So Kalissa and were out and met someone we both know. I’ve known the person for 25 years at least. We aren’t close friends but I know them and consider them to be a very nice person. Carver was with us. We were chatting. Carver was restless so I took him off and helped him and was away from the conversation.
After a short bit Kalissa caught up to me and said, “Oh my, that was awkward.” I didn’t know what was up, so I asked, and she told me that after I left with Carver, the person asked- “So how’s your mom’s cancer?” Then following that response she asked, “How’s she doing without your Dad?”
People, STOP! Please STOP! I am not mad about this. It’s human nature. We all wonder about the widow in the room. We all wonder about the person with medical issues. We all want to ask. We all wonder. It’s natural. It’s normal and it’s entirely okay. But…let’s find a better way to ask about it.
We all have been places and all of us were aware that there was “an elephant in the room”, a topic people wanted to talk about yet didn’t.
So…today I’m writing this to help you all who feel uncomfortable talking about the “elephant”.
Number one thing I want everyone to know:
I don’t mind if anyone talks to me about Kramer (my husband who died in June of 2019). I don’t mind it a bit. I love it in fact. By you talking about him, it lets me know that someone else besides me is missing him. It also lets me know that you care about me. Talking about him lightens my load and the grief we bare is shared. The load is lightened. That’s awesome. Yes, I might get a tear in my eye with a shared memory but that tear isn’t hurting me. It’s helping me.
The problem is…how does one mention “the elephant”? How do you bring it up in conversation?
Here’s my suggestion:Say:
“I’ve been thinking of you. I imagine with Kramer gone, things are different”.
WHAT AN AWESOME THING TO SAY!!!!!!!
It lets me know that you are thinking about me and care. You aren’t reaching for idol gossip. You aren’t sounding nosey. You sound caring and you are acknowledging the elephant in the room.
If the widow wants to talk about it, the door is open. The widow can go on and say something like, “It is hard…but I seem to doing okay but still have moments…..(and expand on them)”
If the widow doesn’t want to talk about it, we can close the door. We can say, “It really is different”. Conversation over…yet, the widow will know you cared. The elephant was addressed, you can move on to other conversations.
Here’s something else you could say:
“I was thinking of you (or Kramer) the other day when this happened………(tell story) and it reminded me of something Kramer would have done.”
Anything like that is awesome. It really opens the door. It sounds thoughtful and concerning.
Saying nothing is okay if you can do it without “putting an elephant in the room”. Many can’t. In fact, I’ve learned to open that door myself from time to time. Here’s an example.
Kalissa were at the cemetery. She had bought a big spray of flowers to go over the stone.
It disappeared. The spray is no longer there. We don’t know if it blew away or someone took it. We were looking trying to see if it was somewhere. We ended up meeting Kramer’s boss and his wife who were also at the cemetery. I ended up telling them that we were wanting to find these…plant stands…
(if anyone knows where to order these plant stands from, please let us know)
…and we’d put on each side of his stone. I made a joke that Kramer would have just welded them together and I wouldn’t have to shop for some. Then we all enjoyed a moment reminiscing on how “over built” Kramer made everything. It was nice for all of us and there was no “elephant in the room” moment.
Please remember, we widows deal with people all the time. We are seasoned in dealing with people who are uncomfortable talking but wanting to talk. It’s okay to address the elephant. Most of the time, we widows can help guide you through it…and that’s okay to. As much as you don’t want to make us uncomfortable, we don’t want to make you uncomfortable either.
Chances are, widows are going to break down in big ugly tears is really slim, so don’t be afraid. Just ask…but ask us it a caring way…whatever you do, just don’t quiz a family member after the widow or patient has left the conversation. This made Kalissa feel bad like she was talking behind my back (being I was just there). That didn’t make Kalissa feel good at all.
Now…when addressing someone’s medical condition.
Again the caring approach is best– “I was thinking about you the other day and realized I hadn’t kept up on your medical condition, how are you?” or, “The last I heard, you were going through some tests. How did they turn out?”.
Doesn’t that sound nice or caring?
Again…just address the elephant in the room. It’s entirely okay as long as you are coming at it from a caring way– Not a way that you are going to gossip about or be digging for information…do it in a caring way.
I don’t mind talking about things one single bit. Of course I have some days when it’s super easy….some when I might have tear….every day I like to hear someone thought of me or cares.
Throughout life, there are so many “elephants”. Our son Buck has dealt with it during a divorce. Kramer and I dealt with it when we had to file bankruptcy after a bad farming experience in the 80’s. Kalissa dealt with it some when Gannon was having so many troubles.
Whatever the problem or concern, please always remember, it’s only an “elephant in the room” if we don’t address it. If we talk about in a gentle, caring way, it just becomes a moment shared. That is so much better and both parties will walk away feeling lighter, knowing we didn’t let “the elephant” bring us down.