When Peter died, one of my best friends came to stay with me. Her name is Vivian and she is my neighbor in the widowhood. Once the doctors decided that Peter was officially gone, Viv caught the next plane to Portland. The morning after he died, we were walking through my front door and I looked up at the cherry blossoms on our tree then looked at her and said, “I think I am doing really well, don’t you?”
Viv looked at me with the most earnest face, trying to hide the pity in her eyes and said “you’re in shock.” I was so offended. Shock, my ass. I knew Peter was dead and I knew he was never coming back and I knew that I knew these facts. She was correct, I was in shock.
When I heard that Sheryl Sandberg’s husband died suddenly at the age of forty-seven, I was deeply saddened but when I heard she spoke at his funeral only three words came to mind…she’s in shock. Like my friend Viv came to my side, I want to run to hers. I want to tell her my truth about being a young widow and having children that don’t just want their father but require him. I want to tell her that IT will never be OK. I want to whisper in her ear the opposite of what everyone else is telling her, that someday she’ll understand. She will never understand. That someday God’s plan will make itself known. It may never. I want to tell her that the pain will not kill her even when she feels like it will.
I want to cry with her and make sure she eats and showers. I am sure Sheryl has handlers who will make sure she does those things, but they won’t understand. They won’t understand the ache, the longing, the loneliness of losing a true partner. They won’t understand that cliched sayings only help the person saying them. I want to remind her to breathe even when the act of breathing physically hurts. Even twenty-six months into this abyss I still feel, some days, unable to get out of my bed. I not only have sympathy for Sheryl but empathy in the worst way. The day that I heard about Dave Goldberg’s death (it’s important to say their names) I cried for myself a bit. I cried for her a lot. I cry because I know, for her, the worst is yet to come and I wish I could take away her pain but all I can do is tell her and every other widow, I am sorry.