C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed, “I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate if they do, and if they don’t.” As mostly an observer on pages dedicated to widow(ers), I see many make comments about how people either seem uninterested in speaking about the loss of their loved one which hurts them. Or they get upset when people speak to them about their loss because then they feel as if the questioner is being insensitive.
It is a fine line friends and family have to walk when supporting a loved one who has experienced the devastating loss of a spouse. Each day is different for a person navigating grief. One day saying their spouses name may elicit happy memories and smiles and the next it can create heavy emotions that seem unbearable. So as a friend who wants to offer support, the idea of possibly upsetting the mourner is a line they don’t want to cross. I remember a dear friend asked me in the car one day when the pain from my loss was fresh, “how are you doing?” I burst into tears and she immediately said, “I didn’t mean to make you cry!” I told her she didn’t make me cry. But she felt guilty because she asked a question that on other days I was able to answer without tears.
I reassured her that my reaction and emotions are all my own. She can’t make me do anything unless I release my free will over to her. The same goes when people ask, or don’t ask about my loss or about how I am doing since my loss. Yes I have encountered situations where the person was being insensitive and other moments where a person innocently asked me about my husband not knowing much about me. In those moments I am in control of how I perceive and respond to the situation. I can either allow myself to assume the worst in the person asking me or I can accept and release any emotions that may come up.
Then there is the awkward situations where I can feel my friends resist the urge to speak Matthew’s name or talk about him. Many of us shy away from connecting with our loved one once they pass, which incorporates fear and more sadness into our hearts about death. Why are we hiding away from enjoying the life of a loved one? We are so distraught about their departure from our world but then at the same time we stop talking about them. Often times I will bring up memories or make comments that Matt may have said to lighten the mood. To show that I am ok with talking about him.
I want people to talk about Matt regardless of the emotions that may occur. Pain, heartache, sadness, anger are all emotions we experience in our lives regardless of death. We want to eliminate any type of pain because it is uncomfortable, understandable. But I want to challenge you to change your perception on everything in your life that brings up uncomfortable emotions. Why are they uncomfortable? Is it because we believe emotional pain is a bad thing? If we allow ourselves to feel the emotions that rise in us, rather than push them away, we can confront them and release them. By doing so, each time strong emotions come upon us we are able to handle them more fluidly.
I do this every time the images from the night Matthew passed away enter my mind. I let whatever emotion wash over me and I focus on releasing and moving forward. No longer do I dwell on the events that took place that night. No longer do I allow them to take up camp in my mind. No longer do I let the pain take over my heart. I do feel a major change has occurred inside of me regarding how I acknowledge emotions and mental unrest. For me it has been key for my ability to move forward with my grief.