16 September 2007

Losing It

I had brunch today with some friends from Peace Corps. Those of us in greater Boston—and by "greater Boston," I mean New England—try to get together a couple of times a year. We've known each other for 13 years now, and it's always good to catch up.

Today, only a few of us could make it. We all have kids now, so it was pretty crazy trying to keep tabs on all the little ones and get the children and adults fed. I had not seen one of the couples there since I was pregnant. We chatted some, and John's name even came up a few times, but not once did either of them say so much as "I'm sorry."

I found that incredibly hurtful. I know it can be awkward to know what to say, but I'm also tired of being understanding and cutting people slack about that. I'm the one who suffered a loss, people. I'm sick of feeling like I'm the one who has to offer comfort because the people who should be comforting me feel awkward.

This same couple expressed an interest in getting a group photo before everyone had to head home. Maddie and Riley were getting very impatient, so I got packed up and said a few times, "So, are we doing a picture?" Discussion ensued: couch? outdoors? The twins were really ready to go. I finally lost it and just said, "Look, this is ridiculous, we need to go home. We're out for the photo." It took me getting all over-reactive and teary in the car to realize that the photo was not the issue. It was the fact that these friends could not acknowledge my loss. I'm (obviously) still stewing about it, but the anger is dissipating. But seriously, what is wrong with people?

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

I cannot fathom seeing someone who lost their husband (so recently, so tragically) and not saying a word about it. I ALWAYS acknowledge a loss I know about, whether its someone's grandparent or whatever. When I've experienced loss I've needed for it to be recognized, not to have it pushed away like the person didn't exist. I have just always assumed others feel the same way. I'm sorry your acquaitances were so thoughtless.
Kristine
www.perpetuallypregnant.typepad.com

Rachel said...

I think you have every right to be upset. How hard is it to say, "I'm sorry"? I can't understand how anyone could be so rude and insensitive.

Mimi said...

By no means is this meant as an excuse for insensitivity, but people can get so caught up in their own lives, that it's hard for them to focus on the things that are going on in other people's lives. I can see why it made you feel so upset. I would have been too.

Again, I am not making excuses for these people, but could it have been that they felt that you already knew how sorry they were for your loss? Still, just saying so would have done wonders for you.

Would it help if I told you I am sorry for your loss? I am, and I'm sorry you were saddened again today.

BethGo said...

That is so not ok. They should have said something.
I'm sorry they hurt your feelings.

I would have felt hurt too.

Manda said...

I'm sorry.

Christine said...

I don't blame you, Snick. That resentment had to come out somehow. I'm sorry they were so self-absorbed that they couldn't even muster up any words of sympathy. Seriously, some people need to be hit over the head with a clue-by-four.

spare teeth said...

That's shit. I'm sorry you had to feel that way among old friends.

Sara said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I truly am and I do not believe that it matters if those words are "uncomfortable" or "difficult" to say, it is seomthing that should be acknowledged by those who are true friends/caring people. I am sorry these people were not able to put their comfort above the pain you feel everyday by the loss of your husband. No, death is not something that makes us all feel warm and fuzzy inside but, WHO CARES!? Your friends should be able to say, "I'm so sorry, I know nothing I say will make you feel better but just know I am thinking of you." At least acknowledge that you have earned some sympathy and a "how are you doing? - really?" Think outside of yourselves people... I guess these people weren't truly your friends but know that there are many people out here in "webland" that can appreciate the pain you have endured and who are truly sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you -- they should have said something since they had not seen you since his death. BUT, I think people don't say anything because they don't want to bring it up! People are uncomfortable with death, so they don't know what to say, so they say nothing. Then they justify that to themselves by thinking that they would be bringing the whole tragic situation back into the forefront.
Julie

Michelle said...

I have that same thing going on - I lost my mom to PC less than a year ago and members of my family and family friends are the one's disappointing me - I could go on and on about it - but suffice it to say that I know exactly how you feel. The other thing is that the ones who seem so invloved in our community, would have the reputation of being helpful etc., are the ones who I am most disappointed in. You would think that someone with the personality to be in the Peace Corp could muster up an "I am so sorry for your loss". UGH!

