Postcards From The Other Side

postcardFew things will cause others to call into question your sanity (or lack thereof) or your level of gullibility more quickly than announcing that you have received a message from a dearly departed loved one. More often than not, they’ll explain it away — and maybe even try and convince you — that it’s just your imagination or perhaps some wishful thinking at work. But if you are the one experiencing these communications from spirit, you know what it was, you know what you heard/saw/felt, and furthermore, there isn’t a naysayer on the planet who could convince you it was anything but the very tangible, real experience you know it to be.

I personally have always believed in an afterlife. Certainly, it’s a much more comforting concept than the thought of there being only a deep, dreamless sleep after we leave this world. But that in and of itself is not what made me a believer. To me, it’s inconceivable that our essence, consciousness, essentially, what makes us, us, simply ceases to exist when our physical bodies are no longer compatible with life. Our bodies are merely the vehicles in which we travel through this lifetime. I once read an interesting analogy that was something along the lines of, “if you are driving your car and the engine blows up, rendering it useless, what do you do? You get out of your car and move on. Just as you are not your car, you are not your body.” We are energy…and it is a proven fact that energy cannot be destroyed. It can only change form.

After the death of my freedom-loving Sagittarius first ex-husband more than 12 years ago, which was also the first experience I had ever had of losing someone very close to me, I was strolling through the city library, searching the shelves high and low, yet not knowing what I was looking for. All I knew was I desperately needed guidance, something, anything to help me cope with the excruciatingly painful grief which was unlike anything I had ever before felt. Sure enough, after several minutes of winding my way through the aisles, a title seemed to jump out at me. It was called Talking to Heaven: A Medium’s Message of Life and Death by James Van Praagh. I took it home and read it cover to cover. I then began frequenting bookstores for more of the same and found, among others, One Last Time: A Psychic Medium Speaks to Those We Have Loved and Lost by John Edward. And I pored over these books for hours at a time, reading and re-reading them, as they gave me a glimmer of hope in the darkest hours of my life up to that point. Upon reading these books, I came to realize that I had already experienced a few of my own messages from spirit and, little did I know at the time, I would continue to receive many more over the weeks, months, and years to come. Here are some of those experiences:

My now-deceased Sadge ex-hubby playing with our then-baby boy Bull

My now-deceased Sadge ex-hubby playing with our then-baby boy Bull

Be A Good Boy
One night, about two weeks after my Sadge ex-husband passed, I woke up in the middle of the night after having fallen asleep on the couch with my then-four and a half year-old Taurus son. I laid awake for just a minute or two, and then I listened intently as my little Bull started talking in his sleep:

“I know, dad…okay…uh huh…but what about your BB gun, dad?…uh huh…uh huh…okay…I will…I love you too…”

The only way I can describe this would be to say that it was as though I were listening to one end of a telephone conversation. There is no doubt in my mind that what I was listening to was my Taurean preschooler as he received a visit from his dad.

Here’s Your Sign
Several weeks later, one bright, crisp winter afternoon on my way home from work, I stopped at the cemetery as I did every week to leave a single red rose on my ex’s gravesite. I began to “talk” to him, asking him to please show me something, a sign, anything to know that when I told our children their daddy was still with them that I was telling them the truth. Trying to think of something specific to ask for, something that would let me know without question that it was from him, I made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that he “show” me an elephant, reasoning that if I were to see a random elephant walking around, there would be no way I could write it off. I chuckled out loud at the thought, acknowledging that an elephant walking down the street would probably not be doable (ya think?) I then stressed that whatever he chose to show me, just let it be something that I couldn’t shoot down or dismiss as wishful thinking. With that, I left the cemetery and headed home.

A little more than two weeks later, I stopped by my ex’s widow’s place on my way home from work to pick up the Valentine’s Day goody bags she had made for my three kids. When I got home, I passed out the bags and went about my usual routine. My young Bull excitedly ran up to me. “Mom, look what she put in my bag!”

He proudly held up a small stuffed elephant with a plastic picture frame on its tummy…which held a picture of my wee Taurus with his dad.

