Pre-planning your Emotional Response to Death...Ain't it Precious?

“When my husband goes, I’m not going to hang on to my grief. I’m celebrating the time I had with him and the memories. Each and every person deals with it in his or her way, but I don’t think my husband would want me to be sad and carry that burden. I told my husband if I go before him, re-marry with my blessing and don’t spend time living in grief over my maybe departure. I would want him to be happy and not be bowed down with my passing. I would miss my husband, but I would not carry it on for years. he would want me to move on with my life and remember the times we had together. and not be grief stricken a long time. I would make friends and make the most out life. It would be sad, and I would feel it, but I would let myself heal.  I have a pink car and trailer but I’m letting it go for him when he’s here to help him money wise.”

This week’s blog plopped directly in my lap, gifted to me by a woman who wrote the above comment in response to a picture I posted on one of my camping pages.  Mind you, the picture was one of me smiling, triumphant because I finally, 3 years later, completely emptied my storage unit, leaving me with what travels with me in my T@b trailer.   My mistake, obviously, was that I also mentioned that it was a significant accomplishment, not because of the stuff, but because it was a letting go of the future my husband and I planned together.  

*note to self; never, EVER, mention grief to anyone, or my husband if at the same time as mentioning that he’s, you know, dead, and that makes me kind of sad and I miss him because people get the heebie-geebies when real emotions get expressed*

So here’s my response, and, yes, I get so many frickin’ points for diplomacy and efforts to educate, and, also, patience…

Dear woman whose husband isn’t dead yet but you’re smart so you're pre-planning your emotional response to the time that he does become, you know...dead;

How precious that you know how you’ll respond to your husband’s death!  How further precious it is for you to be so far-sighted to plan for that certain event!  I see that you also covered the possibility that you might go first, leaving instructions for him to remarry (though you seem to allow him some small amount of time to grieve so that’s big of you).  Why, it just fills my heart with warmth as I’m assured that you want him to be happy and not bowed down by grief and that he’ll know…get on with it.  As will you if he dies first.  There’s just nothing better than pre-planning an emotional response for which you have no real world experience, and it saddens me that I, and so many of my widowed brothers and sisters didn’t just tear a page out of your planning book!  Why, there’s no telling how great we could all be doing right now!

I, of course, had no idea that the secret to going through this grief was so simple and I thank you for enlightening me.  Who knew that instead of allowing this grief to take its’ course and allowing it space and being honest about it wasn’t the answer?  I’VE BEEN DOING IT ALL WRONG!  I see now that all I needed to do was celebrate the years we had together and resolve not to be sad and make friends!  It’s precious, I tell you!  Precious!  Because for all these 3 years of Chuck being, you know, dead, I’ve allowed myself to have the normal, natural reaction to the death of a man I loved more than life itself, and I’ve been thankful for and loved the years we had together but…fuck!  My mistake was that I’ve allowed those memories to break my heart because every time I remember, I also remember that those times are gone.  Well, just seriously FML!!  I’ve made hundreds of friends and connected with people all around the country but FUCK! none of them have replaced him in that place in my heart and that’s clearly my bad and a conscious wrong choice on my part.  WHEN will I ever learn, right?

I just don’t know WHY it doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn to me that Chuck wanted me to be happy after he died; a failing on my part, I acknowledge, and if he were here and insisted that he wanted me t be happy, I’d tell him IT JUST DOESN’T FRICKIN’ WORK THAT WAY and I’d be happy to go round and round with him that you just don’t tiptoe through the fucking tulips when shit like this happens.  I do know that I knew…know…my husband enough to say that he’d look at me like I was bat shit crazy that he wouldn’t know that and he’d understand completely that it takes the time it takes, but I’m so, so, SO, glad and happy for you that you’d carry on so easily and oh, I know!  Perhaps you could write a book about being a widow before you even become one and you could show those of us who are already widowed the RIGHT way to do widowhood and you could help other women and men pre-plan their emotional response to the death of their other half and you could get rich and be on Oprah and everything and that is also just so precious that I almost want to throw up in my mouth but I won’t because that wouldn’t be precious…

