I’ve been sitting on this topic for a while. And I have a follow up one already planned in my head.
Today, I want to talk about death.
Yes, I have primarily talked about death and what goes along with it since starting this page. But today, I want to specifically talk about cause of death and the way our society reacts to it.
My husband died by using opiates. I have met many widow(er)s whose spouses died from overdoses or by suicide. There are also many who lost their spouse due to a long-term illness, an unexpected cardiac event, a tragic accident.
The list of potential ways to die is endless.
The end result is always the same.
And a group of people left behind who are deeply affected by such a profound loss.
The problem is that society doesn’t see it this way. There is some unwritten and unofficial ranking of death that places one person above another on the scale of loss.
And I, for one, am sick of it.
For the most part, I have not come across a single widowed individual who feels this way about the ranking of loss. We all know the pain and utter despair losing our person has caused. And we wouldn’t wish it on a single other person. No matter the method. Not ever.
But those who have not been through it somehow feel as though they have a right to judge.
I can’t tell you how many times after seeing a posting about someone who has passed that I read the comments section and the first thing anyone says is, “how did they pass?” – followed shortly, as if an afterthought, by the requisite “sorry for your loss”.
Does that matter? Will the cause of death determine how sorry you actually are that this person’s life has ended? Will it be any more or less tragic if it was an accident, an illness or self-inflicted?
It shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t matter.
I have told many people about my current marital status in the ten months (today, actually) since losing my husband. Not everyone asks how it happened, but many do. They are curious because I am so young how I could have been married and widowed already. And then I tell them how he died. And the silence that follows is deafening.
If I told them he was in a car accident, he had a rare genetic disorder, he was sick with cancer – would I get a different response? Probably.
They would be more likely to feel sad for him and for me and his family.
But because he died as a result of substance abuse and poor mental health after a lifetime of trauma, his death no longer matters.
I can’t be quiet about this anymore.
Every death matters.
Every life matters.
So the next time you encounter someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, please try to tuck your curiosity away. And instead of asking how they died, consider asking how they lived. Ask the person to share their favorite story of their loved one. Or even ask what they did for a living.
Their death matters. The cause of it does not.