Job’s Last Straw


I’ve always had a special affinity for Job. Here’s a regular guy, a family guy, successful businessman, living somewhere in the Far East of the Bible who gets slammed out of nowhere for no other reason than that he’s a good person.

I like reading about his thoughts. His reactions to his false comforters. His new understanding of his place in the world and God’s care for him. And the truth is, all of us feel like Job at one time or another. I know I have. And sometimes still do.

But while most focus on the trials and tribulations they have in common with Job, I had the unique experience of sharing his sense of abuse and abandonment by his 3 so-called comforters, the leaders of his religious circle.

About 2 weeks after my husband passed away, I too received a visit much like Job’s. Under the guise of offering assistance, I was grilled as to why I wasn’t doing more in the congregation, chastised for thinking too much about myself, warned against fornication (I don’t know what kind of person is dating 2 weeks after a funeral), told that it was wrong for me to ever expect a call or a visit from anyone, and that the consequences of my husband’s actions were my and my children’s inheritance. Forever.

It is an understatement to say that I was devastated. I felt abandoned all over again, but this time by my faith. I’d be lying if I said I was over it.

I prefer not to talk religion. We all have our spiritual debates within. But once in a while you experience an epiphany – a new realization that must have been there all the time, but you never noticed it.

I got this in June of 2016 when a minister noted the reason God was so angry with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for their misguided words to Job. They lied. They lied about how God felt towards Job. They lied about how other people viewed Job. They made him feel more alone and bereft than he already was.

Therese Borford of Beyond Blue says, “The phrase ‘Job’s comforters’ has come into the language to describe people who mean to help, but who are more concerned with their own needs or feelings than they are with those of the other person, and so end up only making things worse.”

It’s a term that even made it into the dictionary, defining a ‘Job’s comforter’ “as a person who aggravates distress under the guise of giving comfort.”
You have to be pretty vile to make an impression that lasts 4,000 years.
I don’t know if Job made up with those guys, if they all got together on Saturday nights and played cards with his new kids. But I doubt it. I have a feeling that they walked around each other after that. Once a man (or 2 or 3) has revealed his true self, it can’t be undone.
And now that I recognize the lies and the liars, I can put the pieces back in their proper places, albeit with more caution and less trust than I had before. But that’s something I already know a little bit about. I was already doing it with the rest of my life when they came along.

Don’t Say It…


Now that I’ve had a year to ponder my life changes and follow all the advice for the unexpectedly single (don’t make any big purchases, don’t plan too far into the future, etc.), I have made one big discovery.

Not talking about all this has created a dam on my creativity and my ability to express myself on everything from global warming to which shampoo I prefer. Deciding to break my silence on the one-year mark of my husband’s death was both terrifying and liberating. A tiny hole was pierced in the dam that I had built, and I felt a lightening of my soul. A very small lightening, but more than I had felt in a long time.

I’m going to be exploring more of the lessons I’ve learned from this experience, and if it makes you uncomfortable please feel free to unfollow or unfriend or whatever un-thing people do now. You won’t hurt my feelings. This is for me. And for people who like me. And for people who are like me.

I want to be very clear about this, because people can be quick to jump to conclusions.

I’m doing really well. I came through a trying time in life, in which I found very few people to identify with. I’m stronger now, and hope to add one small voice for the next person who is desperately searching for support.

It isn’t all I talk about here, but it’s become a huge part of who I am now and must logically be included in the writing that comes from me. I’ve made peace with it (I think). But it’s okay if you can’t.

What I’d like you to think about though, is what not to say to someone like me. And you WILL meet someone like me.


The grieving widow, or widower, or parent, or child. And they are grieving their loved one, who may have been hell to live with, but loved all the same. Some of these can be found in this very helpful article, which had one very important point I’m saving for the end.

Don’t criticize the griever. This seems obvious, but lots of people think they are being helpful by suggesting “solutions” in retrospect. “You should have gotten him into rehab.” (Really? Why didn’t I think of that? Oh, wait. Now I remember. He was there 4 times. You know who wasn’t there? You.) “I don’t know why you ever married her in the first place.” “What would <insert name of deceased> think if you did/said/wore/thought that?”

