Wednesday, February 6, 2013

People Are ......

To say the least.

I've been reading the posts over the past week and have been struck by the number of you who've been hurt or felt pressured by "friends".
"Friends" who have not been widowed.
Very, very interesting, doncha think?

I think that most of the things people say aren't meant to hurt or offend us.  Friends are mostly well-meaning and think they're being helpful.
I've probably said something I thought was helpful ..... back in my "before" ...... when I really had no idea.

Friends can't be blamed for trying to be helpful.  They just want us to stop hurting, even though that's impossible.  They feel helpless and just want to make the pain stop.
I'm sure we all wish they could.

But I've heard stories of "friends" who knew exactly what they were saying when they said it.  Anyone who pressures a person to "move on" needs to be told that he/she is the person who needs to move on.
Any person who criticizes the way we're grieving needs to be told ...... well, I'm not sure what they need to be told, because I find that too shocking for words.

And that's exactly how I felt when it happened to me.  Shocked beyond words.

I was told, only last summer, that I "had grieved wrongly".  I was told that I "had been selfish in my grief".
And that I "had been a very bad mother", in my "after".

Fortunately these words were said over the phone, and not to my face.  Fortunately, because I'm not sure how I would've reacted, face to face.

These words, these hateful, ugly, spiteful words that were intended to do as much damage as possible, were uttered by a "friend".  A very, very close "friend".  Or so I thought.
A "close friend" who is still with her very alive husband.

I'm still not sure why she said what she said, other than most likely because of jealousy.  Some people need to have the spotlight on them.  All of the time.
When you're next to a widowed person, you stand in the shadows.  Though I'm sure every single one of us would love to have that light shine elsewhere ...... so that we could stand in the shadows.

And even though it sounds, and is, very, very sick ...... I think jealousy is behind many of the comments we sometimes get from a "friend".

My response was to say that I didn't receive any guide book for grieving my husband.  Nor did I receive a guidebook for helping my children grieve while I grieved.  And I said that those words were lies.
Then I said the last words that I will ever say to this "friend": don't ever call, text, email or contact me again.  Ever.
But before I hung up I told her one more thing:  I said that I sincerely hoped that she never has to grieve her husband, but if she does, I hope no one ever, EVER judges the way she does it.
We have not spoken since.

She has made comments on my personal blog, anonymously of course, and I've calmly deleted every one.
I have "moved on" and let go of any anger, hurt or resentment.
Life is too short.
And though I have forgiven her for words that are almost unforgivable, I can no longer have that kind of person in my life.
Because ...... life is way too short.

At the time though, her words had the desired effect ...... for a very brief moment.  I felt hurt.  Very hurt.  She did a good job.
But then I remembered the truth.  The truth that buried her lies and any future pain from them forever:
I did the best I could.  The very best I could.
I loved Jim fiercely and completely.  I have grieved him fiercely and completely.
I did the best I could with what I was given.
It wasn't always pretty.  It wasn't neat and orderly.  It was never comfortable.
In fact it was downright horrific.
But I'm still here.
Five years later I'm still standing.
And thriving.
And happy.

Which means I did a good job.

My kids are all mostly happy.  They haven't always made the choices I would've chosen for them, but I'm sure they feel the same way about some of mine.
And Jim and I raised our children to grow up and make their own choices, not ours.
Some still struggle with what they really want to be doing.
Some would prefer to be in a better job.
But who hasn't struggled with that?
They are healthy, independent, and strong willed.
And they know without a doubt that they are loved ...... and that someone has their back.

I did a damn good job.
In spite of what I was given.

In spite of words from a "friend".

And while it shocked me to hear those words, I feel even more shocked when I hear that one of you has heard words that hurt.  I feel angry, stunned and irate that someone had the nerve to say something hurtful and insensitive to any of you.  My blood pressure goes up immediately upon reading those comments.
I want names and numbers!!
I want to call these people and make sure they will never utter words like that to a grieving person again.  And I want to give them the name of a good therapist.  So that they can learn how to deal with THEIR issues appropriately.

Yes, maybe I need a session or two on anger management.
Not really.
I just don't want anyone to hurt you ..... you all who are already hurting beyond belief.  And so I react.
And yes, I sometimes (ok, many times) wish I could slap the person who hurt you.
But in reality, if I could sit down with that person, I'd love to quietly explain the impact words can have.  Words said without (or worse, with) thought.  Words uttered by someone who has no idea.
And hopefully never will.

Yes, indeed.  People certainly are ...... interesting.
To say the very least.


  1. Great post Janine! I've found myself with mouth open and completely shocked at the things some "friends" have said. I try to consider the source... I really don't have anyone I can share my grief with. All "my'friends were "our friends". Uncomfortable unloading on my daughter and his family as they are grieving too. So usually just try to deal with it myself, which is probably not a good thing. All of that to say, thanks for sharing and understanding. (Wow.. this comment was all over the place! Just a small indication of how my mind is working.. LOL)

  2. Janine, YOU ROCK! No other way to say it!!!!! Thank you for reaching out with such a passionate support theme. Unlike many widows, I have been stung more by family members who have criticized me for everything... including "getting over it", focusing too much on my children, visiting the cemetary too often, and the list goes on. The fact that we all get out of bed every day and treat those we come in contact with with respect and courtesy should be enough for anyone.


