The things people say

I have just come through another Christmas without David and am being catapulted (it feels) into the forthcoming anniversary of his sudden death in Italy.  

Being nearly four years in one would hope that I would not only be used to the variety of things people can say (both helpful and not so helpful) but that I would also be prepared for any internal fallout.  Not so.

Gay and Davids last Christmas together

Out of nowhere…

On Christmas night, within a general conversation, a very dear relative took it upon himself to tell a newcomer that David had died suddenly while we were overseas.  Seems straightforward enough and no ill will was intended.  But I was thrust into the maelstrom of grief completely unexpectedly.  I was furious that my relative had taken it upon himself to share MY story instead of either asking my permission or letting ME tell MY OWN story in MY own way.

My fury was completely internal, and no-one noticed my turmoil.  I told myself that I was being completely irrational and to get over myself.  But it takes an enormous amount of energy to pull yourself back from such a precipice.  And it got more complicated.  I felt dismissed – well of course no-one would expect you to still be getting upset after four years; and, for heaven’s sake, you are over 70.  Sudden deaths are only to be expected.  All this thinking was happening inside while still sipping champagne and smiling benignly.

I feel very sorry for anyone dealing with a grieving person. 

They simply cannot get it right.

As one anniversary of David’s death came around, several friends rang me to ‘remind’ me of the looming date and “how was I doing?”  Well, how the bloody hell do you think I’m doing??  And if another friend rings me to remind me, I’ll poke them in the eye!  And other friends would leave me alone.  Well!  Don’t they care enough to call me??  Just crazy thinking.

“How are you?”

A simple “How are you?” can stir the grief possum.  Overly cheerful and enthusiastic only serves to deny me permission to say I’m not doing too well.  Too sad and pseudo empathic drives me mad and denies me permission to be having a happy enough moment.  And then there’s the “How are you? Good?”  That’s the person who really doesn’t want to know.

“It’s great to see you looking so well!” is hardly an opening for me to confide that I was having such a difficult morning I deliberately put on a brighter lipstick.  A question we would often ask at Quest for Life where I was a counsellor and facilitator for many years is: “Do you feel as good as you look?”  Now THAT’S a great opening question!  That’s the person who really does want to know.

As I said, I feel very sorry for every one of these people.  If I don’t know how I’m going to feel from one moment to the next, how on earth can they?  But hanging in with me in my grief process, no matter how crazy my responses might be, just giving me a hug with no words, enables me to do Good Grief!

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