Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Breaking the News
I find I’m still reflecting on my experiences from Widow Camp. In those few short days I feel like I moved forward leaps and bounds down the healing path simply by being surrounded by others who share similar past experiences. The friendships I made there still stand and the conversations haven’t stopped. The reward has been well beyond the investment.
One theme that has popped up in the discussions I’ve had with my new widow/er friends was the breaking of the news of Maggie’s death which reminded me how difficult it was to do. No matter the social context, it’s a challenge. About three months after Maggie’s Angel Day, I wrote the following post about a surprise phone call and how I dealt with breaking the news.
From August 2009:
Phone: Ring, Ring!!
Voice: “Hi, is Maggie around?”
Oh, I’m wide awake now!
Me: “Uhm, can I ask who’s calling, please?”
Voice: “This is Jim.* I’m an old friend of Maggie’s and wanted to say hi. This is Chris, right?”
Me: “Hi, Jim. Uhm… Jim, I guess it’s been a while since you’ve talked to her. I’m sorry to say but…..”
* Jim is not his name. I’ve changed it because, well, I don’t know why but it seems like a good idea.
I’ve developed three modes of relaying that particular news. Mode I is pretty callous and nearly an attack. I’ve used it with bill collectors, mostly. I call it the I-Hate-You-And-Want-To-Hurt-You mode. Funny thing, though, if I’m throwing death-news daggers, it probably is at someone who will never be bothered by my pain. I might as well be throwing cotton balls at them.
Mode II is less of an affront and more just getting the information out. I use it with those who need to know but don’t know her, like, the Department of Transportation, AT&T, or Wells Fargo. Mode II is my default delivery method mainly for my own protection. It’s easiest and requires the least emotional commitment from me. Selfish, direct and over quickly.
Mode III is the most difficult. I only use this method when I really, really have to because the person I’m telling knew Maggie or me (or both!) well and I consider them worth special effort. I’d rather eat scalding hot pizza than use this method. Mode III almost always makes me and the other person cry.
For Jim, I used Mode II. I should have used Mode III but I just didn’t have it in me. I’m sorry, Jim. I hope the rest of your morning went a little better.