Monday, May 8, is five years since my husband, Scott, died from stage 4 colon cancer at 3:35 EST. Sometimes, it feels like he has been gone only 5 minutes, and other times, it seems like forever. Scott died a few weeks after his 59th birthday from stage 4 colon cancer. Throughout these 5 years, I have learned many lessons about how much people do NOT know how to address a person's greatest loss. I have compiled a list of what not to say to someone who has lost their other half. (Those readers who have lost a spouse will recognize these!)
1. "I know how you feel." Actually, you DO NOT know how I feel. Unless you have lost a spouse who was your other half and your best friend, please don't speak these words.
2. "I had a great loss when my parents died, so I know just how you feel." This is an elongated version of number 1's "I know how you feel." The passing of a parent, although an immense loss, cannot be equated to the death of a spouse. They are both difficult and emotionally draining, but they are not the same. I lost both of my parents unexpectedly within 82 days in 2002, which was tremendously painful, but not in the same way as losing my husband.
3. "You're a smart and fun gal- you'll be married again before you know it." Yes, several people (all men) have actually said this to me. I am not sure why they think this is appropriate, but I guess they think they are paying me a compliment by telling me I am "a fun gal."
4. "You'll get used to it." Scott used to say as a joke that something was "like hanging- you get used to it." Not a sympathetic or empathetic statement.
5. "Now you can do whatever you want to do." Wait - what - really?? Yes, I guess I can do "what I want to do" - alone! Somehow, vacations and sightseeing trips no longer hold the allure they once did. And have you noticed that all trips are booked by room reservations "for two?"
I think I am doing OK, but I continue to have great waves of sadness. Dealing with grief is akin to having a form of PTSD; you just never know what trigger will cause a fresh stab of pain, or prompt a memory that causes tears. When I visit a friend who is grieving, all of my sad feelings return. I have great empathy for others, and I can express that empathy, so although painful, I view these feelings as a positive way to connect with and help others.
Throughout the span of my 37 year teaching career, I had many students lose a parent through an illness or accident. Kids would often ask me what they should say to classmates who were grieving. I told them it was good to say two simple words, "I'm sorry." My advice was to be there for their friends, even if just sitting quietly. I told them to offer friendship and a sympathetic ear if their friend felt like talking. Students look to teachers for advice on so many subjects. I am so glad I had good advice for my students, even before I fully understood the grief process myself.
My many friends have been so supportive these last 5 years, and throughout the 30 months of Scott's cancer treatment. By the way, my friends are not the ones who said the inappropriate statements above; those statements came from mere acquaintances. I am so grateful for REAL friends!
Sometimes when dealing with loss, it is just best try to put yourself in the other person's shoes before saying anything at all. Also, to keep in mind that no matter how many years pass, those who have suffered a significant loss will never stop grieving, and that loss still feels as fresh as the day it happened. Kindness from friends makes dealing with grief easier, even though the grief never goes away altogether. My grief today is different than it was 5 years ago, but it has not departed, and I doubt - I know- that it never will. Grief is the price one pays for loving so much. I continue to learn many personal lessons from dealing with my changing grief.
"Grief changes shape, but it never ends." Keanu Reeves
Scott is wearing his chemo in this picture from May of 2010. I miss him every day. :(
A little laugh about what some people say to others!!
As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Rittman Publishing, LLC ®
Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics.
I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books. Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self. However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired!
GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit http://www.theauthorszone.com/submissions/
Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom. Check them out! http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/
Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book. I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!
Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. https://www.facebook.com/gradygetsglasses?ref=hl
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