This Is How It’s Supposed To Be
Shortly after my former Cancer hubby was killed in a car accident in January 2013, I was driving and came to an intersection when I realized

The makeshift roadside memorial at the crash site

The makeshift roadside memorial at the crash site

I had forgotten to put on my seat belt. As I clicked it into place, tears began welling up in my eyes. I spoke aloud, “why couldn’t you have been wearing your seat belt? You’d still be here if you’d just worn your seat belt.” Suddenly, the following thought was impressed upon me:

“If I had survived, I would’ve wished I hadn’t. This is the way it’s supposed to be.”

This is another experience that is difficult to explain. I heard it in the same way one “hears” their own thoughts, except it wasn’t my thought: it was as though I were “hearing” someone else’s thought. Like, as I previously mentioned, the thought was impressed upon me rather than originating in my own mind.

When I “heard” this, my jaw dropped and I was pretty much just frozen in shock. The hair on my arms stood on end. On one hand, it made perfect sense and to my surprise, I realized I had never considered that point of view. Knowing my ex-Crab as well as I did, I could totally see the logic in that statement. He was already prone to bouts of deep depression, anxiety, and moodiness. If he had survived, but with injuries severe enough to be life-altering, compounded with the (relatively trivial) fact that he would have lost his truck and probably his job in the wake of the accident, I could absolutely imagine him spiraling even further downward, cursing the fact that he hadn’t been killed. But on the other hand, from what I had heard, if he had only been wearing his seat belt that night, he very likely could have walked away from the wreckage rather than it killing him instantly. This was confusing because there was no doubt in my mind that the “thought” I had “heard” was from my recently-deceased ex.

It came full circle earlier this week, nearly eight months after my Cancer ex was killed. I was at the police department in the town where he died, speaking face to face with the first responding police officer to the scene of the accident. I asked several questions about what transpired that horrible night. Through tears, I asked one last question:

“If he had worn his seat belt, would he have survived?”

The officer hesitated and thought hard before responding. “Well…maybe,” he relented. He then added, “I hate to say yes or no.”

“That bad?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yeah. Really bad.”

With those statements, the officer had unknowingly validated the message I received from spirit so many months earlier. The accident was so horrific, the damage to his vehicle so extensive, that even if my ex-Crab had worn his seat belt, there is a significant chance that he still wouldn’t have survived and if he had, he wouldn’t have simply walked away.

Looking down several feet into the drainage culvert where my ex-Crab lost his life in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2013

Looking down several feet into the drainage culvert where my ex-Crab lost his life in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2013

A Deer In Headlights
While visiting the town last weekend where my now-deceased Cancer ex was killed, my current Cancer man and I decided to head over to the scene of the crash. It was exactly 0.5 miles and a two-minute drive from his home. Because it was a single vehicle accident and in the very early morning hours, there were — at least, as far as anyone knows for certain — no witnesses; therefore, whatever happened to cause his truck to leave the roadway and tumble down into a drainage culvert is pure speculation at this point. Now, I’m all too cognizant of the fact that we will probably never know exactly what transpired to set the accident in motion. But as we drove to the crash site, I silently pleaded with him to please, point me in a direction, give me a clue, just help me try to make sense of what happened.

My current Cancer and I parked in the parking lot adjacent to the site where the wreck occurred and walked the twenty or so feet down the grass so we could look down into the culvert where my ex-Crab’s truck ended up on its roof. Standing on the very ground where he went off the road and lost his life, it was unbelievably surreal; difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that it really happened right there. As we stood at the fence his truck barreled through, which had by then been replaced, we visually surveyed the area below. My current Cancer broke the silence by bringing to my attention the sound of leaves crunching.

“Look, check it out, there’s a big buck down there.” I looked just in time to catch a brief glimpse of a massive buck as he darted off and up into some thick brush, quickly disappearing from sight.

We continued to look around, taking note of the curb he would have had to go up to leave the road where he did, the curve and grade of the road itself , thinking out loud, bouncing possible scenarios off each other as to what could have ultimately led to him losing control of the truck and crashing. It still didn’t seem to add up.