The Town Criers said...

Those moments are the worst and it's so hard to let go of the feelings. Those are the times when I always think of what I wish I had the balls to say after the fact. I'm sorry that the get-together went like that.

Geohde said...

I know this is no excuse, but sometimes people find it very hard to bring up the white elephant in the room.

YOU know and THEY know what happened and they may just not know how to broach it without fear of offence or casuing floods of tears.

Having said that, I'm sorry that they upset you.

r.a.w. said...

I don't get it. Regardless of whether someone can understand or relate to your situation and where you are right now - there is no excuse for not offering at least an "I'm sorry" to your friend. Whether they "get it" or not, they at least need to reach out and let you know they are there for you and thinking of you. I am sorry you had to deal with that. That seems very insensitive and self-centered to me.

Amy said...

I'm also not trying to make excuses for your friends but I think that often people are afraid to bring up painful things because they're afraid - afraid that you'll become upset, afraid that they'll put their foot in their mouth, afraid that you were feeling okay until they brought up your husband's death and now you're not okay. It's really ridiculous, I know, because of course it's not like you forgot your husband passed away but now that your friends mentioned it, well, now you suddenly realize how much that sucks. Also, sometimes people keep waiting for someone else to bring it up which obviously doesn't always happen. While that doesn't make their behavior right in any way, I'll bet that your friends really do care and haven't forgotten your loss - they're just really inept at knowing how to deal with it appropriately. If you're up to it, you should call them on it because it was completely unacceptable and they should recognize how painful it was for you to not have your loss acknowledged.

Alice said...

You have every right to be MAD...these are your acquaintances/friends, who have a bond of 13 years with you. I think people are afraid of unleashing painful memories and thoughts...but how about a nice hug and a "sorry for your loss?"

I'm glad you vented...You are very supported here!

halfmama said...

This is incredibly hurtful. I'm sorry they did that to you. It seems selfish -- to let their own discomfort overshadow your sorrow.

May you not see this couple for another few years. Or at least until they are ready to acknowledge your loss.

I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sick of feeling like I'm the one who has to offer comfort because the people who should be comforting me feel awkward."

Thank you for writing this. It expresses something I haven't been able to articulate.

I'm sorry they weren't better.

Yankee T said...

I'm sorry. I'm sorry enough for me and for them.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, some people are ignorant and insensitive assholes. When I am afraid of saying "the wrong thing", I remind myself that possibly saying "something wrong" is better than saying nothing at all. I am sorry that you have to deal with this after the loss of your DH.

Amy said...

When I was younger and before I lost my brother(I was 23)I confess I was one of those that had no idea what to say. I was afraid I would upset them and make them cry or make them remember when they were seemingly having a good time. (Like they 'forgot' their loss, duh.)

Now as an adult and having been through a close death that I understand how hurtful and insensitive it is to not mention someones loss. Especially as the person you lost was your husband, your partner, the father of the children they no doubt adored.

I don't blame you for feeling pissed off and hurt. I'm sorry.

Amy in BC

buddha_girl said...

They're self-absorbed and likely "afraid" that they'll have to face the giant loss you and the twins are living each and every day. The sad fact is that they're thinking of THEMSELVES rather than taking a few fucking minutes to provide you with a bit of comfort.

I'm so sorry you had to break bread and spend time with these fools. Hearing that they didn't acknowledge John's death and your incredible sadness makes me furious.

I hope someone shows you a simple act of kindness this week. Preferably on Monday morning.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend that lost her husband in a tragic, preventable accident. He and she were on the brink of a grand new stage in their life. She was the most devastated I have ever seen and hope to NEVER see anyone again. After a few months, she would get really uncomfortable with people making "the face" and the sorrys. She wanted to move forward and it made her feel like the day she stood in the church near his casket. That's not someting people want to relive everytime they see someone they haven't for a long time. It was uncomfortable all around. For them and her.

