Posted by: Rob | May 5, 2008

Comment on the post “A Grief Revisited” by Marsha

November 27, 2008:  Hello.  Perhaps you’ve arrived today from the YWBB courtesy of a couple of links?

If you do decide to read this, then afterward read this.  And perhaps you might like to comment.

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Marsha recently posted about wanting to help newer widows and her approach to doing so via an on-line support bulletin board run by YoungWidow.org. She wrote some thoughts and ideas about how, despite the path a widowed person has chosen for him- or herself, the experience of having been widowed and its attendant grief do not go away. Ever. She also wondered about her “credibility” as a widow, especially in the context of said bulletin board, now that she has remarried.

Even though I’m no longer a member of the bulletin board, so I no longer post there (and, as I’ve alluded to before, I requested that all my posting history be deleted so you won’t find hardly any trace of my time there), I decided to go and read the thread where she had posted her comments in the above linked blog entry.

 As near as I can tell, the question had to do with why more “senior” members of “the board” did not post very much. The assumption made by the OP was that each was “stuck” in some aspect of grief and did not want to post about it, whereas the OP believes there would be great value in having those further out on the “widow road” post about their difficulties and that they could really provide some benefits and insights to those newer to widowhood.

I joined that board at a very low time for me; I think I was roughly a month out. The aspects that immediately helped me were the things common to new young widoweds. I learned very quickly that everything I was thinking and feeling was really pretty much par for the course. I wasn’t crazy! And that, in all seriousness, was quite a relief. In addition to finding “peers” in my widowhood, I also found the writings of those who were much further out than I. Some, even, were founding members of the board. Many of these writings (Messages of Hope & Healing) were of great help to me. They helped me to see that it was indeed possible, even probable, that I would continue to live and have a life.

Now, the board was not my only support source. I worked with a counselor. I took a leave from work. My kids were already adults, so I was “fortunate” in not having the burden of caring for young children on top of my grief and having the means to take the time that I desperately needed to start the healing process. I went on a journey during my leave from work. I had hours and hours to think and reflect. I visited with very good friends; each of whom imparted some wisdom to me along the way. At four months out I could still not see any future for me, though, in spite of all I had done to help myself recover.

I found that as long as I was in that particular state, the other members of the board were open and welcoming. Even as my own posting rate went up and I tried to help others by sharing the little bit that I had learned along the way. I received a bit of feedback – privately – about how some of what I posted to others was of some help.

During this time I also became the unwitting object of unrequited love (although perhaps that’s a bit strong – unrequited lust might be more appropriate?) and, even if half of what my admirer was admitting to me were true, there was a lot of widow lust going on “off the board”.

By the fifth month out I had met someone – another widowed. Our relationship started as friendship with mutual support for our respective grieving. But as time went by and we shared our experiences, thoughts and grief, it started to feel like there was something more between us. We took the next steps and realized that we had a common basis for something deeper and more permanent. Eventually we decided to marry.

We were both members of the board. Naturally, as our relationship grew it began to become a part of our board postings. And that’s when the resistance on the board started. So though there are many who will say they are happy to hear of members finding new love – some even mean it – there are those who “sound” like they are saying it through plastic smiles and gritted teeth.

Hope can be infectious. And maybe when people like us wrote about how we think and believe that any beginning starts with the individual – that is, what you do with your life is up to to – it did sound a little like telling people they had to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” (as Stella so aptly put it). I don’t believe I ever said anyone who didn’t or couldn’t start themselves was wallowing. Still, there is a little something in the old adage, “The harder I work, the more good luck I have.” What happens in our lives generally has a great deal to do with the effort we put into it. But I digress.

Hope can be infectious. But, apparently it can also be viewed with suspicion and loathing. And at the end of the day, there is a cadre of members of the board who don’t want to hear that there can be hope. And, it seems, they don’t want anyone else to hear it either and so they shout down any voice that might be a candle in the darkness.

I grew weary of it and, even though I thought I could be of help (more to fellow widowers than widows), I could not abide the fear, loathing and negativity that permeated the board. I decided I would no longer expend my energy in that particular forum; energy is a precious commodity and I elected to not waste it (which is how I see it).

At first I stopped posting, but continued to read. Then I decided that I wanted to leave and I wanted to go the full mile and unregister and have all of my writings deleted.