A short time later, back at the home of my ex’s stepmother and younger sister at which we stayed during our visit — and also where my

What happened, Tom...why did you have to go...

What happened, Tom…why did you have to go…

ex had lived at the time of his death — my current Cancer and I sat on the front porch sharing a cigarette and rehashing our hypotheses. He mentioned the deer we had seen milling around for a few brief moments at the spot where my ex took his last breath.

And that’s when it hit me.

“Oh my god,” I told him incredulously. “I know what happened. I know why he went off the road. I can’t believe I didn’t see it while we were there!”

I then proceeded to tell my current Cancer how I had silently asked my ex-Crab for a clue or a sign that would explain what caused the wreck. “And then that huge buck was down there! Right where he died! The roads that night were wet. His tires were bad. He’s got no weight in the bed of his truck. He’s coming up that hill, around that curve, and a deer is in the road so he reflexively brakes or swerves to avoid it, or both…and he goes into a spin, sliding back down the hill and at this point, he’s now basically just become a passenger and there’s nothing he can do…and it’s up the curb, through the fence…and down into the drainage culvert.”

A feeling of peace and contentment washed over me. What I was saying didn’t feel at all like a theory or a guess. It felt like my ex had actually told me what happened. Speaking with the first responding police officer the following day and running the scenario by him, he confirmed everything I said, except for the presence of the deer in the road, which obviously can never be proven.

What are the odds that a random deer would be in that culvert, in the exact spot where my ex’s truck crashed, at the exact time we got there? I have no idea…but what I do know is that I had received the clue I had asked for.

A typical manifestation of the number 33 showing up

A typical manifestation of the number 33 showing up

Lucky Numbers
Shortly after my first ex-hubby passed away in January 2001, I began noticing something unusual. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure at what point I noticed a pattern and began recognizing it as a nod from spirit, but I do know that by April of that year I was quite aware of it. I started seeing a lot of instances of the number 33. Everywhere I turned, I saw the number 33: on receipts, digital clocks, license plates, road signs, phone numbers, you name it. I’d be driving and glance down at the clock, or my odometer, and there would be a 33. In the grocery store checkout, my total would have a 33 in it, or the change I was due would have a 33 in it. I’d pull up to a stop light and the license plate on the car ahead of me would have a 33 in it. I’d go to adjust the volume on the TV and the volume level number would be at 33. I could go on and on.

Granted, I can see how those could be easily dismissed. But then those 33s began to

Hello from David: A sticker with the number "33" which I found in a random dryer's lint trap at our Laundromat. Still think it's just coincidence? I NEVER did.

Hello from David: A sticker with the number “33” which I found in a random dryer’s lint trap at our Laundromat. Still think it’s just coincidence? I NEVER did.

pop up in places/situations that weren’t as easily explained. There was the time I stopped by the tanning salon after work only to discover their computer had crashed, so as customers showed up they were being assigned new member ID numbers, starting with 1. When it was my turn in line, the new member ID number assigned to me was — you guessed it — 33. I couldn’t have timed that to happen if I’d tried. When I began dating my current Cancer man in early 2003, I discovered that he was born at 8:33am. The first time I took a road trip up to visit him, the exit number was 33 and as we sat outside having a cigarette in his garage, there was a can sitting on a shelf with a giant number 33 emblazoned across the label. Now, the 33s that are connected somehow to my current Cancer man, I feel, is my Sadge ex-hubby’s way of indicating to me that the two of us being together is a good thing. A hat tip, if you will. In fact, my late Sadge ex and my current Cancer love were friends. And my ex-Sadge always thought really highly of my Cancer. I absolutely believe that were he alive today or had still been with us when my Cancer and I took our friendship up a notch to the romantic level, knowing himself what a stand-up, honorable guy my Cancer man is, he would have been more than pleased because he would’ve known without question that his children and I would be loved and protected.

These are just a few examples. The appearance of the number 33 continues to be pretty frequent to this day.