It made me more sensitive to people in your situation. No acknowledgement of what had happened was rude. But sometimes people don't know what to say or what you need then and freeze and say nothing. Not wanting to say the wrong thing. What's the rule after 1, 5, 6 months or years? There are none hard and fast, it's new terrain for people our age. In the beginning it was obvious, later on I saw people struggle for what to say to her. She finally would bring him up and set the tone for how she wanted him remembered. That should not be put on anyone, but it helped her and she got to have a lot of conversations with people about him she would have never had past the obligatory sorry-and-thank-you. I hope you get to experience that, it was tearful, yet amazing to watch her get through those.

I never ask, "What can I do?" I know there is nothing that I could and the person always says nothing. So I just act. I wrangle kids and mow lawns. I deliver dinners and move boxes. I drive to airports and return movies. I call and leave just thinking of you messages on phones and hug my husband every day a little tighter after all of these tragedies lately.

soralis said...

I am sorry your friends weren't there for you. Hugs

Kathryn said...

I think that last comment says it all...If they'd been in tune with you, they'd have known that mentioning John was not going to make his loss any more real, painful, huge in your life...and they could have trusted you to say "Thanks...I'd prefer not to talk about it" if that was the situation, or to share as much as you needed or wanted...but they seem to have been distressingly out of touch with that reality.
I'm sorry that what could have been an energising and enjoyable time was spoiled by insensitivity, whatever the motives of the non mentioners.

Duncan said...

Before I lost my mom to PC, I would not have said anything to anyone who had lost someone to cancer or other deaths, because I would have felt that I was going to make something worse, or bring up sad feelings, or something along those lines. I would have felt very uncomfortable, awkward, and so afraid of saying the "wrong" thing that it felt better to say nothing.

I too would give you friends the benefit of doubt, they brought up John so they weren't pretending that he didn't exist; they just didn't know what to say or how to say more. It's ignorance borne out of inexperience. Months after my mom died, I wrote two letters to two friends of mine from college--one had a dad who died our freshman year, the other had a mom who died of breast cancer our junior year. I graduated 25 years ago, but I just wrote those letters to say that I get it now, that I felt I had acted with incredible insensitivity and I admire them for being able to participate in college life and classes knowing now what they were going through then.

It sucks, all these times that you have now with people who didn't know John and people who did and don't know what to say. Our society does such a horrible job acknowledging death--you think we'd be better at it than anything else, given that it's the one inevitable in our lives, and given that it's the one thing we (human beings) all share in common--but instead we pretend that we're going to live forever, creating products to make us look younger and decrying old age as something to be avoided and staved off as long as we can. I truly believe that if we, as parents and families, can have more open conversations about aging and dying and death, that we can help our children feel more comfortable with it and, in turn, normalize it for others in their lives as well.

amy

Feener said...

I have always found that no matter how awkward you feel, saying your sorry and showing sympathy is the best route to go. I mean if saying your sorry insults someone I would prefer to insult them with that than NOT aknowleding the loss. My husband is the type that feels funny and never knows what to say. I try to tell him how stupid and rude it is of him to feel anything uncomfortable, i mean in the scheme of things ??? I am sorry that you have to deal with this loss, but also with the something like this

Cris said...

I completely agree with you...I lost my dad in March, and never heard a word from a good friend of mine (and he knew my dad had passed, his parents were at the wake). People have tried to explain away his behavior, saying, "Maybe he just didn't know what to say, or he was uncomfortable..." To which I responded, "But he was supposed to be thinking about how I felt. How he felt in the situation does not matter." I guess I felt the need to validate your feelings with my own, which in the end means not much of anything. I just know how you feel...

amy said...

It's unfortunate that they didn't acknowledge your loss. Maybe they didn't want to for fear of making you uncomfortable... or because they wouldn't know what else to say (When common sense dictates "I'm sorry" is enough... most people feel the need to add more for some reason).

I'm sorry for your loss, and I'm sorry for your (well deserved)frustration.

Klynn said...

If John's name had already come up in the conversation, then the subject was already broached. There's no excuse for not offering some small gesture of sympathy. What's even more sad, is that they probably don't even realize that not saying something was more hurtful than bringing up the subject.

