I work for a company where most employees are virtual employees working from home, so we don’t see each other face-to-face on a regular basis. Because of this we have an annual conference where we all meet at some central location and spend a week working, learning, talking, laughing and getting to know each other. I have attended two of these, but the one earlier this year was a bit different.
The first of these retreats/conferences I went on I was accompanied by my wife who was sick at the time. Everyone knew this. She talked openly about it. Some people embraced her. Others, well, let’s just say, not so much.
This year I went alone, 7 months after my wife passed. I certainly wasn’t the only one running solo, but I was the only one who had no choice in the matter. And it was weird. Obviously.
This was the first time I had seen any of my co-workers, old and new, since my wife’s passing. Many knew of the experience I had been through, while many of the new ones didn’t know, or not that I was aware. And nobody talked about it. Definitely an elephant in the room that nobody acknowledged.
I don’t know what I expected. I certainly didn’t want to be the widower that everyone pitied and who needed to be coddled. That isn’t me at all. But I certainly would have thought some of my fellow employees would have expressed their condolences in person. Many did in different ways when my wife passed, but this was the first time we had met face-to-face since that day.
I can’t project my expectations on people, especially regarding this matter. We all react differently. It is much easier to avoid touchy subjects then to address them. I am guilty of this. Often. So I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to talk about this.
And a few actually did address the issue, just in a round about way. Never addressing the subject head one, but rather touched on it by commenting on how well I seemed to be. I knew what they were referring to and I appreciated the comments. I know they care. It is just a weird place to be in. I appreciate their efforts and I understand how hard of a subject it is to broach.
This is something I am going to have to deal with as I move forward with life. There are actually a lot of people that both my wife and I knew in the past that have no idea I am now alone. If/when I come across them, it will always be a moment of awkwardness when the subject comes up. “Hey Marshall, where is your wife?” Sigh.
This is my new reality. I doubt I will ever get used to, or become comfortable with, these situations, but it I can’t hide from them. For my own sanity.
Do me a favor, will you? If we ever cross paths down the road, don’t be afraid to discuss this subject with me. It is a large part of who I was. Who I am. And is something that needs to be discussed for my sake.