So, what’s the significance of the number 33? That was how old my Sadge ex-hubby was when he succumbed to cancer.

I can’t seem to see you baby…
Although my eyes are open wide
But I know I’ll see you once more…
When I see you, I’ll see you on the Other Side. ~ Ozzy Osbourne, See You on the Other Side

Thank You
As you might have already read in my post Suicide Solution: Friends To The End, my teen Taurus son’s best friend, an angst-ridden 17 year-old Piscean, committed suicide on September 4, 2013. His chosen method? Self-immolation. And in his suicide note, he instructed “P.S. Don’t bury me. Finish the cremation.” His devastated family did as Kevin requested, and a memorial service will be held for him on Saturday, September 14, 2013. Because my grief-stricken young Bull lives in Arizona, nearly 1,500 miles away from where the service will be held, he is unable to be there. Fortunately, I live much closer and it’s only a 350 mile drive for me. So I volunteered to go on my son’s behalf. This is particularly important because Kevin’s family has graciously offered to give my son some of his late best friend’s ashes, and I don’t think I need to tell you how honored and moved we are that his family thinks so much of my Taurus teen and his friendship with their beloved Kevin.

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson

Last night, I decided to burn some new CDs in preparation for tomorrow’s road trip. I downloaded some new music and created a few new playlists. This was all pretty uneventful until I tried to play one of the playlists. Regardless of which song or artist I selected, what I heard instead were random tunes by Marilyn Manson. It’s true, I am a fan of The Manson and I do have several of his songs downloaded to my laptop. But none of those tunes were on that playlist. In fact, I don’t happen to have a playlist with any Manson on it whatsoever.

You're welcome, sweetie...

You’re welcome, sweetie…

Obviously, this was pretty annoying. As I was cursing aloud to myself several times over the course of trying to figure out what was going on, it dawned on me. Kevin was a huge Marilyn Manson fan. Was he acknowledging the fact that I will be traveling to his memorial service on my son’s behalf and bringing some of his ashes home with me to give to him? Was this his way of “thanking” me? I honestly don’t know. But what I do know is what happened next.

“You’re welcome, Kevin,” I spoke aloud, smiling.

And my playlist immediately began to play…normally.

All that lives, lives forever. Only the shell, the perishable passes away. The spirit is without end. Eternal. Deathless. ~ Nate AlexandriaLA1999Fisher, from the HBO original series Six Feet Under

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one who is quick to attribute every woo-woo thing that happens to me as being a sign or message from spirit. To the contrary, I am more likely to dismiss my own experiences as being figments of a wishful imagination than I am to dismiss the experiences of others. That said, however, there are several instances along with the ones I have just shared with you that I have been unable to discount or chalk up to an overactive imagination. I am convinced that death is not the end of our existence, but rather a transformation to a different level of consciousness.

This Is The Way The World Ends: Volume II

“Grieving, I hate to say goodbye otherside
Dust and ash forever, yeah…
Though I know we must be parted
As sure as stars are in the sky…
I’m gonna see when it comes to glory
And I’ll see you, I’ll see you on the other side…
Yes I’ll see you, I’ll see you on the other side.” ~ Ozzy Osbourne, “See You On The Other Side”

I know most people truly do mean well. I know they have only the utmost good intentions at heart. I also know that sometimes, others simply don’t know what to say to a bereaved person. I’ve been on the other side of this experience…so believe me, I get it.

That said, if one more person attempts to console me by gently reminding me that Tom “is in a better place,” they just might find themselves joining him there quicker than they’d hoped…

I don’t want to come across as ungrateful toward folks who are merely trying to be comforting. I very much appreciate the condolences and sympathy shown by so many people who care about what has happened and want to say something, anything, to try and ease the pain. I’m eternally grateful for the friends and family who only want to help me feel better.

However, regardless of your personal religious or spiritual beliefs, whether or not you believe in a heaven or a hell or a God, an afterlife of any kind, or even if you believe that after death, we cease to exist at all,  please enlighten me on this: in what way is Tom in a “better place”?

Is this the "better place" people speak of?

