What I Want You to Know


It has been more than a month since Brian died.  I don’t know how that can possibly be true.  A month?  It seems, very often, that I cannot possibly live a minute with out him, still I have made it more minutes than I want to count.  The grief, the loss, the absolute end of the world feeling is still just as strong as it was those first horrible days.  Maybe even a little stronger now as the world has moved on, Christmas is over, and now it’s just daily life, life without Brian, a life I never imagined I’d ever lead, a life worse than the worst nightmare I could have even imagined.  We were supposed to be together for 80 years at least.  I always told him I wanted him to live one day longer than me so that I wouldn’t have to live without him ever.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

While my nightmare continues and is hellish most of the time, I am still quite blessed.  I have an enormous network of friends and family and strangers who love me, are supporting me, care about me and my children.  Folks have reached out and, honestly, without them I would be living curled up in a ball sobbing uncontrollably.  Don’t get me wrong – I still do that, but not all the time.  There are many people in this world who have suffered great loss who did / do not have the support system I have.  I cannot possibly imagine how awful that must be!  Yes, there are times when I need to be alone, when I need to not answer the phone or the text messages, when I need to shut myself away from people, but I always know that I have the option to reach out when I need to.  That is a comfort to me.  When I need someone to talk to, I have many options.

When I have something to say, I know it will be heard.

It’s hard to deal with someone who is suffering great, traumatic loss.  What do you do?  How do you act?  What do you say?  The fact is that there is no right thing to say, but there are countless wrong things to say.  It’s easy to say the wrong thing.  Some things are obvious: the woman who approached me at Brian’s memorial to tell me that she was grateful for this experience because it confirmed for her that she made the right decision in divorcing her husband was WRONG.  I shoved her, physically shoved her, but still wish I had picked her up and thrown her across the room. That’s another blog post.  Anyway, there are wrong things to say.  They might be universally wrong, I don’t know.  I do know that they are wrong to say to me.  At least right now.

When you are talking to someone who is suffering great grief, especially grief resulting from a tragic accident with more questions than answers, I think it’s important to ask yourself a few questions first.  1) What impact will the information you are seeking have on your life?  Why does it matter to you?  Is it just curiosity?  If so, do not ask.  2) If you, for just one awful moment, put yourself in my situation, how would you feel if I asked you the question you are about to ask me?  Very likely, you would feel as though I opened your nightstand, read all your private messages, rummaged through your underwear drawer, invaded your bank account, read your diary, and snuck into your bedroom while you and your partner were in there.  Feels pretty shitty, yes?   Yes, so don’t ask.

Don’t tell me that God has a plan.

Don’t tell me to remember the good times.

Don’t tell me to love this life.

Don’t tell me to pray.

Don’t tell me to put on a good face.

Don’t tell me to smile.

Don’t tell me.

And don’t ask.

Don’t ask me what happened.

Don’t ask me what my plans are for the future.  Here’s my entire plan for the future: to breathe in and out.  The end.

Don’t ask me how he died.

Don’t ask me for details – they are private and, unless you are family, you do not need to know.

Don’t ask me about the news and the police reports you saw – they were both wrong and shouldn’t have been released anyway. The investigator and medical examiner are right and you don’t need to know what they know.

Don’t ask me about my yoga practice.

Don’t ask me about my coping mechanisms.  I’m still here, I’m still breathing, I’m still parenting my kids, so how I manage to cope is getting me through and how I choose to do it is working just fine.

Don’t ask me.

I will tell you what I want you to know.

Do tell me your favorite memories of Brian.

Do tell me your favorite memories of us together.

Do tell me that I will make it.

Do tell me of things that remind you of him.

Do tell me that it sucks.

Do tell me that you miss him.

Do tell me when you feel his presence, when you dream of him, when he sends you messages.

Do tell me that I have all the time in the world.

Do tell me that you love me, love Brian, love our children.

Do ask me about his smile.

Do ask me about what he loved to do.

Do ask me about my favorite memories of him.

Do ask me what he loved to do with our children.

Do ask me about his favorite music.

Do ask me how he used to make me laugh until I almost peed.

Do ask me about how we would have chosen to spend time with each other before spending time with anyone else in the world.

Do ask about all the hundreds of thousands of ways we loved each other.

Do ask about his quirky habits and collections.

Do ask how he made me feel loved and safe.  Always loved and safe.

Do ask me about him, NOT what happened to him.

Do ask me what I want you to know.

What I want you to know.


4 responses »

  1. Sarah-

    Wow, wow, wow. I so appreciate your clear ideas of what people should ask and not ask (because people can be idiots..). I love that you’re putting it out there that you still want to talk about BRIAN. That he is more than the way his life ended. That he was a wonderfully complex person who impacted (and continues to impact) your life and the life of so many other people.

    What I know from living my own grief and through working in Grief Support Services at a hospice agency is this: you still have a relationship with Brian and you will always have a connection to him; your pain will not always be this intense and awful; your ability to share your feelings through words, actions, ritual, and connections with friends and family will serve you in beautiful ways.

    Thank you for your honesty and for being willing to put your pain out there. It’s so much better to know YOU and BRIAN than to know details that have nothing to do with who you or Brian are as people.

    With deep respect-

  2. I admire and appreciate your raw honesty. I’m embarrassed to admit how awkward I feel in situations like this. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Brian, I do know that he made you smile inside out. May your heart continue to sing beautiful memories. I am sending you big hugs and a lot of love.

  3. Yes. Yes to you. I think initial shock and everyone’s inclination (not just those of idiots) is “WHAT?! (What do you mean?/What happened?/WTF?) when hearing about tragedy (and this is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions), but that’s for you and yours. The truth is, I think everyone just wants you to know love is coming to you. I remember people telling me about “God’s plan” or someone I lost “is in a better place” or (CRINGE) “God needed an angel.” No way. No way can you use a bumper sticker phrase as a comfort. But. Interested parties are interested in YOU. Your boys. Your Brian. Your healing/process/story. So, thank you for sharing this. We love you!

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