In life, in culture, we are encouraged to connect with others, with community. As girls, we imagine who we’re going to marry (a high percentage of us anyways). Who will we fall in love with? We date, fall in love, get engaged, marry, and build a deep connection to our person, and society applauds us. Then our person dies and we’re heartbroken, devastated, and we often experience great difficulty in going on, in creating a new life for ourselves. And that same society that applauded our successful connection now sits in judgement and not so subtly encourages us to medicate our grief. We must let go, we’re told. You’re grieving too long.
They don’t seem to grasp that it can take a lifetime after a death to create another life without our person, and that it isn’t a simple one and done situation. Mostly it seems that our culture doesn’t comprehend the duality of loss; that grief and Love co-exist.
Elderly couples who die within hours of each other are lauded and make the news. How beautiful, people say. They loved each other so much they couldn’t bear to be without one another. How fitting that they’re together in death as they were in life!
But if only one of the couple dies, and the other doesn’t get on with it pretty damn quick, woe betide them as the judgements begin, and suddenly it’s oh but you have to go on! He/she would want you to be happy! Don’t bury yourself with your person! Smile! Be happy! Be grateful! Blah blah blah…
Jesus, there’s no satisfying the world.
Generally speaking, humans try to stuff and wrap life into a nice neat box, tied with a pretty bow. Life isn’t like that, is it? Mostly, life is messy and confusing and you do the best you can at any given moment, with the information at hand and hindsight is called hindsight for a reason. Grief is a prime example. Experts weigh in on timelines (there aren’t any, they say, mostly. Unless you’re grieving for a really long time (in their estimation). Then it becomes complicated. Seek help, they say. In the DSM guide book, grief becomes complicated after 6 months.
Seriously? I was comatose, basically, for the first 3 years. Now I’m just empty and doing the best I can with what I have on any given day. I’ve given myself a timeline for my grief. Death. How’s that, experts?
Speaking for myself, much of the distress of grief has been caused by my determination, based on external factors primarily, to make my grief something other than it is. I’ve pushed myself, as I consider the subject, to be anything other than grieving. Busy, involved, defensive…rather than just admitting that I’m fucking sad and if anyone doesn’t like it, then don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out of my life. Once I admitted the sadness to myself, it removed some of my angst. In my own little world of nothing being okay, I’m kind of okay, if that makes any sense.
It’s very popular to say well, grief wakes you up. You become more compassionate, more aware, kinder, stronger, more confident,more spiritual, more of whatever is good, less of whatever is bad.
Well, I call bullshit on that. I was already confident. I was already aware of how strong I was, emotionally and physically. I already knew that I could get through whatever shit life handed out. I was awake, for god’s sake.
And it makes me wonder…how are people living their lives that they need a death to wake them up or make them more compassionate, etc?
Also, even if living without Chuck has taken me to a deeper level of all of that, none of it is enough compensation for his death. I was doing just fine, thank you, and I have the testimonials to prove what good person I already was, thank you again.
When the word acceptance is used relative to grief, I like to think that it doesn’t have to do with us, the left behind, accepting the death of our person. Duh. We know only too well that our person is dead, idiot. Maybe the word acceptance needs to apply more to those around us, as in…they accept our grief, accept us in our grief, and support us in our grieving. How about that?
Also, regarding acceptance, maybe, for we who are left behind, it doesn’t have as much to do with accepting the death as it does with accepting the crazy we feel as we navigate the rough and turbulent waters of grief, as we muck through the financial burden of being alone suddenly, downsize our homes, raise our kids alone, lose friends and other relationships….and on infinitum. All while emotionally reeling from being without that person who made so much of all that possible
And, lastly, it strikes me that not enough attention has been given to the soul and the heart in this maelstrom of grief. I remember early on, when a counselor suggested medications to me, telling her why would I want to medicate this? It isn’t of the mind or body…this experience has to do with my soul. This is a spiritual experience for me and medications will just get in the way of the soul work.
I don’t know. I don’t know the answers and I don’t know the questions any longer. Nor do I have enough curiosity to ask any questions. I just go with whatever is going on and deal with whatever is in front of me. It is what it is, right?
I’m sad and I miss my beloved husband and I’m tired from doing life alone and my heart is as open as I can make it but what the hell does that mean anyways, and I’m strong and I’m confident in my abilities but no stronger or confident than I was when Chuck was alive, just in a different way. Mostly what this life without him has done is make me feel very alone. I haven’t had sex in over 4 years and it looks to continue that way for a very long time. I’m back to working after being retired. Getting enough money to live on is an issue. Life has a whole lot less color or energy without him in it. I’m confused as never before about how to live, where to live, what to do, how to do it.
It isn’t a matter of bitterness or whining. It is simply stating the facts of the case of widowhood.
Tell me again what I’ve learned since Chuck’s death?