6.23.2010

Another Memorial Service



Here's what I said at Amy's memorial service, held at our church, just a week from the fourth anniversary of my husband's memorial service there. Am I bad for putting all my energy into those that survive and not the spirit and memory of the woman who was once so vital, so here, and now isn't? Am I awful for "knowing" this world and how to navigate it, which no one knows, for remembering how poorly I did and trying to change it for John?

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As I stand here, among the memorial quilts, I am called back almost exactly four years, to the memorial service for my husband. The day was so much like this one – I think it was a little hotter – and the room was filled with friends from all areas of our lives and music, just brimming over with love. I couldn’t wait for the service to be over, for what I was going through to be over.

I wish I could have bottled that intense feeling, love and support poured out by more than 300 people. I didn’t know that the next day would be not the end of my grief, but day one of a journey that I’m still on. I didn’t know it would be by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t know then, that I’d find a mission helping other young widowed people, many of them raising small children.

Because there were many days, just a few months later, when I looked around and saw no one. Where the hell is everybody? Everybody who who promised that day that they’d hold us up? I was alone, and it was horrible, and worst of all, I know it didn’t’ have to be that way. Those people did love us, and still do – but they were helpless not knowing what was right, and I was too tired to ask.

I didn’t know then that I wouldn’t ask well or that I’d get so little support. Now, four years later after sharing and learning from hundreds of young widowed people, I understand some of the simple things we can do to fix this gap.

So please don’t say to John what everyone said to me that day: “Let me know what I can do to help.” We don’t know. We’ve forgotten how to get to the grocery store; we certainly don’t have the capacity to organize our willing friends. That statement is our 3rd least favorite, after “he’s in a better place” and “at least you found someone to love.”

Just do something, anything specific, and above all stay in touch – call or email him when you’re hurting or when you’re happy. When you’re wrapped up in your busy life, call John. When you’re at the grocery store, call John. When you are remembering Amy or carrying out her good work in the world, call John. When you feel bad you haven’t called, call John. When you know you can’t do anything, call John. When he doesn’t call you back, call him again (we never check messages). When you have an extra hug lying around, call John. Call on their anniversary, the date of their loss, her birthday or his or the boys’. You won’t make their pain worse. There’s not really any “wrong” thing to say.

John, Adam and Bryan, if they are anything like me, will need your contact, but seeing them doesn’t have to feel like a duty, or be hard work. It’s mutually enriching, easy, fun. You needn't be strong or comfortable with emotional displays. You can cry, or not. It doesn’t matter if you knew him or knew her or hadn’t seen either in a while. Sometimes someone just wants someone else to come by and help fold laundry, or keep them company while they read.

These small favors, these connections with you, are what keep a grieving person afloat.

So please, do what you can, do whatever work you need to do on your own to get comfortable with it, and please stay close in a way that works for you. I promise it won’t hurt you and it really will make a difference for them.

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And will my words make any difference at all for this loving man, still a husband, and his beautiful little boys? I pray, please, please. We can change our world, please, let's do it bit by bit and hand to hand.


* * * Please connect! I love comments! * * *

16 comments:

Hira Animfefte (Xera Anymphefte) said...

You said it, Supa! Amen, sister! :)

letterstoelias said...

Fan-damn-tastic.

I was mowing the lawn just yesterday, and reciting in my head almost these exact words - thinking that if I know someone to die again soon, I would hope to be brave enough to share something like this.

I guess it may sound rather odd to some people that these thoughts run through my head while mowing the lawn . . . but really it was because the help (including lawn mowing) faded so fast - and that was the rare few who even helped to begin with!

Good on ya!
~C~

deardarl said...

Thank you for writing this post. I'm still writing sympathy thank you cards and am amazed at some that were attached to flowers left at the church from Greg's friends promising to take care of me and the kids .... and I've not heard hide nor hair of them since the funeral over 3 months ago.
People kept telling me at the funeral to "just ask" for help, but I've got no idea what to ask for. I have no short term memory and can't remember who've I've asked to do what anyway, leave alone organise my needs and coordinating who can help with them....

Anika said...

Just awesome. Even if one person listened to your advice it would make a huge difference. "call me if you need anything" is really never helpful, lots of us struggle to ask for help. I always wait for someone to offer. Maybe you saved someone else from going through that.

Nicola Carver said...

This is so unbelievably perfect!! Thank you for sharing it with us. I can imagine it was hard for people to hear, but I think it is important for them to realise that saying "just ask" seems the same as saying "goodbye" to us.

I really hope it helps!!

carolyn said...

Perfect!!! People may have started out wondering "why is she talking about her own loss NOW? but then quickly realize you are not, and yes, if just one person there that day really heard what you said, it could make a HUGE difference to that family. Love, love, love it and hope it's ok to pass this on.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Words that need to be said! Thank you!

Tobi Jones

annie said...

That was brave. I wouldn't have done it.

Suddenwidow said...

Wonderful! This should be handed out to all who know the surviving spouse immediately after someone dies. Such important advice that is rarely given.

Anonymous said...

exactly.

megan said...

I think even the truly well meaning get overcome with their own life - their daily life (most likely) hasn't changed, they have their own dramas and stresses and things. Then, if they do think of you, they feel bad they haven't called or checked, and THAT becomes a thing. And they know there is nothing they can do - no one likes to feel helpless in the face of pain. Staying away is better than feeling helpless.

And I think many, many people just do not want to see you, as much as they may love you or care for you, as you are a very real reminder that everything they hold dear can vanish in an instant. No one wants to see that.

All the platitudes of "you'll be okay," and "why are you still upset?" come from people desperate to see that even something this big is no big deal. You know, should it happen to them, they would recover. Don't let in the raw, deep pain. DO not get too close. Everything is okay. Everything is okay. Everything is okay.

Good thing other widows just Know.

hourbeforedawn said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

jessica said...

Very well-written... This should be printed on every memorial card that is handed out at a funeral service. I definitely made an extra effort at "reaching out", following my own husband's death. And, YES, I, too, especially hated that phrase, "He's in a better place".

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. I hope I spotlighted some of the barriers and let folks know that they don't matter and that the contact will be fun and about relationship, not ponderous and about grief.

I know that I thought about it briefly before "my" (Gavin's) memorial and it still got lost, so I hope this made an impression, and if not, I'm committed to working to find the right channel because as so many of you say, it hurts us all.

Love to you all and thanks for sharing your thoughts about this situation!

Connie said...

So well done. Will share with my own social network. (I would disagree only with "there's no real 'wrong' thing to say, but that may be a matter of personal opinion. In any case I'm merely stating my own--and not wishing to come to any unpleasantness over it. :) ♥

~C

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Connie, it's a disagreement I've had with folks again and again and I certainly don't think my answer is final, it's just the one I like best: if you tell folks there are a lot of wrong things to say, you continue to scare them away. I've seen widowed folks split about 50/50 over whether these comments are really "hurtful" or just dumb, we all agree that they are at least dumb and it's a pretty consistent list.

Feel free to disagree any time!

X

Supa

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