Sometimes the best advice …

Sometimes the best advice, is no advice at all. At least, when you are talking with someone who is grieving.

Consoling a grieving friend can be a difficult thing to do, especially when one has not faced grief in their own life. Our natural instinct, when a friend is facing problems is to provide solutions. It is quite normal for us to want to give advice that will help our friends solve the problem. But grief, is not a normal problem.

The last thing a grieving person needs—or wants, is advice. What they need most is someone who will just listen. Someone who will just be there with them. To hold space for them. If they cry, just hug them or hold their hand, or whatever you are comfortable doing to let them know you are with them. The urge to say something will creep up as you feel you have to say something wise to help. Don’t! Just be there. As uncomfortable as you may feel in the silence, resist the temptation to speak.

If the grieving person starts to talk, just listen, and listen intently. What your friend needs more than anything, even though they may not realize it; is to just talk. To express their feelings and emotions. It is fantastic therapy. Again, resist the urge to tell them about your experience, even if you have known the pangs of grief. If they pause, ask simple questions to encourage them to talk, and then just listen. It’s okay to cause tears. Don’t afraid to take them down memory lane with their departed loved one. They may weep, but they need to let those emotions escape.

If you must say something, just be brutally honest. In the early days of my grief, when friends would simply say, “This sucks.” I wanted to hug them. Yes, it is stating the obvious, but I wanted others to share my opinion that losing my wife just sucks. I didn’t want to hear that in time I would adjust to my new life; or how fortunate I was to have had all those years with Crystle. I know that innately, but I was not ready to process that.

Don’t be afraid of the silence. The best advice, is often no advice.

Moving On…UGH!

If you have spent any time with me, you may be aware that I despise—that seems so strong, but I really do strongly dislike the term: “moving on.”

If you have uttered these words to me, fear not. I hold no grudges or ill will, for you see, this is my issue, not yours. It is semantics, really. Splitting hairs. But those two words, for me, mean that I am leaving Crystle behind. And I am not ready to leave her behind. So, it becomes my interpretation of these two nebulous words that is the heart of the problem.

I have chosen to face the things Crystle and I did together as part of my ongoing healing process. When she first passed, I thought I could never watch another baseball game. Never attend another performance at Shaw theatres. Never return to Las Vegas where the two of us spent more vacation time than any other place on Earth. One by one, I have faced each. First, was baseball. Watching her beloved Jays. It hurt when they traded her favourite player this year, Kevin Pillar. She was a fan of Pillar long before he was known as Superman.

Then came theatre. Most of the time I attend alone, much to the chagrin of family and friends. The first time I attended without Crystle was last season. The theatre was packed, yet the seat beside me—well, it appeared empty to the naked eye, but I know she was there with me.

A few weeks ago I went back to Las Vegas for the first time without Crystle. On Saturday afternoon, I spent my time alone, intentionally. I walked the strip. memory after memory came to me at almost every corner. I felt joy and gratitude, not sadness.

I feel I am doing very well in my life after Crystle. I have structure in my volunteering at Hospice Niagara. I am keeping social. I see family and friends regularly.

But then it strikes, out of the blue. I attended another play last Sunday night, my fifth performance this season. Like all the others, I attended alone. But on Sunday night as I was walking back to my car, the urge came over me to reach out and hold her hand; to feel her snuggle into me as we scurried through he dark streets to our car. This hadn’t happened at the four previous plays I had attended. I could feel a lump in my throat. My gait quickened.

“Where did this come from,” I wondered to myself. Once in my car I just sat there for a few moments. I realized that this was okay. It didn’t mean I was holding on to any latent grief. This was normal for a man who was not ready to ‘move on.’ There will always be those moments when the desire to be with our departed loved one will overtake us. For me, I chose not to run from it, but to embrace it.

A smile came to my face as I drove away. I am glad my love for Crystle is as strong today as it has ever been.

Crystle’s 60th Birthday


July 19, 2019 marked the 60th birthday for Crystle. She celebrated her 50th and 55th birthdays in Las Vegas with two close friends, Jo-anne Haire and Nora Clark. The three ladies always shared a room at the JW Marriott in Summerlin. We decided that the celebrations must not stop just because Crystle is no longer with us in this earthly realm. 

Both my son and daughter and their spouses joined us for the party. Both had reservations at the Flamingo which was a disaster. To quote a Seinfeld: “See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.” Both Val and Steve ended up at the Mirage where, ironically, they had clean rooms and welcomed the as guests. The interesting thing to note here is that Crystle really liked the Mirage and didn’t care at all for the Flamingo. I don’t believe in coincidences.

Determined not to make the unpleasant experiences with the Flamingo deter us, we began our celebrations with drinks at Parasol Down in the Wynn Hotel. This is an outdoor lounge overlooking a small manmade lake. Many years ago it was called SW Lounge and Crystle would never adopt the new name. So in our family, we too still refer to it as SW Lounge.

Some of us continued through the night stopping at places that brought memories of Crystle. On the morning of the 19th, I drove to Summerlin to meet Jo-anne and her husband. We sat on the swing where she had sat many times with Crystle in their previous trips together. As we sat there reminiscing, a lone hummingbird came and stayed for our visit on the swing. Eight of us gathered at Estiatorio Milos on Friday evening. This was one of Crystle’s favourite restaurants and a place we have dined together many times. We all shared a beautiful evening celebrating her birthday.

Our trip was brief but the important thing is that our memories were happy not sad. Yes, we certainly miss Crystle and tears did flow, at times. We celebrate her and all that she means for each one of us. It helps us continue healing.