Talking about my husband was imperative to me. I didn’t care that it made people uncomfortable, it was a natural thing for me. He was the other half of me for 30 years, was I supposed to put all of those memories in storage and not bring him up in conversation? Impossible.
Talking about the dead makes people squirm in their seats. Why? Are they afraid they are going to hear us talking about them (which of course they do but we’ll talk more about that later)? Are they concerned speaking their name out loud will upset us or remind us our person is gone? We are already sad and well aware that our person is no longer here so let us talk about them!!
I would be lying if I said talking about them is easy, it’s not. Like everything else on this part of your journey, it takes time for it to become “normal” (whatever that is) to talk about them. It’s painful to say their name and to hear others use their name in the past tense especially the fist few times it happens. I promise the pain is worth the reward. Hearing stories about what your person contributed to the people around them makes it all worthwhile. The more freely you can talk about your person the more others will share their memories and that meant everything to me.
I was at a graduation party, one of my first solo outings after Mike left, and I was sitting at a table of about 10 friends. Everyone was conversing and someone mentioned how good the cake was and I said “Mike would have loved this cake”. The conversation stopped and all heads turned to me with that wide eyed deer in the headlights look of surprise. Then everyone looked down at the table and the conversation ceased. It took me a few seconds but I gathered myself together and I told them to not get weird when I speak his name. I said that I needed to talk about him and that they should too! He was your friend for a lot of years, that hasn’t changed because he is no longer here physically.
I needed people to tell me stories about him even if I may have already heard them, I will never tire of hearing about him and the memories people have. I wanted them to share with me the heartwarming stories, the stories about the time they spent with him before I even came along, the things he did and said that made them laugh or even cringe, the antics they shared and the times they cherish the most. I wanted to hear it all. Frequently I listened with tears streaming down my face when people shared their stories, but I wouldn’t let that stop them.
Talking about him was my way of keeping him close to me but it was also an important part of the healing process. The more I spoke about him the easier it got and eventually I was able to speak about him without my voice cracking. We have to talk about our people. Talking about the time we shared with them and the memories we made is a way of honoring their contribution to our life.
Sharing stories about Mike with our grandchildren brings me, and them, joy. It took us a while to be comfortable with talking about him but now I can share stories of his life, what he believed, what he loved and what he valued. I tell them when they do or say something that reminds me of him and we frequently use sayings or phrases he said that make us smile and laugh. One of my grandchildren was quite young when Mike died yet she talks about him as if she knows him well because she has heard us talk so openly about him.
Some people shy away from speaking about our people when there are children within earshot. Why? Kids are pretty darn smart! Give them some credit and let them in on the conversations. They have memories to share and pain to be worked out as much as we do. They deserve to hear what that person meant to you and how you are feeling. If you don’t allow them to be part of the conversations, they will have a hard time processing what they are feeling. Let them share and let them ask questions and be honest about what you believe. Tell them what you believe happens when we die if that’s what they want to know. Children and curious people, let them be a part of the process and hopefully the next time they have to face the death of someone they love it will be a little easier to tolerate.