  3. Amen Sister!
    I had a great friend ( I thought) who couldn't help enough when my husband was sick and dying ( helping meaning mostly phone calls to ask "what's happening now?" under the guise of support. I couldn't always answer in her time frame, I couldn't meet for lunch! ( I could barely freaking shower!) After he died and the funeral was over and she had no more advice to give, no more intimate details, no more drama to be a part of - she basically cut me off under the guise of my "lack of communication". She doesn't text, or email ( I sent general updates to friends and family by email- anyone of you who is gone though a long illness understands why this is important) .
    She ended our friendship cruelly by ignoring an important event we had shared together for over 15 years.
    I was hurt, very hurt. I was alone and now one of my best friends rejected me because I was too busy caring for my dying husband and grieving to call her individually. The day after the "not event" I sat on my sofa crying and thought of the last ten conversations we had. I actually wrote notes. I realized in all of the years of friendship she was hanging onto this pseudo intimacy. Having all the nitty gritty details of the pain and she loved to be the savior figure swooping in with advice on things she basically knew nothing about. Once my husband was dead, the drama was done, she moved onto another mutual friend going through a bad divorce.
    I sat down and wrote her a letter. Not angry, not full of rage. Thanking her for the years of our friendship, what i learned about myself, what we shared. But our friendship was obviously over, I acknowledged the hurt and rejection I felt but said "if we would have really had the friendship I thought we had, you never would have hurt me in this way" and then I said goodbye.
    I have NEVER regretted it. In fact - I feel free from what I now realized was her constant digging into very personal details of my life and her frequent judgment. I am free.
    Since my husband died - I have let go of two long term friendships and my mother-in-law. I have not spoken to her since 3 months after my husband died, A long story but her cruelty and religious abuse during my husbands dying killed any feelings I had for her. That was the saddest ending of all, watching someone you loved try to guilt a dying person to go back to mass. Sick, sick, sick.

    So Janine - once again thank you for pointing out that some endings are necessary. Widows have gone through(still going) the hell of grief, we don't need any freaking (insert better profanity here) advice!

    The best advice I could ever have received was from another beloved friend and widow - the day after the funeral I asked "how do I go on?" she held my hand, looked me in the eye and said gently "You will do whatever you need to do to make yourself happy and you will call me if you need me to remind you of that fact."

    Saved me from all the other "advice" most recently by a kind elderly gentleman who helps me occasionally "that I should get out there while I was still young!" meant kindly and said along with "your a good looking gal". I just responded that I didn't think I was dying on the vine yet.
    We both laughed.

    Thanks Janine!

  4. Thank you so much for this timely reminder that it is about THEIR issues. My closest friend has used the last three times we were together - all with other people - to go on and on about how I should be dating and how terrible it is for me to be alone. This woman knows me better than anyone else - we have been through everything together for more than 40 years and so she knows I am nowhere near being ready to even think about dating.

    The first time she did it I was so shocked I really didn't respond, the second time I laughed it off and the third time I basically ignored it - because I was so angry I was afraid of what I'd say. But it isn't about me being lonely at all. She has been in a loveless marriage to a total jerk for years, her youngest child is going off to college soon and because of the jerk spends very little time at home even now. It is not my lonliness she feels so strongly about, it's hers. Next time I'll know that and be able to handle the situation.

    I'm finding it hard as a widow to see these situations as clearly as I would have in the past. Enveloped in my own pain I don't recognize it as well in others. I need to work on that.

  5. Janine...
    Thank you so much for being in my (our) corner! I have recently had it indicated that I should move on and not dwell on the past - it affected me deeply in so many ways - still am dealing with it - will always be dealing with it (the grief and the hurt)...

  6. Love Bob Marley and his music! Pretty much the only music I listen to these days.

    What I have learned along this widow road is that unless you have walked in my shoes, no amount of advice will help. I will move on from my grief when it is time for Me to move on, not when others think I should. So called friends think other so called friends are still there for me, so it ends up no one contacts me anymore, not even my husbands partner and therapist wife (duh, you'd think she'd have a clue). I used to be bitter about it, but now I am learning to shrug it off; it's no longer important for them to be a part of my life, so let it go. I'm getting better at letting go, had to let go of the most important thing in my life, the person who meant everything to me. If I can let go of him, I can let go of all these trivial other things (and people) who just don't get it.

    Anon #2, I have a kindly widower gentleman friend, older than my Dad, who says the same things to me. Nice to have people like this in our lives, who really do care about us and what is important.

    Janine, you DO rock. Your kids are thriving and surviving, as are you. I'm behind you on this road, and w/o you and others ahead of me giving your input and advice, I don't think I would make it. Thank you so much.

  7. I had a best friend who was really the onbly one that new all my secrets and feelings. Right after my husband died I declined to go to her daughter's funeral because I could not bear all the talk about love, and happy ever afters. I offered to send a nice gift and asked to send my best wishes. My old fried was furious.
    She said I was selfish and that she worked hard to be a good friend and I needed to put some effort into it now. I told her that I was unable to do that and that our friendship was over if that is what was required. We have not spoken in 6 years. Once in a great while I wonder how she is doing but have no desire to strike up a relationship with her again. You go girl--do what you must and don't look back.

  8. I have a friend that (I really do believe he was trying to be helpful) told me that my husband died, I didn't and it was time to get over this. At this time my husband had been gone three months. I wanted to punch him in the face. He was telling me this as we were leaving work and he was going home to his spouse. I also have a work "friend" that compared my husband’s death to her divorce... she calls her husband to fix her cell phone and register her car. She went on to tell me how she "bounced back" really quickly and I could too. She talks to him every day. It has been six months and there is no end in sight. I miss my best friend every day, bad, I miss my husband. I miss our family and the dreams we had. I do my best for our young children, I go to work every day- we function day by day, it may not be pretty but it is all I have. My father can't spend time with the kids and I because "it is all really emotional..." he would "give us time to work through it". We haven’t seen him in five months. It isn't us; it is the people around us that can't handle raw feelings and emotions, or they just have no clue. I now realize all the people that are in our lives for the long haul, even if it is messy. These are the people that I call family and cherish.