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Taking Death to Parties – Why Mentioning a Loved One Who Has Recently Passed Away Matters
If you have recently lost a loved one and are expected to attend a social event:
Caution: the people you spend the occasion with may not realize the importance of mentioning your loved one. Instead, they may think that with not if they mention him/her, that will be better because they don’t want to ‘hurt you’ or ‘make you cry’. Now, that might be A-Okay with you.
But if it’s not and you discover, to your growing disbelief, that everyone is politely avoiding the elephant in the living room — the fact that you’ve recently lost an important person (or pet) in your life — you have four options:
1. You say nothing and internalize hurt and anger (not recommended).
2. You tell someone that not Listing your loved one really hurts.
3. Bring up a memory of the person yourself and share it.
4. Leave – either in agonized silence or after a spectacular whistle (highly recommended – see below).
If you are hosting a party or family event and one of your guests has recently experienced the loss of a loved one:
Here is an excerpt from my personal experience that you may find helpful (the following scene took place two months after the sudden death of my husband of 32 years):
“LEFT!” I scream, “BUT IT’S NOT FORGOTTEN!”
Then I run out my cousin’s front door, leaving behind a house full of family trying to celebrate my mother’s seventy-fifth birthday. However, since there is a blizzard on this particular evening in early December, I must stop at the front door, post my embarrassing outburst, to put on my jacket, gloves and boots. Only then do I make my way down the icy front hallway, stomping as angrily as possible in my new ridiculously high-heeled boots. I get into my car, slam the door and drive slowly home on icy roads.
“They didn’t toast John! I whisper into the phone from my living room.
“Marian?” says Dawson, on the other end of the line. “What’s up?”
“I was (crying) at my mom’s birthday and my family didn’t even include him in the toast before dinner. I just can’t believe them!”
“You want me to come;”
A few minutes later the bell rings. But it’s not Dawson. she is Dale’s wife.
“So they sent you, huh?” I say.
“I’m quite angry.”
“Oh, we got that.”
“I can’t believe my family. Not one person mentioned John all night – not even in a toast to my mother.“
My sister-in-law is shivering. “Everyone feels awful about it, but I think we all thought we’d try to give you a break from the hurt.”
“Ha!” I let out a shaky laugh. “Well, that sure didn’t work.”
“You’re right. We messed up and I’m sorry.”
“Getting John’s name out there and talking about him,” I say, “is very important to me because if we don’t, he’ll be forgotten.”
“Do you know, Marian, that at that dinner tonight, John was on all of our minds?”
raise my soulders. “If no one says anything, how would I do it?”
The ring bells. I let Dawson in.
“Well,” she tells him. “We were wrong.”
“It happens,” he replies. “It’s hard to know what to say sometimes.”
“Here’s a tip then,” I say. “Not mentioning John will bury him a lot faster than the dirt they put in his grave.”
I get the double goldfish (both mouths open). Is the fair widow’s facade finally crumbling?
And there you have it. If you are honest and open with people who genuinely love and support you, then most people will try to do better – if they do I know better. Unfortunately, it usually comes down to the person grieving the recent loss of a loved one who gets stuck bringing death to the party. But even though loss and grief are facts of life. these can be greatly relieved when shared memories – instead of avoidance – are put on the table.
Because trust me, an elephant in the living room should not be ignored.
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