Is this the “better place” people speak of?

I seriously doubt that had Tom been given an option  between being able to live his life for many more years with his daughter, his stepchildren, his family, and his friends or going to this “better place,” that he would’ve chosen the latter. He was just 36 years old when his time was suddenly up, with absolutely no warning. There was so much more left for him to do in this world. His daughter is barely eight years old and because he’s gone onto this proverbial “better place,” he won’t be here to see her become a teenager, graduate from high school, walk her down the aisle on her wedding day, or to one day see her become a wife and mother with a family of her own. He never got to hold his brother’s firstborn child, a beautiful baby girl named Kylie Paige, because he went to this “better place” just sixteen days before her arrival into this world. She’ll only know him through photos and stories as her Uncle Tommy who died just weeks before she was born. He won’t see his niece Edie grow into young womanhood. And he won’t be here to walk his stepdaughter down the aisle on her wedding day either, which he had planned to do because her own father passed away when she was just nine years old. He won’t see either of his stepsons’ wedding days…or their future wives and children.

Tom & Brian, 4th of July 2001, Lake Eufaula, OK

Tom & Brian, 4th of July 2001, Lake Eufaula, OK

“’cause now you’ve got to fly, fly high, fly to the angels
Heaven awaits your heart
And flowers bloom in your name…
Ohhh you’ve got to fly, fly high
Fly to the angels
All the stars in the night shine in your name.”

~ Slaughter, “Fly To The Angels”

I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that I absolutely believe in an afterlife; I believe the spirit lives on, as the spirit — or soul — is made of pure energy and it is a scientific fact that energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed. If your car breaks down while you’re in it, what do you do? You get out of the car. You are in your car, but at the same time, you are not your car, the same way “you” are not your body. Your body breaks down, your spirit leaves it.  So while I am certain that Tom’s spirit lives on, and in fact, is definitely still around (specific examples of which I’ll touch on at another time), and what was once his physical body– the shell which houses the soul — is now reduced to ashes which rest  in a beautiful urn, regardless of any of that, there is no way I can passively sit back and accept the explanation that he’s now in a “better place,” whatever or wherever that might be. I fail to see how this “better place” people so often speak of is…well, better.

So without further ado, here are some suggestions for what to say to the bereaved…and perhaps more importantly, what not to say:

