Finding your husband dead? Getting that phone call that he is gone? Seeing him as ashes or cold to the touch? Realizing that the entire life you planned with him is completely gone?
As a widow, I have been judged for so many different things that it becomes mind numbing at some point. How so many non-widows could even think they know better than I do.
So I am here to simply say:
Do what you are afraid of.
Nothing is worse than what you already went through.
Your husband died 5 months ago and you want to date his best friend? Do it.
You want to take your wedding ring off but it hasn’t even been a year? Do it.
You want to post about being happy? Do it.
You don’t want to move any of his belongings? Don’t do it!
You never want another man to touch you? Don’t do it!
If anyone knows the cliche saying “life is too short” it is the young widow.
Do what you want or do nothing at all, but do not let the people who have never experienced the pain of your body being ripped in half tell you how to proceed as a whole.
Any non-widow who “knows how they would feel,” has no idea.
They only *think* they know how they would feel. They don’t know the twist and turns of grief. They don’t know what it is like to have someone by your side every day, then in a snap have no one. Like it was never there.
So when you do find a glimpse of happiness somewhere, take it.
You deserve it. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still grieving, it means you actually know how quickly life can change and want to savor this small moment before pain hits again.
You have already suffered enough. You deserve anything that brings you some happiness.
When people think of a personality disorder I think they think of a moody woman that isn’t stable. That’s what I thought anyway.
That’s only a small portion of them though. A personality disorder is really just an observation that the person isn’t “meeting societal norms.”
They are different, literally. Sometimes this amounts to good qualities, sometimes bad.
So I have one of those. It’s called obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and it is NOT the same as OCD. OCD is generally something that is created later in life, I’ve had mine since I was born. In fact, a lot of people in my family do whether they want to get help for it or not. Also people with OCD recognize their behavior is off whereas people with OCPD generally do not. I didn’t, until I met Jesse. Jesse helped me a lot with this. I am glad he helped me work through it.
I was pretty upset when I was told by my doctor I had that. Who the fuck wants a personality disorder!?! But Jesse simply said it was more of a superpower than anything else.
So here’s what it is (via iocdf.org)
Rigid adherence to rules and regulations.
An overwhelming need for order.
Unwillingness to yield or give responsibilities to others.
A sense of righteousness about the way things “should be done.”
There’s a lot more to it than this, but this is a basic outline to what it is. Listening to the rules doesn’t sound too bad, but it is when you obsess over them and create your own. It’s bad when thats all you think about. Or you work a 20 hour day to meet the requirements of how things should be done and refuse help.
So for me, my sense of righteousness is an obsession with morality and honesty, hence my blogs on killing myself and sleeping with Jesse’s friend… and now my medical diagnoses. To me righteousness means being as candid as possible because that is how people progress. Think about it, anything that has ever changed was because of someone speaking up, not being silent. Because of someone telling the truth even when no one wanted to hear it or agreed. Doing the objectively right thing is something I always obsess over also. Popular and right are not the same. I have learned though that sometimes an objective right is hard to spot.
I do not like, but have had to, let others help me. I prefer to do tasks my way. Catch me on a bad day and I might be upset about how someone folded a towel. Do it perfectly or don’t do it. I don’t delegate many tasks out because I do not trust that it will be done correctly. I only delegate tasks if the person has “proven” to me that they don’t cut corners. So far this leaves my daughter Chloe and my friend Stephanie. Not a long list of trust going on.
Things must be in order. Chaos is horrible. I prefer things to be consistent and pretty much predictable. I want to stick to a schedule. That schedule is usually intense also. When I only had one child, part of our morning routine was to learn words in Mandarin and Spanish. So ridiculous. Who has time for that. Not me.
For the most part, I also like to follow rules. I love rules. This is probably why I love law. There is a caveat to this though, rules do not trump morality for me. At my Catholic law school we are told over and over a law that is not just is no law at all. This is a simplified version of what Thomas Aquinas said and I fully agree. Laws must be just. If they are not just, they should not be laws. So morality trumps listening to every rule, unless it is a just rule.
It is also an obsession with perfectionism and control. Two things I have clearly failed at.
Keeping Jesse alive? Fail.
Keeping Jesse sober? Also fail, but win, but fail, but also win, win, win, win, fail. Oh that’s right, *reminder to self* I do NOT have control over that.
I have applied my principles of morality/perfectionism/etc. to everything in life and it’s very clear if you look at things I’ve done.
Commute to and from my home to my undergrad college (University of Florida) which was an 8 hour round trip twice a week with a small child and pregnant. I did this for 2 years to earn my bachelors.
After all 4 C-sections (From age 19-31) I have been back on the move, either to work, school, or soccer practice within 4 days of surgery.
Going to law school with 3 little kids and a husband in an active nasty addiction. Spend countless hours running a house, taking 18 credit hours, and figuring out how to get Jesse sober (more to come on this). All of this and I would still occasionally make the highest score on exams out of all 97ish students.
Continuing law school 2 weeks after Jesse died, giving birth in the middle of the semester to a fatherless child, and only failing one class.
You get the idea. Sometimes people say to me “Wow that is so impressive, how do you do it?” and I just want to reply “Thanks! It’s personality disorder.” But I also don’t want to scare them so I remain quiet.
My personality doesn’t allow for rest, to me that is imperfect. That’s another reason I am in therapy because being a workaholic doesn’t help anyone (but it also doesn’t kill anyone so stop blaming me for Jesse’s death lol). This standard I only apply to myself, not others. I am actually understanding of others to a fault. This is why I was able to love and live with a bipolar addict for 13 years. He had so much good in there.
Jesse and therapy helped make me a little more balanced, but also it’s inherent. Which means no matter how hard I try those things in my personality just kind of stick even though I try to water them down.
So what does this have to do with grief?
Grief has “rules” to get better. These rules give some sort of control over grieving. Sounds good to me.
So I looked up the rules to recovery. The things I needed to do if I had any chance of not rotting away to nothing, and literally did as many as I possibly could. Even if it met it hurt (note: they all hurt). Because for months I woke up every morning questioning why I am still here. I wanted to just stay in bed and not leave it. Not go take care of the kids. Alone. Again. And again. And again for eternity.
Every one had their normal life but mine was fucked. No one saw Jesse enough besides us to hurt 24/7. They could pretend. We couldn’t.
I should have caught on early that I was trying to “win at grief,’ but of course I didn’t. I almost didn’t even publish my website because I knew I’d have spelling errors. I literally just had to say “Fuck it. That’s stupid Rochelle. Just publish it.” You aren’t a perfect person get over yourself.
I am about to do another list, which is a major red flag of OCPD, see the trend here? I am obsessed with list.
How do you objectively “win at grief”? Well first I had to read everything I could get my hands on from self help books to Japanese poetry on death, every article I could find, speak to every widow I could talk to and here’s my list my OCPD came up with:
You need support: This doesn’t mean for a day, it means for months with a reassurance of forever. Support is being able to say “Damn this hurts” and people tell you “yes it does I am sorry.” Not diminish or try to make the pain prettier. It also means that the griever needs to also be able to recognize that support looks different from everyone. One of my attorney friends supported me by helping me fill out my BAR application, but she probably wouldn’t have done so hot watching all of my kids and a newborn. My mom isn’t even a widow yet, so she had no advice, but she could help with Wren really well. People can help, it just needs to be in a way that makes sense to them too.
Get a good therapist: This one is hard. I luckily had already found mine. But consistent therapy helps figure out what is going on, what has happened, and what may happen. Having a plan and knowing what you are doing is normal is extremely important. My therapist and I are currently discussing how everything could crash at any given moment and what would lead up to it.
Read everything: All of my severed relationships only surprised others, they did NOT surprise me. Any grief book essentially tells you how predicatable all of it is. So with that information you should work to be aware and prevent. If no one wants to meet you half way then cut ties.
Make yourself do things: I hated this one. My therapist told me I had to do this. I barely would even shower, but he wanted me to go get my nails done? Ugh. No. Luckily I had an awesome friend that didn’t really ask my opinion she just booked a massage for me. I had to go and it helped.
Protect your energy: Advice from the same friend. If it’s depleting your mental health get rid of it. There’s no more time to waste. If you feel uncomfortable, sad, angry do your best to pinpoint the cause and eliminate it. Cleanse yourself of bad habits and damaging people.
