Monday, 19 November 2012

grief is not a contagion

Firstly this is not something I am implying to be directed at my friends. This post has been sparked by something that happened, but it was that contact which set me thinking about this. So don't feel 'to blame' about it if you happen to reconcile with it.

One of the things I have found interesting in the process of loosing my wife is that people suddenly keep their distance. People who did contact me from time to time simply haven't.

Even more strange is that when I do have reason to contact them they say something like "we've been thinking about you but didn't want to say anything to you because it seems so useless".

Its uncanny how similar this is among people I know.

So as advice to people who man know somone who is grieving in the future: don't be afraid to contact them. That is my purpose here. I want to give some advice to those around the grieving person. Grieving is not infectious.

Even if its just a quick hello. People aren't telepathic, and may actually feel isolated rather than be sitting around feeling like "oh yes, all my friends are thinking of me".

Of course be prepared for a little difficulty from the other end. When you ask "how are you going" don't be surprised if you don't get the usual supermarket answer of "oh fine, been having fun ... and you?". But it won't be painful (well unless you are so shallow, in which case probably better to keep to your self).

The thing is that friends contacting you occasionally is not useless. Sure you can't do something physical, but emotional support (even just listening) is actually really helpful. Christmas cards for example don't really do anything either, but you still send them to your friends right?

To my friends who keep in touch I want you to know how much it means to me, even if I do sound like shit warmed up and drone on about the same issues. To the others who have claimed to be my friends, the lack of contact says a lot to me.


Tanja said...

You are so right about that feeling; people make you feel so god damn lonely when "leaving" you alone, literally (that's how it's feels) forgetting you after the funeral or just a bit later than that. I don't know whether it's about being so busy in their own lives and in the same time thinking that you'd also like to have some 'space' to carry on. Or is it's just that they can't face your grief that seems to be going on and on and on... Even though it's more than natural that it takes a lot(!) of time to recover.

Whatever the reason, I am sorry to hear that you have been left so alone. I was reading a book last weekend and kept thinking it would be great to have that also in English. It would have been nice also for you to read (maybe). Written by a wife who lost her husband and soul mate for the brain tumour.

Hope to see you here soon.. :)

obakesan said...

Tanja, thanks for your kind words.

I don't feel my closest friends have left me feeling abandoned. My closest friends have been keep in touch with me something between weekly and daily.

Having said that, others have said they would like to say hi but are afraid to.

In conversation with a work colleague who has lost her husband (while she herself is getting over cancer) I found that many others experience exactly this.

So I wrote about it.

Perhaps one day I'll put together these thoughts here into a single resource. Maybe it will help others.

it would be nice if something positive came out of this mess ...

Charles Maclauchlan said...

good point, Chris. Thank you for educating

Noons said...

I think it's a cultural thing in Australia. A lot of folks here think it's better to let others deal with grief on their own - and therefore it's better to stay away until asked.
Seen that a few times already in other cases.
Totally the opposite of my background and culture, where it is expected folks will indeed keep in touch often in times like this.
Ah well... The joys of a multicultural society like ours...

Anonymous said...

You are so right Chris. The amount of times I've heard the "been thinking of you, just don't know what to say".
Don't think about me, talk to me, even if it to say "I don't know what to say, but I'm hear to listen".