How Sad Do I Want People to Be?

3 years ago

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.



Jan Wilberg


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