There are some things to never say to someone whose ex passed away. After going through loosing an ex, I understand that it is hard to know what to say. We’re a small population. Didn’t we already mourn the relationship when we divorced?
From the outside looking in, I can understand how someone would struggle with what to say. Society as a whole has taught us that a divorce is final. It’s the end of the relationship. The end of mourning a marriage or relationship that didn’t work out. In my case, when my ex passed away it was finally the time to be able to mourn the person I thought I had married, not the person I found I had married when we went through the divorce. So when my ex died, I was coping with the death of an ex while watching my children cope too and helping them through it.
It’s complicated but there are some things best left unsaid when someone’s ex passes away!
Never Say “This Must Be a Dream Come True”
It’s not. Just like in marriage, in divorce our exes can drive us crazy at times too. But to say it’s a dream to watch my kids suffer and mourn just isn’t right. Having an ex pass away doesn’t just eliminate all your stress. In fact for some people it makes life harder. For some, being married together wasn’t in the cards and post divorce their friendship and focus on children was stronger. I’ve had people say variations of this statement to me in several different ways and each time it just comes across wrong.
- “You are living every divorced persons dream. We all wish we could get rid of our exes.”
- “It must be so nice to not have to deal with your ex anymore.”
- “Wow, you are living the dream!”
“I Know How You Feel…I Once Lost a ________”
Do we ever really know how someone might be feeling? To say “I know how you feel” can sound diminishing to that persons personal experience if not said in the right context. But to follow it up with “I once lost a pet/grandparent” is not appropriate and can be hurtful to the person grieving. It is important to acknowledge the uniqueness and significance of their loss. One of the most hurtful messages my kids would say they got was when their well meaning friends would share stories of lost pets or grandparents and feel they could understand what they were going through.
Especially if you are a child or person of divorce. You already have to split holidays and weekends and see one of your parents less. To loose one of your parents makes the process feel even more difficult.
“I’m Not Sure Why You Are Grieving So Much. You Weren’t Even Married Anymore!”
To the outside world, I’m sure it looks strange to be grieving an ex. And yes, it probably is. Over and over most of us have been told that ‘divorce is like a death.’ But death is final. Divorce on paper is final, but most of us are probably still coparenting. You are still raising children together. And you still have issues that might bring you together even after your children are grown adults. We were grieving all the lost games he would miss, first dances he wouldn’t see, and spouses and partners and grandchildren he would never meet. Even though we weren’t married anymore, we were still raising a family together, albeit under different and sometimes more difficult circumstances.
“It’s a Good Thing You (Can Move On/Have Already Moved On)”
I’m not sure what this statement even means. At the time of my exes passing I was dating my current husband. Several times if I was asked about him I would get “well that’s a good thing for you and the children that you’ve moved on.” I got a lot of variations of this statement but pretty much it just hurt. This statement disregards the deep bond and love that the person had for their former spouse and can make it seem like their relationship can just be replaced easily. Getting remarried or having a relationship after a divorce carries a lot. And yes, in my case it has been a positive thing that my children have had another male in their life to go to and be there for them. But that relationship is not the same as the one with their Dad.
“It Was For the Best”
I got a lot of this during the divorce. And yes, it probably was for the best that I didn’t have to continue to deal with some of the issues that weren’t healthy for a marriage. And it probably wasn’t healthy for our children to continue to see unhealthy marriage patterns. But to say it ‘was for the best’ isn’t something many of us who have been through a divorce like to vocalize. And it wouldn’t be something that after a passing would be something I would vocalize either. I learned during my divorce and then at my exes passing that this is something I would never say. I learned quickly that to my children and to myself every decision carries consequences. There isn’t a “best” anymore.