Things To Never Say To A Bereaved Person

  • Don’t cry.
  • I know how you feel. (No. No you don’t. Even if you’ve been bereaved yourself you don’t, because we’re all different and even I don’t have a fucking clue how I feel right now. If you haven’t been bereaved yourself, then this is actually just really offensive.)
  • Time heals all wounds.  (Quite possibly true, but when ‘time’ looks like a long lonely road leading you away from the one person you most want to be with… not helpful.)
  • Everything happens for a reason. (Oh, does it now? So there’s a ‘reason’ my heart’s in a bleeding pile on the floor instead of safe in my chest where it’s been wrapped warm all these years? You don’t say. How very fucking comforting.)
  • Don’t cry.
  • At least… (You can insert absolutely anything here and it’s equally irrelevant. I’m not interested in silver linings. I’m bereaved. Fuck off.)
  • You need to be strong for your kids / dog / mother-in-law / goldfish. (Do I look like I need more pressure right now? Really? Have you considered the possibility that you have a vision impairment?)
  • She/he’s in a better place. (Better than being with me, the person they loved, and who loved them? Cheers. Fuck off.)
  • You should… (Just no. There’s no ‘right’ way to grieve. There’s no wrong way. We’re all different. By all means mention something your Great Aunt Ada found helpful, but don’t even think about telling me I ‘should’ do the same.)
  • Be grateful you had them so long / found them in the first place. (I am grateful. Of course I am. But there’s another ‘G’ word that’s just a little bit stronger at the moment and it’s hard to squeeze the extra gratitude you seem to think I should feel in among the enormous fucking riptide of grief. Also, see above re fucking off.)
  • Don’t cry.
  • You’ll find someone else. (What? Just… WHAT?!)
  • You are never given more than you can handle. (Seriously, you’re taking your life in your hands right now. No court would convict me.)
  • He/she wouldn’t want you to be sad. (By all means, lets add ‘guilt’ to the G-word mix.)
  • Don’t dwell on it. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to think about absolutely anything else? If I want to sit around all day in my pyjamas looking at my wedding photos, then I fucking will.)
  • God has a plan. (Well, bully for him/her. We had a plan, too. Lots of them.)
  • If only she/he hadn’t smoked/drunk/taken hormones/whatever else the sanctimonious fuckwit disapproves of. (Victim blaming hits a new low, you moronic cockwomble.)
  • Life goes on. (Is this supposed to be good news to me?)
  • Don’t cry.
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Portrait of the Author as a Young(ish) Widow

She’s a plain woman who used to be pretty.
There is ten months of grey in her hair, and a year’s comfort food on her hips, and she does not care. She doesn’t wear make up any more.

She’s a Northerner, though she doesn’t always sound it, tending to tune in to the accents around her, or revert to the posher tones learned from a father who will always be an ‘offcomer’, no matter how long he lives here.

She’s never been much for jewellery, although she has some that she loves. She doesn’t wear it any more. Her husband’s cross lives around her neck, and the ring he put on her finger is now matched by the one she took from his. She swapped it for her hair. Her long, thick hair that he loved. It took long minutes to hack through the ponytail, and she buried it with him. Her hair was beautiful and she doesn’t want that. Doesn’t want to be attractive. Doesn’t want anyone to look at her and think thoughts that belong only in her husband’s head.

She walks a lot, but not with any recognisable gait – it varies with her mood. Faster towards the cemetery and slower back to the place that is ‘home’ by virtue of the memories it holds. ‘Home is where the heart is’, and she doesn’t know that location any more. Did she bury it with him, or is it spread among the places they have been?

Her eyes are brown behind the glasses she constantly pushes up on top of her head, and they still smile easily. She is grief-stricken, but not depressed. Depression was being trapped in a miserable marriage for over a decade. Her husband saved her, and she won’t waste his gift. She’d rather be his widow than anyone else’s wife.