  • “He/she is in a better place.”  Was there any question whatsoever this would be my first suggestion of what not to say? This is not — I repeat, not — a comforting statement. A grief-stricken loved one does not want to hear this. To the bereaved, the “better place” for their departed loved one is right here, alive and well in the physical realm. Not to mention the phrase itself is such an overused cliche that it’s all but lost its meaning over time.
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”  The hell you say. But whatever the elusive reason may be that has ripped our loved one away from us matters not, because the fact remains that they are still gone and no big-picture, grand-scheme-of-things reason is going to make our loss any less painful…even if we’re lucky enough to one day discover what that reason is,  and most of us probably never will. A similar statement to avoid is “It’s God’s will, even if we don’t understand His reasons for it.” *rolls eyes* Unless you are the Lord Almighty incarnate, please refrain from using that line in a misguided attempt at consoling someone.
  • “God/the Universe never gives us more than we can handle.” Wanna bet? If that were true, there would be no such thing as suicide. Far too often, many people have way more than their fair share of painful events and tragic losses thrust upon them.
  • “I know how you feel.” Oh, really now? Do you? Unless you have been through the exact same experience or loss yourself, you have no way to even begin to imagine how we are feeling or what we are going through.
  • Saying nothing at all; not bringing up the loss. Huge mistake. It’s almost better to say the wrong thing than to say nothing  and avoid the topic altogether. When you don’t acknowledge the person’s loss, your silence on the matter screams that you don’t care about them or what they’re going through…even if the only reason you aren’t bringing it up is out of fear of upsetting or reminding the grieving person of their loss or potentially causing yourself to feel uncomfortable (which is selfish). You will not — I repeat, will not — upset someone by bringing up the topic of their lost loved one. You aren’t “reminding” them of anything. Trust me, they are already thinking about it.  This actually happened to me. I received an instant message from a “friend” the same day Tom was killed who periodically hits me up for no other reason than to pimp her “fabulous home business opportunity” on me. I replied back to her that I was sorry, but I couldn’t even think about that right now “because Tom was killed last night.” Her reply? Absolute silence. Nothing. Not even a “k.” In all fairness, maybe she just didn’t know how to respond. But I’ve been friends with this woman for nine years…and she couldn’t even take 30 seconds to muster an “I’m sorry” or “what happened?” In any event, I no longer consider her my friend. She hasn’t attempted to contact me since that day. Not to mention the plentiful opportunities she had to respond to any one of my Facebook statuses about Tom’s death to which numerous other people replied with simple yet meaningful comments such as “I’m sorry for your loss.” She couldn’t even get a clue about what to say from reading their replies? Yeah. She’s no friend. It’s not like I’m a sympathy whore, fishing for condolences. But common courtesy dictates some kind of response…especially from a friend.
  • “I don’t know what to say.” This is perfect for when words escape you. It’s really okay to admit that you can’t imagine how they are feeling and that you simply don’t know what to say. Other suggestions along these lines would be asking them specifically what you can do to help, even if it’s offering your shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to. Most people want to talk about their lost loved one. Follow their lead. Let them talk, let them cry, let them be angry. Don’t offer advice unless you’re asked. Just shut up and listen to them without throwing in your own opinions or regaling them with your own experience; it’s not about you right now; this is their story. It’s amazing how incredibly helpful that can be for someone going through the grieving process. Shut up, be there, and just listen. Ask if they need help with anything — taking care of the kids if they have any, preparing and/or bringing meals to the house, running errands, making phone calls, sorting through paperwork, anything…even the seemingly most trivial acts of kindness can make a world of difference because it’s one less thing  they have to worry about during an already emotionally chaotic time.
  • Don’t hit on the widow(er). Really. I have a friend whom I’ve known since I was thirteen years old. We connected again on Facebook about three years ago. He knew I was in a relationship and had previously expressed disappointment at that fact… and evidently, upon reading my statuses about Tom’s death, incorrectly assumed I was grieving the loss of my current husband. About four days after Tom’s death, he sent me a private message gently reminding me that if I needed a shoulder to cry on, he would be happy to meet me somewhere and suggested that perhaps we could “go out to the lake and just talk.” I thanked him but declined his offer, telling him I didn’t think my man – who has been wonderfully supportive – would appreciate that very much. This guy’s response? “No. You don’t have to be alone. He would want you to be happy. It’s okay to be with someone again.” That’s when it hit me: he thinks Tom was my current husband! I was nauseated and beyond offended when I realized his motivations. I responded to him, informing him that Tom was my ex-husband, my current man was very much alive and well, thank you very much, and “you are seriously coming onto me four days after you thought I was widowed? WTF is wrong with you??” He didn’t respond for a long time but finally replied that he hadn’t been hitting on me, and lamented the fact that he’s “always misunderstood.” I call bullshit…and told him so, pointing out that “he would want you to be happy” and “it’s okay to be with someone again” didn’t seem to allude to my living and breathing current man. Not only that, but I also reminded him that he didn’t even know Tom, let alone my current man, Mike, so who was he to presume “he would want [me] to be happy”? I never heard another peep out of him. And good riddance. Opportunistic bastard.