It’s just the silliest thing ever that I still feel sad and miss my husband and I just know you know that!  Why, 3 years is way too long to go on and on and carry on about him and what we had together and how much I miss that and, why, I won’t even mention what it’s like to no longer have passion and wild sex in my life with a man who was just as much in love with me as I was with him because, really, who cares about that stuff and it just isn’t proper, you know, to talk about such things!  And my goodness, it just doesn’t matter, does it, that the life I had with him in the present and the future we had planned just evaporated and poofed away and how on earth anyways is that grief-connected?  Apparently, you are so upset by my expression of my emotions that you don’t even see the smile of triumph on my face in that picture, or my celebration of this huge undertaking (do you see what I did there?  Undertaking…get it?  I wrote undertaking, which sounds like undertaker, who is, as you know, the person who takes dead people away.  Like my husband.  Who was dead.  Who is dead.)  Apparently you see it as no accomplishment at all that, hand in hand with my grief is a massive amount of love that gets me in my car every day to drive and drive and drive around this country, meeting and connecting with people, hugging and getting hugs.  That I do this even though it would be much easier to just lay down and die.  That every widow/er I know has the guts to get up every day and live WITH their fucking grief, and that we have the fucking guts to walk with each other through this foreign terrain and laugh and smile with each other and keep company with each other and give hope to each other when we don’t even know what the frickin’ word means…well, woman who knows how she’ll do this…I don’t know what to tell you about us except that we KNOW what this is like and we’re doing it and one of the ways we’re doing it is by talking and writing and making it as real to others as we can.

I do lament and commiserate with you that you are bowed down and, it seems, threatened by my grief, or the expression thereof.  It must be difficult for you to read about when you clearly know that all this emotion and sadness is so unnecessary because it’s all about just clicking on the happy switch and voila! No more grief…yay!

Just a friendly little note as you pre-plan your response to your husband’s death: 

I don’t care how strong you are, I don’t care how independent you are, I don’t care how sure you are….there is no planning this.  Whoever is left behind…it will feel as if you have been thrown onto a strange planet where no man or woman has ever walked before, and your feet will stumble into potholes and your heart will be wrenched from your body and you will see it on the ground in front of you being mashed into a bloody mess and guess what?  You can’t just flip a switch and make it go away and years later, tears will still fill your soul and your eyes when you speak of the love that is now only in your heart and you will always miss his arms around you and his kiss on your lips and the surety that you, and only you, were special to someone special, once upon a time…

Or you might not.


P. S.  Carry on...



Showing 16 reactions

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  • commented 2016-05-27 00:57:00 -0700
    As if meeting someone new fixes the grief. Ha ha
    I’m in a new relationship and still the grief monster creeps up and slaps me round. More complicated emotional stuff to navigate
  • commented 2016-05-26 17:50:55 -0700
    How presumptuous of anyone to tell anyone how to grieve but particularly someone who hasn’t been there! It just makes me shake my head. It reminded me of an expression my mom used to use “Well you know, he’s 10,000 years old and there ain’t nothing he doesn’t know” followed by my dad nodding knowingly and saying “Yep, wiser than a tree full of owls” Loved this post Alison!
  • commented 2016-05-26 16:21:55 -0700
    Amen, Kathy L!
    This is one of the hardest things to go through. Sending you great big hugs.
  • commented 2016-05-26 15:11:44 -0700
    Until I lost my innocence about death, and became initiated as a death warrior, I too tried to “do grief” perfectly. After all, I am an accomplished, mindful, intelligent person with an internal locus if control. Maybe like our pre-death friend. When my beloved died suddenly five months ago, I innocently thought I could beat grief. I studied and read, journaled, meditated, cried, screamed, didn’t isolate, talked and talked, went to a dupport group, did art therapy, went back to work, faced the Demons called Crazy and Death Teaper, took over my husbands tasks, kept a perfect home….believing somehow at the next juncture, it wouldn’t hurt so much and I could get on with it. It is at this juncture that I finally know you don’t “do grief”. Grief does you, and doesn’t give a fuck about any of your talents you have gained in life. Grief is the great equalizer. And for that, I symbolically pat my grief-planner on the head, and say, yes. Whatever gets you through the night, it’s all right, it’s all right.
  • commented 2016-05-26 10:31:29 -0700
    Thank you for the hugs!
  • commented 2016-05-26 09:01:12 -0700
    Sending you hugs, Arlene.
  • commented 2016-05-26 07:28:09 -0700
    My husband suddenly passed away only 11 weeks ago, he was 58 years young, it happened 10 days after our youngest son got married and 5 days before our oldest sons 5th wedding anniversary and 2 months before our first grandchild is to be born.
    Most everyone who knows our story knows that Mike & I adored and loved each other from the very first time we met 38 years ago. We have been blessed with an extraordinary life together with all the good times and all the not so good times.
    I already have friends that are shying away from me and one friend who absolutely thinks like the lady in you story. She thinks I should be over it by now. She keeps telling me she is happy to see me “smile again”, when behind that smile I am trying not to cry. She wants to control my life and gets upset with me when I make a decision to do something without telling her. And when she texts me she says some very hurtful things. Maybe she doesn’t know better but she should. Some people will try to suck the life out of you when you are already at your lowest point in you life. Mike’s death is the most painful heart wrenching thing I have ever experienced!
    I know people just don’t get it! I found that out 2 years ago when I had breast cancer. Until you walk in our shoes and join our club you have no idea the pain, suffering and the no desire to go on another day … powerful those feelings are! I don’t ever see myself being the same person as I was before Mike’s death, but I do see myself trying my best to live my life to honor and keep loving him. He was my joy, my life, my love, my everything and he will always be…..I will miss him and love him forever! I could have never pre-planned any of this! Especially my feelings!!!

