I’m Sorry I Didn’t Respond to Your Email, My Husband Coughed to Death Two Years Ago
Rachel Ward

I’m not a widow, but my dad took his life while I was in college. I struggled with feeling my own grief, because I was raised to believe that no matter how bad you have it, someone else has it worse. I was relieved at the memorial service by examining each person in attendance and imagining which of them had already lost parents. I wasn’t alone in this grief. He did it over the summer, and I was back in class less than a month after his death. This sick thing had happened in my life, and I was more concerned about the people around me just trying to make small talk. They would ask, “How was your summer?” to be nice I’m sure. I’d say, “Not great.” I never elaborated and they never asked me to. I didn’t want to bring them down or make them feel uncomfortable for walking into a shitty situation they couldn’t have anticipated. For the whole semester, I kept that information close, but as an art student you get tired of having your deeply meaningful work dismissed as quirky. We were asked to do a self portrait for one assignment, so I drew a scared little rabbit wearing my clothes with a mask set aside on the ground that looked like my smiling face. The other students just saw the rabbit and said, “Aw, how cute!” When the next semester started, I opened up and made it a point to tell people what happened and what my work meant, which may have been a mistake, because I had a new teacher who thought she could use it as a great opportunity to psychoanalyze someone. The biggest help I ever received in getting over the shock was having a friend who would listen to my thoughts and treat them like the most normal, boring thing that has ever happened in the universe. People get depressed. People die. Being able to get the morbid thoughts out in the open, and not being told by happy people that I shouldn’t be thinking about those things, but being treated like it was perfectly reasonable made me feel human again. I think we have to get the darkness out of our system rather than suppressing it if we ever expect to resolve the grief.

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