Why do you let my grief scare you?
Why can’t I just talk about Natasha how ever I want? She was MY wife, not yours!
Why can’t you just listen and try not to fix me? “You just need to focus on your daughter’s smile, and everything will be alright.”
Why do you give me an arbitrary timeline and act as if it is the word of some God? “So, how long has it been since your wife died?”
Why do you try to insist on measuring the severity of my grief by saying, “So, have you been dating?”
Why do you need to suggest that a man needs a woman to raise a girl, “Girls need a mother, it’s just good for them.”?
Wow, you really are an expert on grief! So have you ever lost a spouse, no? How about a parent, sibling, or good friend, no? I guess you haven’t had much experience with grief, yet you are so wise when it comes to my grief.
I know, I should relax, you are a good person and you are just trying to help, and, maybe I am being too sensitive.
All I ask, please let my grief be just the way it is.
I found out yesterday that my favourite professor who spoke at our wedding died. He also was taken by cancer just like Natasha. It is interesting how grief for different people intertwines. People already have a hard time letting me talk about Natasha’s death. I suspect that just like my grief over the deaths of my in-laws, most people will have a low tolerance for me talking about how much my professor impacted who I am today, yet fortunately, every so often I come across someone who is a gem.
The other day, I met a man from Africa who said he was drawn to me. We hit it off right away, in that way people of colour do when we meet each other for the first time. This is a certain comfort that is very difficult to describe. It is very reassuring and validating for me to meet a compatriot, someone who loves being Canadian but has a deeper understanding of cross-cultural issues. In addition, he let me talk about grief and never tried to manage me and he made me a great offer.
In the past, I have written about how people love making offers to the single dad whose wife died, but only about 2 percent of those offers actually come through. This guy was different because he allowed me to explain that I am cautious with any offer of support. He just smiled and said, “I understand, people love to talk, but do nothing…but I promise you, my wife and I will help you with your daughter, and don’t forget we are African, we are all about helping neighbors with their children. And then, the conversation became even more profound when he said, “You don’t need to qualify everything you say, just say it.” This is an old habit, a remnant of the insecure man I used to be, the kind of man who is constantly worrying about offending others.
People like him have so much wisdom and compassion that they give me a lot of hope, hope that there are people out there who just plain get it—and to all of you I say, “Thank you! And I forward to meeting you!”