I have been a “W” word for almost 6 years now. In that time, I have had the opportunity to connect with many others who have experienced loss. About a year after Jonathan passed away, I started a group for people who were grieving. It wasn’t just for people who had experienced the same loss as me, but had lost someone very important to them. My heart behind starting that group was this…
I felt very, very alone trying to adjust to the new world I was thrown into when I suddenly lost my husband. I won’t say that people didn’t care but after the “dust settled” most everyone went on about their normal lives while I was completely stuck. Do I blame people for living their lives? Absolutely not. Although there were so many people also grieving the loss of my husband and my children’s father, we were the ones whose everyday life was affected horribly. In connecting with other people who were grieving, particularly those who lost a spouse of whose children lost their parent, I learned the saddest part of grief… I found that many people felt like I did. Alone. So, I’m not singling myself out here. Most people would not think this to be the case but, believe it or not, it is all too common.
There are so many reasons why people tend to distance themselves from someone after they have lost like I did. I couldn’t name them all if I tried. Some assume you are surrounded by family and friends and don’t want to overwhelm you. But guess what?? If everyone assumes the same thing?? You guessed it. No one is there. Some people just don’t know how to “be” around you. They worry about what to say or what to not say. So guess what?? Often they say nothing. Some are so overwhelmed with their own grief that it is just too difficult to be around you. THEIR grief. I’m not trivializing the loss of others, don’t get me wrong. I hope you get what I’m saying… Some just don’t want to face the reality that you aren’t the same person and they don’t know how you will fit into their lives anymore.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I listened to others’ talk to me or in front of me and my kids about their grief. I’m not saying they aren’t allowed their grief but, it was extremely difficult to be the one to shoulder others’ pain when you are already carrying so much of your own. Some people made it, most likely not intentional, almost like a contest. Who missed him the most? Who was affected the most? Who was closest to him? This was my husband and even I didn’t make it all about me. My focus was my kids and how they were affected. They were almost 10 and almost 12. They lost their Daddy and almost lost both of their parents in the blink of an eye. On top of that, their Mother was hurt (car accident) and they had to watch me in pain, endure daily (very painful) in home healthcare, not being able to walk, two surgeries, not being in their home that they never returned to, going back to school just over a month after, getting drug to grief counseling, and losing connections with a lot of people that they were extremely close to. I could go on and on but even if I continued, those not experiencing that with them day in and out, just wouldn’t understand. They lost so much.
The last (almost) 6 years have been more difficult and painful than I can even begin to say. But, we are still here. We have a long way to go still in the journey of learning how to live again without the one who meant so much but, we are pushing through and doing our best.
In the last year or so I have connected specifically with other people like me. Amazing groups of people that have lost a spouse and (most of them) raising grieving children. Oh, what a blessing! How amazing it has been to finally have relationships with people who truly get what I have been going through. I have also formed super strong friendships with smaller groups of people that have lost their spouses. These people now mean the world to me. We are doing life together every day. All of us in different states even. But, we are each other’s lifelines.
As I’ve heard other open up about their lives, their struggles, their grief and their relationships… I have learned something that is more disheartening than anything else. The judgment they receive from others. It seems everyone has an opinion on how they are “dealing with” their grief. They aren’t moving forward fast enough. They are moving forward too quickly. I could go on and on… Some of my friends have started to move forward in the areas of opening themselves up to try and find love again. Oh, how many have opinions on that! Some are judged on how they are living, how they are parenting, etc. Well, guess what?? It is plain nobody else’s business! Don’t get me wrong, some people are very well intentioned and don’t mean to come across the way they do but, regardless, it’s just not okay! I can’t speak for anyone of them but for me…. I am raising two (now) teenagers all on my own without the help of anyone else. I have a home. With that comes expense, maintenance and just plain burden! It’s hard! I would love to say that I have done it all without struggle. But I can say that I have done a good job. I’m far from perfect but I am doing the best that I know how. That is more than enough for my kids and that is all that matters. Set aside the fact that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jonathan would so proud of me. Nobody else, especially people that have been on the outside of our lives, should even have the right to weigh in. The worst part is that people weigh in anyway (a lot of times, not even to you) and armed with information that just isn’t accurate.
The moral of the story… Who are you to judge?? You don’t live my life. You don’t pay my bills. Most of you have someone to go home to, someone to aid you in making the tough decisions life throws at you daily. You aren’t dealing with grieving kids, teenagers at that. Blah blah blah…
Quite honestly, I have been quiet for too long, always making excuses for people’s hurtful behaviors, always pretending that everything is okay. Well, I’m proud to say that those days are over. Am I going to go rogue and catapult myself to the other side of that spectrum? Absolutely not, because that’s not who I am. But, I am going to speak up for myself. I’m going to speak up for my kids. I’m going to help my friends who are dealing with similar issues, find their voice too.
If you weren’t around during the most difficult times, please don’t judge me now.