Tarnished Silence


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For many, silence is golden. Overall, silence is to be revered when the world is off its rocker, the children are clamoring for something they absolutely do not need and the telephone battery refuses to die… despite 47 calls in the last three hours. Then, there are the times when silence is tarnished.


Far and away, conversation is the most underrated portion of any marital relationship. This is particularly true of uncommunicative couples. As counter-intuitive as they may seem, let’s look closer.


When Mate is in constant verbal contact, the conversations can be enough to trigger the pining for golden silence. Think about some of the typical marital conversations:


Call from the store… so you can read Mate the list which is still stuck on the fridge with a magnet.

Small talk as you wait for a server to bring food.

The daily report of what is happening outside your home.

The business meetings: bills, children, neighbors, pets

Sweet nothings

When Mate is no longer there to have these conversations, it can be a poignant example of Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

Communicative Mates enjoy the conversation, even when the subject is not a sweet tea.


When Mate is stoic or merely the strong, silent type (which come in both male and female models), conversation is sparse. Often, the conversations are merely ones of necessity:

  • I need this from the store.
  • It is time for an oil change.
  • I quit my job today.

The delivery of small talk and engaging conversation is not often on the menu. Most communication is functional and requires no accoutrements. The content of such communication is suited for Twitter.

With an uncommunicative Mate, the sweet things (I love you, Happy birthday, Are you in the mood?) are cataloged and cherished. They are rare enough to be jewels in a crown.

And then there were none…

When Mate dies, one thing appears after all the party guests mourners leave: Silence. It does not come and settle on the couch and wait for you to serve tea. Instead, it permeates every room, every place, every event, every moment where Mate once was.

You look back on those moments when you wished for silence, the heated moments where the words seared conscience and soul, the moments when you really were just appearing to listen… and they now mean something entirely different.

The emotions surrounding the silence are as different as the moments which trigger them.

Sadness brings with it a poignant reminder of alone-ness. Occasionally, loneliness stows away for this visit. It can be fended away with a conversation with someone else, but it does not totally dissipate because a surrogate is not the same.

Guilt likes to show up with a lampshade on its head. It delivers a soliloquy of all the times you deferred conversation for what now appears selfish reasons. The statistical capability of the mind to recall past (mis)deeds can defy standardized test scores. Banishing guilt is necessary. Remembering you did deliver the sweetness (I love you, Happy birthday, Are you in the mood?) when you were able must become good enough to assuage your guilty conscience.

Anger is easy, well-armed and brought the movers with it. When it unpacks its boxes, all the other emotions surface in due course. Anger’s first barrage can be as simple as being angry Mate is not here to (talk, fight, whisper) or Mate should have (said, heard) this. More common than these is: No one understands what you are saying.

When we feel misunderstood, we go to Mate, who loves us and knows us well enough to understand even if we are speaking an alien language. That outlet is not available with Mate gone. When you stop being angry at Mate for being AWOL and the misunderstanding others for misunderstanding, you are met with silence.

Do you feel guilty for being angry at Mate? Why? Wasn’t always being there one of the vows between you?

Do you feel guilty for being sad or lonely or both? Why? Isn’t your world different without Mate?

Breaking the Silence

After some time to reflect on your own feelings, breaking the silence is necessary. Once you learn all the noises the house makes in the stillness and the sounds of the children and the animals at rest, it is time for some restorative noise. Yes, noise.

Music is quite a matter of taste, given the literal definition of music is an alarm. Exploring music does two things:

  1. Reminds you of Mate
  2. Reminds you of you

Now, One may sound counterproductive. In fact, the memories we attach to the joy of music bring happiness to us even when tinged with the sadness of Mate’s absence. The key is to balance it with music which fall into Two.

Mind the volume…but never let it be silent.

Listening to music from our childhood is fulfilling. Break out some tunes your parents listened to, which you thought were motion-sick wolves baying at the moon. Listen to the silly songs which inhabited teenagerdom. Remember who you are as a whole person.