Unfortunately, it's the big life altering events that really show who your real friends are. I'm so sorry that those folks hurt you, Snick. Here's hoping for better days, and better friends ahead.

Mitzi said...

I think I am missing something in the story. Have these friends EVER acknowledged John's death? Did they call you &/or send you a card right after John died? It hurts me to think they let so much time pass after his death and then STILL didn't mention John's death at lunch. I'm sorry.

Schnozz said...

When my husband was deployed in Iraq under some pretty dangerous conditions, I used to HATE it when people would mention it or say that they were thinking of us. I would be doing fine, having smushed the situation into the very back of my mind, and then someone at the office would blindside me by the copy machine with their sympathy and yank me back into the whole mess.

I was never angry about it, and I recognize that they were doing the right thing, but I did frequently wish people would just shut up and let me be and stop scraping across those same raw nerves.

With that in mind, I tend NOT to mention recent tragedies to people, though I'll acknowledge what happened in some small way to show that I haven't forgotten (like your friends mentioned John).

I don't mean to defend people I've never met, but I just wanted to say that sometimes we deal with a situation the way WE would want it dealt with, not the way someone else needs. Those of us who find the repeated condolences useless and maddening aren't likely to voice them ourselves, lest we invoke the same unpleasant reaction in someone else.

Arwen said...

I'm torn because I see both sides. I would probably not say anything in the middle of a brunch or a party... but I would try to catch you alone in the bathroom or coat room and give you a private hug and "I'm sorry". I would do this to ensure you had your own private time to regroup (as it were)...

mar said...

Well *I'm* sorry. I'm a new reader, so I "know" you even less well than others who only know you through your blog, but it seems obvious that your friends of 13 years should be able to intuit when/whether you'd appreciate an acknowledgment of what you've been going through.

I wish you the best for your kids, yourself, and the new shape of your family. I also trust that, although these people may have failed this crucial test of friendship, that you have a strong stable of worthy supporters elsewhere in your life ("real" and online). And I am, again, so sorry for your loss and so respectful of the way you seem to making sense of this. I hope you have more good days than bad this Fall.
(also, your babies are insanely adorable and lucky to have you!)

Pookiemama said...

I'm so sorry that the brunch with your friends left you feeling hurt, I totally would have felt that way too. Sometimes people think that if they mention it, it will just bring you down and you don't need that right now. But what they don't realize is that you're already down, and acknowledging it will actually help to lift you up a bit. Did they at least ask you how you were doing? I just can't imagine seeing a friend fresh off a loss and not asking about them or offering some acknowledgement. Its the human thing to do.

Jolene said...

I'm so sorry. There's no excuse for not saying a simple "I'm sorry" after you've shared your tragic loss. I hope you're feeling better about it now.

Laura in L.A. said...

Snick, I'm mad at them for not acknowledging your terrible loss, and I'm mad at them for suggesting a group photo and then not JUMPING RIGHT UP AND HELPING YOU, a mama alone with toddler twins (!!!), get them together and get it done! If they never expressed their sympathy for John's death, by card or phonecall or in person, I would be DONE with them. Love to you, and I hope no one hurts your feelings like that again.

Julia said...

I am sorry they were so insensitive. It was not cool, and you have every right to be upset. The silence is deafening when people do that. I am sorry.

Kathy said...

Wow I can't believe that. I absolutely understand your feelings of being sick of being the one cutting them slack. You are the one that needs the support not THEM!!

Not only am I really sorry that you had to experience such pain at brunch, I am truly sorry for your loss as well. I'll even say it again and again. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, there have been times (on message boards) where someone has brought up a situation like this, unsure of what to do, and the overwhelming advice has been to NOT SAY ANYTHING unless the person who is grieving brings it up first. And I can sort of understand that, being the kind that breaks down easily and would probably ruin the entire situation by having to excuse myself and sob in the bathroom for an hour, and then come back out and look like hell and know it and just leave early. I mean, I don't know what these people were thinking or why they acted in the way that they did, but there are a lot of people out there who will wait for you to bring it up.

