Jerilynn is the author of the Facebook blog, “Broken: A Widow’s Journey Through Chronic Illness and Death”. She lost her husband, Eric, in December, 2015, to complications of End Stage Renal Disease. His bone, tissue and corneas were donated to 73 medical facilities in the USA and Malaysia. Three American people now see with Eric’s corneal grafts. Jerilynn currently resides in New England with her 12-year-old son. She is an impassioned advocate for organ and tissue donation awareness and hopes to promote a more realistic dialogue about bereavement and grief.
Nothing casts a pall of silence over a room faster than mention of my late husband.
I am not disingenuous enough to think that an anecdote about a dead husband would be a great icebreaker at a cocktail party.
What I am talking about is mentioning him because I am reminded of something funny he said or because I see a book he'd love to read or because I hear a political debate he would love to polemicize about.
I mention him the way other people mention their living spouses-almost breezily, and with a smile on my face-not the maudlin way that I am expected to mention him.
People respond this way because they are good people.
Good people who are at a loss for words when faced with someone's unspeakable loss. Think about that very phrase-unspeakable loss.
To me, that's an oxymoron, as I find the sound of silence about the dead to be deafening. Loss is meant to be spoken of; we teach people that doing so is distressing to the bereaved.
I think of my husband when I wake up, before I go to sleep, and every waking moment in between.
I think of his wry sense of humor and incredibly quick wit.
I think of the day he told me I could start a support group called "On and On and On and Onamous" because of my loquacious nature.
I think about how we would tease each other. I would insist I was always right and he would just demur, muttering, "Okay, Jeri. Even a broken clock is right twice a day."
I think about the time a woman in a buffet angrily accused me, much to my embarrassment, of taking the last of the chicken in a dish.
My husband skulked over to her and in a conspiratorial stage whisper, informed her, "Actually, they are cheap here and they use pigeons. Want me to go grab you a new one off the roof?" She left shortly thereafter.
I am smiling as I'm writing this, and I smile when I recall these incidents with others.
Even though he is gone, I can still share so much of him with the world.
We talk about our dead loved ones because they mattered and they always will.
We talk about them because we walk around the world with a heart that is both irreparably broken yet flowing over.
We talk about them because their imprint on the world is indelible.
We talk about them because their essence is entwined in every fiber of our being.
We talk about them because they gave us the courage to be completely shattered and at the same time rebuilt into something that is almost shatterproof, absorbent of others' sorrows, and imbued with a new-found empathy.
We need to talk about them.