    Don’t Talk About Things You Know Nothing About!!!
  • commented 2016-05-26 05:29:26 -0700
    I used to kinda think like that…until I got slammed with 5 losses in 5 years, the first being my husband. As others have said, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t pre-plan it like going on a trip. No matter what you think it’ll be like, it is in no way going to be like that. Happy trails, Allison.
  • commented 2016-05-25 19:51:10 -0700
    HA! Good luck.
    You REALLY don’t know what this is like til you wear these shoes.
  • commented 2016-05-25 15:24:36 -0700
    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this one! BRAVO!
  • commented 2016-05-25 14:23:26 -0700
    @alison: OMG, I love you! You ROCK, sister! #WidowsRock

    After a while (it’s been almost 12 years here…), my response to “Ron wouldn’t want you to be sad” was: Even when he was ALIVE, his not wanting me to be sad didn’t take away whatever it was that made me sad! As you pointed out…doesn’t. work. that. way.

    P.S. If you ever make your way through central Ohio, please look me up! :)
  • commented 2016-05-25 12:18:47 -0700
    Very nice response. If only it were that easy to move on. If only every memory would only bring joy and not the pain of knowing it will never happen again. If every anniversary would bring joy and not the sorrow as I think, I’ll never have another one with him. No one can understand this journey unless you are standing beside us as a member of the club we never wanted to join! A club that grows in number daily. I am blessed and thankful to have others to share this journey with me, although I don’t want any of them to be members. This person has no clue what it is like. Sadly, someday she or her husband will know. She will have to play the hand she is dealt.
  • commented 2016-05-25 12:17:07 -0700
    I have been told the same thing. John would not want you crying everday for him. I reply, you do not know what my husband would want me to do. That shuts them up!!!! It has been three and a half years and i still cry everyday for him. I miss him so much. Married 46 years and died with no warning.
  • commented 2016-05-25 11:50:25 -0700
    Lol !!! <3 <3 <3…..Oh yeah, we need to talk!
  • commented 2016-05-25 11:49:47 -0700
  • commented 2016-05-25 11:42:49 -0700
    Diplomacy?? Really?? 😆 I love your response to this woman, Alison. Yes, a person can say those words ahead of time when we’re sure it will never happen to US, but that ain’t reality. Your last paragraph is reality.

    I have a person in my life who tells me, Brian wouldn’t want me or her to feel sad. Brian wouldn’t want us to carry on so. Wel, damn it – my feelings are my feelings and I claim them and will feel whatever I need to feel for as long as I need to feel it. And yes, grief and sadness is all mixed up with happy memories and moving forward, but that only makes this mess more tangled up. It will be 2 years on June 1.