Talk/Write: I see so many widows say “oh my God, so this is weird but…. Is that normal??” I’ve never seen a “no thats not normal” answer. Its kind of like when you see a funny video and you thought you were the only one who did that but it turns out everyone did. So speak up. While we are all unique we are also incredibly the same. Don’t be afraid. Just say it.
Let yourself feel things: Be angry. Be sad. Positive vibes only aren’t real and they suck. Sometimes you have to have other emotions. Just don’t take them out on others.
Organize your life: All those silly things we hear over and over again like exercise and eat right? Do them. Make a schedule. Plan out family game nights and stick to them (however much of your family isn’t dead, invite them over).
Improve everything around you: I’ve always liked doing yard work but now I find “projects” to do outside. Mulch an area, garden, clean the garage out. Inside my house is the same. I do not have a brand new house so there is always something to work on. Improve people around you by helping them if you are able to.
Do things you wouldn’t do: I pretty much said fuck it and just came up with more “chores” for myself. One of these was publishing a blog. Another one was making Wren a TikTok and IG account where I focus on her life, travels, outfits. It’s like another hobby and distraction for myself. Also, I figured since I couldn’t give her a dad I may as well give her somewhat of a privileged life. I am trying to so that with all the kids, within reason.
Do what you want: Widows are judged no matter what they do. So just go do it. If it makes you happy screw everyone else. You already went through the worst thing.
By giving all these “tips” I am in no way trying to be a grief coach. I’m simply writing out what has helped me thus far. This is the list that my compulsive personality came up with and if I do all these things I might be perfect at grief. (Obviously not true, my mind just thinks I have control over everything).
Grief isn’t linear. So while I am doing better as I write this I could also relapse and be right back at square one. Grief just blows. But since I’ve been doing a little better I figured I’d take the opportunity to talk about my OCPD and how it impacts my grieving.
And I figured I’d mention the OCPD because if I have to start getting into the reality of addiction, unhealthy family dynamics, abuse, suppression of traumas and all other things that aren’t too great, I should probably explain my problems first.
When Jesse died during the end of December 2020 I was taking a two hour credit course during the “break,” about legal writing.
That day I turned in my assignment with anxiety over it and planned to tell Jesse about it later that night. I didn’t get a chance to though.
I told my school the next day what happened and literally could not have cared less about that class. I have always obsessively worried about my grades, classes, etc, but I obviously didn’t care.
Spring semester was close. It started around the first week of January and my options were take the semester off and grieve or return to school.
I chose to go back even though Jesse had only been gone for two weeks. I did this because I needed to be overwhelmed. It sounds crazy but the busier I was the more options I had to distract myself.
To graduate law school I needed to pass:
The legal writing class (yes, I totally forgot the real name #widowfog).
Labor Law practicum
Advanced Legal Analysis: ALA (a bar prep class)
Right to life (a class about pulling the cord. PERFECT for what I just went through)
The MPRE (multistate professional responsibility exam)
That was a lot to do while grieving and delivering a baby. I cried every night and took 29 baths a day. I tried to get to class. Some days I didn’t because I had 1 hour of sleep and a newborn. But my goal was to pass ONE of those 6 classes/exams. I thought if I can just make SOME progress I will be okay with that and be kind to myself. My mom helped me the most with a few close friends and my sil/bil.
Despite trying, my brain was blurred. The passion and intensity I had for the law was so dulled down. I didn’t care. Who cares about laws we made up? Nothing matters. Everything is now irrelevant and stupid.
But I kept at it because no matter how badly I didn’t care, I didn’t need to make it worse for the kids. The last thing they needed was a depressed jobless mom on top of all the bullshit they already encountered.
My school isn’t a huge university and I am so glad its not. It is very close knit and my classmates backed up their words when they said “we are here for you.”
In all of my classes I had a friend or two who broke down the law, helped me remember it, studied with me, even came over to hold the baby while I jotted notes down.
So I ended up passing all the classes but two. I failed ALA and I gave up on the writing class. The writing class I just couldn’t resume because Jesse died in the middle of an assignment and every time I started the assignment thats what I thought about.
I tried as best I could in ALA but I was so exhausted I would sleep in. At that point in time my son was also at his absolute worse. My life was just total chaos. I wish someone could have filmed it because words don’t do it justice. Plus family drama, but really that was the least of my worries.. it was more of an added “what the fuck.”
I couldn’t sleep because of my anxiety. But I was so tired. My son had angry outburst. My daughter intensely cried all the time and my other daughter rushed around trying to fix everyone, forgetting about herself. Toss in a newborn. Csection recovery. 5 animals. Soccer and dance practice. School during covid. Death related documents kept piling up. The house was disgusting. I just wanted to die.
So I failed. Two classes out of the 6 things I needed to pass. I call that a win though.
I need 90 credits to get my JD and I have 84.
My school let me walk with my class and I got to take pictures. Now I have to pass these two remaining classes. (grades are posted AFTER graduation but I knew I was going to fail at least 1 thing so it wasn’t a surprise).
Am I worried about failing again?
Absolutely. My fire is starting to come back a bit but its not like it was. I still have days where I am extremely down.
To me, there was no good reason to take time off. Will it be trying to get through holidays without Jesse? God yes. I’m terrified but it will *always* be trying.
In fact most widows say year 2 is worse because thats when you realize “Shit. This isn’t changing. He is really dead.”
So if I took my time, that would be two years of me delaying law school for my grief. I was afraid if I stopped I would never go back. There really will never be a perfect time to resume. Something will always suck.
So now I am in school again, trying to finish these last two classes and if I do, hopefully pass the bar exam. A part of me wants to wither away to nothing and just stare at the sky while I ignore all of my responsibilities but I have 4 kids that did nothing wrong and have dealt with more shit than some adults. They deserve the best me I can be despite this insane chaos.
Hopefully using them as my focus I can pass these two remaining classes and get my JD.
*Excuse any typos. I penned this from my phone as I waited in the car line for my 17 kids to get out of school. Did you know typos and mis-spellings don’t matter? Honestly. At the end of the day we are going to die. And soon. No one will remember if we used the correct “there” or not. So while it may be important to be perfect in my professional life, here I don’t care.
I can’t believe I haven’t spoken to Jesse since before Christmas. I can’t believe he’s been somewhere else or no where else for more than half of a year. What has he been doing? Where is he?
I am still hurting but my feelings are in different places. I know I won’t ever get over it. It will only change. And it has. So I guess I will mark here those changes.
I’m trying really hard to take down my Christmas decor. I have made progress, but I can only chip away at things. To take everything down at once is much too overwhelming. When I move around or put back too many of Jesse’s things at once I always have a melt down.
This means if Jesse left out a pen, it is challenging for me to put it back where the pens go. I am erasing evidence of his existence.
So that leaves us stuck in Christmas.
Take the artwork off of the fridge. Take December’s dinner menu down. Take the garland from the top of the cabinets.
Take the lights off of the front of the house.
People who drive by probably think we are lazy. “Those people still have their Christmas lights up and it’s July!”
But that’s one of the last things Jesse did. Sure the lights are starting to fall off but they are still hanging, for now.
It sounds strange but by taking photos and writing and I am able to take a bit more down. Putting it here is evidence of its existence. I am securing it’s memory.
Evidence that Jesse was here at one point and I didn’t just make him up. Because it certainly feels as though I made him up.
My best friend and I often speak about being frozen on the day he died. She is 30 and I am now 31, but when asked our ages we automatically say “29” in her case or “30” in my case. Our birthdays never happened.
Lately I have been having more secondary grief. I am grieving a lot for things that Jesse is missing out on. Things he should have done but was not able to.
I have a few select memories in my head that I have chosen to torture myself with frequently.
Here’s one of my favorites:
He’s been up all night. He never slept well. He gets up at 5am. Gets ready and leaves. He’s working by 6:30am, all day outside. He’s driving to work and wishing he could stay home. He has an hour drive. He has no idea he’s about to die that day.
Most days he is depressed now, really only the kids and I make him happy. He feels like he is failing. He feels like he cannot take a day off, we need the money. I text him around 11 in the afternoon. I tell him “next year will be good for us. I will graduate, it won’t be so stressful, just 6 more months.”
