Grief and the social mores
The day that I heard that Sheryl Sandburg lost her husband my heart broke, and yet I never knew her or had even ever heard of her. After her 30 days of shloshim, she posted on Facebook, and the world read about her pain. What stuck in my mind is how she wanted option A, you’ve read the article and if you haven’t, well please do, she is eloquent and on point like few widows can possibly do after just 30 days. Option A is when you scream to the unknown universal WTF: “give me back my life and give it back to me now.” I, nor Susan, are stupid, we know it isn’t going to happen, but please explain to me why the universal unknown WTF has taken a great, talented, funny human at a period in their lives when they had so much left to contribute to humanity.
I am now 2 years into the widowhood. My beloved, Michael, simply stood up, looked at me, said call 911, and was gone before I could do more than scream violently in the phone that 911 wasn’t arriving fast enough.
His name was Michael, please understand that it is important for you to know that, I want to say his name over again, and I want you to say his name out loud when you talk to me, it keeps him alive, something he will always be to me, even though he may not be to you.
I want to tell stories about him, and I want you to tell your stories to me about him, it doesn’t hurt, quite the opposite it brings joy to me and for a moment he is still here, and I am happy.
There are the platitudes that one says when you first approach a widow. I don’t blame anyone when they come out of their mouth, frankly, I uttered them myself in the same situation before Michael died. I don’t have an answer for you on this one, but please find words from your heart, not from some book, movie or greeting card, we know those words are false, and they hurt more than no words at all.
Then there is the time factor, it has been two years, and no my life is not back on track, I doubt it ever will be, but you expect a semblance of normal that I still can’t pull together. I will get there, but please understand that I have not lost a puppy or a job, I have lost my life.
Grief is different for everyone, that is why interaction with each grief stricken person is so different. My dearest, dearest friend Lolly would take the flowers you brought and quietly go to the trash and dump them. I, well, I loved getting the little bouquets my sister brought once a week, they weren’t forced florist bouquets of death, they were simple grocery store gatherings of flowers, that when put in a vase on the dining room table brought color to a bleak situation and a smile to my face.
I still go to bed every night, but now alone, and that is the time when I know the world has abandoned me. No, my friends and family have not, and the world still spins, but that is when I am actually abandoned. That is when I rail against the unknown world WTF and still scream every night, please give me my husband back, you really don’t know the lives you have destroyed by taking him. I want option A.
No this isn’t a pity party, yes my life has been destroyed. But that means I have to find out what my next life is. Who am I now? Where do I find meaning without the collective memory that we were?
Give me time, give all of us widows time. I heard something somewhere. Grief is like baggage, some days you pick it up and walk around with it, others it is so heavy you don’t know how you will take one step. It has been two years, and still there are days when the baggage it too heavy for me to do anything but say I quit and go back to bed.
It takes time, it takes love, yeah, crap it even takes a village, but what it really takes is for friends and love ones to know that while their lives have moved forward, mine has not. Don’t think it has, call me even though you think I have healed, call me even when you think I must have moved on, call me or drop by, I still really, really need you to get through this.
To Sheryl and the hundreds upon hundreds of us who find ourselves widows and widowers at too early an age, I send you a simple hearfelt and very deep deep hug. I am alone, so are you, and I wonder every moment if I will get through this, I don’t know, I really don’t, but one baby step after the other, I try to discover who I am without Michael.