Following trends is not usually my thing, but after reading some posts on my support groups, my anger when certain things are said to me, and prompted by some of my fellow widda brethren, I thought I would give this a shot. If these apply to you, please stop saying them. It REALLY doesn't help.
"Your husband/wife is in a better place."
No. SO MUCH no. No they are not. Buried in a casket 6 feet underground or in a jar on my desk is not a better place. Right here with me is a better place. Right here with our family is a better place. Hell, right here doing something we completely abhor is in a better place. Not to mention the religious overtones that come along with this one. How do you know I believe in said "better place"? Moreover, even if I did, how to you know my spouse was a good person? He could have been a closet serial killer for all you know, and I'm sure those people don't go to your "better place".
"God only takes the best."/"Heaven has gained another angel."
Even more NO. Unless you have sat next to me in church every day for the last 20 years, do not presume that I believe that God/Heaven did anything. Even if I did believe, these words are NOT COMFORTING. It just reiterates that whatever I do believe in totally took the ONE person that was supposed to be in my corner until we grew old and gray together and died within hours of each other like all of those stories you see on the news. You get to go home to your spouse and believe whatever it is that you want to believe. I get to go home to a big empty bed, 2 grieving kids, tears, and not a whole lot of anything else.
I detest this conditioned response. I tell my toddler to apologize when he takes someone's toy. I apologize if I bump into someone or interrupt someone. Please don't tell me you're sorry, tell me it sucks. Don't be sorry, be present. Listen to me if I want to vent, hold my hand if I want to cry, and try to be there. Month 1, month 10, and month 67.
"I understand. My cat/hamster/snake/cousin's best friend's dog passed away last year and it was awful."
Hm. No. I get that the loss of a pet is devastating. I really do. I too have lost pets before. NONE OF THEM compared to the loss of my spouse. Not even a little. I grieved for a little while then replaced them. I can't even put a timeline on grieving my husband and just STARTED dating again in March, which was 18 months later. Empathy is good to a degree, but comparing my husband to a hamster?
Not so much.
"I hate being a *insert husband's hobby here* widow. I have to do so much by myself!"
I don't think I have enough words to express the rage I feel when I hear this. I get that this might be a sensitivity thing, but in this ridiculously PC world that we live in, how is this still an acceptable thing to say?! You are not a widow. In giving credit to one of my widda sisters (who, incidentally, inspired this post) she stated it perfectly: If your husband is coming home, you are not a widow. I'm sorry that your life might be moderately inconvenienced due to the fact that your spouse/SO is missing for a few hours a few days out of the week, but c'mon. Widow? NO. Not even a little bit.
"It's been *XX months*. Don't you think you should be moving on?"
Really? I didn't know you were the grief police. Please, tell me what is an adequate amount of time to get over my soul mate. How about you just keep time frames out of it and let me do things at my own pace. I don't tell you how long you should grieve the loss of your beloved hamster, don't tell me how long I should grieve the loss of something I thought was going to last forever. If I feel like taking a week, a month, a year, even a decade...that is no business of yours. It's not like Im a grieving the loss of just a person, I am grieving the loss of all of the hopes and dreams we had together, and that takes a little time.
"You're so strong. I couldn't ever do what you do."
I don't have a choice. I really am not strong. You don't see the daily breakdowns that I have in the bathroom when no one is looking. You don't see my tears behind my sunglasses, or hear the gut wrenching sobs that come out of me in the middle of the night after a particularly poignant dream. You don't hear the anxious and doubtful thoughts that run through my head constantly about how I am ruining my kids' lives because I can't be everything that they need me to be. I am just about the weakest person there is, but I put on a super brave face because I have to. Because if I don't, there is no one else who will. By the way, you don't know that you couldn't do it because you have never had to even try. I hope to hell you never have to.
There are SOOOOOO many more things that my fellow widda brethren and I could add to this list, but here I stop. This list is not to anger or piss off anyone, but just to give a reminder as we go into the holiday season that the bereaved people in your life might already be feeling a little sensitive, and these things, if said to them are sure to evoke a less than pleasant reaction. So, think before you speak, and reach out to a grieving person today. A hug, a cup of coffee, and invitation to go do something fun.....at this time of year these things mean more to us than anything.
Monday, November 3, 2014
The loss of a spouse is one of the most stressful things a human can ever go through. One day your life is just as you expected it. You may be struggling, you may be happy, you may have your McMansion, house in the 'burbs, or apartment in the city. You may have kids, or fur babies, or no babies, and your life is going on predictably as planned. Then it changes in the most drastic way possible.
There is no more forever for you.
No someday house.
No someday kids.
No someday car.
No someday anything.
You do gain some things, however.
You gain financial insecurity.
You gain stress.
You gain grief.
You gain a big empty bed that you never want to sleep in again.
You gain a bunch of people in your life....but then, just as quickly as they come, they go away again.
No warning, no nothing. Just gone. Not everyone goes, but I think it is the incredible influx that people that show up after a loss suddenly disappear. I belong to a lot of widow groups, and this seems to be a common theme. I'm not sure if death makes people uncomfortable, or I make people uncomfortable, or this new person that I portray that seems to wear my skin but isn't really the me from 2 years ago is unlikable, but it is what it is.
I would like to say that the secondary losses don't bother me much, but they do. Sometimes it's just nice to be able to have someone to grab an impromptu drink with. Or someone's shoulder to cry on. Or someone to share silly stories with. I don't think I have ever felt as lonely as I did when the losses started, and especially now, coming up on the 2 year mark. How lonely a room full of people can truly make you feel. How much it super duper sucks to ask for help and not get any. Having someone new in my life helps too, but it is almost worse. Since all of the secondary losses, I feel like I dump my grief on him, thereby forcing him to have to deal with part of me that I am sure he would rather not. It almost feels like bitching about an ex to your current love....and that is still against the rules, right?
Secondary losses don't just extend to people either. Some of us lose our houses, cars, utilities, pets, parents, siblings, children....and after the loss of a spouse all of these losses can compound grief tenfold. I've even lost my empathy.
I've tried curbing the losses...being less needy, trying my own coping skills so I don't rely on everyone else so much, self-care, getting involved in school, and cutting the people out of my life that don't really belong there, but really, it isn't necessarily enough.
Then I stop and think...are some of these secondary losses really losses? When I break it down...if all of these people are gone, did I really need them in the first place? Sure, it stings that they up and bounce with no notice, or that their lives have become too busy to fit me into it, but it forces me to confront my stuff head on, with no one to lean on but me.
I learned how to go out by myself. Eat alone. Buy a single movie ticket. Make phone calls to ask for public assistance. Negotiate. Save money. Take control of my addictions. Take control of my habits. Re-learn how to be myself. Not necessarily move on, but move forward.
By myself; but with the support of those I know really WANT to be there.