Support for the Grieving

gray concrete column inside vintage building
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Yesterday’s blog was hard to write. I was expressing the hardest feelings I held since this nightmare entered my life, excluding the beginning. I sat with it for a long time on Wednesday, perhaps too long, perhaps not, and now, I’ve moved on. Of course, it’s not that easy! None of this is easy. The battle to move on was a tough one to fight.

Sometimes, I think it would be easier to continue to wrap myself in grief, to lay on the ground and let it fall over me and pin me down. Not to move, stay motionless for a time, maybe for a long time, has its appeal. It would give me permission to shelter myself in my house and ignore the outside clatter. It would allow me to neglect bills, let the house go, rely on others and pity myself so much I would be a martyr in my own mind. My excuse would be “I’m in mourning”.  No one would question. It’d be kind be unPC of anyone. I mean, how can you ever question anyone’s process?

Oh, does it sound like I did question others? I don’t. Not at all. I kind of like the idea. Truly. In the 1800s, a widow was expected to mourn for two years, the first year in deep mourning. In Ethiopia, members of a community take care of widows financially, each taking a month and females take a turn doing the housework for about a year. Still today, in areas of Russia,  Slovakia, Greece, and Mexico, widows wear black for the rest of their lives. So there are presidencies for mourning, grieving, for an extended period of time and maybe we are doing all wrong. Maybe I am.

I think in today’s society, in the US in particular, there seems to be a pull-yourself-up-by-your-boot-straps mentality.  There seems to be a need to advise people in mourning to ‘feel better’,  ‘get back to out there’ (wherever there is), ‘keep busy’, ‘ join something’, ‘do volunteer work’, ‘go back to work’, and on and on it goes. Well-meaning and very-loving people are anxious to see grieving individuals get back to some normalcy again…as if that’ll ever happen. Sometimes, people aren’t patient with someone’s grieving process – the length of it, the feel of it, the pain of it because of their own discomfort or wanting to see betterment. I just think we’ve jumped from one extreme -mourning for two years without attending social events – to another – questioning when someone is still not moving after six weeks. Somehow, we need to meet in the middle.

There have been people in my life who have pushed me to resolve my grief. Not a lot of people, but some.  And there are other people in my life who have told me I’m moving too fast and giving me the advice of slowing it down. Not a lot of people, but some.  Again, all are well-meaning, very-loving, people.  I’ve said this before and I’m finding it out more and more, people in grief, in particularly for me, widows, have different timelines. Mine happens to be inconsistent.  Sometimes, I slow my roll and experience my grief to its fullest like I did Wednesday. Other times, while I haven’t made any life-altering decisions like the experts suggest prevent doing the first year of widowhood, I have made some others don’t agree with.

I have learned more about myself in these past fifteen weeks than I had in a long time, maybe ever. And one of the things I’ve learned is my impatience makes me unpredictable and that’s okay. It’s who I am and how I roll. No one can judge this in me. I can’t judge this in me. And honestly, we as a society need to look beyond choices or the absence of choice being made and just embrace the person’s experience. If that means we need to accept a person’s three-year grief cycle, or three-month grief without advice, without opinions, then so be it. The most impactful words you can say to someone is “I’m here to listen”. That’s it. That simple.

I don’t know if the 1800s way of dealing with mourning is right. I don’t know if wearing black for the rest of my life is a good choice in wardrobe, although black is flattering on me. What I do know is I like the idea of taking care of those in mourning. I embrace the idea of being respectful toward everyone’s timelines. I do believe, as a community, we need to reserve advice and judgment.  And I like the idea of acknowledging a grieving person’s pain.

Grieving is hard. Being a widow is hard. Everyone is an individual and as such, advice, guidelines, books, whatever can’t be cookie-cut to fit all. So all I can do, any of us can do, is go along with what feels right for us, at the moment. Today, I feel better and I’m able to support myself. Wednesday, I had to fall down and stay down.  Sometimes, I can pull myself up and sometimes, I can’t stand with weakened knees.