He’s about to die in 5 hours. He has no idea.
Around 3 in the afternoon he’s headed to the house. He’s North on U.S. 41. He has no idea in about an hour he will be headed South on U.S. 41, back to the hospital he just passed.
He’s driven some now. The AC is out in our old car. It’s really hot. He’s worked all day, he’s dirty, sweaty, and there’s no AC in his car. He is 5 minutes from the house, I wonder if he felt excited to get home at some point?
But in reality he’s about to die in 10 minutes. He has absolutely no idea.
I have the police report. I saw his x-rays. His head. The trajectory of his vehicle. The notes that it was a struggle for the paramedics to get him out.
He has no idea he’s about to snap his right femur clean. That his lungs will fill with blood. That his brain will swell. That his head will separate from the rest of his body. That his car will flip twice. That he will never see us again. Or anyone for that matter.
This grief is strange because I am longing for him to take a shower. To sit in the AC. To have his dinner. Brush his teeth. Something. Lay in bed and feel calm.
He doesn’t get to do anything. He can’t lay in bed after an exhausting day. He can’t play his game or listen to his favorite podcast. He died after working all day. Not rested. Sad. Sweaty. Exhausted. In his Google search history the last thing he looked up was “pain on left side.” I hate how he died. He was uncomfortable.
It really bothers me.
I am envious of those who die in the comfort of their bed. Yet I know so many widows… that I know that brings it’s own unique horrible issues too. There really isn’t a good outcome. I just think. A lot.
I think about this every day. I’m not sure why I engage in this self torture. It is likely my OCD. (That is what OCD is, torturous repetitive thoughts… NOT cleaning!)
The other thing that I am struggling with is anger. I’ve been pretty neutral (and by neutral I mean = namaste bitches) but I feel like I don’t want to do that anymore.
When I try to leave the house and it’s hot as shit outside, Wren is screaming, my back hurts, she has vomited everywhere, I forgot something… I find myself angry with Jesse.
It is super irrational. I know this. He didn’t want to die, but when I am at my wits end, my anger gets pointed to him as in:
“Thanks for fucking leaving me with 4 kids to raise alone! Like really alone! You’re an asshole for dying!!!!”
I had help here and there, but that daily grind? That’s all me. There is no dropping the kids off at Dads on Saturday. Its me. 24/7.
I have no true anger towards Jesse, just heightened emotional states. I wait until these pass because I know he didn’t do anything wrong, it was just life sucking.
I do have anger towards “family” though. It is weird much of my support came from friends. Most of the judgement came from select family members. The special ones.
Jesse did me a favor when he was alive and taught me how to chill out. He taught me how to let it go. Or suppress it. Whatever.
But maybe I don’t want to do that anymore. Theres a fine line between letting it go and letting people treat you like shit. I’ve never been one to be quiet but out of some sort of weird respect for Jesse I learned to be quiet.
And I’ve been the fan favorite since Jesse died. Not to people with any class though. It seems there is a common theme of mentally unstable people commenting about what I do or don’t do.
That anger is real. It’s not a heightened emotional state. Its more of a be careful because I see you and I will eventually verbally wreck you, watch your damn self state. Be careful I don’t post a blog and tag your asses state.
Do I actually care what people say about me? No. Because it’s either not true… or maybe it is true… but it’s that malicious intent. That desire to kick me when I am already down. That is what doesn’t sit right with me. The fake support to my face and then behind my back criticism.
Let’s hear it:
“She’s not even a widow. Lol.”
“She stressed Jesse out sooo much!”
“She did WHAT with the money! Omg!”
“Her new boyfriend? Yeah. She started seeing him only 5 months after Jesse died. They won’t last. She doesn’t really know him.”
“Her relationship with Jesse wasn’t perfect, yet she is always acting like it is.”
“And evil takes a human form in Regina George. Don’t be fooled. She may seem like your typical selfish back stabbing slut-faced hoe bag, but in reality, she is so much more than that..”
*Okay so maybe that last one is a quote from the movie “Mean Girls.” It just felt appropriate but it is really totally irrelevant.*
Rarely is anything ever said to me. When it is, I gain respect for that person. Like I said, it’s not the thoughts, it’s the intent. It’s the fakeness. It repulses me and always has. Opinions are fine. Gossipy shit talking and weird displays of behavior are not.
I guess it is the human problem. The Freudian “id” if you will. That primitive nature to pin someone as a scape goat. The lack of a higher awareness to not do it. To make an attempt, a poor one, to hurt someone who is already hurting.. that is already so tired.
It is disturbing, yet…
common. Most widows deal with this at one point or another. The criticism.
For now, things have “changed,” as in I obsess over the unfairness of all of it and have allowed my anger to begin to come out. It’s not a stage. I am not in the anger stage.
The “stages of grief” model that nearly everyone knows is inaccurate. I could resolve my anger but it may pop up again in two years or two seconds.
Grief makes emotions go all over the place and frequently at that. I keep them in check but allow them to do as they need.
Weird right? That wasn’t in my game plan, but neither was Jesse getting internally decapitated.
Apparently, I don’t have as much control over my life as I used to think.
I didn’t intend on seeing anyone, but here I am. Especially after half a year.
Widows are given major shit, for two main reasons:
That we somehow caused or contributed to our spouses death. I’m not making this up. It’s pretty common. (See “that bitch Carole Baskins”) and;
That every one who isn’t a widow knows the appropriate date for us to begin dating again. Everyone is an expert except us, the ones actually dealing with it.
I believe that when someone dies those who don’t logically think out their emotions need to place their anger somewhere, so usually the wife is targeted. “She could have kept him home that day.” “She caused his stress.” “She could have… blah blah blah.” This is a common theme.
I have been accused of contributing to Jesse’s death, because that’s what predictable irrational people do.
But I’m not going to discuss prong 1 besides the small portion I just spoke about because anyone who thinks that is insane.
I didn’t think I’d ever be with anyone ever again. Not because I wanted to be a nun or a monk but because now I am this complex grief person and I felt like many people wouldn’t understand that. Also throw in a newborn and 3 more grieving kids. Also I never told Jesse bye. Yikes.
I started thinking of everything I would need from this next relationship. There were so many boxes to check that I literally laughed at myself and thought “yep this person isn’t out there,” but oh well. While I didn’t want to be alone forever, it’s not the worst thing thats ever happened to me so I shrugged my shoulders at it.
I’d have to find someone that was okay with a lot of things and this is kind of where my mind went:
Letting me speak about Jesse as often or as little as I wanted.
Wasn’t threatened by his photos in our house.
Could understand the differences in my children’s grieving styles.
Could handle 4 children.
Understood I may want to publicly display my thoughts.
Not have any addiction issues.
Not demean or belittle my feelings (i.e. likely someone that had lost someone too so they would “get it.”)
Bonus points awarded if they knew Jesse.
More points if they know the kids already.
I am not a sports person. So i’d rather not date someone who wants to drag me to a basketball game every weekend.
I am extremely blunt and don’t like passiveness.
I need honesty. This one is one of my most important things.
Was a clean person. I can’t be with someone who is messy.
Treated me well.
Okay so maybe I needed a lot of things. I took all of Jesse’s positive qualities and then just added a ton more.
Those along with so many other things that I didn’t even mention here, you can see why the possibilities were so little. My most important boxes I wouldn’t negotiate. If the person didn’t have them I wasn’t going to deal with them. My minor boxes that I wanted checked, like: hey it would be cool if this person liked to dress up for Halloween with me, weren’t going to make it or break it, they were just extra. I was very amused with myself because the list was just so specific.
Widows do not want to “move on,” they want to “move forward,” as Nora McInery so famously put it. We want to take our person with us mentally. Not be forced to forget everything.
In the widow community, there are a decent amount of men that are jealous of the widow’s late husband. I did not want to deal with this but knew that there was a good chance I would. I didn’t see myself getting very lucky.
But I suppose I did.
Most of Jesse’s friends are married, but his one friend Scott isn’t. I’ve known Scott just as long as I’ve known Jesse. We all met at the same place 13 years ago. Jesse and Scott got along extremely well.
So well that we ended up knowing many people in his family. For Oraia’s first birthday Scott’s mom made her this amazing pumpkin cake that lit up and everything.
