Ten Things You Should Never Say to a “Suicide Widow” (or Any Trauma Survivor)

This emotion-filled blog – which took about eight hours to write in July 2018 – has been removed.

My husband spread his misery far enough. I won’t promote it further.

I do recommend this book (shown below). It’s the best thing on this topic that I’ve found.

And if you do encounter someone lost in trauma, remember these three steps:

1) Show up. Be a presence.

2) Shut up. Be a quiet presence.

3) Don’t cheerlead. Just listen and don’t talk, except to say, “I love you, and I’m here with you.”

This is the best book I've seen on this topic.

This is the best book I've seen on this topic.


Phenomenal book - I have read it cover to cover.

Phenomenal book - I have read it cover to cover.


  1. Elaine P Lessack

    My Dear Rosemary,

    I have so enjoyed learning about Sears kit homes through your very informative and chatty posts.

    I always thought that you must be one special lady, because your inquisitive nature and innate kindness “shone” through your words.

    Since learning of your great sadness, I have been praying for you, for Our Lord to ease your heart and bring you comfort.

    Probably many others feel and do the same.

    Just remember that untold numbers of us are beside you in spirit, praying for you and wishing you peace.

    Fondly, Elaine P. Lessack

  2. Gemma

    Thank you for this list, dear Rosie. Such needed to be said.

    Hugs!!! Now I turn you around, and ask you to lean your head on my extended arm, and look down to the extended index finger, which is pointing forward.

    If the grieving process is 2.5 years for widows, then you’ve only got a few more months to go.

    As my former co-secretary used to say, you don’t get over things like this, you simply learn how to deal with them. That’s a more reasonable goal for this time in your life.

    I understand entirely about not knowing how to use the cellphone after a suicide, or being able to do much of anything afterward.

    I was numb the first year, and started thawing out the second.

    My own son’s 2nd anniversary is September 25. I want to get past the PTSD so I can function properly.

    I still have siren trauma.

    I still have a problem watching the Saturday evening line-up. I have to be asleep before 11:30pm Saturday night because that’s when he started home from where he supposedly was hanging out with friends. (He was, but was ignoring them).

    As St. Paul the Apostle says, we are given crosses so we know how to help others. This list is part of that.

  3. Jenny

    I’m sorry for your loss. I will add you to my prayers.

  4. Jenny

    Rosemary you ask “Who am I, if Iā€™m not The Sears House Lady?”

    I only know you from reading your blog, but here are a few of the things I think you are. You are a mother who raised a child so caring and generous, she gave a kidney to a friend.

    I can only assume that you other children are equally wonderful. You are a survivor.

    You made (IMO) major adult decisions (a new home, car, appliances) when it would have been easy to stay in bed and hide. You are a writer.

    Even if you never write another word, you have informed, inspired, and entertained many. Most of all, you are a person worthy of being loved.

    I’ll be praying for you.

    Teddy seems to be enjoying her ride in the buggy. She seems like a good shopping buddy.

  5. Penny

    Rosemary, you nailed it.

    These are exact words we have all been feeling but you were able to put them into words for us all.

    I couldn’t remember whether I bathed the days following my husband’s death. I was numb.

    God bless you for sharing this….

  6. Sabina Pade

    I’m confident that, had the person I loved and trusted the most, malevolently schemed to destroy me, I would feel intense anger at both the betrayal and my previous blindness to it.

    I sense that, in aspiring to the ranks of the angels, expressing anger is something you don’t easily allow yourself to do.

    Yet as long as we’re still human, there are situations in which we legitimately need to.

    I’ll happily volunteer advice unwelcome in double or even triple measure, if it will keep you writing blog posts like the one above.

  7. KatrinaK

    People just don’t seem to think before opening their mouths.

    Reading this makes my heart break for you.

    I can’t imagine thinking it okay to tell someone who is grieving that they can just decide to get over it, or that it has been long enough.

    There’s no switch you just flip to be over it all. I do hope things get better for you as time passes.

  8. Tamela Heim

    There are no words. Just know we all are praying for your peace and are thinking of you.

    “Grief never ends…but it changes. It’s a passage.
    Not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness.
    Nor a lack of faith…It is the price of love.”

  9. Sam W

    I came across your blog after listening to the recent 99% Invisible episode on Sears kit homes. I’m an archivist who works with women designers. We’ve recently been collecting sample catalogs from Garlinghouse and other kit companies, so I’m always fascinated to learn about this phenomenon!

    This post, however, moved me unexpectedly. August of this year was the twentieth anniversary of my father’s suicide. Although each of us has our own survivor experience, so much of what you’ve written here is familiar to me.

    In any case, if you ever come through Southwest Virginia on a Sears Home search, I would love to treat you to lunch or coffee!

    All my best,

  10. Marty

    Just stumbled on your post. I was reading about sears kit homes for fun during lunch, when I saw the title and of course had to click, as I am suicide widower (a term I have never used…), so, thanks for writing.

    I try not to be too angry at what some people say, but a few times I have snapped at people (and it actually felt OK to do….).

    I am sorry that we are both members of this club. It has been almost 16 years for me. I can still cry easily about it.

    I tell people that the whole experience has changed me, that I am a better person. But that it was not worth the cost.

    My two boys were 14 and 17 at the time, and they are doing great now. it was not easy. I remarried, and I’d say that is great, but having this experience as a part of me makes a normal relationship complicated.

    I might add one thing… I went to a suicide bereavement support group for about a year afterwards and then I started going to help others that had suffered a suicide loss.

    Going to this group was immensely helpful to me, it was the first time I realized that other people really knew a bit about the pain I was experiencing.

    Thanks for writing.

  11. Dianne

    Hi, I was just doing some online research on homes built through plans from Sears.

    I came across your excellent blog. It became clear after starting to do some reading that you have experienced a very traumatic event. Our daughter was murdered by her estranged boyfriend through gun violence.

    My husband was in the car at the time, and we both deal with PTSD. There is more to the tragic story…but I could relate to the pieces you shared about people wanting you to “get over it.”

    Our families loved our daughter, but they believe we “should be over it” and it is very disturbing to both of us. Know that my thoughts are with you. Sometimes it is difficult to put one foot in front of the other. One day at a time….

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