“How You Can Help Me”

I saw this today on another blog that deals with grief, specifically widows and widowers.  It’s so exactly dead on.  Every sentence is exactly right so I wanted to re-post it here to share.

People have asked me over and over what they can do for me.  Here’s your chance.  Share this post so people who haven’t experienced such a loss as Maggie and I have will better understand what those of us who have are going through.  There are a lot of us around who need your support.  Sadly, you may too one day be in the same situation.  Wouldn’t it be better if those around you knew how to help?  Please share this.

How You Can Help Me

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You can’t catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don’t know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, “I’m sorry.” You can even say, “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that.”

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I’m just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don’t see me. I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I’m not sick. I’m grieving and that’s different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for our children, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

I don’t have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don’t make it worse by telling me I’m not doing this right. And remember, I was a capable adult before his death and I still am.

Please don’t tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start dating again. I may not be ready. And maybe I don’t want to be. And besides, what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren’t. Whoever comes after will always be someone different.

I don’t even understand what you mean when you say, “You’ve got to get on with your life.” My life is going on, I’ve been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don’t say, “Call me if you need anything.” I’ll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.

(b) Send me a card on special holidays, our wedding anniversary, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can’t make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.

(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may say no at first or even for a while, but please don’t give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you’ve given up then I really will be alone.

(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don’t judge me now – or think that I’m behaving strangely. Remember I’m grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I’m experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before and one that can’t be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don’t tell me you know how I feel, or that it’s time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve. Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss – when you need me as I have needed you – I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.

–Author Unknown

8 thoughts on ““How You Can Help Me”

  1. Thank you Chris for posting this….my boyfriend lost his Mother last October and he is grieving so much for her.

    This will help me because I don’t know what to do when he crys…but now I do…..

    I don’t have to say anything to him…I don’t have to try not to bring up her name or things she did…I know now it is okay to talk about her, to let him know how much I loved her too…and it is okay just to be quiet when he crys……..

    I knew it was good for him to cry and to be sad and to grieve…but I just didn’t know what to do but this has helped me. Now I won’t feel so awkward or feel like I made him sad when I spoke of her…..

    Many big hugs to you!

  2. How perfect Chris. This Unknown Person hit it right on the head. Everyone grieves in a different manner. There is no “pattern”, no “stages” for a loved one to grieve. It is different for each individual. YOU do it how YOU do it. I’m really sad that I did not have the opportunity to know Maggie like my sister did, but I do know that she lite up the room every single time she was in my presence. The death of someone is such a shock for everyone, whether or not it is sudden or expected. It is difficult for others to comprehend, so how in the hell do they think it is for you; the one who has lost so much. There is no manual, no nothing except what “The Experts” write about. There are no experts. How in the hell does one become an expert, who the hell would want that title!!! Certainly not you, and certainly not anyone else who is walking down the same path you are right now. I have lost family members, but I have not lost the “Love of my Life”. I recognize the pain, but I can not recognize the pain, suffering, or anguish YOU are experiencing. Chris, just do what you have to do to make it through the day, the hour, the minute…The only one that matters is you. I hope this helps everyone that cares about the loved ones left behind learn how to deal with “it”.

  3. This helps so many people in so many ways. At some point, everyone loses someone they love. I lost my dad and that was difficult enough, but I can’t say I know how it feels to lose your life partner and best friend. My brother recently lost his wife to cancer and sometimes I didn’t know what to say to him. Now I know I can talk about her to him and its okay. On the other hand, what I didn’t appreciate when I lost my dad (again to cancer) was that folks would say “I know how you feel.” Well, no…you don’t. Because everyone grieves in their own way and every relationship is different, so they couldn’t possibly know how I feel, as I couldn’t know how you or my brother feels. Is that just me or does that strike a chord with others as well?

    1. Interestingly enough, I haven’t had many people tell me that they know how I feel. The only folks who have were saying so because they had gotten divorced: “I know how you feel. I just got divorced.” To me that was such an idiotic response I just completely ignored it.

      I’ve had people, especially one individual, ask “When are you going to get over all this Maggie stuff?” That was a little shocking.

      I think the thing that still bothers me to this day is that very, very few of my (and her) friends ever mention her name. That is just bizarre to me. Some of these folks are, sorry, WERE her best friends but now it’s like she doesn’t/didn’t exist anymore. That to me hurts my feelings, that someone is ready and able to just write her off.

      I know, I’m probably WAY over-analyzing their reaction. They probably don’t want to mention Maggie either because they are afraid it’s going to hurt my feelings or somehow remind me she’s gone OR they have been incapable of coping with their own feelings of loss. But still, it makes me sad to think I’m one of the few people on this earth who bring her up still. She used to be the talk of the town.

      Additionally, I LOVE to hear stories about Maggie! I really enjoy people telling me about what she and they did or what she said or their fondest memories. It makes me so happy. It let’s her live just a little bit longer. But no one ever talks about her. I wish that was different.

      1. Oh, I know, I know, I know! I want our family and friends to talk about my husband, to tell funny stories etc. I am so afraid that they are forgetting him and That hurts so much! I was at a neighborhood party a few weeks ago. One of the guys mentioned how much my son looked like, walked like, talked like Michael. Everyone started laughing and loosened up and a few of the guys told a funny short story about him. He was so the guy who had all the tools, the guy who would run over to help with any house project etc. It just all started to come out in that conversation and it felt like a dam broke. Everyone was laughing and happy just being able to talk about him. I treasure that night because I knew that my husband’s memory was still alive! Thanks for this, Chris.

  4. What was written was so to the point. Maybe now you won’t have to try to explain everything. Like I told you before one of my clients told me years ago…..I hate when people tell me they know how I feel. They never will,I just want to have them listen to me when I speak. It was great seeing you last week!Yes, I had few times I spend with Maggie, but her words and her spirit made such a mark I will never forget her as long as I live. She was just as beautiful on the inside as on the out!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Chris

    I met Maggie when we were on Spark with Scientific in San Francisco. She was a beautiful, caring, funny, sensitive, driven and intelligent woman. I am so sorry to hear what happened to her (and you).

    I didn’t know her well enough to make too deep a comment, safe to say that the world has lost a very lovely person.

    My thoughts are with you albeit belatedly.

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