Jesse and one of Scott’s brothers ended up being friends too. From there I ended up being friends with his brother’s then girlfriend and am still close to her.
He is in the background of my children’s birthday party photos and I am in the background of his daughter Marina’s birthday party photos. The kids used to hunt for eggs together on Easter and swim at his house.
My family already knows him. His family already knows me. Just not in this capacity.
To me, this is really strange. My therapist says the reason its messing with me so badly is because I am a very well planned and organized person. I say something, I do it. I plan something, it goes through. I have an idea of what my life will be like.
Younger me said “find a husband, have as many kids as you can, own your house, be a lawyer, travel.”
That’s pretty much what I have done. So I have this false notion that I control things.
I don’t. Lol.
Jesse dying wasn’t in that 10 year plan. That really shocked me. Scott being my boyfriend wasn’t even…God that never crossed my mind. Ever. Nor did it cross his.
But so much has changed and we are also different now than 13 years ago.
Scott understands and supports everything I do or don’t do. Jesse’s things are Jesses. They are left alone. He doesn’t want to alter them. He doesn’t care if his photos are up. He talks to the kids about Jesse. He talks to me about Jesse. He talks to me if I’m sad. He’s not threatened, he’s supportive. That makes me like him more and helps me “heal.” He is not a stranger to us.
Scott unfortunately is well-versed in trauma too.
Scott’s nephew, Alex, drowned in a pool a few years ago. He was 2 and about the same age as Scott’s daughter at the time. Scott had to pull him out of the pool and give him CPR, but it was too late. It made me sick to my stomach when I heard what happened and it still does. No one should ever have to bury their baby. Scott says that it was the worst funeral he had ever been to.
Just a few years later his mother died of cancer when she was 52. She was an artist and a really strong woman. She raised 5 boys and I can barely handle my 1.
Then in 2019, his younger brother Caleb died in a motorcycle accident. He was 27 and his beautiful girlfriend was pregnant with his child he would never know. Although I feel like an anomaly, there are people out there like me and one of them is Scott’s sister-in-law.
Also throw into this a mentally unstable woman he used to have to deal with. She is still unwell unfortunately.
Needless to say, Scott gets me. I knew all of these things about him yet I never put the pieces together, that maybe we would work out? It never crossed my mind like that, but Scott checks every single box.
Jesse has only been gone for half a year so while it was a thought on my mind I was not actively looking for someone to be with. Half a year doesn’t sound like a long time.
But it is. I’ve had to process my sad emotions much quicker than any other family member because I lived with him.
While other family members love him, it’s possible they only would have seen him 10 times in the last 6 months. While as the children and I are on our 183 day where he doesn’t come home. Other family members maybe sent him a text message once a month, Jesse and I spoke all day for years.
It is only slammed in our faces. Everyone else gets to “ease into it.” I’ve had to tear off many band-aids since he was gone. And sending my first text to Scott was definitely a band-aid to rip. I literally closed my eyes and hit send.
Not to mention I fully immerse myself in my grief. I challenge myself with something every day. I talk about it all the time. Many people suppress these feelings but it delays any possible recovery. I don’t want to rot, so I do every textbook thing I am told to do, as good as I can.
By acknowledging Scott as my “Chapter 2” (cannot fucking stand this word its so cringe but the widow community loves it- its the person you are with after your husband dies and generally its more on the serious side), I am showing the world that:
YES JESSE REALLY IS DEAD WELCOME TO MY LIFE.
I do not get to hide. The kids do not get to hide. We don’t have a safe space. We have a fucked up space.
Rochelle being Scott’s girlfriend and no longer Jesse’s wife is hard to fucking write or see. It was a challenge for me to even change my relationship status. I literally went back and forth with it because Facebook doesn’t have a poly option. But Scott didn’t care and that’s what makes him so great. I can be myself.
I ultimately did it because Jesse is not coming back. Ever. There is no point in telling Scott “Hey society says I should wait 6 years to see you so just go do something while I appease these clueless people.” No.
It makes me sad in a way because in the widow community many widows DO date and they always talk about having to hide their person from the world. It is extremely upsetting that these people feel as though they cannot be themselves. I will not hide anything and I strongly encourage other widows to do the same.
Scott makes me as happy as I could be in my shitty situation, to try and take that from me because YOU are uncomfortable is wrong.
I know many of my friends will be supportive but I am kinda speaking on behalf of all widows when I say:
Fuck you to those who aren’t.
Simply put, it is so selfish to assume you are somehow the master of time of when a widow may appropriately date again. If a widow finds someone that gives her even a smidge of happiness, YOU NEED TO BE HAPPY FOR HER BECAUSE WE ALREADY DEALT WITH SO MUCH SHIT AND WE CANNOT CHANGE ANYTHING.
Widows are highly criticized when they do try to date and it’s kind of ridiculous. Do I think a widow should remarry the day after her husband dies? Well no, that screams co-dependency to me. But after a few months or whatever it may be.. we should be able to date if we can muster the courage to do so. I was so terrified and I am glad I just forced myself to do it, like I do all things.
Another aspect to this is how our relationship is unique. I already trust Scott. He already knows my “secrets” (again lose usage of that word because I pretty much tell everyone everything), he has seen me in an argument, he has heard Jesse complain about me. We get to skip all of that. It kind of makes me feel like we have been together longer than we actually have.
Jesse was my best friend and in some weird part of my brain I wish I could tell him all of these things. Just call him and say “dude you will not believe what happened.” But I can’t. Ever.
The last aspect to this that gets criticism is: is it weird that it is one of Jesse’s best friends?
Nope. A quick Google search you will actually see this is the most normal situation, which I find amazing.
I’m not saying I am marrying him tomorrow, but I am saying for now he is really great for me and hopefully it’s for a long time.
He has a dark sense of humor which I also have. We make our trauma funny together.
He said to me he thinks he will die around 50, so I will be widowed twice. Then he assured me “but this time you can prepare.”
And we both laughed.
Being with Scott doesn’t erase anything I’ve said about Jesse. I feel exactly the same about Jesse as I did a few months ago, there is just nothing I can do. No amount of sadness will bring him back. At least with Scott I get to be happy sometimes instead of just miserable 24/7.
If your child has a nut allergy schools will at minimum make an attempt to shield your child from it. Even if it’s a poor attempt they ultimately wouldn’t want a physical liability on their hands.
What about if your child has a dead father? Or maybe their father died when they were very young or before they were born? Or while I’m there, an absent father? Or maybe you aren’t too great of a mother and have filled your child’s head with lies about their dad?
What about those kids?
Are there warning signs posted for them? Does the class have to pay attention to this child’s specific needs? No. because these needs are “mental”…except they aren’t because there are physical responses to grieving too.
The physical response is different but nonetheless becomes physical. One child has a potential to suffer from anaphylaxis. This is terrifying, so we pay attention. A grieving child is different. They lash out in ways we don’t understand, like you know, by holding a knife to their throat or laying in the street begging to be ran over by a car or crying in their room for hours or not saying a word.
But fuck those kids, am I right?!
Make them sit among their peers and sketch out things they love about their father with a shitty Crayola marker. Make sure you talk about their father ALL day. Hype them up ALL WEEK for Father’s day crafts.
Make sure you ask them and talk about what they love about their dad and what they are doing for the summer with their dad. Do this in front of the class.
Really rub it in their face and do it every year, please. Do it so much they have to learn to numb themselves so it doesn’t hurt as bad and become emotionally detached adults.
Really give yourself a gold star when you realize they don’t have a dad and you suggest with a smile “oh well I’m sure there is someone you could make a card for? there’s an uncle…or grandpa even? SOMEONE has to have a penis that you know right!?!”
Pat them on the head and feel good about yourself as you walk away because your job is done. That child is cured. Why didn’t I think of the replacement penis idea!? Profound accomplishment.
Can you tell its not the same or should I become more vulgar?
And no, this is in no way similar to a grieving exercise during group counseling. (Because those kids share a common thread=dead parent. They aren’t surrounded by reminders of living parents.)
A father is a special person, no doubt. When my life wasn’t a shitty Netflix series, or a compelling HBO drama, or a Lifetime movie, we did Father’s day crafts too.