Then, listen to something you never would have imagined you like. Check out the playlists of some of your friends. Listen to your youngest child’s favorite band. Troll the websites of Internet musicians whose music and songs may not populate shelves or even iTunes… yet. Visit a music review site to stumble onto something you have never heard from one of your favorite musicians.

You will inevitably discover new music. This is the soundtrack to your new life which will in no way diminish the life you had before because it is completely different.

One Up

If you are so talented, pick up a musical instrument or a microphone and make music. In the face of loss, nothing is more fulfilling than creation.

If you are musically-challenged, pick up a hairbrush and air guitar around the living room. The exercise will do you good.


Welcome to December’s post for the Widowed Blog Hop. Join me and a growing number of widowed bloggers on the journey from marriage to widowhood. The lessons you can learn along the way are great coping mechanisms for any loss in your life, from friends, spouses, siblings or children… even corporate loss. Loss does not always mean death.

Grab some inspiration from those who face each day with an appreciation for life some never are afforded the chance to engage. While we do this blog hop on the first Wednesday of the month, the blogs along the way are just as active as all others. Feel free to drop by any time. Their welcome mats are always out. Say hello and let them know who sent you.

Red’s new book Killing Us Softly: Becoming the Surviving Spouse of Cancer is now available on Redmund Productions in paperback, ebook, PDF and for Kindle.

Is there music you associate with someone in particular? How big a part does music play in your life? Have you ever considered a song as your soundtrack? What would be on your soundtrack play list? Do you know a music/musician website we could visit?

When you tweet and +1 this post, please use the hashtags #music, #widowed and #bloghop. Thank you for spreading the love!

© Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. Music is in my blood. I used to be an accomplished classically trained flautist. It was common for me to play four hours per day nonstop. I am first a musician, and second everything else. I still have my flute, but am unable to play due to weakness in my arms. I cry when I am deeply moved by music. It is a big part of my life. I do associate some songs with certain people; my first love, my second love, and my third love 🙂 I also associate some songs with just myself, which feels good. When I am alone, I can listen to music and feel full. The musicians I know aren’t on the web, but there is a great supply site for musicians called musicians friend.com.

    Thanks Red! You reminded me of my first identity.

    Gail Thornton recently posted..Don McLean – Vincent ( Starry, Starry Night) With LyricsMy Profile

    • With the recent addition of the piano, I have come to realize Little V plays by ear. It means I have to be playing everyday. The workout for my hands is tremendous. (And more than mildly irritating.) It is going to be fun.

  2. Amazing piece, Red. You are so right on with music. It does create noise and reminds you of your past and can create future memories. I found and find myself, playing music all day. It does bring a physical reaction as much as an emotional one when hearing certain songs that you relate with a memory! Awesome.
    Samantha Light-Gallagher recently posted..December’s Widowed Blog Hop!My Profile

    • I more associate music with periods of time than with events or people, but that is arts training from long ago. More recently, I have been talking to many who felt a musical void. For me, I just needed to talk about the silence and the alternatives. Glad to see you today, Samantha. xxx

  3. Red, that’s a wonderful gift that Little V has! Very few people can play by ear, and she is being introduced to the piano at a very early age. She will get so much enjoyment from her musical expression. It will be so much fun.
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Don McLean – Vincent ( Starry, Starry Night) With LyricsMy Profile

  4. What was the anagram of ‘silent’ again? Right, ‘listen’.

    • I know. Turning things inside out is sometimes difficult. In the end, it is usually smart.

      PS Next time, check the CommentLuv box, so your latest post attaches to your comment.

  5. I’ve tried so hard to explain how silence became so different after Steve died. Never could manage it. You did so wonderfully. But I wasn’t able to listen to music for over a year. Simply everything reminded me of him. I looped old movies in the background for noise during that time. I was ecstatic when music could fill that void again, though.

