Thursday, June 9, 2011


As you will no doubt discover, one of the ways I made it to where I am now is by reaching out and finding people I could relate to -- other young widows. I did spend some time in in-person support groups & going to counseling, but the largest community of similar people I found has been through various online forums/groups. For one thing, widowed people in general are a small subset of society (ironic, considering that anyone who marries has the potential of becoming one if divorce doesn't happen first). But as you get younger in age, you find fewer and fewer people. For example, for me to be widowed at age 29, I was in a statistical group that was less than 1% of all people in my age category. So the odds of finding even one, let alone hundreds of other young widows in my real life seemed remote indeed. Through the marvels of the internet we are able to find each other & connect in ways that would have never been possible before. I sometimes marvel at what people did back before there was such an easy way to connect with people.

Well amongst this group of "people who get it" we have a (probably seems somewhat rude to people outside of our group) way of referring to the insensitive world around us -- DGI  (Don't get it). I think at times we scream out about the DGI's as if they are these horrible people who derive pleasure from causing us so much pain. But what I think they really are, are just ordinary people who have never experienced a close, personal loss,* and so they really "don't get it." But they can't. At least not yet. Honestly, no matter how much people around us seem so oblivious to our pain, there is no way I would want them to get it -- because in order to you have to also experience the pain and loss that we do. After all, I was a DGI for 29 years of my life. I'd like to think I treated people with sensitivity, but how do I know? How could I? So it is fairly unreasonable to expect others around us to always get it.

Not to say I think people get a free pass on being assholes. Or to be so oblivious to people around them they lack any empathy for how their words & actions may effect someone. But I do think perhaps we need to cut some people a little slack.

Early on, every little thing hurt. Each insensitive remark cut through my entire being like a knife, making my body hurt and bleed from within.

"He is better now in heaven/ with God/ not in pain / etc."

"You are still young, you can find someone else."

"Well, you were only married 2 years, it's not like you were together for 20."

"At least you didn't have kids."

"At least he didn't suffer."

I could go on, and on and on. And if I asked any of my widowed friends to chime in, the list of things people say to us may horrify you.

But as you go on, these things sting less and less. Yes, they are still upsetting. And sometimes they downright hurt. But you are able to let things roll off more easily... they don't set you into a downward spiral of grief. I think part of this is the healing process. Your early grief is raw, emotional. I remember walking through the world like I was an observer, not really a part of it. I would look at people around me in disbelief that they were just going about their daily lives. I wanted to shake them and scream "Don't you know? Don't you know that my world has ended?!?" But they don't. And as you start to realize this, is when you realize that your grief is starting to become less fresh. There is no timeline for this, and each person experiences these things at their own pace, but for healing to really happen, this will have to occur at some point. You start to notice other things too, like the ability to be happy for other people again, and not jealous that there life is going on while yours has just ended. It doesn't mean you are "over it" or have "moved on." It just means you are healing, and that the raw, emotional pain has subsided. The grief will probably always be there, though, to some degree the rest of your life. Rose Kennedy once said it best: "It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone."

And sometimes people find just the right words that cut like a knife, sending you back to that dark, spiraling place of grief -- and even if you know how to deal with it, and you can recover more quickly than those early days.... when they find just those right words, it still stings like it did the first time you heard someone say something insensitive -- this is why we call them DGIs. And yes, it is sometimes a label given out of spite, but some people deserve it.

"You know.....," said the loudmouth in my office this morning, "Sometimes people just drop dead. And sometimes this happens to young people too."

Some of us will never need a reminder of this fact.

*By close and personal, I mean losing someone who dominates your everyday life. I hate the "grief wars" that go on sometimes -- the "my pain is worse than your pain" syndrome, because we all feel losses and grieve people we love and care about, but I do believe there is a difference between, for example, losing a grandparent vs. losing a child, spouse, etc. The reason I see a difference is the impact on your day to day life. If you lose a parent (as an adult), I have no doubt you are devastated. And grieve. But the way you live your life, the things you do from morning until night are not completely torn apart and taken away from you like happens when you lose someone you live with.

No comments:

Post a Comment