Although I can imagine how frustrating and hurtful that must be for you--he is your husband, and his absence is something that must be constantly on your mind. Honestly, though, I think most of the time in situations like this, people are really unsure of what to do. It's not fair that you have to be sensitive to everyone else's feelings regarding such a delicate matter, and I don't think you should go out of your way to be, but are they close enough friends that they would know that you would want to talk about it? Chances are that they have no idea what you are going through right now and, therefore, no idea what they should say/do to support you *hug*

~Angela

Leggy said...

I would have thought it would be the very first thing they said when you all did your "hi, its so good to see you" hugs & kisses at the beginnin of brunch. I'm sorry your friends were such jerks about it- its surprising how often people can be insensitive.

OTRgirl said...

One of my life regrets is that during college one of my friend's lost his father to suicide. Obviously, that was awful, but my regret is that at the time I'd never experienced a major personal loss and had no idea what to say to him. So I always figured he'd mention it if he wanted to talk about it. And he never did. Which obviously had a negative effect on the relationship...

Now that I know what it is to be the griever, I know that it's HELPFUL and loving to ask the questions and make room for the griever to tell me stories. I know that I don't have to have any answers, just being a listening presence is a gift.

That being said, you'd think being in the Peace Corp would have taught them some basic humanity/life/loss skills?

Anonymous said...

Some people are so worried about saying the wrong thing(s) that they choose avoidance (which, of course, is the wrong thing). I'm sorry that your reunion was so stressful and I hope you are surrounded by kind friends who make you feel valued and nurtured. I imagine you felt his absence even more keenly when you were around people you last saw when he was alive. Hang in there and cry when you need to - get angry when you need to. You and the twins are going to make it through this time stronger and happier than you can imagine.

sadie said...

I know exactly the kind of tears you are describing, that well up from deep within and seem to send shortness and anger out until you have the relief of just CRYING.

I always take a risk and say something. The reason I say , "Take A risk" is I've had friends confide that if one more person put on "the face" and said "I'm so sorry" they'd scream. But in my life, silence always hurt more.

I say, "I understand if you don't want to talk about it but I just wanted you to know that you and the twins and John are in my thoughts a lot."

This seems to go over better.

But now I'll say it, too:

I'm so sorry.

Anonymous said...

I would like to start by saying that I don't think you should adjust your attitude; you are hurt and rightfully so.

Yet, I don't think this is a question of rudeness, thoughtlessness or self-absorbtion. The death of a young spouse is not something that regularly happens in most people's world and so they could be thinking, "If I bring it up, will it just cause her more pain, especially out here in public? Oh my God, what if I make her break down or cry after all she's been through?"

I guess I am going on the premise that you wouldn't choose to have friends that could be so uncaring and therefore another reason exists to explain their behavior...

That said. I am so sorry.

Erin said...

A few years ago a coworker lost her child in her 7th month of pregnancy. When she came back to work a few months later, I didn't know what to say - "I'm so sorry" seemed so inadequate, so not enough - and I didn't want to bring it up, like other people have said - you somehow think that maybe they're not thinking of it, not that they've forgotten but maybe they would prefer to not talk about it and take a break? I guess that until you experience your own personal tragedy, you have no idea how to handle the tragedies of other people, maybe?

I am sorry, though - both about John and about the fact that your friends hurt your feelings and what should have been a nice lunch turned into a bad experience.

lisa said...

I have no words of advice for how to move on from the feeling of deep loss being "ignored" or "unaddressed". But I can offer you my perspective based on how it affected me.

The loss we suffered, the death of our daughter has some profound effects even today, 2 years later.

One of those is from the bitterness I still feel towards those who never bothered to say or do something to honor what happened, to affirm our loss or to lift a freakin finger to help us out.

There truly is no explanation or excuse that carries weight.

My only offer to you, is the hope that you find a much better way to overcome the crappy and no excuse silence from those around you who say or do nothing. I wish I could find a way to do the same.

I am sorry for your loss, I am sorry for the path that life has you on right now, and I wish you nothing but the best to come.