I haven't done a scientific study or anything, but having observed the well-wishing of friends for a fellow widow today on an important date for her family, I suspect you can tell who is a widow and who is not by the way they frame their notes.
The non-widowed command: "Remember the good times." Implicit in the command is the idea that you shouldn't remember the darker matter of life, as well as a complete lack of understanding that it is often the memory of the good times that brings on the most tears. It is the tone that annoys me most. It's bossy, and I don't dig people commanding others' feelings. "Remember the good times!" As if you don't? It's easy enough to remember good times--they are ephemeral by their very nature, and were always meant to be fond memories. But people aren't supposed to be, and when they starred in those good times and aren't here to reminisce with you about them, it's going to hurt. When you know you won't get to make any more good memories with them, no matter how much you'd like to, it's going to hurt. I'm not sure how that piece escapes people.
The widowed, though, if they offer anything at all beyond love and hugs, wish: "I hope your day is filled with good memories." Implicit in that hope is acknowledgement of all the difficult memories that are now attached to a loved one that has passed on, memories that are hard to avoid when you think of them: days, or weeks, or months in a hospital watching their loved one slip away, often in pain; or for those of us who lost our loves suddenly, the hours and steps leading up to finding out the worst, out of the blue. These are our last memories of them. Those who wish know to hope that the good memories outweigh the bad ones, because they hope the same for themselves.
I remember the last day of my last trip to visit A. As was my habit, I was quickly packing my suitcase as soon as I got dressed so I didn't have to think about leaving for a few hours until it was time to leave for the airport. I was always sad to leave him, and would get teary. He hated to see me cry, so I would do my best to hold it together, but the fact is, I have no poker face at all, and wasn't fooling anybody. He knew that morning; a few tears had already leaked out. He told me that there was no need to be sad; we'd see each other again soon. (Ha.)
I was sitting on the floor of his bedroom putting things in my bag when I saw something flash, out of the corner of my eye. When I looked to see what it was, I found the red face of a Buddha statue peeking at me sideways around the doorjamb, and a deep voice saying "Buuuudha" as the statue wagged. Then the Buddha disappeared, only to reappear a few moments later lower in the door frame. "Buuuuuuuuudha." This went on for a minute, until Buddha and his puppetmaster came in to harass me directly. By that point, I was laughing instead of crying. Mission accomplished.
And as I sniffled on the plane, the thought of that Buddha cheered me. But now, even as I smile remembering what a great guy he was, how he cheered me up that time and so many times, the smile turns to a smile with brimming eyes remembering what a great guy he was. Because I miss him. Because love is forever.