My father is struggling, and well-meaning people are making it harder.
Since my stepmother’s sudden death in July he is working very hard to build a new life. He is desperately sad, having lost a woman who in every sense of the word completed him. He knew she was for him right away – the first words he ever spoke to her were along the lines of, “Please don’t go yet. My name is E____, and I’m going to marry you.”
Yes, he really did.
He is very active. He still works, sees friends and family, travels. He’s mourning, but he’s living life.
He is a creature of habit and order, which serves him well in his career as a Certified Public Accountant, and has served him well as he processes his grief. He expects people to say what they mean, and mean what they say. Growing up it was a hard standard to meet (especially for a tried and true procrastinator like myself) but an excellent example, and all five kids are better off for it. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. Few things annoy him more than lack of follow-through, professionally and personally.
That’s why it is so frustrating to him for people to tell him, “I’ll call you. We’ll have you over for dinner…” The offerers are being wonderfully compassionate in the moment – letting my Dad know that they support him, that he’s cared about and not alone. I understand and appreciate that, and so does he.
But please don’t offer and then not follow through. It’s not that he’s so desperate to spend time with you (although it would be lovely). It’s just that it creates another loose end. At this time of his life, when he’s feeling so let down by the events of the last few months, he’s counting on order and routine more than ever before. So when he’s reflecting about things, and remembering that so-and-so came to Shiva and gave him their best wishes and insisted they get together but then never calls, it annoys him.
So, please, before you tell someone who’s grieving that you’re going to invite them to get together, make sure you’re going to follow through. And then do.