the lesson that I had just learned so painfully. Everything is fleeting. Nothing lasts.
I watched as their once oh-so-smug petals fell to the floor. As their leaves turned transparent and brown.
I felt strangely pleased by their deaths. They deserved it for being so fucking joyful. They knew nothing about life and sadness. Had they even been picked yet when Jeff died? Did they even know what pain was?
But then, I eventually got around to feeling that I should clean them up. And I couldn't do it.
Putting away the vases and throwing out the flowers meant that his funeral had happened and he was indeed dead. That time was still marching on. That I was removing the last vestiges marking the loss of his life from our home.
So those bloody flowers stayed for a long time past their past due date....Always reminding me that Jeff was dead. And that things die. And that life sucks.
I eventually threw the flowers in the composter hoping that this would make me feel that they would be reborn in some other fabulous growing green thing. The vases (aka white cheesy grecian vases adorned with fake plastic ribbons) I held onto until last week. I thought I'd feel guilty releasing these icons of his death. But I didn't. He had never seen them....and it was my last 'screw you' to those stupidly joyous giddy buds.
I will never give flowers to someone mourning again. The care, the upkeep, the reminder and the in-your-face optimism is too much for a person in pain.
Instead, I will send a fabulous casserole with no return address so they don't feel that they need to send a bloody thank-you card for something they would have preferred didn't happen.
(Sorry if I sound ungrateful.....just wondering at the reasoning behind this tradition)


  1. awesome. Amen, sister.

  2. I can seee and sooo relate . I t SUCKS!!! My husband died in Oct 2009.4 mnths ago. The plants are still reminders and yet everyone thinks that I should still be getting over it and just fine and "normal " by now. WTF>

  3. You are not ungrateful. You are honest and I agree with you 100%. The people who got offended by the slow arrival of thank you notes just irritated me. Funerals/death should be the one time that thank you notes should not only not be expected, they should be outlawed. "My husband died suddenly and unexpectedly but I must write you this note of words that I don't mean or really feel at this time because your ego must be tended to immediately. So thanks." Anyway, I understand completely and appreciate you for saying what I think and feel. It is good to know that so many of my feelings and experiences are validated by other widows.

  4. I had the opposite experience. The food became too much for me, my kids were so young they weren't eating it (one was nursing still and the other wouldn't eat anything that "looked funny")and I ran out of room in the freezer to put it all. It all ended up to be just one more thing I had to clean and organize.

    I found the flowers to be a comforting reminder that beauty still existed.

    It is hard to know what the right thing to do or say is. It is different for everyone.

    I think I would rather people do the "wrong" thing than nothing?


  5. Though I believe thank you notes are certainly not expected or required, the desire for people to do something in the face of grief is great, and I think the tradition of sending something is meant as a comfort. If that comfort turns to trouble, then refuse it. You have every right. But I agree that doing something well-meaning is better than doing nothing at all.

  6. Read this (if you don't already follow)

  7. Shortly after by husband died, our church send out an email asking that people stop sending flowers and instead give the money they would have spend in the form of grocery/fuel gift cards. For at least 6 months I lived of these cards, every time being reminded of people's love for our family.
    I am ever thankful, these people were so generous, but I have not, nor do I plan to, send thank you cards. Instead, the next time someone suffers loss I will give them a gift card to spend, without judgement, as they see fit.

  8. I think that sending flowers gives people an otherwise easy way to show their presence and love. I did not feel as negative about the flowers, but I can totally understand your view. As often with grief, I find myself the widow almost consoling others about the fact that my own husband is dead. So sending flowers is really their deal, not ours. I did find it nice to know people had thought of me, but I do think that thank you notes are crap. After losing my husband, I would guess nearly 2/3 of the people I sent thank you's to did not send whatever they sent to get a thank you, and writing the thank you's made me angry to write...I was busy with 3 young kids and trying to get my head back on straight, trying to even get out of bed in the morning and the last thing I needed to do was write thank you's.

  9. I, too, boycotted the thank you notes. I said thank you on my blog and also said that being "required" to write thank you notes after the death of a loved one is barbaric. Completely and 100% barbaric.

  10. I typed a general thank you on pretty paper and copied it a thousand times. If anyone sent something special or money, then I jotted a little something personal. Then I had two wonderful friends address and mail them off! Perfect solution!!!!

  11. I love it! I totally agree with you. I made it clear that I did not want any flowers. People still sent a few, mostly the Peace Lily. What do I do with the box of sympathy cards! I shove them in my drawer, under the bed, now they sit in my closet. I don't know why I keep them. Thank you cards...I sent a few. If anyone else was offended by not getting a card. Too bad! Let them lose their spouse and see if they want to write a thank you. I don't think so.

  12. I tend to feel the same way about flowers.
    Not only that, but when one of my best friends sent me flowers for my birthday, their fragrance in the house smelled like a funeral home and it nearly made me ill. I had to kill them myself.

  13. I'll never forget the day when my friend told me that I could take all the f*(&*(g funeral flowers and plants out of my house, put them on the porch (it was November) and watch them die. I was so happy when the flowers stopped needing me, when the plants stopped guilt-tripping me. I was in no shape to take care of anything or anyone but my two kids and me. Thank yous? I stood up at the memorial service and thanked everyone who'd hauled our butts through hell. After my husband died, I just wanted to curl up and rest, rest, rest.