When I became a widow after my husband’s illness, here’s what I wanted and needed to hear: I was loved, my husband had been loved, and he had loved me. I wanted to hear and read friends’ memories of us together. I needed stories of our happiness together. His final illness had been long and hard, and our relationship became fraught with frustration over our new roles of patient and caregiver. He had been on seven different medications and was depressed and angry. We were not the same couple as caregiver and patient.
I realized it was hard for people to know what to say. The things I really didn’t want to hear were: at least he wasn’t in pain anymore, he was in a better place, and I still had my memories. But I did understand that the condolences, no matter how awkward, were given in the spirit of kindness and love, and I was grateful and comforted that people showed up or wrote me notes.