There have been a few instances over the past week or two where I’ve opened up to people and shared a grief-related feeling only to have them either change the subject or ignore me.
Approaching the 2 years and 4 month mark, I’m very familiar with this experience. As soon as that initial period of sympathy expires, whether it be a few weeks or a few months, the people around you start to have these awkward, uncomfortable reactions whenever we remind them that our loved one died and the bottom fell out of our world.
Some hate being reminded of their own mortality, many want to comfort us but struggle to know what to say (so instead, panic and run) and others maybe just don’t want to bring a downer to their day by thinking too much about the painful tragedy that we’re trying to navigate. Either way, it hurts a lot when you just want to be heard and have your feelings validated.
When I speak about my grief, just to be shut down, it feeds into the sense of isolation, like I shouldn’t be bothering people and bumming them out with sad, death-related talk. It makes me want to withdraw and increases sensations of loneliness, like I’m been cast from common society as punishment for being a ‘Debbie Downer’.
As soon as I start to feel disconnected from the world around me, the negativity feeds on itself, spiralling as I then feel guilty for being so needy and eventually convincing myself I should run away and live in a remote lighthouse somewhere, leaving the rest of the world in peace. It can be hard to pull myself up and out when that happens.
Those closest too me have also gotten better at listening when I need or want to talk, and we’ve all grown through my grief. Sometimes even a “that really sucks, I can see why you feel so sad’ is enough to make me feel acknowledged and not so alone. As for the times where people can’t handle it, well, I can only keep trying to handle this by reminding myself that they just don’t know what it’s like.
They’re not in the club, they don’t mean to hurt us. Don’t take it personally, and just let it go. When I need the support I turn to my widow friends who ‘get it’ or my sister who is always willing to listed, and find some comfort and understanding. I hate to think where I’d be today if I didn’t have these safety nets.