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People seem uncomfortable when I talk about my deceased spouse, why?

A Wilson

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I don't understand why people seem to think that not talking about this will make it go away. Being able to share the good memories and some sadness as well seems to change their mood. I don't talk about my husband a lot but when I do I only want someone to listen not comment, not offer advice not tell me you will find someone else, not that everything will be ok, just to listen. Why is that so hard for people. Why does someone else's pain cause other people to become distant. That's what makes things worse. 

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I'm sorry but that is most of our experience as well, and you are right, it makes us feel like we are victimized again, for lack of a better way to describe it.

  • People feel like grief is contagious.  If it can happen to us, it can happen to them.  It makes them uncomfortable.
  • It reminds them of their own mortality and they're not prepared to deal with that.  They don't separate it into "this is about YOU" and not THEM.
  • Grief is not a fun topic for people and a lot of people are superficial at best.  They want to ENJOY people, not have to deal with their "stuff."  Sadly, they haven't learned to be there for those who mourn.  They haven't learned depth in friendship.
  • They want you to "move on" because then it's more comfortable for THEM!  They aren't thinking of you and how YOU feel.  It might help to remind them that this is how it is for you now and you can't move on from it, it's affected your life forever and it will take MUCH time to process your grief, let alone begin to adjust to the many changes it means for your life.

ALL of our friends disappeared on me in short order when George died.  It can tend to clean out your address book.  Some people have held onto such friendships anyway, I did not.  I never would have done this to them!  I eventually made new friends, but it sure made it all the harder to make my way through this at the time.  I gleaned my best friend after George died, and she was for about ten years until she moved when she remarried.  Still love her but moving to another state changes things, like it or not.
Here are some articles about this subject...you might want to let the friendships be for a while until you make it through the grief fog and can make decisions with clarity but try surrounding yourself with positive support for now.  Grief support groups or widows groups sometimes help you make friends that "get it."



Dr. Phil says we teach people how to treat us and I have found that to be true...tell people what you need/want from them.  If they can't do that, focus on those who can right now.

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19 hours ago, A Wilson said:

Why is that so hard for people. Why does someone else's pain cause other people to become distant.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you.  It won't really help, but Kay is right:  It happens to all of us, especially with spouse loss (and child loss sometimes too, I think, based on thing friends who lost a child have said).  I can only speculate, but after nearly 2 years, I do have some experience and have thought about this a lot.

Our society sucks at handling or understanding death and grieving.  In general, we prefer to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn't exist.  As if, if we don't see or hear about it, then it won't happen.  To be honest, in my husband's last hours as I sat by his side, there were moments when I had to look away.  As if, if I didn't see him take his last breath, then he would still be breathing.  Ridiculous of course, but there is only so much our minds and hearts can take sometimes and irrational thoughts creep in.  I was holding his hand and arm when he took that last breath.  It was the worst moment of my life and an image I will never forget--nor should I.  It is mine to bear as his wife and the first moment of a changed reality.

So when people know or see someone going through the pain of extreme grief and loss, it makes them very uncomfortable.  Sometimes people really want to help, but they don't know what to say or do.  And so they use cliches and platitudes.  Other times, people really do not want to face the fact that we are all mortal, that we will all experience loss and grief, and especially when it's a couple, that some day it will happen to one of them.  We are a tangible reminder that life is fragile, precious, and finite.  Though I always keep in mind that love like we had and have is infinite because that is the only way I can get out of bed in the morning and muddle through the rest of this life. 

In many cases, people are so uncomfortable with grief and with the way it has shattered our lives that all they really want is to "fix" us, to make us "better."  But more, they want us to go "back to normal" as soon as possible because (1) then they won't have to worry about us and (2) they will be able to go back to pretending that this kind of pain will never happen to them.  That is impossible.  We will never have the lives we had before; we will never be whole in the same way; we will never be what others want us to be.  It does not mean that we will never smile or laugh again; it does not mean that we won't be able to find meaning in life again; it does not mean that there is something wrong with us when it takes years to come to terms with losing the one essential love of our lives.

I had to kick a few people out of my life.  A few more casual friends dealt with their uncomfortable feelings by pretending my husband had never existed at all.  As if 35 years of my life were nothing.  Yeah, that's not okay.  We had already lost some friends due to non-life threatening health conditions we developed over a number of years.  Some friends simply could not handle the fact that our lives had changed so much, that we had been forced to "downsize" our healthy, active, vibrant lives into something much smaller, yet so very precious to us.  So I was left with a tiny, but very loyal and caring, circle of friends and family.  I know I am lucky to have them.

And something else happened that I did not expect.  Some neighbors who had been very casual friends and acquaintances stepped up and have been there.  First for us, while my love was fighting his cancer, and then later, after I lost him.  Having friends who do not have decades of experiences and memories with us has been a real grace in my life.  They want to hear our stories and truly do listen without judgment.  They nudge a little and usually know when to back off.  When you are ready, you might want to reach out that way as well.

I urge you to figure out who is willing and able to be a comfort and support for you and who is not.  As we cannot force people, even those close to us, to understand, you may need to distance yourself from some of those around you, at least for a while.  Anyone who is unwilling to simply sit and listen when you want to talk about your grief, your love, and your memories, does not deserve to be with you right now.  Anyone who becomes distant during this time will make the beginning of your grief journey that much harder.  Right now it really is "all about you" and your needs. 

Kay has given you some great resources about why and when we need to let go of friendships that have become toxic to our grief and pain.  Some people may seem distant because they do want to help, but don't know how.  Here are links to a few articles that might help both them and you:




There are many more, but I hope that these will help you get started, especially as you figure out who will help you and who will cause you more pain.  And please keep coming here to talk about things. The members here have helped me so much simply by letting me know that I am not alone on this unwelcome and painful journey.



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All of the responses here are so on point.......and well, I have to say, damn........everything changes, I mean everything.......I no longer talk to people, the look on their faces, the fear.....they are more scared than I am and yes, I feel like a leper.

in the wake of my loss, I have tried to be introspective and be a better listener.  Everyone at this age, 56 and above, for the most part has lost someone, just listen and acknowledge the pain.

In the beginning, I heard so many “I’m Sorries.”  Ugh!!!   I wanted to smash faces in!!! Now, after 1 1/2 years and truthfully, I have only really started to grieve, I hear things like, you need to talk to your therapist, you should get in a Widow’s support group, etc.  

i think the most hurtful or shocking is my BFF, she was close to my husband too, and I feel like she is a stranger to me. 

When someone dies, everything changes, everything........


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