real life

"Please, don't ask me how my husband died."

Perhaps I too was like you… curious to make sense of how a life so full of potential ends so unexpectedly.

But now that I’ve been widowed for 5+ years, I know the “how” doesn’t matter. Not to me, and not to anyone who has experienced a devastating loss.

If it came from a legitimate place of concern then we’d be less bothered. But often, it’s asked with little to no sympathy or empathy—just a morbid fascination in wanting to know how someone died. I see it all the time.

A high school classmate shares a post announcing the passing of a parent only to be greeted with “How did she pass?” Unless you – random acquaintance who probably have never taken the time to even ask how’s she’s holding up – are asking because you’re wondering if her parent’s death is a result of a zombie apocalypse that you might have missed while you were busy scanning for R.I.P. posts on social media, then it’s not appropriate.

You don’t have the right to ask for details of someone’s death. So it was cancer…now what? They died in an accident…how does this affect YOU?

Image: Getty

There is no joy in us having to replay one of the most devastating times in our lives. And, to be honest, unless someone loses their life as a result of saving someone’s or defending their nation’s freedoms, the life that has been taken much too soon isn’t defined by this singular event.


Even then, he or she is more than their death. They were people who made an impact in the lives of others…served their communities…made their corner of the world a better place.

They aren’t cancer, malaria, a car crash or suicide, not a freak accident or heart attack… no, they are husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins and best friends. Each has a story bigger than their death.

So you see, even after you scratch your “need to know just for the hell of it” itch, we’re left with the pain of their absence. We still have to make sense of their untimely death; to carry on with a part of our heart missing.

Mia Freedman talks to Samuel Johnson about the night his sister Connie died. Post continues after audio. 

You don’t do anyone any favours by asking how our loved ones died. If we want to share, allow us to do so when and if we ever feel the time is right. Whether you know today or 20 years from now, it won’t make a difference in your life. Why cause us more harm, annoy us or downright piss us off with that line of questioning?

Offer your condolences, a hug or a kind word. Pray for us or ask if you can be of help as we try to navigate this difficult time in our lives.

We all have to leave this world at some point, including you. Do you want how you died to define you and all you stood for? Or, would you prefer to be celebrated for how you lived and loved?

Please show us – and our loved ones – the same courtesy.

Mum to a feisty preschooler, Kerry Phillips became widowed at age 32. She runs an online support group for young widows and widowers venturing back into the world of dating and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.

This story originally appeared on Young, Widowed and Dating and has been republished here with full permission.

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