Words of sorrow.
When someone dies, just say it
By Sharon Williams, Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
I am finding that certain words have been bothering me since my husband died a few months ago, even though I so appreciate the words of condolences however stated. I wonder why this is. For one, I cannot refer to what I am going through as grief-I prefer sorrow. We use "grief" as an expletive, such as in "Good grief, Charlie Brown." Maybe i feel that takes away the magnitude of what I am feeling.
I am also not going through a "process," as that makes me think of Velveeta cheese! I feel I am going through a journey, one that may never end. I react badly to "Sorry you have lost your husband." Had I lost him, I would have tried endlessly to find him. If he has "passed," I wonder what he passed...a car, McDonald's, or a stop sign.
Lewis Grizzard, the writer of Americana, wrote a book titled Elvis Is Dead and I Don't Feel So Good Myself. He said"dead"...no attempt to soften the impact of Elvis' death. The biggest no-no is saying that you understand what someone is going through when they lose a spouse. I can remember when the husband of a friend of mine died, I tried to imagine having my husband die, and while I would shudder at the thought, I never said that I knew how they felt-I didn't, and I couldn't. I would always say that I could not imagine how they felt.
Even if two women have their husbands die at the exact same time, neither would react in the same way. That depends on so many variable...the marriages themselves and the women's ability to cope with a devastation of the heart. All reactions are okay...we should never condemn ourselves for how we cope and how we feel, or whether or not we are ready to get rid of all of the stuff of the loved one's life, and there is so much! I cried over a pair of nail clippers in a leather holder!
It is also now declared a myth that there are five or six stages of "grief." I think I went through many of them at the same time in the first couple of months...sadness, denial, and anger all at the same time. The most difficult time I had was waiting on Gates to come home. I have had others tell me they did the same.
Okay, the last word that is really anathema to me is "widow." I think of the words of the Bible encouraging us to care for the widows and the children, and I do not feel needy, even though I am...I need my husband back. I know that very soon I will have to fill out some form, and I will have to mark "widow," and it will break my heart and make me mad. The greatest comfort I feel comes from the butterflies I see from my balcony. When I was teaching little ones, every time we went to the playground, this yellow butterfly would come around the building and hover over the playground. The children and I decided that the butterfly was one of God's angels watching over us. The clincher was the day the yellow butterfly didn't come, and a child fell and hurt herself. The children themselves pointed this out to me.
Shortly after Gates died, this yellow butterfly appeared every time I sat on the balcony. My angel is watching over me. So, I suppose that what I am saying is that Gates is dead and I am not feeling so good myself.
Sharon Williams lives in Little Rock