But this was always in the back of my head. I just didn’t say anything. I tried to be sensitive when I noticed it, but I was so clueless of the silent chaos.
Since I am well aware of the chaos that ensues behind those little faces when they return home, I must say:
Fuck father’s day. Really fuck this day. Maybe year 5 of grieving for us we will do something cute and “remember the good times” but for us, in year one. Fuck it.
Here’s a crazy idea. It’s wild but hear me out. Respect and honor your father, if you have one, every day. Be thankful if he dotes over you, protects you, or hell, even says hi to you.
At this point we would take anything. This post won’t eliminate father’s day from the world and I am so ignorant in my grief that I don’t have a better idea on how to go about that day for my kids. But I guess I’ll learn how to navigate that one too.
This is a blog about grieving and how it impacts aspects of my life. As the title suggest this one is about my first time having sex with someone after Jesse- but remember it’s a grief blog, not a porn site. So I won’t be sharing details like that.
Jesse has been gone for 5 horrible months. Jesse doted on me for 13 years. He brushed my hair, touched me, you name it. He was a very intimate person.
Then one day he was gone. Everything was gone. I didn’t get a choice. Life just told me “deal with this thing you are clueless about.”
A lot of people go without intimacy but I wasn’t used to it so on top of grieving I felt neglected but also confused about how to even approach it because it’s weird and I have all this baggage. (This run on sentence depicts my chaotic racing thoughts).
I asked another widow what I should do and she, like I have seen quite a few times, told me to go for one of Jesse’s close friends. She said they will know what to do.
And she was right.
So, because I’m such a classy lady, I text Jesse’s one friend and asked him if he would have sex with me- but to be forewarned I was going to cry. He said he knew I would too, but agreed.
Weird right? See no one talks about this, but this is really common in the widow community. We all share exactly same traits that are completely normal yet we pretend they are not and it’s a big secret.
I should add some widows don’t cry. They don’t “care.” Also normal. But I’m not on that side of it.
So he came over. It was a bit awkward, like my last blog suggest- I feel like a virgin even though I’ve likely had more sex than most people I know. When we did it I expected to cry and I didn’t. I was pretty okay. He was very sweet to me.
Then I laid on his chest. That was the trigger. Instant tears. Last time I laid on Jesse’s chest was to hear his heart beat for the last time and I tried so desperately to engrain the sound of it in my head so I wouldn’t forget it. I also always laid on Jesse’s chest too.
When I cried it didn’t scare him and he didn’t make me feel weird. It was as perfect as my fucked up situation could be. He held me and let me cry and we talked about Jesse. He said he missed him too and how awesome he was.
Normally that would likely be weird but in this weird grief world I am in that is very standard.
If I had been with a stranger and cried they likely would not have cared. They wouldn’t know who Jesse was. I’d have to explain my entire self if I started crying. But Jesse’s friend already knew. He just let me do what I needed to do.
He understood why I was weird about moving things that were Jesse’s and was extremely respectful about it. He loved his friend. He has also suffered quite a few losses so he just knew what to do and say. I didn’t have to explain.
He also brought me a bottle of wine and flowers. So he got bonus points.
I think it’s important to say that just because I checked another box of the “things that prove Jesse really isn’t here” list doesn’t mean I’m cured now. I’m still sad and upset. Im just also a human. When Jesse died I didn’t eat for 3 days, but eventually I had to eat. Eventually this had to happen. I’m not a saint. Im a paladin (Jess always used to say that).
If you read this and think it was too soon or it’s strange that it’s Jesse’s friend, it’s really not. It was exactly what I needed.
Someone who gets me, knows me, knows Jesse and respects the situation.
Let me tell you what it’s like to deliver your baby when your husbands dead (hint: it sucks!) It boggles my mind that I am here and about to explain how I felt. That I am the one really living this.
My sister-in-law, Kayla, helps me a lot now. She didn’t sign up for that. Just like her husband didn’t sign up to be a widow whisperer (I’m not the only widow in his life unfortunately). But both of them do as much as they possibly can for the kids and I.
So my sister-in-law was the person who came with me to get my caesarian done. She was newly pregnant and blood makes her want to vomit. She was exhausted and wants to sleep 24/7. So she is a total champ for being up at 6:00am to watch a c-section be done (late I might add) at 12 then monitoring a newborn in the NICU until 5. She didn’t even eat that day.
I was really anxious about my c-section. Jesse was my calmness through it. While his sister tried she is not Jesse. I’ve had 3 prior c-sections and the thing that stood out most to me this time during surgery was the noise.
I had never heard the noise before. The “scalpel”….”scissors,” being requested by the doctor. I never heard the doctor tell his assistant “see theres the bladder- its a bit scarred” (what does that even mean?). I never heard the cutting noise. It is like getting kitchen shears and cutting a piece of meat. It makes a snapping noise. It was really horrible to hear and despite Kayla’s presence I did focus on it. I didn’t realize how much Jesse actually calmed me down until he wasn’t there… Calmed me down or at least distracted me because he kept getting up out of his chair to see what was going on and was *yelled* at by the doctors to sit down.
I also felt the pushing much more intensely. When you have a csection, the doctors push and pull on your stomach area to get the baby out. You feel this pressure but not the pain. The pressure was extremely heavy and made me feel as though I was going to pop. Again, not my first rodeo, it’s my fourth- but my senses seemed to be more keenly aware of touches and sounds.
When Wren came out, the feeling of pure bliss and love did not happen as my experience 3 times before. I felt practical concerns- I was worried if she was okay or not. I did think she was beautiful. I knew I felt love for her. But I just also felt such confusion. Where is your dad at Wren? Why is he not here to see this? I know for a fact if he was still here we would both be beaming. We would have our typical private discussion that we had the most beautiful children. That they were so perfect and we were so lucky. We were a little biased and I miss it so much.
Instead it was silent as we watched the doctors get you to breath. Your aunt said you were so beautiful. I am not sure what I said. I know I was worried about your breathing but I also knew you would probably be okay. I had some hope. I also desperately wanted the xanax they had promised me. My mind kept going back and forth from “check Wren,” to “give me the medicine,” over and over. I was extremely worried that I would have a panic attack if I did not get it soon.
Unfortunately Wren could not breathe on her own despite numerous attempts so the doctors told me she would have to go to the NICU. Again, I was obviously concerned but I knew this also happened to babies born at 37 weeks- it wasn’t too out of the ordinary.
What I wasn’t expecting was that I could not go to the NICU with Wren and she would be there longer than 30 minutes. 1-3 days they suggested.
They put Wren near my cheek and then took her away. They allowed Kayla to go to the NICU with her.
After Kayla and Wren left I was stitched up and wheeled back to recovery to stay for two hours, where the nurses kindly pushed on my newly cut open stomach the entire time to insure I wasn’t internally bleeding. That was more painful than surgery.
Once I was wheeled back to maternity, I was fortunate enough to hear a few newborns crying and subsequently see their fathers rocking them. I literally had to laugh that I was being wheeled back to the room with “no baby” and no husband. No anybody, just my phone. Throw in COVID restrictions- God was determined to make sure I was absolutely alone, apparently.
Back in the day Jesse would take the baby out of the operating room, Id come out and nurse the baby- then he’d let me sleep a few hours. The surgery always exhausted me.
That didn’t happen this time. My adrenaline was ramped up completely. I was wide awake from 6am on 3/18/21 and stayed fully awake until 4am on 3/19/21.
At 2am on 3/19 I made myself stand up. This hurt but the staff told me if I could stand I could go see her. So I did and really quickly. Again, not my MO… my MO used to be I didn’t stand until like day 2 and when I did Jesse made sure I didn’t even pull up my own underwear. TMI- but if you’ve had a c-section you would appreciate that. Everything hurts with a c-section, when you move it feels like someone is pouring hot oil on your stomach- so someone pulling up your underwear is a bonus.
But no- instead after 12 hours I stood up and walked to my wheelchair. I was finally allowed to see Wren at 4am. I held her for 5 minutes and instantly fell asleep. I suppose my mom adrenaline was just kicked into full gear so once I had her I shut off.
I woke up in the NICU chair realizing this probably wasn’t a great idea and placed her back in her little NICU bin. I told myself I would sleep for 2 hours and then come back.
