Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Forget to Remember, Remember to Forget

Monday, March 3, 2014
Posted By: 
Diana Maggio-Gumushian

Being a widowed person can put you on the receiving end of a lot of unsolicited advice and judgments from people who have no clue what the hell they are talking about. One of the biggest ironies is the conflicting side of the same advice, and how it can change from scenario to scenario. I call it the side a/side b argument. You know, things like: you cry to much/you don’t cry enough; you’re too emotional/you’re not emotional enough; you’ve waited too long to do xyz/you didn’t wait long enough to do xyz; you’re staying home too much/you’re not staying home enough (you’re a widow for goodness sake)! Yes, we have all experienced the side a/side b scenarios.

Early in my widowed journey, I was afraid to forget things. Some concerns involved the day to day things that slipped through the cracks as I dealt with my grief. Others things were self imposed, like not wanting to forget the “anniversary" milestones of days, weeks, months since he passed. I paid special attention to significant holidays, personal dates of importance, and other things I had to be sure that I did not forget to remember. People were often dissatisfied with my remembering. They weren’t interested in remembering, because it was uncomfortable for them to be around me. They often suggested that perhaps I should allow myself to forget. They gave me permission not to act the way I wanted to. How nice of them.

At the same time, there were also individuals who took pleasure in reminding me how I wasn’t remembering properly. You know, the types that think they know what it’s like to be widowed, and want to educate us on how we should go about doing it in the proper fashion. You should not be allowed to forget when you are a widow- you must always remember the person you lost. Heaven forbid if you should try to move forward in a way that does not match what they deem to be an appropriate manner. They are happy to remind you not to forget, to keep your grief front and center, and above all, always remember. If you aren’t acting sad, sullen or heartbroken enough, they’ll let you know. If you are having fun, smiling, laughing, or socializing, they’re happy to scowl and let you know how inappropriate your behavior really is.

This Valentine’s Day would have been my 17th wedding anniversary. It was my 6th without him. Each year, I have done something different to remember it. Each year I have been judged, instructed, and reminded how I should or should not be doing this by individuals who still have, and/or have never lost, a spouse. I am happy with how I spent each anniversary since his passing. It is an evolving and ever changing need. While I felt compelled not to forget to remember in the beginning few years, I now sometimes feel like I have to remember not to forget. This doesn’t mean he’s not in my heart or mind... it just means that I am moving forward, oh so slowly forward, and that I have changed as a person. I would be concerned if I was still feeling now as I did six years ago. And so my frustration with people who think they can and should tell me how to be a good little widow, how to grieve, how to remember, how to forget - my frustration leads me to the understanding that I am the only one who knows what my journey is. So sometimes, I allow myself to forget to remember, and sometimes, I remember not to forget. And that’s just fine by me.


Your comment hit home. Tomorrow is my husband's angelversary.... He has been gone for two years now. Last year, I believe the best I could do was spend time with his father and breathe in and out. This year, our son is a Marine who is in the field and we can not talk to, our daughter is a silent griever. I decided to make a very public Facebook campaign of showing a lit candle on his page so his children could see it. Next year, who knows what will be needed.... it changes, it is not better, it changes....

I so appreciate your comments as this seems to occur frequently. I find it unbelievable when it is nieces and my family (not my own children) that act this way. It would be nice to not have my movements judged and just be supportive of what I do. I am just still trying to put one foot in front of the other and move forward in a positive and healthy manner. But, the judgment I feel can be a weight around me that I find very unfair. Thanks for articulating what I feel!

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