Thursday, September 22, 2011


I have a Facebook Account, and quite a few of my friends have recently posted the following:

It's hard to explain to someone who has no clue. It's a daily struggle feeling sick on the inside while you look fine on the outside. Please put this as your status for at least one hour if you or someone you know has an invisible illness (MS, Bi-Polar, Depression, Diabetes, LUPUS, Fibromyalgia, Crohn's, Arthritis, Anxiety, Cancer, Heart Disease, etc.)  "Never judge what you don't understand."

I can relate to this sentiment.  Widowhood, although not a disease, is a traumatic event that causes an invisible scar on our heart that we have to live with for the rest of our lives.  It’s a sadness that will dwell within us for the remainder of our days.  Even if we go on to live a full, even generally happy life, remarried or not, with friends and family that love us, there is always a part of our heart that will never heal, no matter how many wonderful things may come our way afterward.

However, this does not typically show on the outside, and on the occasional day that it does show on the outside, I’m tired of people who think I’m crazy, weak, or just seeking attention.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  When my pain does show on the outside, all I want,(besides an opportunity to crawl under the covers) is a little understanding for the daily struggle that I am dealing with, even if that understanding comes in the form of silence when you’re at a loss for words.  That would be much better than the look that says, “Here she goes again!”  It’s amazing how insensitive people can be.

What I don't really think people believe is that I really dread those days that grief rears it's ugly head when I'm in public.  And the amazing thing is, that it shows up without warning, without triggers.  I could be happy one minute and in the next minute, the grief is bubbling up inside me like acid reflux.  When it happens, I think to myself, "Oh crap" because I know what comes's unavoidable...the misunderstanding and uncomfortableness of others.  Some avoid me, others give me a look that wonders what could possibly be wrong...I mean...he died over a year ago!  Aren't you past this by now?  They can't deal with my emotions, so they have to minimize them.  I'm sure it is some sort of defense mechanism on their part, but they have to learn that it is very hurtful to the one who is grieving.  And believe me, the last thing we need is something else that hurts.  It's like kicking someone who is already down.

So when a widowed friend or co-worker seems a little emotionally "under the weather" one day, for no apparent reason, depending on what is appropriate for your relationship with that person, give him or her either a hug, a sympathetic smile or just some space without judgement.  It is truly appreciated.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Was One of THEM

When I was in my twenties (AKA part of my life when I was young and stupid), my father passed away. When he died, my mom was 49, (49 is old, right? Or so I thought back then.)  I figured after a year she'd be over it.  I mean, my life continued on the way I had planned, wouldn't hers?  When she wasn't over it in one year, I thought maybe I was wrong, she needed a few more years and she would be happy again.  A few years later, she seemed happy, so I figured I was right!  It just takes a few years and she’s over it.  Good for Mom!  (Did I mention that I was young and stupid at the time?)

Little did I know!  I hate to admit it, but I was probably one of those clueless dumb-asses who told people stupid things like, "At least he's not suffering anymore".   

I could not have been more wrong!!  However, it wasn’t until I became a widow myself, at 45, that I understood the depth and complexity of what she was feeling.  When my dad died, I lost my dad.  I was sad, upset and missed him terribly.  Who was going to help me pick out my next car?  Change the oil?  Take my car to inspection?  I didn’t even know where the inspection station was.  My dad made me feel safe and secure, and gave me a reason to hold onto my girlhood just a little bit longer. 

Twenty years later, I still miss my dad, A LOT.  But despite the fact that he was gone, my life went on like normal.  I finally did grow up, and I found the inspection station.  I got married, had children, got a mortgage and a job.  Even though some little things about my life changed, nothing about the course of my life had changed.

It’s not the same when you lose a spouse.  Anyone who has lost a spouse knows that the whole course of your life changes, whether you want it to or not.  You watch all the plans you made for your joint future go up in smoke.  I couldn’t see it in my mother when my father died.  I really and truly thought that she “got over it”.

I guess this gives me more of a sense of why when I talk about losing Bobby, that people think it is OK to say, “I know how you feel.  I lost my mom/dad/sibling/grandparent/dog.”  (Yes, an acquaintance at work compared my loss to the loss of her dog.)  And I won’t argue that these are losses, absolutely, because I still do miss my dad and my grandma very, very much.  But losing a spouse is a completely different experience that cannot be compared to any other loss, nor fully comprehended unless it actually happens to him/her.