  • Don’t say “Let me know if you need anything.” Although you might really mean it, unfortunately this sounds trite and scripted, the same way it sounds when the cashier at your supermarket says “have a nice day.” More often than not, this is an empty sentiment, or at least sounds like one, that is ridiculously overused to the point that it is all but meaningless, regardless of how good your intentions are, and chances are, they’re not going to actually get a hold of you later and let you know if there’s something you can do. Not even to mention that it just goes without saying that they are going to need help with something. Don’t throw out a generic offer.  Do say “Tell me what I can do to help you; what do you need me to do for you?” Or if they specifically mention things they are going to have to deal with or face, say “I can do that for you; how do you want me to handle that?” This is much more sincere and will prompt them to actually think about what they need help with and also provides them an opportunity to take you up on your generous offer.
  • “Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone and get married again/have another child someday.” I find it more than a little disturbing that this, which by the way, is just about the worst thing you can possibly say to someone who has lost a spouse or child, even has to be mentioned. Do you really think someone who has just been widowed or experienced the death of a child cares even a little bit about finding a new spouse or having another child right now, you well-intentioned idiot? Would you? A grieving parent or spouse is not looking to replace their child or their husband/wife. This statement implies those treasured lost loved ones are expendable and replaceable.  Never say this, or anything remotely similar. Please. If you do say something like this to a grieving spouse or parent, I hope they punch you in the throat. Seriously.
  • Everyone grieves differently; respect that and don’t judge them for it. And by differently, I mean for cryingdifferent lengths of time and to varying degrees. About two weeks after Tom’s death, I was overcome one evening by a wave of intense grief.  Through tears, I posted a Facebook status stating I couldn’t believe this was really happening. A friend commented, “Why are you having such a hard time accepting this?” I felt as though he was implying that because Tom was my ex-husband, I should’ve long ago dried my eyes and carried on with the rest of my life…two weeks later. I felt like he was minimizing what had happened and that my grief wasn’t valid; or at least, not valid anymore, as though a bereavement period has an expiration date or deadline by which one should stop feeling sadness about the loss. I’m not saying that is what he meant, but that is certainly how his comment came across. Instead of offering condolences, he evidently felt the need to analyze my grief instead of simply respecting my feelings about the loss.  Everyone is different. The same person can grieve very differently for different deaths. No two grieving experiences are alike…even for the same individual.
  • Think twice before you speak; or even three times if you have to. And when in doubt, don’t say it. My first husband, who was also the father of  my three children and an active, always previously healthy Sagittarian, passed away from cancer in 2001 at the age of 33. When Tom, who was my second husband, was killed, a longtime close friend called me to express her condolences. She obviously cared about what had happened and having known Tom through me, she was concerned and also in shock about his death. She then blurted out with jaw-dropping insensitivity, “Wow; well, it’s a good thing you and Mike [my current Cancer cusp man] never got married or he’d probably be next.” Seriously? I was literally speechless when I heard those words (which is very unusual for a mouthy Aries such as myself). What has to transpire in someone’s brain to convince them that saying something like that is actually a good idea? (For the record, Mike let her have it. “Way to console your friend, you idiot,” he angrily texted her. She honestly didn’t understand what she had said that upset me. To her credit, when he spelled it out for her, she immediately texted an apology to me. But still…I can’t even begin to fathom how it entered her mind in the first place to think that, let alone actually speak it, as if it was some sort of backhanded implication that I’m a jinxed black widow and marrying me would be tantamount to a death sentence for any man.)
  • Check on the grieving person from time to time. Often, after the funeral or memorial service is over and the flowers have wilted, a bereaved person’s support network of friends and extended family begins to dwindle and the person is ultimately left alone to grieve. I’m not suggesting that you call them every hour on the hour to check on their well-being. What I am saying is just shoot them a quick text or phone call every week or so just to let them know you’re thinking of them or ask them how they’re doing. This lets them know you care and demonstrates your continued support during this difficult time and trust me, it makes a huge difference for them to know they’re in your thoughts and/or prayers.

Again, I’d like to reiterate that we the bereaved do understand you have only the best intentions, even if you say all the wrong things in your attempt to console us. There is nothing you can say that will ever make the pain go away, but that doesn’t mean you should stay silent. If you don’t know what to say, just tell them you don’t know what to say, but you’re thinking of them and are sorry for their loss. The important thing here is, don’t just say nothing.

The inscription on the top of Tom's urn. Truer words were never before spoken.

The inscription on the top of Tom’s urn. Truer words were never before spoken.

“Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?
I’ll find my way
Through night and day
‘Cause I know I just can’t stay
Here in heaven.”

~ Eric Clapton, “Tears In Heaven”