But before I did that, I had to capture those writings (many of them, at least) for myself. Writing about my widowed experiences has been very therapeutic for me and I wanted to keep that piece of myself that evolved back into the realm of the living after a terrible loss. As I laboriously copied my posts into documents to save on my own computer, I noticed something that hadn’t been apparent to me early on. I noticed that the bulk of the support I received in my early posting days came not from long time members further out than me, but rather from newer members like me. So at the time of my greatest grief and misery, the support I received (and gave in some small measure) was truly peer support. With that realization I felt less trepidation about removing my own record. No one goes back and reads those old posts anyways. Board membership has been growing exponentially and so, sadly, there will be no shortage of “peers” for every new widow or widower that finds and joins that particular board.

I have to agree with what Marsha said, however:

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t still mourn and deal with some aspect of my grief. […] One thing I want to make PERFECTLY clear is this fact—we ALL still grieve. Those of you who are in the peripheral of a widow(er)—know this—grief does not cease to exist because our life circumstances may change. It continues, perhaps in a different form, but it continues…

This is very true and it’s interesting how those widoweds who haven’t made a move forward in their life assume that because some of us have we are “all better now”. It’s not true and it’s quite annoying.

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Responses

  1. I can’t imagine being “all better now”. to lose to death the person you love most is something that changes you forever. a friend wrote to me the other day and said “I’m sorry you’re still sad about stephen….”

    Still? It’s only been 8 months. and I’ll still be sad about it in 8 years no matter what else happens in my life.

  2. Rob,
    To have your feelings validated is one of the most wonderful feelings one can know—thank you.
    Marsha

  3. I’m a fairly new widow; John died 52 days ago. It really is kind of funny how certain people want you to be “all better now”. And there is another group who’d like you to be a total wreck.

    Thanks for writing, Rob.

  4. @nursemyra: It’s amazing the insensitive remarks we hear, isn’t it? And I remember when I too was blithely ignorant of such things.

    @Marsha: No thanks required, but you’re welcome. Remarried widows/ers must have to live in some kind of in-between never never land between the uninitiated ordinary folk and those widows unwilling to risk it all again. And yet, who can be more brave than one who has suffered the greatest of losses (and I truly believe loss of partner is the greatest)and yet voluntarily signs on to go perhaps experience great loss again? For the inevitable truth – in both our cases – is that one half of a remarried couple will have to face being widowed again. But, at least, we can hope that it won’t be for a very long time. But there are no guarantees and now I live my life with that knowledge.

    @widowswalk: Welcome and thanks for stopping by. I’m sorry for your loss and sorry you’ve had to join us on the widow road. ((Hugs)) to you.

  5. hugs from me too, widowswalk.

    Rob, we were all blithely ignorant once. and I cringe when I think of the well meaning platitudes I may have once parroted to others before I knew what grief really was.

    the truth is no one knows what to say in these sad circumstances do they?

  6. I hear you. I see it, too, and am very, very careful when I express any idea or advice that runs counter to the “rules of widowhood,” chief among which is, “No one is more miserable than the widowed, and no widow is more miserable than I.” I don’t enjoy a flame war, personally.

    It’s easier now for me to see how the myopia of deep grief is no better or more noble than the myopia of the uninitiated. At almost 22 months, I have a different perspective than I did early on regarding my expectations of others and their responses to my grief. But the sadness is still there. That is mine now, and I find that I guard it, both for other’s benefit and my own. Writing about it then, as I do, is a blessing and an outlet for it.

  7. […] while back a very wonderful woman I met through the widow board expressed her sorrow over not being able to give back some of the wisdom and comfort she had received there to newer […]

  8. TGLB: I agree that writing is a blessed outlet for this experience. Grief, like death, is hidden away in our culture. We don’t wear black veils, mourning clothes, etc. The idea is for the grieving to blend in as quickly as possible, and thus there are not apparent role models for grief. I was thinking the other day that I don’t remember seeing my grandmothers grieve (beyond some tears at the funeral) after my grandfathers’ deaths. Their grief was hidden from us children.

  9. […] can only suppose it was my comments about the love-sick widow who cyber dogged Rob which got me into trouble over there. The comments, which you can read here, were typical of a […]


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