I noticed Monday that one of our patients was quieter than normal. He’s about my age, and usually he’ll smile and cut up with us, but not this week. Very quiet again today, so as he was going out the door, I stopped him and asked, “Hey, what’s going on with you? You’re very quiet this week. Are you okay?”
He sorted of grunted and said, “I’m fine.” (In about the same tone of voice that a wife will say “Nothing,” when her husband asks, “What’s wrong?” Riiiiiight.)
I just looked at him, and he sighed. “Tomorrow is my daughter’s anniversary.”
His daughter died unexpectedly four years ago. He had her two sons with him for Easter, and he told me he’s feeling guilty because he had so much fun with her kids at Easter, which is when he lost her, and he feels bad for not being sad this time of year. He feels like he’s betrayed her.
I wanted to hug him, but he was already giving off “Back off” vibes, so I didn’t. He is, he’s informed me many times, emotionless. Period. As in “I don’t do emotions, not even with my wife.” (At least, not his current wife, apparently.)
So instead of hugging him, I simply asked, “Do you really think your daughter would be upset that her dad and her kids had a good day together? Or would she be thrilled to see you all smiling and laughing?”
He just looked at me for a moment, and then nodded. “She’d be glad to see us happy.”
Cherish that thought, not any idea that you’re betraying her by being happy with her kids. It isn’t a betrayal to make your grandkids happy. It isn’t a betrayal to laugh ever again if you’ve lost someone you love. Hold on to the happy memories—and honor her with memories of the good times, instead of making her memory a mausoleum where light is never permitted to enter.
He had a smile on his face when he left. A tiny one, but it was a smile.
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