Luckily (loose word) my friend, Amanda, worked in the NICU so that morning she was assigned to Wren’s room. I felt a bit better that she wasn’t alone and someone who knew me was with her.
Later that day Wren was given a bath and Amanda did her hand print along side her fathers. I am so thankful she happened to be working because otherwise it would have been more stressful.
My mom and mother-in-law were also allowed to visit her, but due to covid that was it. I couldn’t have anyone else with me. The nurses and social worker commented that I seemed to be doing “okay” given my circumstances. I was “okay” I suppose because of my anxiety. A social worker came in and evaluated me also. I have seen many a social worker since this happened. I can tell honesty isn’t something they hear often because when they ask the “do you have suicidal thoughts?” question I usually say “yep.” They always seem so taken back by that. It kind of shows me that a decent amount of people are lying…My husband just died and I am in the NICU with my baby that can’t breath. I’m not okay.
However, I won’t carry out the deed. I’ve made that abundantly clear. It doesn’t stop the feelings though.
Despite “doing okay,” by objective standards, I began to decline when my mother-in-law held Wren. That crushed me. My mom had already held her a ton, but for some reason the fact that Jesse’s mom was meeting Wren before Jesse…and Jesse would never meet her, just really screwed with me.
Wren was released later that day. I brought her back to maternity and tried to breast feed her. She was on formula in the NICU and Jesse was not standing next to me- so this resulted in Wren and I both crying for the next two hours. I kept trying to get her to latch and suckle but it was a struggle. I supplemented with formula (which she is almost weened off of) but it was not easy. Additionally, breast feeding increases my depression. This may sound weird as mother’s say it’s a “joy” to breast feed but for me it is not. When Wren latches it increases my sadness ten fold. It’s really strange. Usually when she feeds I will hyper focus into my phone because the sadness is so intense. Distractions are my best friend.
On Saturday, 3/20, I was asked if I wanted to leave the hospital. I said no but I had to- because of my other kids. They had not seen me but on Facetime since 3/18- and the last place they saw their other parent was a hospital bed so I had to make sure they knew this was different.
I sent pictures of Wren to her siblings and they were instantly in love with her.
Once the staff knew I was going to leave, they started preparing the discharge papers. That’s when the lady who had to complete birth certificate information came. Usually Jesse did this.
This time Jesse could not do the birth form. No big deal right? Wrong. The woman began to tear up and she told me she was so sorry and that she had been dreading coming to my room all day, but under “father,” they had to write “unknown,” as Jesse and I were not legally married.
(I have a separate blog on this issue, see Marriage).
So Wren has his last name because I could put that down, but legally she has no father. *cue Maury*
Obviously I am fighting this. It won’t be too difficult to correct but just another pain in my ass thing I have to do, like I don’t have enough shit to deal with.
When it was time to leave, my parents were the ones to pick me up. This was so triggering. Jesse always wheeled me down and then pulled the car around. I am glad I have my parents but it felt so weird.
I started crying so hard. I probably looked crazy but this was so painful for me. My nurse came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder and said “honey I am so so sorry.” My nurses were pretty great and I am glad for that.
Bringing Wren into my home felt so cold. Everything was so ridiculously quiet. It is crazy that a house with 4 children- one being a newborn- is so eerily quiet, but it was and still is. It’s one of the things I hate the most. Jesse was so warm and bright, so it felt like I was bringing Wren into our prison.
Despite this, the kids were absolutely thrilled to see her.
Since then, it has been about a month. Wren makes the kids so happy and I actually have slept more since I had her. That sounds crazy… that I am sleeping a bit more now that I am a single mom to a newborn- but that just shows how upside down my life is. I am in no way getting good sleep, just a tiny bit more.
Wren has definitely helped our entire family. She is a bright light to us. I do struggle with mixed feelings of happiness and sadness constantly though. Happy to have her, but then sadness that Jesse does not have her. It is not fair to him.
Many people, myself included, think Wren looks just like Jesse and that she has very mesmerizing eyes.
When I stare into Wren’s eyes I see something different though. I see Jesse’s lifeless eyes in the core of her bright and alert eyes. I cannot unsee it. I stared into the eyes of my soulmate so intensely as he was declared brain dead by doctors. Then subsequently stared into the eyes of our last child as she was declared born and well by doctors.
I feel as though some people struggle to understand why some people don’t get married immediately- if at all.
Jesse and I were not legally married. If common law marriage still existed here we likely would be. I am not sure why it was taken away.
We held each other out to be the other’s spouse. We owned property together. We shared accounts. Had 4 children.
We just delayed getting married because it wasn’t about what other people needed- it was about what we needed. It wasn’t a rush. We were already together.
When you are not married but you are in a long term committed relationship it does not mean you don’t love each other or its a pass for cheating. To my friends in this similar position of being “unmarried,” there is no shortage of love or loyalty in the relationship.
Actually, I sometimes think there is more, because what is holding you back from leaving? Certainly not marriage, or being afraid of losing assets. It shows you are there purely because you want to be. You are loyal not because of consequences- you are loyal out of love.
Cliche standards of what love is don’t matter. Love is what you and your person agree it to be. If it works for the two of you, it works.
Jesse and I always intended on getting married, but we didn’t get the chance. We figured after I was done with school perhaps. Just he and I somewhere- like Transylvania (yes, we are referencing back to Dracula)…or Ireland. Then maybe some small party back home to appease family.
When I told Jesse I was pregnant with Chloe at 19, the marriage question immediately followed. He asked if we should. I said no and shrugged. Not because I didn’t care or didn’t want to, I just didn’t want to be married “just because” we had a child. I’ve seen this so many times and it drives me crazy. I’ve also seen people get married just because they are lonely. I’ve seen people get married just to settle or to get married just to be able to say they are married. I told him if we really love each other we don’t need it, not yet anyway. He agreed and we nailed down this philosophy together. Being intensely dedicated to each other without paper or societies view of what love should look like. It ended up working out well. Everyone around us could see it.
Practically speaking, I also didn’t want a court house wedding. I am kind of an all or nothing person.. give me the best or give me nothing. A $100 court house wedding just didn’t appease me. A $200 ring didn’t appease Jesse. The ring thing I wasn’t too concerned about- I ended up getting a ring from him, but he always said he wanted my wedding ring to be “1/3 his salary.” I don’t know where he came up with this concept and cant judge it because I wanted a wedding in a different country. But with all of our children and college- that wasn’t doable just yet. So no big deal, we just wait right?
Wait until after law school.
Except he fucking died 6 months before I graduated.
All of our hard work… and nothing.
He should be here to reap the benefits… but nothing.
All of this waiting… for what? So I can be alone and if I become an awesome attorney- maybe one day cry by myself in a Bentley? Go home to the 15 cats I own and quiet house? This pisses me off so bad.
The original goal was that I’d be a lawyer and we would save money and start traveling places.
Now I do realize this could be opposite.
Jesse and I had our first child at 19. We did things “backwards.” While I am upset to a degree I will never be married (weird saying that because I literally didn’t care), I am glad we picked kids first because otherwise maybe we never would have had them.
Unfortunately it did matter that Jesse and I were not married because it has effected the control I have over things.
Working at an attorneys office I had a will, power of attorney, etc and Jesse was named. Jesse didn’t work for an attorney- and I never pushed him getting documents done because who the hell thinks they are actually going to die at 32?
I know this would have upset him- if he wanted someone else to control things he would have listed them as his beneficiary as well right? But he didn’t. I am his beneficiary, because he wanted me to have and control everything- but I digress.
Us not being legally married has caused issues for Wren too. Again, my main thought being pregnant wasn’t “oh Wrens dad will die before shes born.”
While in the hospital, the woman came in to do Wren’s birth certificate. She was very distraught. She said she had been avoiding me all day because under “father,” she legally had to put “unknown.”
Wren and I both have his last name now, but neither of us are legally recognized. I recently changed my last name to his, which was bittersweet. I wish he could have seen it- he would have been so happy.
For Wren I am fighting this- via a dna test. When that gets cleared she will be recognized but until then she isn’t. This won’t change anything financially, but it is important to me that she has a father listed on her birth certificate.
That sounds absolutely crazy when I type it.
