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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 expecting to attend a social event:
Be warned: the people you are spending the occasion with may not realize the importance of mentioning your loved one. Instead, they may think that not not If you mention it, it will be better because they don’t want to ‘hurt you’ or ‘make you cry’. Now this may 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 just lost an important person (or pet) in your life – you have four choices:
1. You say nothing and internalize the hurt and anger (not recommended).
2. You tell someone that not mentioning your loved one really hurts.
3. You carry a memory of the person in your mind and share it.
4. You leave – either in agonized silence or after a spectacularly-fit silence (highly recommended – please see below).
If you are hosting a party or family function and one of your guests has recently experienced the loss of a loved one:
Here is a snippet of my personal experience that you can find of use (this scene took place two months after the sudden death of my 32-year-old husband):
“HE’S GONE!” I screamed, “BUT SHE’S NOT FORGOTTEN!”
Then I ran 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 snowstorm on this particular evening in early December, I have to stand at the door, after my embarrassing explosion, to put on my jacket, shorts and boots. Only then do I charge down the front icy pavement, stomping as madly as possible in my new ridiculously high-heeled boots. I get into my car, slam the door and slowly inch my way home on icy roads.
“They didn’t roast John!” I cried into the phone from my living room.
“Maryanne?” said Dawson, on the other end of the line. “What’s wrong?”
“I was (blood) on my mother’s birthday and my family didn’t even put it (som) in the toast before dinner. I just can’t believe them!”
“You want me to come?”
A few minutes later the doorbell rang. But not Dawson; is Dale’s wife.
“So they sent you, huh?” I say.
“I’m very angry.”
“Oh, we gathered that.”
“I can’t believe my own family. Not one person mentioned John all night – not even in a toast for my mother“
My teacher grimaced. “Everyone feels just awful about it but I think we all figured we’d try and give you a break from the hurt.”
“Huh!” I gave a shrill laugh. “Well that certainly didn’t work.”
“You’re right. We messed up and I’m sorry.”
“Mention John’s name and talk about him,” I said, “that’s really important to me because if we don’t, he’ll be forgotten.”
“You know, Maryanne, that at this dinner table tonight, John was on every one of our minds?”
I shrugged. “If nobody said anything, how would I?”
The doorbell rang. I let Dawson in.
“Okay,” he told him. “We made a mistake.”
“It happened,” he replied. “It’s hard to know what they’re saying sometimes.”
“Here’s a tip then,” I said. “Not to mention John will bury him a heck of a lot faster than dirt is thrown on his grave.”
I found the double-goldfish (both mouths open). Has the beautiful widow’s facade finally crumbled?
And there you have it. If you are honest and open with people who honestly love and support you, then most people will try to do better – if they know Better. Unfortunately, it’s usually people who are grieving the recent loss of a loved one who get stuck bringing death to the party. But even though loss and grief are facts of life; they can be significantly relieved when shared memories – instead of avoided – are put on the table.
Because trust me, an elephant in the living room should not be ignored.
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