Miss Manners’ Guide to Mourning

For all the well-meaning people of the world who have been so extremely lucky as to not have ever lost someone they unconditionally love, this is for you. Not because you’re asshats, no, it’s because you’re paving the road to hell with some fantastically insane good intentions by opening your mouths. I would like to point out two things before we get too far into this:

  1. You aren’t being attacked, you’re being counseled, with humor and wit (because grace and patience have failed), and;
  2. If you truly are hurt by something in this post, you are extremely guilty of being a bad friend. You aren’t thinking about what Janna needs, you’re thinking about what you want out of her suffering. She’s not a diamond mine, so stop digging!

I have to put it this way, it’s the truth, and some of you out there need to hear it. AGAIN. And so… without further ado, here’s what Miss Manners’ Springtime Substitute had to say:

Hey there. Just an FYI, Janna called me yesterday and I went over there and then to the cemetery with her. Spent the evening with her. There is nothing for us to worry about…she is going to cope…just gonna take a while. However, we discussed some things and I did clarify that SHE….

  1. does NOT like pop-ins (people just showing up unannounced…if you didn’t do it before, don’t do it now).
  2. prefers emails (so she can answer and read at her leisure…or not)
  3. may or may not return voice mails (depends on how many she gets)
  4. usually leaves her cell phone off or on vibrate cuz just too many calls…her bill is outrageous!!
  5. is eating…McD’s everyday all day…and looks the same to me…great
  6. does not like making plans, but if she does, please give her the right to cancel and/or forget about them at any time
  7. does not like people telling her she will be OK, it will get better, he is in a better place, GOD needed him, or asking her how she feels….how do they think she feels?, SHE needs him more than God does, he is not in a better place…his place is with her…and she will not be OK, only surviving day by day.
  8. will go to therapy when she is ready, but I did see several books on her coffee table about grief
  9. knows we are here and she loves us
  10. needs people to understand that if you didn’t do something before (like pop in, or baby her, or call 10x per day) that doing that now only makes her realize something is wrong and different. Act like you used to with her.
  11. hates people smothering her or being “needy” with her.
  12. needs people to realize that YES she is depressed, she is a widow for goodness sake!!
  13. HATES people saying were, was, should have, anything in the past. Just because he is in “escrow” doesn’t mean they aren’t still an incredible couple!

I believe she really is going to manage and cope, she just needs time…and then 5 years from now…she WILL STILL need time…

I have first-hand knowledge of this conversation as I was also there, with Janna & Alicia, and I don’t know what was harder – hearing about all the foolish things people had said, or finding out that I like and know most of the fools.

But wait, there’s more!

Alicia sent this email out to a group of friends, many of whom were not sure what to do and needed the guidance, but couldn’t ‘hear’ the wit that came with it. And then Julie sent the email out as well, and I know of even more people who got all flamed up about it! Apparently some people have a guilty conscious because some of the most bent weren’t doing any of the aforementioned idiocy.

So, that’s why I’m posting this on my blog. I want to see how many more ass clowns there are out there.

Kidding. I wanted to post this for clarification – if you have done any of the list above, just stop and it’s all good. Don’t worry too much about the past right now, just ease off a bit and let her seek you out when it’s the right time for her – and that’s the hardest part of friendship: knowing when to just stand ready, off to the side, without making a noise, so that when you’re needed, you’re there, but not a moment too soon.

However, if you continue doing these foolish activities, you risk getting a lashing by a verbally adept and editorially challenged woman whom you love – and believe me, bad idea. I’ve known her since 4th grade, I know what she’s capable of, and we’re talking ‘Hiroshima’ here – but she’ll do it with love, of course.

Since the responses to the emails have been less than stellar, I have a few suggestions of my own to add, too:

  • Don’t think that this list is a generalized ‘how-to’ for friendship, it’s a ‘how Janna needs you to be’ list, a very specific thing.
  • Don’t think that Alicia or I came up with this, it was the result of a conversation that Alicia and I had with Janna as we drove from her house out to visit Richard. The list is very neatly distilled from that conversation, and given that it was a 4 hour chat, I’m exceedingly impressed by Alicia’s memory and articulateness.
  • Don’t be hurt if a friend calls you on your own insanity – learn from it. After all, enemies may call you on it, but they suck as people, that’s why you don’t like them, so why would you listen to them?
  • Don’t get needy, greedy, or bent out of shape if you aren’t ‘invited’ to something by her. Most of the time any ‘something’ that she’s at is impromptu and invitations weren’t sent out. Deal. We are supposed to support her, and that includes being patient and not always up in her grill.
  • There will be times she won’t want to talk to you – specifically you. Cope.
  • If you are ‘disappointed in her’ for any reason, you need to check yourself right fucking quick. I can’t imagine what sort of fool would say something like that, but it’s a very good way to end a friendship. I would suggest getting a card with a big fuck-all “sorry” on the front sent to her house by you before you chat with her again. You know who you are.

There are times she doesn’t want to talk to me. Yeah, yeah, shut it. It’s usually when I’m out of booze, weepy, working and can’t focus for shit, or when she’s just had it and needs one of her Other Gays instead. It’s not easier for me to have to back off, not call, not email, not text, not pop-in, not drive-by, not string soup cans to her house for us to chitchat over, but I have to be patient. Because it’s Janna, and she needs me near or just available, and that’s her call, not mine.

Realize that the entire situation sucks. We all have to grow up a bit and be those people we admire for their quiet wisdom and serenity while facing the emotional wreckage heaped upon loved ones. They are wise because they are silent. People say things in an attempt to magically heal a wound. People cling so they can be the hero who catches them the next time they fall. People do new things, like drop in unannounced or call 1,000 times a day, because they want to change the world, and it wasn’t like this before, so it’s change.

We’re all wise enough to shut the hell up, back off, sit down, and just be. Trust that she’ll get you when she’s ready to just be.

Much love!







One response to “Miss Manners’ Guide to Mourning”

  1. stuclark24657 Avatar

    I was talking to my wife just yesterday about calling Janna and seeing if there was anything I could do and to let he know that I was thinkiing of her. I do not know Janna, but Richard was one of my best friends and leaders in the Army.

    I asked her (my wife) if she thought Janna would mind if I called her. My wife lost her mother 5 years ago to cancer, and I think is in a comparable position to give me her point of view. She told me that she did not think Janna would mind.

    So I put it to you: Would it be OK if I called her just to tell her I was thinking of her (I keep a not from Richard in my office just above my computer monitor – it has been there since July 2005)?

    Please let me know.

    Thank you,

    Stuart Clark
    stuclark AT hotmail DOT com

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