Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

"You Don't Know What It's Like..."

Monday, September 24, 2012
Posted By: 
Diana Maggio-Gumushian

Today, we welcome guest blogger, Diana Maggio-Gumushian, whose husband, Joe, died in 2008.  Diana lives with her two sons on the northwest side of Chicago.  Thanks for sharing, Diana!


My husband Joe was 39 when he passed away suddenly in his sleep in July 2008. My sons were seven and three, and I couldn’t begin to imagine how I was supposed to raise them alone, to go on, and live, and be happy. In the years that have followed, I’ve been fortunate to have people support me, even when they sometimes didn’t understand me. So many times on this journey, I’ve silenced my urge to scream “you don’t know what it’s like!” to some of the more ill-placed thoughts, words and emotions from well meaning, but often clueless, people. Finding widow support groups gave me a comfort I felt no where else. They allowed me to commiserate with other widow/ers, which meant I could cry, laugh, curse, scream, vent, fall apart and heal in a safe place. The groups also helped me accept, acknowledge, and appreciate the comments from non-widowed people who meant well but truly, didn’t know what it’s like.

This past Labor Day weekend my boys and I were invited to spend the weekend camping with a family who befriended us after Joe died. Tom, the father of the family, and Joe never met each other, but they would have been great friends. Joe was a hands on, outdoorsy, can fix it or build it anything, likes to fish, down to Earth guy. Tom is very much like that, and my boys enjoy the companionship, attention, and male bonding they get from being around him and his 3 boys. But, it also makes them miss Joe. I see it in their faces, and I feel their sadness in my own heart.

Three days into our weekend, my oldest son came up to me, hugged me, and said “Mom, I miss dad. Why can’t he be here? Why did he have to die?”  “I know you miss him. I miss him too. I can’t answer that. I don’t know why he had to die,” I replied as I have so many times over the last four years. It never gets any easier. I hugged him, fought back the tears, and watched him as he looked at Tom with his sons. I knew what he was feeling, even before he said it. Noah walked crying into the campsite tent. Tom’s son followed him in and asked “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Noah wailed loudly “I miss my dad. I miss him all the time. I haven’t seen him since I was seven years old. That’s over four years since I’ve seen him! You get to see your dad every day, and I never get to see my dad. The only way I’ll ever see him again is when I die. You don’t know what it’s like.”

The words cut through me like a pain I haven’t felt in a very long time. To hear him verbalize what I often censor myself from saying…it brought such pain. I felt like the clueless one. As much as I feel that others don’t understand what it’s like to be me, I don’t really know what it’s like to be my son, a boy who lost his dad. We all lost the same person, but what that loss means to each of us individually is unique. I give my boys opportunities to express their feelings, to be sad, mad, angry, upset, fearful or whatever else they feel. But sometimes, you just need someone who knows.

As a widowed parent, I think I am more sensitive to wanting my children to feel “normal and accepted.” I know this won’t always be possible. Just as I sought out support for myself, we have attended a monthly family grief support group since August 2008. Two weeks after this difficult Labor Day weekend, we attended the annual family group overnight camp. The timing couldn’t have been more welcomed or needed. It gave the boys the chance to be with other kids who have lost a parent, to feel understood, accepted, and not outside the norm. I wish that none of us ever had to know what it’s like, but since we do, I will continue to seek out the company of others who understand through experience, so that at least, for a short while, none of us have to think or feel “you don’t know what it’s like.”

Sometimes, the knowing is all you need.

Add new comment