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The Things People Say

Losing my husband 30 days ago is something from which I will never recover. I will painfully learn to live again because letting him or myself down is not an option. I will learn to live with a broken heart, adventures unshared, and dreams that will never come to fruition, but I don’t think I’ll ever recover!

I know people want to help, but don’t know how to help or what exactly to say to help. This urges me to write this so that if I can save ONE soul from having to hear words that cause their insides to shrink, that make their mind flip or ignite instant anger, I will. I write at the risk of hurting feelings, so if I might be able to save ONE soul from making mistakes I’m sure I made before it happened to me, I will.

When people walk up, call up, type up, and say “I know how you feel,” or “Been there, done that,” I want to scream “NO, YOU DO NOT! NO, YOU F@CKIN HAVE NOT!”  You are not me, and you did not watch DANA STERLING GETMAN take his last breath, you don’t know what I miss, what I loved most, what I’ll always regret, what we had planned, and what we shared. You can only guess, and you can only imagine. You don’t have a clue how it feels to be me! I know it doesn’t sound warm and fuzzy or huggy- feel-good to read this, and I’m okay with that. Growth rarely happens in comfort; the butterfly only becomes one via a struggle. So, if you are struggling right now, or struggle while further reading this, I lovingly invite you to lean into the struggle and there you will find growth! If you can, one day you may thank me.

I’ve tried hard to recall if I’ve ever said “I know exactly how you feel…” regarding someone dying. It’s not something I think I would say, but if I have, I would love the opportunity to apologize. As I think about it, how could I know how you feel? I’ve never lost a parent, a sibling, a child, or even a spouse before October 15th, and as I type this, I am amazed and aware of how blessed I am that I CAN type that at almost 60 years of age. I DO say to all of you who have lost loved ones “I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you must feel, how you must miss them moment after moment, how you must want to tell them/show them/share something with them and then remember all over again.” As I’m reminded of Dana, how he’s not physically here with me, that just breaks my heart all over again.  I don’t understand right now how a shattered heart can keep breaking. One day, I hope I’ll have more insight into this.

I hope in the future, I never tell someone who loses their spouse, “I know how you feel” because honestly, I won’t know. I have “preached” this concept for almost 30 years, so I’m hopeful I won’t. I strongly hold to the belief that no two humans are the same, no two people are alike, no two experiences are exact, and no two situations are identical. I stand firm on the belief that thoughts create feelings. You never feel anything without a thought as its basis, but that’s a whole other blog.

The truth is, we bring the baggage of everything we’ve lived previously as we enter any situation, and the thoughts and subsequent feelings will be as unique as our DNA and as varied as snowflakes. Therefore, if what we think determines what we feel, we can never KNOW what another is truly feeling, we can only imagine. And even in our wildest imaginations, we can’t really know. So hearing, “I can imagine how (fill in: devastated, shocked, sad, etc.) you must feel, I’m so sorry,” or even better, “I can’t imagine” seems to say it all. Hearing “I can’t imagine your pain” seems to strike the right chord for me.

How we process another’s words will be different for everyone! When I hear “I know how you feel,” or “Welcome to my world,” I hear “Save it, we’ve all lost someone, here’s my story, I don’t have time to learn what might be unique and different with your experience!” Or I hear “Welcome to HELL, this place sucks, glad I have company!” While I totally understand that NOBODY is meaning to convey that message, please understand it’s what I initially hear.

So, using a process I know works if you work it, I focus hard on breaking through the anger and confusion that smacks me in the face, even in my saddest moments, to seeing the heart of the person speaking and knowing in mine, they mean it for my highest good and are saying the thing they think I need to hear most. That’s exactly why I am here, sharing this. Maybe I can help others who might hear something like what I hear when someone says something that triggers them. It’s an opportunity to dig deep in the midst of their brokenness and hear from the heart, not for the other person’s sake, but for their own emotional and mental well-being. Mission accomplished.

Likewise, if I can share my struggle with those who might use phrases such as “Been there, done that” or “Welcome to my world,” this is an opportunity to become more aware and find another way to say ”I’m sorry you’re hurting, I care.” Again, mission accomplished.

Definitely not the end…

8 thoughts on “The Things People Say”

  1. What surprises me is how quickly a life can change in the blink of an eye. One minute making plans for the future and then it changes quickly to something very different. No words can help, just trying to find the positive or sadness moment to moment. The sadness dulls, but never goes away.
  2. Teresa, this is incredible! So much wisdom shared, and such a reality check for all of us. I recently completed a Stephen Minister Leadership Training and we have monthly meetings for the Stephen Ministers who visit folks. Would you allow me to share this valuable information with them in one of our future gatherings?
    I’m really sorry you even having to deal with this. I’ve always believed they are worth every tear, and also that it wouldn’t hurt so much if we didn’t love so much. Blessings as you move forward, taking Dana with you in your heart.
  3. Teresa, this is so beautiful, insightful, and something everyone needs to see. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I’m sorry you are having to go through this.

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