There were many times, especially in the beginning of my grief, when I turned to someone with a look that said, "What did you just say to me?"
I have to say, though, that in comparison to some women I've talked to, the number of ignorant remarks I had to endure was slimmer than what they experienced. Some of the most irritating comments came in the form of "At least you're still young, so you can have another child," or "You're looking so good today!" Um, excuse me? I do not need your opinion on my fertility status or the fact that you think I look good at this particular point in time. And I look good for what, by the way? For a grieving woman? For a trip to the grocery store? For a woman who is seething with anger and resentment inside?
It took me a long time to not take comments too personally. I had to develop a thicker skin as time went by or I would've constantly been flying off the handle. I had to say to myself, "These folks are ignorant and don't know any better. If they were standing in my shoes, they would be eating their words right now." I don't think anyone ever spoke to me out of a negative place. They simply wanted to make me feel better yet only succeeded in doing the opposite.
I also had to remember that people can't tell what you've been through simply by looking at you. In general, people often say things they don't mean or that come out the wrong way, so I've learned to ease up on others. I've realized that only I know my true feelings and the depth of what has happened to me. It's not worth my energy to worry about what they do or do not know about my situation. One of my girlfriends who has lost close family and friends, put it this way: "When people tell you 'Everything will be OK,' and you want to reach out and slap them, let yourself enjoy the thought of doing just that. But realize they are only trying to help."
Unfortunately, our society knows so little about how to be with and support a grieving person that it is easy to get hurt when someone's words don't come out properly or the person seems insensitive to your pain. It is one thing if someone is intentionally trying to hurt you, but if you know in that person's heart he or she means well, sometimes it is best to let it go. I have many widow friends who have learned to laugh off people's comments and perceptions. They know that other people can't possibly understand the weight of their words unless they have been in a similar situation.
I think women in general spend too much time worrying about what others think, and grieving can be a time when we feel so vulnerable that any little comment, no matter how harmless, can send us reeling. Sometimes it may be necessary for you to guide those around you as to what is unacceptable to say. Of course, you can't control everyone's remarks, particularly if it's someone you don't really know. But try to consider the intention behind what's being said before taking the comment too personally. After all, no one really knows your reality or your feelings but you.
If you find that you're getting caught up in too many negative comments, go connect with your closest support circle, a counsellor, or someone else you trust. Such people can help to validate your emotions and give you a safe environment in which to simply be yourself without harsh judgment or insensitivity. This will help your sanity!
Hip Chick Wisdom
"You'll get a lot of advice from people trying to be 'helpful' after you lose someone close. In my case, my family had opinions on everything: I should be in therapy. I shouldn't be on antidepressants. I should be home with them, not traveling to spend time with friends. On and on and on. But you'll come to realize that the people giving advice haven't been in your shoes, and they don't understand the depth of your pain and how it's manifesting itself. Now is the time to do exactly what you feel is right to get through the day and to eventually heal." --Faye H.