I am inspired by my childhood friend – Dena Miller Peters who always says she doesn’t know what to say to me. I am writing this post to share my opinion (and did seek a bit of advice from a few others) around what has worked for me and what has not in regards of comforting words and actions. 🧐Major disclaimer — I do not speak for all widows or those who have lost loved ones. I can only tell you how I feel and really isn’t that what matters since this is my blog?? ha ha. 🤪 But really, I still struggle to figure out what to say too… it is totally awkward and uncomfortable. So here is my best shot at what made me feel good and what did not. 🤭
THE DO LIST
TALK ABOUT HIM/HER: It is important for me to keep the memory of Robin alive and it makes me feel really happy when people tell me how much he mattered in their lives too. As a widow, I want to hear about Robin as he was pivotal in my life. So please speak his name and share your experiences and thoughts about him with me. Trust me, you are not going to open old wounds by bringing his name up. I think about him all the time and I am coming to peace with my situation. 😇 I have been very comforted with funny stories and hearing that he was important to you too. You don’t have to make him out to be a saint – he wasn’t – just keep it real and treat the conversation as if he is still with us. For example, his friend Doug went to their high school reunion this weekend and took a Chicago Bear’s jersey in memory of Robin – that was so sweet and touched my heart. See picture above and I hope Doug’s head is not chopped off (can’t figure out this app sometimes ugh)🙄
BEING REAL: Not knowing what to say is authentic and I am ok with it. I appreciate you acknowledging that you are uncomfortable because I am too. It is a also a good ice breaker. ⛏ Here are some good pointers, ask me how it is going and let me know you are around to listen and provide emotional support. You don’t need to give advice, just knowing you care and are there for me is enough. Sometimes less words and being compassionate is better than a bunch of words that don’t mean anything. It always made me feel good when people shared that they were thinking of me and cared especially during random times. For example, my friend Marla sends me texts with cute emojis or sayings. I have no idea where she finds this stuff, but it is heartwarming and special. 🧚🏻♂️ Doug sends me pictures of the sky, rainbows and random shots when he feels Robin is with him. 🌈
JUST DO IT: I really appreciated when people stepped in and helped me out without waiting for an invitation. Most of the time in the first year, you have no idea what is going on and don’t really care about the day to day things. You are just trying to survive. Gilma and Tonya took over logistics and home matters in the first few weeks after Robin’s death. I needed his office to be sorted out and it was a huge pressure off me when they handled it. My colleagues took on all my work to allow me to take the time grieve. My friend Raphael called and told me he was getting dinner for us at his favorite Middle Eastern restaurant. Kelley and her family sent us soup on a cold day for dinner. My friend Stacey sent a running vest after reading my blog about jogging in the pitch black. My lawn service took away a bunch of debris from the backyard that was too heavy for me to carry alone. The point of the matter is you do not have to spend money, just taking action and not asking for permission is really nice. There were many more kind gestures that I truly appreciated.
POSITIVE ENERGY: I was depleted and very vulnerable emotionally after losing Robin and still have days and weeks that I am down.😢 I need to be picked up without any expectation that I can reciprocate in the near future. 😕It is important to have people around that can lift you up and help you see that north star. ⭐️ My best friends, Marla, Debbie and Renee just were there for me and kept me grounded and calm. (and drugged – just for the first week) 🥳 Tramayne and Laura hopped on a plane just to be here for me and consistently call and text. They make me feel so optimistic, zen and provide me an avenue to just say what I need to say without judgement (at least I think entry don’t judge) 🧐
Now on the other-side, there are a few things that don’t really work. With that being said, don’t be embarrassed, we are all guilty of these including me. So here they are in no particular order.
THE DON’T LIST
CLICHE PHRASES: I am so sorry for your loss, there are no words etc.. really are quite awkward and whitewash the whole situation. I mean Robin was your friend and or relative, it feels cold and weird. Those cliche lines only work well if you lost something not someone. I know this makes you cringe cause we all say it – me too guilty. 😬 What works best for me were lines like, I am so sad that Robin is gone – he meant alot to me and I wanted you to know that this is a big loss for your family and us too – he is missed already. If you did not know him, here was a comforting line after the funeral – I wish I had known Robin, he sounded like a great guy – I am so sorry that he passed. ☁️
HOW CAN I HELP? This was also a very popular phrase gifted upon me from time to time. And I think …. you meant it (did you)? The truth is that I have just gotten kicked in the gut and I am down and out, I don’t know how you can help. It is hard because you put the burden on me to figure out. As you know, I try to find humor in any situation, so at the shiva I was sitting with Caroline (She is sort of my sister-in-law, I will go with that) and after she heard a few, how can I help questions, we began to think about how could I take them up on their offer. Here are some things that came to mind. Could I call someone up and share that I was craving a corn beef sandwich from Zingerman’s on a Monday night at about 7, would it be awkward to ask for them to drop everything and pick it up for me? 🥪For those that do not know, this deli is in Ann Arbor and about 1 hour plus away. If I needed my house windows and screens washed, does that qualify? 🏠 You get my drift! Thanks all for the great chuckle and bonding moment with Caroline. I did appreciate the offer but it was one that I could never act on. 😘
RELATING TO THE SITUATION: I know people are well intentioned but it is difficult when people say, I know how you feel and then provide a story that does not relate in comparison to the magnitude of the loss. When the EMT was wheeling out my husband’s body, he said, I know how you feel, my dad died too. This was a guy that was about 40+ years old. This is a slippery slope when you are trying to share grief. I would say, rule of thumb, don’t say stuff like this unless the situation is similar. Losing a parent is not the same as losing a spouse and losing a child is far worse and not the same as either mentioned. You may want to stay away from this all together because it is not comforting and may in fact challenge my thoughts about your emotional intelligence (just kidding – maybe) .. 🤓 Lighten up everyone! – trying to be funny too!!😃
RESPECT MY HEALING: Everyone has been great about inviting me out and including me in social events. I can’t tell you how much it is appreciated. I would say, please continue to invite but give me the latitude to bow out early or cancel if I need to in that moment. Sometimes sadness or things trigger me and I just want to remove myself from the situation. I tend to be an introvert and there are times when my biggest comfort maybe staying home and being alone. Everyone grieves different and unfortunately it is a confusing process. For example, I was actually feeling very good for many months but right before the one year anniversary of Robin’s death, I became very bummed out. I just lost energy and wanted to stay at home and not go out too much. 🛏It is really hard because sometimes you do want to get out and go! 🏃🏻♀️It is truly a roller coaster of emotions and you never know when you will be up or down. Don’t take it personal, it’s me (and this time that is not a line)🙄
WRAPPING IT UP
I realize that many of you may feel that you fall into both categories and if I was being honest, in the past, I would have been more in the don’t list than the do. 🤭I want to reiterate that my family and friends have been incredible and I feel very blessed to have such a strong support network. I believe I am one of the lucky one’s because I hang out with a high quality group of people (that of course is all of you). 👯♂️👯♂️👯♀️👯♀️👯♀️Again this is a tricky topic and I was trying to be real. I also have found myself even in the last few months saying stupid things to comfort others grieving .. so I suck at this too. 😬I don’t have all the answers but hope to shed light on an uncomfortable topic. And last but not least, if this did not work… let me know how I can help? Ha ha… peace and love ✌️❤️
Blog post 49…. 3 more to go🥳🥳🥳🥳