I suppose the whole thing frustrates me because at the end of the day- I know of couples where the woman is pregnant by another man, husband has no idea, but the state will recognize the baby as the husband’s simply because of the “presumption,” that it is his because they are married. Even couples that have separated are acknowledged. But Jesse and I? 13 years? Nothing.
I am pretty sure that Jesse and I have enough to support a presumption too. But they won’t change it without a fight.
At the end of the day, I still hold these same values about marriage. That it is not the marriage title that makes the couple it is the couple themselves.
I have seen and continue to see many hollow marriages. Marriages that give up when it gets too hard. Marriages that do not have open communication. Marriages that don’t broach uncomfortable subjects. Marriages that do not have growth because God forbid you call your spouse out on their bullshit. Marriages that don’t forgive. Marriages that are not accepting or understanding.
I suppose this may be why I have a hard time taking marriage seriously in the first place?
If Jesse didn’t pass, I still wouldn’t be rushing for the paper. I’d still be casual about it. Because I knew how much he loved me. I didn’t need others confirmation. I knew how we spoke to each other. How we always got through things… and how we always called each other out on our bullshit.
All widows should be recognized. Married or not. The pain doesn’t decrease because of a legal status.
This is a term we fun, life of the party, grief-stricken people use to describe those on the outside-who are in our circle, either trying to support us, ignore us, or give us well-meaning advice. They are grief-adjacent. Lucky them. I miss being grief-adjacent. I was on that side of it quite a few times. So ignorant to my friends or families pain.
Everyone is different but I would imagine most of us who have lost our spouse are on the same page with our grief and most of us do not appreciate some well meaning things. They are outdated and almost insulting as it shows little to no work or thought has been put into what was said. I assure you, if you Google it quickly, your phrase is a big no no. This list will be more akin to widows- but I am sure there are similarities throughout for other types of losses.
Here is a small list of things that are not helpful and better alternatives to help your grieving person:
1. “Stay strong.” “Time will heal.”
Strength has no place here. I hope if you are meaning “hey don’t kill yourself,” just be candid and say that rather than the strong thing. There is nothing strong about survival.
Imagine someone stranded in the wilderness. Their plane has crashed and they are the only survivor. They are shocked it happened. They are so cold, wet, tired, and nearly starving. They have severe physical injuries. Would it be appropriate to find them in the woods, tell them “hey you’re strong!” Then just walk away? No. They are merely surviving, the most basic of human instincts.
So don’t do it to your grieving person. Their plane of life has crashed also. They feel alone like they are the only one. They are likely not taking care of themselves like they used too. They have mental injuries so significant they would probably rather have physical ones. They also have physical ones, like panic attacks or even worse “broken heart syndrome” look it up.
If they end up finding their way out of the wilderness- they will likely have trauma or PTSD that last a life time. Hopefully with therapy or something of a like they can find a way to navigate themselves, but if they don’t you need to deal with it. Some people just don’t recover just like some people don’t live until there 80. Accept this shitty fact to reality. Listen to what your grieving person is saying and not try to spin it with some toxic positivity. Some things just are not positive. It says more about you when you fight it then it does your grieving person.
As for time, it is irrelevant here. My person left earth and they won’t be back next year. They won’t be back in five years. So how could you say “time will heal” or something of the like? If time heals me, then let time be the master. You do not speak for me or time- so just don’t say it. You are not the predictor of my future. You have no idea. Your person may not even be dead. I want time to heal me too but after speaking to a lot of younger widows, the consensus seems to be time doesn’t heal anything. It just becomes different at best. You just adapt in some weird way. I also know many grieving people years out that haven’t adapted at all. They are worse than they were the day it happened. It’s not that they didn’t try, it’s that the pain engulfed them. This has nothing to do with choice. We all have different brains. Our brains work differently. Some relationships are more intense- and I truly believe that impacts how badly they hurt.
2. “They are in heaven.” “Heaven/God needed him.” “I had a dream and they wanted me to tell you…” “things happen for a reason.”
Tread. Very. Lightly. Friend. Make sure our religious beliefs are the same or this will cause many problems. If your grieving person believes in the monotheistic God and you know them that way- then go right ahead. If you aren’t sure. Don’t say a word. It is NOT ABOUT YOU or where you think they are. It is likely what comforts you will not work for them.
Jesse and I had a friend, Brett, who passed a few years ago. It brought Jesse and I *a little* comfort to know Brett was *at peace* (he suffered with severe depression and his last few years on earth he had a rough time). We dare did not say this to his family, just each other. We were grief adjacent. Yes he was our friend, but we didn’t live with him, pay bills with him, sleep with him- and as vulgar as it sounds- we didn’t have sex with him, kiss him, have kids… you get the idea. Sometimes vulgarity is required to stress a point.
If you have another religion where you are a medium or something of the like- also tread lightly. We knew our person better than you did so you better be careful what you tell us. If you suggest they have come to you first or another family member they didn’t care too much for and not their grieving wife and children the bullshit radar is going to go off. If you are going to make an attempt make sure there is a more legitimate connection.
As for things happening for a reason, again, unless you are deeply in-tuned with our religious beliefs you have no standing to say this. You are a regular person, how could you know anything about why our loved one left? You don’t have authority to speak on it, you are a regular human, so stop.
3. “You can remarry.” “You are young.” “You have a lot of life left.” “Didn’t you enjoy things before you knew (insert dead person).”
These statements are akin to: If you have more than two children, pick the one you want to die, then just have another child. Would you feel better? Would that work? If you answered no then there you go. Our new spouse or whoever cannot replace our old one. They are different people. If you answered yes you either do not have children or you need to seek out a psychiatrist.
It is also likely we had a life before our spouse, that doesn’t mean anything to us when discussing our grief. We are in pain and likely depressed every second of our life. Anything that was “mine,” before meeting meshed into “ours,” at some point.
Example: Yoga was “my” thing. I went to it alone. I practiced it alone at the studio. I should still enjoy that right? Wrong.
I invited my spouse to yoga once and I remember how he was great at it (like he could do tons of variations of crow pose which require decent upper body strength and balance). I called my spouse after yoga and told him how it went. I would show him new moves when I got back home that I learned and he would be so impressed. If I wasn’t good at a move- he would help me get positioned into it. When I went, we had to make sure together he was off in time so he could watch our kids while I went. He paid for me to go to yoga. He listened to my new yoga music in the car when we drove. He made dumb jokes about some more provocative yoga poses I put myself in.
So was yoga just MY thing? No. It turned into our thing. Like every other single thing in my life. We enjoyed things TOGETHER.
Personally, for me, I am extremely depressed. Things that used to make me happy are not working (no shit). My energy is depleted. I had a full life outside of my spouse. I painted, obsessed over my career, decorated my house. These things I still enjoy somewhere- but it’s hard to be happy about them because they seem pointless. Why am I doing them? I am just going to die anyhow. My outlook on life is a bit tarnished and hopefully I am me again one day. But again, from what I have seen, a lot of widows feel the need to reinvent themselves and I also see that being a possibility for myself (which I don’t like).
4. “Let’s go here! That’s fun and will get you in a better mood!”
Nothing is going to put us in a better mood. It may at minimum be a distraction for a small second. Invite us to where ever it is and don’t add that you may have a cure for us. Because you don’t.
Just validate our feelings. Sadness, anger, darkness, whatever- it’s best to just go with it. We don’t like being on this emotional roller coaster either. If anyone wants off this horrible ride it’s your grief-stricken friend.
If we thought a fun place would help us, we would probably go. We won’t feel the same about normal places anymore like you will.
Example: I used to like going to Hobby Lobby and looking at home decor. I decided to go the other day because I remembered I felt happy there. My perspective has changed. It’s not the place, it’s my mind. No one can go in my brain and fix my mind.
Instead of seeing ideas for my patio, all I could see were their signs: “our love story is my favorite,” “so I can kiss you whenever I want,” “this is us,” “dance with me in the kitchen,” “home is where I am with you.”
I felt like I was being attacked in there and nothing had actually changed at their store- it was just me. The signs were so overwhelming. I went from someone who would be on the phone with their husband in Hobby Lobby, telling him “these signs are so cringe babe guess what this one says…” to being in there for five minutes and losing my shit. I started crying hysterically and had to rush out. My body felt like it was going to explode… Over a sign I used to roll my eyes at.
