Soothing and Shocking Condolences

Sympathy cards were comforting – and they were also jarring reminders of my new reality.

I felt numb following my husband’s funeral.

Although the brain cancer rollercoaster ride had ended –  I was not ready to disembark from the ride and face all the aspects of loss.

I was shaken.

I was afraid that if I stood up to climb off the ride, I would discover I was weak at the knees and collapse. Part of me stayed seated on the rollercoaster trying to pool my energy, gather my wits and strength.  While the other part continued on, in auto-pilot, looking after the kids and all the paperwork of death.

I knew that my husband had died. He had left the rollercoaster and was no longer in this world. That was about all that I could process.

I was not ready to face that I was no longer part of a living and breathing “we” or an “us”.

So when sympathy cards started to arrive, some of them felt like searing painful jolts of reality.

Reality that my new and young family unit of four was now a family of three. 


I appreciated but was distracted from reading and digesting the messages of love within –  because all I could think of when I saw the “To” and the “From” was:

  • My lost dreams of raising a family together with my husband.
  • The realisation that future Christmas cards in our letterbox would be addressed to my children and I – but NOT to my husband.
  • That I would not add his name to a card when I wrote birthday messages and well wishes to others. It is not the done thing to add the name of someone who is deceased.
  • My children were so young – they could not read the sympathy cards to themselves. They were too young to understand most of what was said.
  • Some of the children who were listed on the cards in From – they were so young that they would never actually remember my husband. In the future they would ask – why don’t Clare’s kids have a dad? What happened?

Individual condolences addressed only to me were not shocking. They felt like a time of quiet reflection with each friend. As if each friend was stepping back onto the rollercoaster with me – to sit for a while and perhaps rub my back following the heart wrenching ride. An opportunity to remember together some of the wonderful aspects of my late husband. To let me know that when I was ready to disembark from the rollercoaster and enter the next stages of my journey – grief and then reconnecting with life – that they would be there for me and the kids.

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2 thoughts on “Soothing and Shocking Condolences

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  1. Goodness, this is confronting. I’ve never given any thought as to how I’ve signed a Sympathy card. I have always given a lot of thought to the message, however. I’m sure that however they were signed, most people meant that they were ready to sit on the roller coaster with for a while.

    1. I know this post was confronting – but I just wanted to share how it felt for me at the time. I think some people in a similar position might feel the same way and find some empathy when they read.

      I knew all the messages and condolences were full of love and tried to focus on that. I just felt myself reacting to the signatures as blinding mirrors of aspects of my loss that felt very painful for me to face.

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