Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Witnessing grief makes people uncomfortable.  Yep.  Very very uncomfortable.  I understand.  Not knowing what to say is normal, natural and you need not apologize for your discomfort.  I will gladly accept a nod, a smile, a brief hug, a shoulder rub and even the basic, “I’m so sorry” and “How are you holding up?”  All of those things are acceptable and appreciated.  What I’m having a hard time accepting is dumb sh*t.  Be forewarned that the average widow, especially your girl over here, has a paper-thin tolerance for bullsh*t and an equally short fuse.  So, in the face of asinine comments, I’m unable to promise that I’ll responded calmly and take the high road.  Yesterday I tried, but I failed.

While I was pregnant in 2008, I wrote a post regarding some of the noisy, irritating and stupid things that people said to me.  Long time readers may remember, but for those unfamiliar, click right here for a look.  So, it seems that I need to write a little something something about the things you shouldn’t say to someone that’s been recently widowed.  Damn.  Didn’t realize this was necessary, but I suppose it is.  I don’t profess to be an expert at anything, so I’m certainly not here to say this is the “official” script and handbook for talking to a widow.  However, I’m nine weeks in and I can surely tell you a few things that will seal the deal on the ending of a friendship, get you slapped or bring an earful of cuss words you might not be expecting.

In general, my coworkers have been great.  I’ve been here for just over seven years.  I arrived as a newlywed, so they’ve seen me through many life transitions including buying a house and having Little TDJ.  Of course there are always a few rotten apples mixed in with the good ones.  One such apple walked up the steps with me yesterday.  She made small talk for a second about the weather, asked me how I was, then proceeded to say, “So, how long do you think you’ll keep wearing your rings?”.  My neck swiveled and she’s lucky that I had the good sense to remember I was in the office.  I doubt she even knows that her life was at risk, because for a brief second, I considered pushing her back down the flight of steps we had just climbed.  I promptly uttered a terse, “F*ck off!” and walked away.

Really ma’am???  What concern of yours is it how long I continue to wear my engagement ring and wedding band???  We are not family nor friends, so I know your question isn’t born from any sense of concern or worry about my emotional state.  Who thinks in those terms?  And how does my wearing MY rings affect you???  The thought to ask that of someone would never cross my mind, or the mind of anyone with any sense, empathy or compassion.  Whether I choose to take them off today, tomorrow or 4 years from now, that decision is mine and mine alone.

When you are first widowed, the people around you seem to make a genuine effort to understand your emotions, your crying jags, your outbursts, your depression, your need for comfort, etc.  Then, as time speeds forward, there seems to be an unspoken consensus, just under the surface that you should be better within weeks or months.  That thought process is flawed though because grief is actually a chronic condition. There is no cure, there is no fix and time, although rumored to, doesn’t exactly heal all wounds.  I may laugh a bit more, smile a little broader and seem a bit more talkative.  But underneath it all, there is a constant realization that my life is forever changed that stays with me, no matter how many days, weeks or months pass.  Yes, life goes on; of that, we are all certain.  However, I think there’s a disconnect as people don’t actually realize that a part of me died on June 9 when MrTDJ left this world.  In many ways, I’m frozen on June 9, and I’ve watched the last 9 weeks perched an a ledge as an unwilling participant and observer.

So, yeah, asking a new widow how long she’s gonna wear her rings is a big no-no.  A few other hot buttons that I’ve fielded but luckily for the person, I was medicated and chose not to respond.

  • You’re young.  I’m sure you’ll marry again.
  • When do you think you’ll start dating?
  • After my divorce, I felt the same as I’m sure you’re feeling now
  • I know just how you feel.

All of these phrases are rude and inappropriate.  Period.  Don’t use ever use them.  Remember that less is more, and if you are ever uncertain about what to say, stick to the basics.  “I’m so sorry.  I can’t imagine how you feel.  I’m praying for you.  If you ever need to talk, I’m here to listen.”  All four of those lines are winners and won’t get you (or your feelings) hurt.   They worked in June, they work now and they will work for many weeks and months to come.

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31 thoughts on “Open Mouth, Insert Foot

  1. Wow. Are people truly that insensitive? I”ll admit I haven’t really known what to say, but my heart goes out to you with every post. I”ll be keeping you and little TDJ in my prayers…and praying that you don’t have to slap anyone.

