Thursday, November 1, 2007

are there rules of etiquette for hanging out with a widow?

You know when you know someone really well and you have this picture in your mind of what his or her significant other would be like? And how sometimes you meet that person and you're just shocked?

My cousin was an incredibly flashy person. His life was about stuff: bigger and better stuff, flashier stuff, stuff that he could show off to anyone and everyone. He was the closest thing I'll ever have to a brother, but he wasn't exactly my kind of person. But then this year he married someone so interesting, so smart and so down-to-earth that I couldn't help but wonder why she'd want to marry him. And I wanted to be her friend.

And then my cousin died a few months after marrying her. He was very young and it's horribly tragic. It may seem like I'm glossing over all of this, but it's a whole other story. This story's about what happened next.

Now she's a widow and a very recent one. She's still in the stage where she's afraid to be out in public for long periods of time because she may just start sobbing. She and I have gotten together a few times since the funeral. Tonight we went the opera (a fantastic one) and then out for a drink.

Over the drink we were in the midst of a great conversation when she broke off and started to tell me that she didn't just marry my cousin; she married the whole family. She said she didn't think she'd ever remarry since she already had all of us. She also said she was thinking about artificial insemination because she really wants to have a kid but she's never going to be with anyone else. I told her that she shouldn't make those kinds of definitive statements when she's in her mid 30s, especially when she's still in the midst of the grieving process. She wasn't having any of that.

I feel somehow responsible for this, like I haven't given her enough space, and maybe if I just left her alone she'd snap out of it and talk like a normal person again.

And this long and potentially incredibly dull post brings me to my question: is there some sort of etiquette for hanging out with your cousin's widow? Somehow I think if I googled this I wouldn't get the kind of answers I'm looking for.



Emory said...

This is a very kind posting, and is telling of the kind of person you are.

Loss is very difficult, perhaps the most difficult of the Human experience, and one that we all must endure at one moment or another in our lives.

Your cousins spouse did marry a family, and not just your cousin. And it is important to recognize that she did not pass; it was only he.

She is young, and with time she will begin to live once again. It is said that time heals all wounds, but I think time can only dull the ache of loss.

I applaud your continued friendship with her, you are obviously a person of a deeper, kinder, nature. She will need you in her life for years to come, and hopefully your friendship will evolve beyond this very difficult time.

The caring of a widow should always be as gentle as gossamer, and especially so for a younger widow, that needs the companionship and warmth of family.

To be alone in the world is a difficult ache of its own, and it is important that she never feels loneliness and isolation - I think it is important that none of us ever feel such a way.

Your being inclusive of her, shareing with her, and wanting to evolve your relationship with her, is very consoling. Perhaps one day she may find your freindship difficult, because of this experience. Perhaps not.

There is no etiquette for human kindness and dare I say genuine love. We all should give in ever greater measure, these attributes.

A very nice post.

Thank you.

complain away said...

You're far too kind. I think you may have forgotten about the cousin-slamming at the beginning of my post when you wrote this.

Regardless, your vote is that I'm good on the etiquette front. I needed another opinion as it's been weighing on my mind. Thanks.