Don’t criticize the deceased. Yes, we know he was abusive/she couldn’t be controlled. We’re painfully aware of the dual burden of feeling the keen loss of the person we loved (including all they might have been) at the same time feeling a sense of relief that the madness is finally over. We may talk about what is true for us and our experience, but at this particular time, what survivors need from others is unflinching support and love. That doesn’t mean we sugarcoat the past. We may say things you’d rather not hear. But it’s for us to say.

Don’t tell the bereaved how to feel. We don’t need to hear who is to blame, how we should feel, when we should “get over it”, or that it was part of God’s plan. Ditto for preaching about how we should behave in front of the children, the parents, the dog, whatever. We’ve been dealing with a lot, and we’re going to feel a lot of different things – sometimes all at the same time. This is going to last possibly forever. Grief is not a process. It is something you process and continue processing as long as you live.

Don’t keep silent. If you don’t know what to say, say, “I don’t know what to say. But I’m here for you, praying for you, and loving you.” We don’t need you to know how we feel (and we wouldn’t want you to. It’s horrible.) But we need to know that you still care. Your silence translates to us as “I don’t have time for your pain. You’re a downer.”

I know, logically, that saying insensitive things – or nothing at all – is more about the other person’s discomfort or inexperience. But at a time like this, the grieving person literally has no room to make you comfortable. It’s like that time you slammed your hand in the door and a telemarketer calls. Your brain is so overwhelmed with pain that it shuts out the usual routine tasks and just hangs up the phone.

Here’s the really important part of why you should PAY ATTENTION to your words. The survivor of a traumatic death is extremely vulnerable to what they hear because they are very likely suffering from PTSDWhen it was first suggested that me and my kids had multiple symptoms of PTSD, I was confused. I thought this was for soldiers and people who saw some kind of “action”. But the “T” is important. It stands for “Traumatic”.

All death is traumatic. For those who got sudden bad news, or held on to the end, or sat vigil by a bedside, or otherwise have seen what you have not, they are going to be traumatized. You are dealing with a damaged person who has had all they can take.

This is your opportunity to be a balm to their soul – or another brick in the wall of misery they are facing. Prepare now for the conversation to come. Practice your response so you aren’t caught off guard. Buy a couple of simple “thinking of you” cards and some stamps so you can send a brief note of love when the time comes. Make a note on the calendar of other people’s important dates so you can give them a phone call to let them know they were in your thoughts.

They may be struggling with many things. Don’t let your ignorance be one of them.

You Don’t Know Jack


Many thanks to everyone who was so kind and sent their well-wishes (and even shared their own stories) to my recent post about the anniversary of my husband’s death. But there’s something you don’t know.

I’m a widow. And I’m not a widow.

After 20 years of marriage to an alcoholic and addict, my husband went on a dangerous drunken spree that began with telling me and the children good-bye and ended 15 months later with his death from a pulmonary embolism at a rehab center. Somewhere between the slurred midnight phone calls and mountains of credit card debt, I was forced to obtain restraining orders and eventually a divorce to protect myself and our kids.

So, I’ve had the dubious distinction of being both a divorcee (for 5 months) and a widow. The legal authorities recognize me categorically as a widow, but funnily enough, I get the feeling some of my friends don’t. If they know we were separated and divorced the year before he died, they don’t see why I should be as upset as “a real widow”.

For people who don’t know, it’s difficult, when someone asks how he died, to answer truthfully.

I stumbled upon this article from The New York Times, which perfectly summed up the situation. It’s a little like this:

Them: What happened?

Me (Version 1): He had a pulmonary embolism. Very sudden. On his way into a meeting.

Me (Version 2): He had a pulmonary embolism, which was a result of a lifetime of chasing vodka with Tylenol PM, PCP, and pills that belonged to other people. He was in a rehab center because he was homeless, but he still managed to have the most heinous behavior right up until he dropped to the floor outside an AA meeting where he was actually passing himself off as a counselor.

Obviously, I tend to stick with Version 1.

I want to ask a favor of you. The next time you ask a question that requires a person’s back story, consider that the answer may be all that they are able to share with you, but that doesn’t make it the whole truth. Don’t believe for one second that you really understand what happened or how the survivor is feeling. Thank them for sharing. Encourage them in their strength through this difficult time. And know that if the answer is a short one, then you probably don’t know jack.