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Color Coding Widows and other Insensitive Things

I wish the world would go back to color-coding people, or rather the clothing society requires us to wear. You know what I mean---make all the widows wear black for a year, have all the harlots wear red to advertise their wares. Protect all the virgins with pale pink. We could even take the color-coding a step farther and put all the hot heads in neon orange and the people into Zen could wear sky blue. Think how much easier life must have been when the good guys all wore white hats and the bad guys wore black---well, at least they did in the movies of my youth. I suspect in the real Old West it wasn’t quite that simple. But then again, stereotypes some times are based in fact and in the case of color, also on the availability of dyes for clothe. There was a time in the history of the world, for example, when it was against the law for anyone but royalty to wear purple because the dye was so scarce. Another example of dyes dictating status or occupation could be found in turn-of-the century coal miners who only wore white because the dyes from colored clothing would get absorbed in their skin when they sweat and make them sick.


What got me to thinking about color coding widows is the general topic of insensitive things people say to us. This is a common complaint in widow circles and usually I can chalk up the insensitive remarks I hear as people just being inept at wording their concerns and attempts to comfort. Maybe that’s because I much prefer to put words on paper when I have something important to say. On paper I can edit and hone the message; in person I could very well be one of those people who unknowingly say something too blunt, too cheery, too stupid or too crass. So when I hear someone else say something insensitive I’ll rewrite it in head to what I think they really mean. But what I struggled to rewrite today came as a note in the Christmas card. It said, “I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas now that you don’t have Don to take care of.”


Why, yes, I am! I’m out singing Christmas carols in the streets every night. I’ve rented a sleigh and I’ve been delivering gifts to orphans by day. I’ve stocked up on champagne for the dozen parties I’ve planned and I have a tree up in every room. Oh, and guess what! It’s not because I feel “Free at Last, Free at Last” it’s an attempt to fill the giant, frigging hole Don’s absence left behind in my heart. If I was wearing widows black people might be reminded that I’m still experiencing my first year of firsts and holidays are anything but joyous. If I was wearing widows black I’d have an excuse if I wrote a reply like above and dropped in the mail. If I was wearing widows black others would understand why I got up in the middle of a Christmas luncheon at the senior center and rushed out of the room in tears. But I’m not wearing widows black and people don’t say insensitive things to be mean. People do care and when I’m in the mood to be fair to the person who wrote that Christmas card note I’ll rewrite her note in my head to read something like this: “You spent so many years caring for Don. I hope you are taking care of yourself during this difficult first year without him.”


I’ve become obsessed by the skin on my forehead. It feels like the pair of lizard skin shoes I used to own in 1970---who am kidding? I still have those high heels tucked in the back of my closet. No, I’m not a shoe hoarder. Not even close. Also in the back of my closet is one memorable outfit from each decade of my life. Those heels are part of an ensemble from my man-shopping days; the time of my life when I first met Don, and then traded my high heels in for tennis shoes. When I earmark an outfit to represent this decade of my life I think it will be all black. In the meantime, does anyone have a good cure for lizard skin on foreheads? ©

My other blog is here.

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Comment by Joyce on December 17, 2012 at 5:33pm

Sometimes the insensitivity of people boggles my mind.  Makes me think they've never really cared for a person if they could write that to someone else.  Your restraint is amazing.  Hugs!

Comment by kshy on December 16, 2012 at 4:31pm
Ouch!! What is wrong with people?! I can only agree with others' comments and reactions here. But I do understand what you are saying about "color coding". While I am glad that certain traditions have changed, there is something to be said for wearing the black of mourning. Or something that would communicate our current "compromised" state...alerting/reminding people to THINK before they say something insensitive...but our fast-paced society just doesn't seem to have time for death, or the patience for grief, despite the skin on your forehead, and the haggard, hollow-eyed zombie look I have been wearing for the past half year...
Comment by Blue Snow on December 16, 2012 at 4:13pm

Thanks Renee and Hendrixx2 (and others I've already thanked). It's SO nice to be in a group where people understand.......

