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:

talk talk talk sign

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.

mirror eyesYou 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.

musical notes

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. Indeed, music and association with the past is strong for me. At times having heard an old or forgotten tune drops me, like a time-traveller, somewhere where I smell a place: like school, a particular shop, or a special memory.

    I find it amazing that even Alzheimer sufferers remember through music.

    Great post, Red.
    Tess Kann recently posted..Flash in the Pan – BookMy Profile

    • I could get really scientific on you as to why it works with Alzheimer’s patients. Math really is the universal language. Glad you like this one, Tess. Great to see you.

  2. Music has the be one of the most direct shortcuts to emotional states, and one of the fastest conduits for memories.
    And I couldn’t live without it.
    El Guapo recently posted..The Lazt Letter Is Juzt The BeginningMy Profile

  3. Yes everyone relates to music in one form or another and how could we do without it, actually I was thinking of adding some music to my Space in the New Year and of course it will be something Ozzy orientated 🙂

    Have a wickedly enjoyable day
    and a wonderful evening also Red 🙂

    Andro xxx

    • That is a wonderful idea. I have always been an Ozzy fan. I have enjoyed his concerts over the years. He is rather charming on the tele as well.

      • Yes he is what they call
        a nice bloke here in the UK 🙂

        Are you enjoying your weekend 🙂

        Andro xxx

        • That I am. I have accomplished a bit under what I had projected, but my diversions were well worth it. I hope you are staying warm, Andro 🙂

          • I won’t ask what those diversions were as I know that you are just too wicked and naughty not to have had some… Hey I meant some fun, which is just the same thing as what you were thinking so I had better get out of here while I am ahead 😉 lol

            Have a lovely time today Red 🙂

            Andro xxx

  4. Some of my musical friends:

    My much valued Italian composer, Mario at

    A favorite of many, Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/

    and the composer of “Faina” on my Cordero saga video # 4
    Alejandro Flores Betancourt at

    • This is wonderful! I have gotten a crash introduction to CDBaby this week. Seems there is far more there than I had first be informed. Thank you!

  5. I believe that the only soundtrack for my life would be something from a Disney movie– I will ask my wife and get back to you. Or better yet, I will ask my kids.

    It is true music has a powerful influence on us. I remember songs from certain emotional times in my life.
    Derek Mansker recently posted..Through The Rubble God SpeaksMy Profile

    • I do not think you are alone in the Disney theme park. I know there are a lot from there which tug at the heartstrings or bring really fond memories.

      Great to see you tonight. I am interested in the results of your family survey. Should make for fabulous dinner conversation.

  6. A moving post, serious without being depressing and brought a smile to my face.

    Lois and I have purposed to explore all levels of communication.
    We also enjoy occupying the same space whilst concentrating on our own thing and not saying a word to each other for hours and we are totally comfortable with that.
    In fact, when we first met, she was the so-called stereotypical ’emotional man’ i.e. the one who had problems expressing her feelings…I had to help her open up emotionally.

    Some of our siblings think it’s morbid but we’ve discussed, the ‘natural divorce’ the only one we recognise.
    Obviously, neither one of us wants to go to sleep first, but we have discussed, at length, something no one is ever really prepared for.

    I don’t see music as being restricted by age, colour or ethnicity.
    As long is it’s melodious and where applicable, has positive, clean inspirational lyrics, I will listen to most things, something some our children don’t understand.

    I’ll be purchasing ‘Killing us softly’ and sharing the info about the book with friends.
    And when I write certain posts, your Blog will be mentioned as a reference point in areas where I have little or no experience. 🙂
    Phil recently posted..I ‘Like’ it.My Profile

    • There is absolutely nothing morbid about making end of life plans nor discussing the inevitable. We do not live forever, so at one point, barring going at the same time, one of you will face life without the other. It takes emotional maturity to speak of it in adult terms rather than the fantasy of never having to face it.

      You are more than welcome to link to M3. There are a number of posts which fit into the veins of your blog. When you have some time to read, start around February when we were discussing strengths and weaknesses, identity and communication. (Or check out the folders under The Map on the top menu bar.) Glad to see you, Phil.

  7. This is one of my favorite posts. I read it once before but am intrigued with it. You are spot on with so many things that you say. Sometimes silence is golden but not when it feels like it cannot be broken. I love to listen to music and to hear the my children’s voices. When my children arrive home from school and their laughter fills the house, I cannot help but smile.
    Samantha Light-Gallagher recently posted..Finding words for love…My Profile

    • I love the sound of laughter. It brightens every day. I hope you will check out this month’s post as well. xxx

  1. Musical Foolishness & Follies | The M3 Blog

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