Adding Insult To Injury

by admin on July 9, 2009

I was widowed at the very young age of 32, after seven years of a terrific marriage. My friends were great in the first months, but as time went on it became clear that my regular circle was excluding me from things we normally did together. No, in the first months I didn’t feel like doing much of anything, but this was still going on for over a year after my husband passed away.

It’s rude to question why you weren’t invited to something, but they would talk about their excursions and dinner parties in front of me afterwards. By this time I was ready to get out of that silent, too-empty house a bit. Finally I mentioned it to a friend. She kind of squirmed, and said that everyone was a couple, so they thought I’d be uncomfortable. I said I’m still quite capable of striking up conversations with other adults by myself.

This went on and on and I was hurt, but what can you do? Then came the worst of all.

Two VERY longtime friends were getting married. I knew they’d mailed out invitations, and was waiting for mine to arrive. The bride called and told me I was not being invited. They knew it would depress me, and she was calling to explain so I would understand and “not be hurt.”

Ever been in one of those situations where you’d normally say something in your own defense, except that you’re too stunned that this is actually happening? Well, this was one of those times.

I hung up, feeling really hurt, then I got madder than a hot place. Being widowed is bad enough without other people treating you as if they’re afraid they’ll catch it.

I never said anything to the couple, but I did have a talk later with her sister, who seemed to share the bride’s opinion that I’m not capable of deciding for myself whether I’m up to attending a social event. At that point I start deleting people from my list of friends.

I am now happily remarried.

And I hope you have a new circle of friends who won’t patronize you while in mourning.  People will often commit faux pas with the best of intentions, not realizing that if they were to step away and look at their actions from an orthogonal perspective, they’d reconsider what they intend to do. 

I suggest the following book,  How Can I Help?: How to Support Someone Who Is Grieving by June Kolf,  as a great resource for learning how to interact with those who are in mourning.  In fact, I’ve given away more copies of this book than any other.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ling October 21, 2009 at 6:13 am

“The bride called and told me I was not being invited. They knew it would depress me, and she was calling to explain so I would understand and “not be hurt.””
Don’t know about them, but I’d be much more depressed about not being invited to a celebration. If you need to explain, maybe your actions are not the best?
How could they KNOW it would depress her, btw? A good thing to do is to ask, everyone is different.
I’ve sometimes sent out invitations to people I know won’t be able to attend. Not to get more gifts, certainly, but to make the person feel included, wanted, cherished.

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Karen February 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Miss Jeanne, I actually think this is more serious than just a faux pas. She did make it clear to the first friend that she would still like to be included in their acitivities (despite the flimsy excuse from the “friend”), yet this behaviour has continued and escalated. This is a clear case of the “fair-weather friends”, where they are not able to handle the situation, and don’t know what to say, thereby shunning the poor woman and excluding her from their activities. To so many people, unfortunately, it is easier to sweep a problem under the rug than deal with it face-on. They justify it to themselves that it is in the best interest of the mourner, but they really don’t have any concept of what the mourner really wants and/or needs, nor are they going to take the time to find out. They will decide for her. These are selfish, unsupportive people who should not be relied on, and I am so happy to hear she has moved on and found a new group of friends.

BTW, I am a loooong-time reader, and first time commenting, thanks for the wonderful site, keep up the amazing work!!

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Patti March 16, 2010 at 3:06 am

The so called ‘friends’ who were doing things as couples and couldn’t include her because she was single didn’t have a ‘single’ brain cell to think “Uh let us girls/women do something with her not as couples. With ‘friends’ like that who needs enemies and congratulations on the nuputials.

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Sarah March 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I have a couple of lovely friends who tragically lost both their baby and their beloved dog in the same month. They had already RSVPd to my wedding a month later, but I did not hold out much hope that they would come and would have completely understood if they hadn’t. It turned out that they did come, and told a mutual friend of ours that they were glad to be able to have something happy to distract themselves from their grief, if even for a moment. I guess my point is that you never know what will provide a little comfort to folks going through a terrible time.

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essie August 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Not to invite a friend to social events because you think she should still be “in mourning”is bad, but to talk about those events afterward, in her face? Isn’t that something we teach our small children, not to talk about a party in front of kids who weren’t invited? They should have learned that lesson 25 years ago!

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Allie October 31, 2010 at 6:38 pm

How incredibly insulting that they would paint you as someone who could not feel joy for another’s happiness!
I sincerely hope that you (and your husband) now have a wealth of supportive friends, happy to share in your joys and sorrows equally and to have you a part of their lives also.

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Javin October 7, 2011 at 9:32 am

This one sounds to me like perhaps the “friends” were more friends of the husband than the wife, and after his passing, didn’t have a particularly strong desire to continue a relationship with the wife. If it was one or two friend that had done this, I’d think faux pas. But if it’s ALL of their friends? Even after she’s talked to them about it? That’s just odd.

I only say this as we had a downstairs neighbor that, being neighbors, we were friendly with. She started dating a guy that was a lot of fun, very friendly, and loved to host. She, on the other hand, would often get drunk very early in the evening, and pass out after some boorish remarks. She moved out, and moved in with him (much to his disdain, sounds to me like it wasn’t his idea) shortly afterward, and we remained friends with them for the next two years. When he finally developed the spine to dump her, and she moved to a different complex, we remained friends with him, but have been systematically cutting our friendship with her down. (We don’t want to hurt her feelings, we’re just not trying to actively feed the relationship.)

It sounds to me that this may be a similar situation, particularly if it’s ALL of their friends.

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ItsyBitsy March 28, 2012 at 12:48 am

Sorry, I know this is way after the fact but I’m enjoying going through the archives and I really, really could not let Javin’s comment stand without responding.
What an unbelievably insensitive comment to make! The OP writes about how hurtful some ‘friends’ had been to her when she had been widowed and Javin thinks it’s okay to twist the knife by assuming that, because of one incident in his/her own life, the same must be true here and that it must be due to some flaw in the OP’s character.
Shame on you!

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