“This is god’s plan”
I quite literally almost used my bare hands to kill multiple very sweet-natured and kind women at my late husband’s funeral as they made their way up the multi-hour line to me at calling hours and said the four words that made my skin crawl, “This is god’s plan”. They could say literally anything else, why this?
Are you kidding me?! No. This is not God’s plan. It is fate and it is reality, but any God who would trick me into falling in love with a man so deeply that I often forgot where I ended and he began only to rip him away from me eight months and six days after I got the privilege to become his wife is no God I want anything to do with. No, don’t blame any god for this. That being said, everyone says the wrong thing to those grieving. We all want to help but have no words. Grief is a fickle bitch.
In a terrible set of events, two other girls I went to high school with were widowed one and two months before I was. I asked them their thoughts on this article and these are their responses:
“I definitely agree! I HATED the statements about “god’s plan” or “he’s in a better place” or “God needed him” — all bullshit. I needed him. I wanted to tell those people, “well I guess you’re lucky that God doesn’t need your spouse. Guess he wasn’t good enough””
“This. Yes, yes, yes. And, “I know how you feel…”. I’ve actually made some feisty comments back to people in these instances. We didn’t even say it to each other and if there was ever a time when that phrase could maybe be acceptable, that was pretty damn close, but just no.
But I love this article. It needs to be said!
This 50-something-year-old lady at work said, “Oh, I know how you feel. I lost my mom when I was 23”.
“Well, I lost my mom at 12, so it’s actually pretty different.”
Bitch. I still hate her for that.”
In honor of their experiences I would like to add “god’s plan”, “he’s in a better place”, “god needed him”, and “I know how you feel” to the list of things you just don’t say to a widow/er.
Here are a few options that will send the sentiment you are intending without inciting any rage:
“You are so loved my sweet”
We just lost our Love, we might need to be reminded that there are other people remaining on this earth to love us.
“My heart aches with you”
Misery loves company, we just don’t want to be alone.
“What have you done for yourself this week?”
With funeral planning and trying not to die it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. Gentle reminders to take care of our physical, mental, and spiritual health are usually welcome.
“What can I do today to make today better?”
Sometimes this answer is “my dishes” while others its say something to make me laugh and we’ll love you for either.
“What can we do together to help you feel joy?”
For a long time, we’re faking it till we make it. Remind us that while happiness might not be available at this moment, that joy never leaves us. It’s in a baby’s laugh, a stunning sunset, a musical score— help us remember that it is still there, in us.
“What ways do you enjoy remembering your late spouse?”
Everyone seems afraid to mention your spouse’s name. Like you forgot they died and they don’t want to be the one to make you cry. But we still love that person and talking about them might feel good.
“What makes you so mad you could scream?”
Your spouse dying can make you mad as hell. Let us let off some steam by breaking some bottles in the recycling dumpster out back or shooting up a stranger at paintball; healthy ways to release some of that inevitable anger in a safe space.
“I am sending you love and healing”
All of it. And keep it coming people.
“I think about you often” or “I’m thinking about you”
It’s always nice to be thought of and know well wishes are coming our way.
“Would it be okay for me to share a favorite/funny memory about your spouse?”
We love to know that our spouse brought people other than ourselves joy.
When your spouse has recently passed you live in a zombie fog of getting confused, feeling like dying and not having the capacity to remember when you ate your last meal or took your last shower. These are empowering words that can make widow/ers feel better and maybe even start to come out of their fog. Very, very slowly but eventually and with the help of their dear and wonderful loved ones.
These are only examples, but I know many widow/ers and 100% of them don’t appreciate people telling them “This is god’s plan”. I was afraid to bring this topic up at one of my young widows group, but once I did each of the other ladies had similar stories and feelings towards the phrase.
If you’ve done this in the past as many of us have. Don’t worry, once we know better we do better and I’m just trying to do my part to limit the number of unsuspecting neighbors getting choked out at funerals because no one offered them other suggestions. Consider this a public service announcement 🙂