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You're Doing Better Than I Expected!

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Of all the things I've ever said to others in my efforts to comfort them after the loss of a loved one; "you're doing better than I expected" is the thing I regret the most.

Over the last 23 months many of my family and friends have said those same exact words to me many times. Each time I heard that; even though I tried my best to smile; what I really wanted to say was; "if you only knew how I'm really doing".

In the last 23 months I can count on one hand the personal phone calls I've made even to my own immediate family. If family didn't call me or stop by I wouldn't have intentionally contacted anyone. Not one of my "friends" have called since the first month after my husband's death.

Last month my husbands sister died without me having seen her even once since his death, in spite of the fact that we had been as close as sisters for 53 years.

She'd been home bound and after his death I couldn't manage to scrape up the courage to go visit her even once. I'd convinced myself that with her precarious health, seeing me would remind her of the loss of her beloved brother and could even endanger her health. We'd spoken on the phone a couple of times (she called me) and each time she'd completely broken down. I honestly felt I was doing her a kindness to avoid her.

When I heard she was dying I made up my mind to go see her, but I waited too long! At her funeral service I hugged my brother-in-law, told him that I loved him. I also told him that many people had asked me to call them if I ever wanted to talk. But that I hadn't believed they were sincere and had lived in self imposed isolation for 22 months. I asked him not to make the same mistake I had and to feel free to call me anytime.

He has taken me at my word and we see each other several times a week and talk on the phone almost daily. He's also continued going to church and also makes and effort to remain in contact with others who care about him.

With a 53 year family history and having raised our kids together we have a ton of wonderful memories to share along with our tears for the wonderful brother and sister we'd been fortunate enough to have shared our lives with.

The other night for an instant I thought about saying to him; "you're doing better than I expected". That's when I realized I wished I'd never said that to anyone. Because no one really knows how we're doing when we're all alone with our grief. In most cases; most certainly in mine, I wasn't doing better than anyone expected, but apparently I managed to put up a pretty good front.

By reaching out to my brother-in-law, I've learned a valuable lesson, I should have understood 23 months ago. If someone says, "feel free to call me anytime if you want to talk", they most likely really mean it!

And by taking them at their word, it may just turn out that you're the one who helps them just as much as they help you.

None of us is doing better than would be expected. We're each just struggling through one of the toughest situations we'll ever have to face in our lifetimes.

Through my sincere offer to be there for my brother-in-law, I'm also beginning to regain my ability to reach out to others for support for myself and make a sincere effort to emerge from a self imposed life of isolation! I've even managed to make a few phone calls and drive a few miles out of my comfort zone recently. :)

Edited by Tori
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I am sorry for the loss of your husband and your sister in law. Your brother in law is very lucky to have you there for him as he faces this tragic time in his life. Good job on the strength you have gained as a person you give hope to others such as myself that are new in this. Thank you.



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Tori, I am sorry you lost your husband and your sister. There is no greater teacher than that of experience...we can be told things and "know them" but we REALLY know them when we experience them. You have applied what you have learned in an effort to help someone else, and that is what we all hope to do in face of all we have gone through. Well done!

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I'm sorry for your losses, and I think it's wonderful that you've reached out to your brother-in-law.

But I have another opinion on "you're doing better than I expected."

Not everyone who tells us that means it in the sense that "you exceeded what I thought you were capable of doing." Some people may mean it that way, true, and we can't and shouldn't try to live up to what anyone else expects. But I think that sometimes, the person who makes the comment is really complimenting us.

We don't always see ourselves as others see us. So though we don't think we're managing very well - maybe we're really progressing but just can't see the gains we've made because our grief skews our perception.

I'm encouraged when people tell me I'm handling my loss well, even when I don't feel that way myself. I know that right now, my view of the world and myself has changed and I don't see things as clearly as I could before my husband died. At least, when I hear that I'm "holding up well," I ask myself, "Am I, really?" And sometimes, I see signs of healing I missed before.

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KathyG thank you for pointing out how you see the comments when you hear them.

Though we're all traveling the same journey; our paths are bound to vary in many ways!

It helps to know that perhaps others weren't hurt by my comments after all. It's always nice to have a helping hand to allow us to view things from anothers perspective. :)

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