5. “Let me know if you need anything!”
Just text me. Even if I have ignored you the last three times. I am reading it. When you texted me I was in a certain emotion. Sometimes I respond. Sometimes I’ve handled a grieving child all day and I can’t move another finger. I see the message. It helps me not feel isolated.
When you put the ball in my court- it doesn’t help because it’s likely I am struggling to leave my bed, let alone dribble a ball and pass it back to you.
6. “How are you?” “Seems like you had a good time!”
There really isn’t something to replace a good old fashion how are you, but you can acknowledge that. My friends will often say “how are you doing- I know thats silly.” They say something to acknowledge they aren’t being insensitive until I don’t need it anymore.
As for the good time…My smile fooled you. Impressive maybe I will become an actress. I will never be okay or happy like I was. Maybe I won’t seem as wrecked some days and I cannot wait for those. It’s likely the minute I got in the car I cried my eyes out. Call me at 1am and see how I am then.
7. “At least you have your kids.” “At least you have your parents.” “At least you have your pet.”
Yes, and I don’t have marital relations with any of them. I don’t have intimacy with any of them. Does that make you uncomfortable? It should because that’s how you sound to us. I don’t tell my 6 year old my adult problems. I also don’t want to share them with my dad. There is a reason for marriage. There is a reason in scripture it says one flesh. There is a reason for people being described as soul mates with a spouse but not their mother.
As open as I am and as my spouse was- there were things we did NOT tell people, even those close to us. We just told each other.
Ask yourself if you walked by someone with one leg, if you would say “hey at least you have another one.” No you wouldn’t and if you would there is something wrong with you. You have no business telling someone “at least,” anything when you didn’t suffer the loss.
8. “Put on your boot straps.” “Put on your big girl panties.” “Do it for the kids.” “Pull up your knickers.”
Will you be here every morning at 7am putting my panties on for me? Will you be strapping my shoes up for me right after? If you answered no. Then this is not helpful. I assure you we know “hey don’t let your kids die!” Is something that needs to be at the forefront of our mind. I assure you it is. No one wants to get their life back to normal more than a grieving widow. Our brains can’t be normal though because half of us is missing.
9. When you do help, make sure it’s how we want it done.
Respect how I or the children want things done. At first this sounds ungrateful, but remember it’s not about you its about us. Our brains are not working right anymore. Those gross leftovers in the fridge? To a person who isn’t grief-stricken..- yes toss them! That’s gross. To the grief-stricken? That could be the last piece of food our person took a bite of. It’s a shred of proof that they existed and we didn’t make it up. Unless you are our doctor, you don’t get to decide when we move it. We do. So don’t touch it. You will only figure these things out by asking and listening.
10. You can invite us to your engagement, wedding, baby shower, etc, but proceed with caution.
I can talk about this one pretty well! Because I had to tackle inviting my mother in law to my baby shower. Sounds fine. But this is the last piece of her son. A piece she will get to see but her son will not. I assure you if something can mess with someone it’s delivering your grandchild your own son will never meet/delivering your husbands child he will never see.
So my friend who set it up treaded as lightly as possible. Giving the option if it was too much it was okay. If a grieving widow can arrange this- surely a normal minded person can too.
If you are getting engaged and want to invite us, do so, but do it with a disclaimer. “Hey I am having this party, don’t feel obligated to go-but if you are able to feel free, love you.” If we don’t respond, don’t take it personally. Move forward. We are grieving and cannot handle much of anything- especially something like that. Anything that shows less than understanding makes you look like a narcissist.
11. Being cute with your spouse or telling your grieving friend/family members your plans with your spouse. Complaining about your spouse.
Again this is up to the individual but I know most of the widows I know scowl at this. If you are busy and we don’t ask what your doing don’t volunteer “ugh I haven’t seen my husband in 3 days! We are going on a date tonight.” Literally the most insensitive thing you could say. Don’t complain about your husband to us, you have other people you can discuss his issues with. We don’t want to hear about his dirty shorts on the ground. We would kill someone to see them there again.
12. Comparing the loss of (insert whoever) to your grieving widow friend. Comparing the widows loss to that of a divorce. Saying you know how you would respond if it happened to you.
While there is no standardized order. It HAS been said the worst lost is 1. Losing a child 2. Losing your spouse 3. Losing a parent/sibling. This is pretty agreed upon by society but definitely doesn’t account for other factors. Such as age or intensity of the relationship.
As for comparing it to divorce or a break up, unless you are trying to say we are dealing with both (the death and them not being here) do not say it is like it or it’s “easier.” I assure you I’ve broken up with someone and while it was hard, it didn’t ruin my life.
If you divorce on decent terms, like your spouse isn’t a total POS- this is no way like death. You likely have 50/50 over the kids. You likely have some sort of income or a chance to make income. At worst, you may have to see them with another person and that will hurt. There always remains the possibility that you two could find your way back to each other, even if that sounds grim and unlikely. You have a chance. There is hope for something. Death destroys even the tiniest unlikely glimmer- something humans desperately need.
If you never got back together with your ex-spouse; alternatively you could “be free,” to do as you please. You two agreed, however reluctantly, to not be together. When your spouse dies- you didn’t agree to that. You agreed “through sickness and health.” You agreed to continue to work on problems. The phrase “until death do us part,” is in there sure- but does anyone look at that and honestly think “ahh yes death at 32.” No. Or some widows that think they have eternity and were married for 7 months. Thats not what we take that for.
If you divorce on horrible terms, like your spouse is a total POS-this is still no way like death. Maybe you have full custody of the kids. Maybe your spouse moved to another state and said screw all of you. I assure you this isn’t like him dying because you still have choices. Your son, who is confused why daddy left, COULD call him. He would likely be ignored, but he has a phone number. He has something tangible. When your child is an adult they could choose to angrily knock on their father’s door demanding to know why they were ignored. There is a door to knock on. They may get no answer but that person is alive.
They have the possibility of hearing how shitty their dad is through others. That sounds stupid right? At least they can shake their head at it. They can check their dad’s Facebook and see he has a new girlfriend. Something. Anything.
With death, there is absolutely nothing. No good. No bad. Just nothing.
13. “It’s been 6 months.” “It’s been 3 years.” “It’s been 20 years.”
Wow yes and they STILL ARE DEAD AND NOT HERE. If anything, the longer time goes on the more things we can add to our shit list of “all the things they missed.”
My husband missed out on the birth of his last daughter. Which means every single thing about her he will never know. He will miss it all. It will sting every second. He missed 4 of his kids getting married- or he missed 4 of them saying marriage is stupid. Or maybe 2 get married and 2 dont. It doesn’t matter because every decision is missed. He has no idea who his kids became or if he had grandchildren. Absolutely nothing. So as time goes on, it just means more is missed. That is it.
14. Inspirational messages that are for mediocre problems not those grieving.
There ARE inspiring messages for widows but these are often confused with feel good quotes that are more directly correlated for staying with a diet or working towards a career. These messages are not the same.
15. Silver-lining bullshit. “At least they are not suffering.” “Look at all the good they did-they accomplished their goal early.” “You wouldn’t have (insert whatever) without them.” “At least you know love.”
All of that may be true, but I want both. I want my person to be alive and not suffering. I want to enjoy the good WITH them not alone. I want to have our things TOGETHER not by myself. I do know what it’s like to be loved! Where did I sell my soul to Satan for it and have to return it at age 30!? I didn’t!
16. He can see you.” “He’s here.”
Maybe this is true. Maybe he sees me. Or maybe this is kind of odd if we think about it.
If I am with someone new, if we kiss, is he seeing all of that? Does he hover over me and watch me make 3 meals a day for 4 kids all alone? He’s just sitting there at night watching me cry for 2 hours and not doing anything?
That’s not Jesse. Jesse wouldn’t dare.
That sounds like its own form of torture- If Jesse had to “watch us,” he would be in more pain than what the kids and I were experiencing. So this seems strange.
If he is watching us, again, its really not your place to make such an observation. It kind of diminishes my pain. Because ultimately he is not physically here.
I am sure there are more things I could add to this list but for now this is what I have come up.
When I sound like a broken record, when I still look sad, see how I see the world and show me empathy. It’s the least you could do.