  2. can you hire me to slap people for you? Because after reading this, that is exactly what I want to do. People who have never experienced the loss of a life partner WILL NEVER understand exactly how you feel. Others just lack tact and empathy. I’ll slap anyone you want me too though, like forreal!

  3. Lawd sis, I’m rolling my eyes for you! I can’t believe (no, wait – I CAN BELIEVE) that people are that insensitive! I think another way to get them to understand and to re-think disrespecting another unfortunate widow, in the future, is to explain to the person that their comment is totally unacceptable. Sometimes people are ignorant but dont know it.
    I’m still here, always will be, loving and praying for you…
    xo –

  4. Just say this to yourself when you hear something asinine – “I’m see stupid people”. My mom died October 28,2011. I am frozen in time. It is almost a year. I still have crying spells, depression, outbursts and “wanna cut a chic for stupid ish they say” syndrome. Someone asked me “When do you think you will be over this”. I have known nothing but mom for 41 years and 149 days.(but who’s counting) when the fawk am I supposed to be over it?!?!?! I still pick up the phone to dial her number….tell the azzholes to kick rocks with open toe shoes on. Grief has no timetable. People don’t know what to say and I wish they would learn to just shut the fawk up.

  5. Wow… Your likely VOLUNTARY divorce to a person you should or should not have married in the first place doesn’t rank in this situation. And yet… SOMEHOW that makes more sense than thinking in barely 2 months, someone can be over or ready to move on from the death of a LIFE PARTNER. I’m with Gladys. Don’t let me EVER be there when somebody pops off at the mouth. I tend to overreact when people are mistreating people I care about. However, I don’t think my behavior would fall into the overreacting category. They would get exactly what was coming to them. Over it. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!?!

  6. Yes, stupid questions most certainly exist. What a shame. It’s like people open your wound up wider with inconsiderate comments. I’m very sorry for the pain you are experiencing. I’m going to keep you in my prayers so that God would feel very near to you.

  7. Nothing to compare with your loss but the dumb azzes you’ve had to deal with remind me of one ex-relative who asked me what was it felt and looked like when I miscarried a baby! You don’t know if you should knock them into next year or run away from such callous stupidity in case it is contagious. You have my prayers.

  8. Thank you for sharing. This blog seems like such a good outlet to get everything out that you may want to say but can’t while around people who may or may not know any better. My cousin shared a story recently that was very similar. She has been a widow since 2007 and still wears her rings and is not interested in dating. I think your suggestions for keeping it simple and sincere are the best options. You and your child are in my prayers!

  9. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with such ridiculous comments, but some people truly don’t know that what they’re saying is rude and insensitive. I doubt she said it to hurt you…. Maybe she just truly didn’t know. Doesn’t excuse it… but I realized after my Nana died last year that people truly have good intentions… but no couth.

  10. You definitely did take the high road. I think I would have left a permanent imprint on her face OF my ring as a constant reminder not to ask dumb A*% questions. UGH!!! Stupid people.
    I’m happy to see you in the group. ((HUGHS))

  11. I had no idea that people are really this insensitive. And you did so good with the lady asking about your rings. She would have been at the bottom of the steps. SMH. What is this world coming to?

  12. I mean, are people REALLY so insensitive and stupid? You’re doing good. I’ll keep praying. For you and those fools around you.

  13. I can’t even. My mouth dropped reading these comments. It’s as simple as trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and thinking would I want someone to say that bull to me? Seriously, “you’re young, you’ll marry again” is just down right disrespectful.

  14. I am a new reader but I had to comment. OMG! I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with stupid folks. Some people act as if they were raised by wolves. Wow! Praying for you.

  15. Coming from a different angle… I woulda loved to see her face after you said “F*ck Off!”
    *snickers* She totally deserved that!

  16. This is exactly why people should think before they speak. And if you can’t think, just shut the hell up and smile! Ugh!!

  17. totally feel for you because you have to not only grieve but deal with stupid people, and stupid is as stupid does…noone can pretend to know how you feel, and i will continue to pray for you! you take the time, YOU need for you and your son! period! it’s none of anyone else’s concern how you grieve other than to support and love on you! praying for you ((HUGS))

  18. Just now seeing this post and that was just rude. Why ask such a thing? Ugh! People need to just shut up sometimes. I could never imagine what someone is going through even if I’ve been thru the same thing because we all deal with things differently. God Bless you Mrs. TDJ. God Bless you.

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