How Sad Do I Want Them to Be?

Wearing black for a year is a quaint custom but that’s what I think my husband should do when I die. I think he should wear black, eschew festive occasions, and only watch black and white TV, just the network stations, no cable, for an entire, long, gloomy year.

At the end of the year, he should go to Barbados for two weeks, sit on the beach drinking rum out of coconuts, proposition beautiful women, and come back a tanned, healthy, free man. Then he should get married again.

If I could manage his life from the grave like I’ve tried to manage it while living, that’s what I’d orchestrate for him. Intense, ‘throw your whole self’ into it’ mourning followed by the resumption of a great life.

There was a wisdom to clearly defined mourning, the custom of withdrawing from much of normal life, expecting frivolous people to keep a distance, recognizing the enormity of loss in a tangible, visible way. If I am dressed head to toe in black, it means that I am apart from you for this time, busy reflecting and mending myself. So leave me alone.

Oh! It’s not healthy to be alone when you’re in mourning. No? I think it is. We expect people to re-enter normalcy too soon after a loved one’s death. After my mother died, we all wanted Dad to join a new bowling league, have lunch with that single lady down the street, come visit us in another state. He would have none of it. He drew a tight circle and stayed in it, he traveled every week to her grave an hour away, he saw his old buddies now and then and went to the library. After a year, he started to look up and around, ready for new.

That’s what I want for the people I leave behind. For them to immerse themselves in grief and then wade out of it, come to the shore and be free to be happy.

12 Comments on “How Sad Do I Want Them to Be?

  1. I am enjoying the comments here nearly as much as the piece itself. I like the idea of trying to instruct someone how to grieve. I’ve never given it any thought, myself. I do like the thought of giving yourself wholly over to the grief for a period though. Thanks for linking up.


  2. The idea of death and grieving is somber, but the tone of this made me smile. Especially, “If I could manage his life from the grave like I’ve tried to manage it while living,” – if only we could do this 🙂


  3. Interesting read. People grief in so many different ways and what I got from this (the ending) is not to judge how others grief. Some head headfirst into a new life trying to forget the old one because they don’t want to experience pain; and, then, others go through the actual mourning period, reflecting on his/her life with the past loved one and coming to terms that they are no longer a couple. It’s hard to find your bearings and move on quickly when you’ve been with your wife/husband/significant other for many decades. I’ve been with my husband for 35 years and neither one of us can imagine a life without the other and having to go through that painful experience of once again being alone when one of us is gone. I enjoyed this.


  4. Terrific.. great opening, middle and end. When my mother died I thought I’d never pull out of it.. and the things people said I’ll never forget. We all experience grief so differently. And you have done it a great service. Great piece.


  5. A great introspective piece Jan:-)Grief ,I feel is very personal-each one of us deals with it differently and has a different grieving period -it also differs with the people who die-ie how close one felt to them.As for me,I would like to live on in such memories which make them smile and would hate it if they grieved for too long.


  6. Trying to tell someone how to grieve is like trying to tell them how to fall in love. Your piece seems to get that.
    I loved your reflections on it, though. fwiw, black would have been overkill for me – the grief itself was overwhelming the whole first year, and only marginably manageable the second. But he was young.


  7. Many of us have fleeting thoughts about death, about how chaotic lives of the ones we leave behind would be. But then, a comforting thought that makes it OK comes around; that time will heal…they will eventually shed their black cloaks; in spirit and otherwise…but everyone has a personal benchmark that should not be rushed because sooner or later they will find a beautiful sunset on the beach again…Thank you for the reminder:)


  8. Although my mom passed very unexpectedly at the age of 51, she did speak about the subject before hand to me. She said that she would not want me to be very sad. I replied sarcastically with a comment about throwing a fiesta or playing drinking games at her funeral. She laughed and told me that she would want the family to “cry, but not forever. And only a little bit.” That really stuck with me. I think it is important to talk about death culturally. You brought up a fantastic point about how we expect people to revert back to a normal life style too quickly. Everyone needs their own time. I was a senior in high school when my mom passed away in 2012, and although people were sympathetic, I was expected not to miss more than a week of school for the situation. Some things take time. Thank you for posting this. 🙂


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