I received an email from a friend today. She decided that she needed to be direct with me about the status of our friendship. She said that she doesn’t know how to be in a friendship with me anymore, and that she has felt this way ever since Michael died. She feels like any pain, loss, disappointment or loneliness that she has experienced in her lifetime, just doesn’t rate in my mind. It has made her feel like she has nothing to offer me, or that there is no room for her to share what’s going on in her life, especially if it is something positive.
When I first read this I felt quite hurt. Then as I sat with my thoughts and feelings awhile longer I came to the conclusion that she is right. I haven’t made room for her experiences to be of comfort to me. I have closed myself off to people that used to be in my life. I have felt anger and disappointment with how friends responded to me in the aftermath. That said, there is nothing I could have done differently.
I have not been a very good friend to anyone these past 18 months. Well, that’s not true. I have been a good friend to my fellow widowed bloggers who have taken center stage in my support system. I can do that because they are going through what I am going through at the same time. There is no need for explanations, no need for expectations, and no need to apologize for my ability to engage or not engage.
The other side of this is that I have not, and still do not feel, like I have much to offer to anyone right now who isn’t widowed. I am so broken, that I am somewhat immobilized. I often don’t return calls, and rarely reach out to connect with anyone. This is because I am so lost. When I look at myself from the eyes on the non-widowed, I feel like a disappointment. I feel like I am failing to move on. I feel like I am not willing to separate from my widowed role long enough to see the positives in life. I am a failure.
I know that I should be reaching out, but don’t. I know that I should start giving back to those who gave to me early on. I know that I should stop waiting for old friends and family to come find me. I know that I should be willing to put my grief aside long enough to make room for their happiness in spite of my loss. All this said, I still don’t know how.
Earlier today I was visiting my parents. My father has been in the care taking role with my mother for a very long time. I see how it is affecting him, and I see how sick and miserable my mother is. I do reach out to them, and try to help as much as possible. But, in the end, I know that in spite of their ongoing predicament, they still have each other. While at their home one of my cousins dropped by with her husband and two daughters. My cousin has the same illness that my mother has, and so has taken to bringing my parents a meal now and then, and to compare information about their individual treatments. I sat there, with my parents on one couch, my cousin and her husband on the other, with me across the room on a single chair. I felt sorry for all the challenges both couples are going through, but my empathy kept waning in the process. I couldn’t move away from the fact that even though they are not well, and have many worries, they at least have each other.
I feel like a bad person when I recognize this. It’s the dark side of grieving the death of a spouse. How do you continue to interact with couples, who in spite of difficult times, still have so much? I feel like everywhere I go, I see people who have it better. I see people that truly have happiness. I see people who have, or got to have, their spouses for many years. I see couples who have children with not so many challenges. I see people who are having a better life than the one I have been given. Am I angry and disappointed like my friend said? Yes.
I look into the eyes of my children, and I also see disappointment. I feel like I have let them down. I feel like I have put myself ahead of the line too many times. I feel like I should be able to will myself better, if not for myself, then for them. I sometimes wish that I could just disappear so that I wouldn’t have to see that look from anyone again.
I also don’t know what to do about my writing anymore. Clearly my friend has been reading my personal blog, and taking some of what I say personally. All to many times, friends have said that they are needing to catch up with me by reading my blog. This is often said in a quick email, or on a Facebook post. I think that many have become used to reading about my life rather than actually asking me about my life. My blog is my wailing wall. It is quite personal. It is quite honest. It is not filtered. It was not meant for their eyes. It was meant to give me a place to purge my grief as I experience it. It was also meant for you, my fellow widow(er)s.
I’m not sure where to go with this at present. Do I stop writing? Do I start editing myself? I don’t want to carry the burden of those around me not knowing how to connect with me. I don’t want to worry about how I make them feel. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I don’t want to turn anyone away. I feel like I either need to kick myself in the ass and move on, or completely let go of old relationships. I know that it doesn’t have to be one way or the other, but I end up feeling so guilty for the way I have responded to my loss.
Bitter. Angry. Resentful. Envious. Hurt.
Have I closed the door to possible joy? Have I allowed myself to be defined by my loss to the point that I have turned people away? Someone recently said to me, “oh, so you identify as a widower?” The question felt so judgemental, even though I know that is not what the person meant. But, it really has stuck with me. Is it not okay to identify as a widower? Are people asking widows the same thing? Or, is it because I am a man that it comes into question. Am I supposed to just man up, not take on the descriptive identity, and carry on as a single person who just happened to have had a husband who died?
I am so lost and confused. What am I doing wrong? Everything?