    • A lot of people have a deep connection to music and infuse it into their marriages. I am glad you have come to a place where you can listen again. I hope you come to the place where it gets easier to listen to the songs from when Steve was still alive. xxx

      PS Next time, check the CommentLuv box, so your latest post attaches to your comment. 🙂

  6. I agree! Listening to music was a major part of my therapy in grief. I would go on road trips and listen to music that brought back all those memories. It made me cry but very therapeutic! Great post:) Cindy

  7. Silence can be deafening, roaring, overwhelming.

    It can creep on you in the middle of the night, or take center stage as you drive down the road.

    Gonna be hard to go back to complete silence when Marg goes back to work.

    This reminds me I need to call Dad tonight too.

    MJ Logan recently posted..City Girl and The WoodsMy Profile

    • I know the silence is something I have precious little of when I want it. When I really do not, I have it in abundance. Glad I reminded you.

  8. Red – you have hit the nail on the head again – and who even really knew it was as nail until you shaped it perfectly? Music has always been part of my life and my families. We have almost all played an instrument, and most of us break into song spontaneously if one happend to go with the situation we are in.. sometimes it is the portal for the emotions that get bogged down and forgotten to find their way out. the number of times I have been somewhere and caught unaware by a some that has meaning ..and been overwhelmed by emotion so much.. that I know opening my mouth to say anything will bring on the flood.. I stopped for awhile listening because I had to then I spent hours and hours listening to try and get it all out because i had to. Today I was going through all my playlists on youtube..and weeding out the duplicates and the videos that have been deleted and realized (and tell me your timing on this post could not have been more perfect) that I have a lot of stuff from ..then, and I was thinking how I should start a playlist of NOW.. just songs that I like an find and whether its becasue they remind me, or just that i like them … associate them to me ..my life.. there is a soundtrack to my life – music always in the background even when I couldnt, didt want to hear it.. It was very emotional when I opened up that part of my world again but also a big sigh..and joy.. I was missing it. I do go on..I must be procrastinating..

    I use music for that to although not really intentionally.. don;t send me to change up the song.. there are too many shiny butterflies and there I go.

    thanks for the thought sul and thought provoking post
    Muchas Love you
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Sitting Here Watching AirplanesMy Profile

    • oh – and there are songs that are so deeply part of my life that if you put one of them on – I am immediately taken to the time and place.. even if it was 25 yars ago Ifeel what I felt.. just like it is now..
      Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Sitting Here Watching AirplanesMy Profile

    • I hate those things which ask me “What is your favorite song?” Unequivocally, my answer is “For which occasion?” Each of them has meaning. And I do not remember who sang it, but I know all the words…even when I cannot remember the title. I can remember where I was introduced to the genre, but rarely who stapled me to a chair to hear it.

      The music is in my head. I hear it when there is silence. I really should make a playlist which is my soundtrack. I may have to upload some music of my own to get there. <3 you, shiny butterflies and all <3 xxx

      • Exactly, its an impossible question for me…

        I started the soundtrack of my life last year. I started from the age I remember having my own stereo choosing my own music – 15, after accounting for the songs of my childhood.. and went to 19. Its already in the hundreds.. and I still have over 20 years to go? I started it on the theory that you could pinpoint the major events and best and worst years of my life by the music i was listening to.

        It makes perfect sense to me and yes I do it with the smell thing too not as strongly though,,,perfume food home smells baby smells…

        <3 <3 they used to be shiny catepillars – they were lot easier to keep track of
        Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Sitting Here Watching AirplanesMy Profile

  9. Communication is often a hard beast to control. It seems there is always too little or too much of it, and rarely does it reach the depths that it should.

    Cat’s a musician who should soon have some new songs out: http://catforsley.me/
    Binky recently posted..Out WombiedMy Profile

    • She is linked in the post. She has a new link up to CDBaby today. Her SoundCloud and YouTube channels are linked at the top of her blog.

      And you are right about communication…all the time.

  10. Oddly, as I was reading this dearly beloved is in his music room playing with his birthday present and now, drumming — headphones on with his drums set up to his new toy. I find myself always tapping my foot and nodding my head to his beats.

    I also found, even when his noise annoys I missed it.
    Valentine Logar recently posted..I weep for AmericaMy Profile


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