Comment by hendrixx2 on December 16, 2012 at 1:27pm

Hi Snow,

I too rewrite what folks say in my mind; i'm willing to believe that most folks are not trying to be harsh or insensitive, but just do not understand. Many times that does not exclude me from thinking of all manner of other things about the statement at the moment tho. As far as color may be on to sometging; if that were so, it might just make things a bit easier for everyone. At least there would be no real excuse for some of the things widows are forced to hear.  Thanx...Peace

Comment by Renee on December 15, 2012 at 12:39pm

Blue, I think for the most part people mean well it usually just comes out rude.  What they

don't get is when you love someone you take care of them.  Besides having children the next

most honorable thing I ever did in life was take care of my husband, did he want to be that sick

of course not, but it brought us closer together in a way that I will never experience again.  It showed

me just how powerful love really is, I would have done anything for him and would have taken care

of him for the rest of my life if I could have.  My friends avoid the subject of my husband, I'm not sure

what is worse. ((((HUGS))))

Comment by Blue Snow on December 15, 2012 at 6:10am

Thank you all for the comments and for understanding how shocking it is to hear/read comments like that. I think Bonni hit the nail on the head that people who think like that have never cared for someone they loved deeply. I didn't feel tied down like people assume that you are when you're with your spouse 24/7. If I had felt tied down I'm a smart enough person that I could have put Don in daycare a couple of days a week or hired a sitter occasionally. But he and his wheelchair were portable and he was funny to be---entertaining even in illness. And even before his stroke we did everything together including work and pleasure. It's not a sense of freedom that I and other long-time caregivers feel after our spouses die, it's a huge empty and lonely hole both in our hearts and in our days.

As for suggestions to have a direct confrontation, that's not my style. I will instead copy this blog into my other blog where it will serve to educate a few family and friends who have never dealt with loss.

Comment by kimkirt (KK) on December 15, 2012 at 4:32am
Oh my frickin' lord! You are a saint! How awful that card is! I got one addressed to " Steve and Kim". I thought, if you don't know me well enough to know my husband died over a year ago you shouldn't be sending me a friggin' obligatory Christmas card. I fired a card back and wrote in it about my husband dying and wrote " Merry Christmas!" At the bottom. Whatever! You, my dear, deserve a gold medal pinned to that black outfit. Hugs!
Comment by bj628(Bonnie) on December 14, 2012 at 7:20pm

Blue I have known you over 9 years..... My mouth dropped to my knees when I read what was inside the card..

When I lost LH in 1979... I had been running a dialysis machine at home 3 x a week.  I remember some similar comments.. a bit more subtle. I think my look may have stopped them from continuing.. nothing written.

I know your care giving of Don... I loved your Blogs and adventures you 2 had.  I could always feel the love between you both. 

This person. obviously has not cared for someone they loved.

I think my first reaction.. would be to write a note explaining Love .and use the card as TP and send it back to them.  

For your forehead Dermasil with retinoyl .. Nivea and others make creams also but you want the one with the retinoyl ( not sure I spelled it quite right). Dr's and dermatologist have the stronger prescription strength. kind of a little skin peel.   Burt's Bees has a lot of natural lotions made from beeswax.  ( I even used the lip balm on the incision on my hand and even though its only been not quite 2 months the scar is barely noticible.

Sending you a BIG Bunch of Hugs..   ( ok i know you understand I am cussing like ..... to the person who wrote that card.

Comment by Dianne in Nevada on December 14, 2012 at 5:48pm

Wow ... I actually said OMG out loud after reading what they wrote. Amazing. I did have someone start to say something similar to me and then they stopped in mid-sentence and just gave me a hug. But writing it in a card?  Doesn't everyone reread what they've written before sending it?  Guess not.

Comment by AEDforever (Ali) on December 14, 2012 at 4:33pm lady ..are a saint for showing restraint.  How could ANYONE read that message out loud to themselves and think it sounds anywhere near okay? wtf?  Be fair to that person?  I'm sorry, but in my opinion that person needs to know how insensitive those comments really are. Perhaps not with sarcasm, but certainly with some kind of response that lets them know ...again wtf?  If no one ever tells that person, they will never know how clueless they are.

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