One of the hardest parts about grief is being alone in it. Grief can make you shut off the world. It can make you want to close up your heart and never let anyone else in to protect yourself.

I did that. Until I didn’t.

One of my widow friends told me a few weeks before Matt died that people would disappear after the funeral. I was shocked by this, because we were so surrounded by people and love and support. Then the funeral happened. For a lot of people invested in our story, that was the end of it. They slipped back into their normal lives and their presence in our lives faded. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this because I was warned. But I continue to be.

Then there are the people who are left. The problem with going from virtual obscurity to a small town spectacle because of a terminal illness is that people feel like they have a seat at your table. They feel like they can comment and discuss what you’re doing, with who, and why. They feel comfortable enough approaching you and asking deeply personal questions and interfere in your personal relationships. This has happened. This has put an enormous amount of stress and anxiety on my shoulders at a time when I didn’t need any more stress and anxiety.

Interference. From day one. Every move I make, every person I talk to, every friend I have is under a microscope. The inner workings of their lives are then scrutinized and picked apart when they did not ask to be involved in small town gossip. Their previously private lives become public because of simply associating with the grieving widow.

That’s not fair.

I share my grief so that it may help someone going through the same thing. I share our lives and stories about Matt because we had a wonderful life and it’s a life worth sharing.

But my personal friendships and the people I care about are off limits. Any relationship I choose to have or not have is not up for debate or discussion. Anything I do or don’t do isn’t anyone’s business. Yet people have dug in deep and used me as a way to pass the time with one another.

The problem with interfering with someone else’s personal life is that you destroy friendships. You hurt people. You cause stress and anxiety for people who already have stress and anxiety. You scare people away. You shut people down.

It hurts deeply. And I’ve had enough hurt to last an entire lifetime. Twice.

I have never had a friendship end basically because of other people, but I have now. Before you sit around and gossip about people, think about how much it hurts them. Think about that new feeling of meeting someone you click with and forming a friendship and having fun and feeling good, and then think about feeling awful and panicky and pressure because people have opinions that they not only won’t keep to themselves, but that they spread all around to other people. Half truths. Whole lies, even.

I didn’t deserve that.

He sure didn’t deserve that.

But here we are. More loss.

Losing people after you’ve lost your whole world is a new kind of pain I wasn’t prepared for. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to deal with what we have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s a lot.

Your words matter. So careful who you tell what, because the pain you cause from your interference into my life is insurmountable. It leaves people wishing things were different and wishing the peanut gallery would’ve just shut up and let it be what it was going to be. It could’ve been great, but when associating with me means pain for the other person, everyone needs to take a giant step back and evaluate what their words have done to two people who deserved more than what they got.

I deserve privacy. Any man in my life does, too.

I will not play small town gossip games. I will shut you down.

Onward. A little more broken, forcing a smile when I want to cry forever, a little more banged up and a whole lot more hurt. But onward.

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