This is another long post and not a particularly happy one. Fair warning. Click out if you are looking for entertainment. If you want decorating ideas or recipes, scoot along. There are plenty of other blogs that can provide such amusements.
I have learned much in the past two years. My education will continue as I venture along the journey of widowhood. Most significantly, it has been startling clear that people generally have no idea what to say or not to say when life tragedies strike, such as cancer or death of a loved one. Goodness knows, I have made many verbal blunders in the past, and I now painfully see the errors of my ways. One achieves a whole different perspective when the coin is flipped.
Human vulnerabilities and sorrows make people very uncomfortable. As a result, they will frequently engage their mouths before they engage their brains. If you are at a loss about what to say or not say, a simple Google search provides valuable assistance. Here are a few articles to help get you on the right track:
And then there are people who choose to ignore the circumstances and disengage. Those who are enduring one of life’s most tragic events, at a time when they need critical emotional support, get the silent treatment. Out of sight, out of mind. Given a choice, I would rather have someone who says the wrong thing than to ignore me completely.
When we are presented with someone in our lives who is going through tough times, it is an opportunity for us to demonstrate God’s grace. It is a call to step up and make a difference in someone’s life. How we respond reflects our character and values. It is all well and good to sit in church on Sunday and hear the minister’s latest sermon about loving your neighbor. However, was the message received if one goes home and ignores friends and acquaintances who are hurting?
Let me provide a small illustration. I was able to finally push myself outside yesterday and clean up the flowerbeds in front of my cottage. It is a job that couldn’t get done during Jim’s last weeks of suffering. And, since it is difficult enough to get myself out of bed in the morning, the thought of facing household maintenance activities by myself for the rest of my life is unbearable. But I made myself do the task. (When I catch myself procrastinating, I tell myself that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done. Period.) Yes, I cried while I worked the flowerbeds. About mid-way through my task, along came a nearby neighborhood couple, walking the street for some fresh air and exercise. Did they inquire about my well-being? No. Did they ignore my tears? Yes. They bantered about the weather and then told me that I needed to come over and work in their flowerbeds when I got done. Pardon me, but I failed to see the humor. However, I did clearly see that they are ill equipped to show compassion. They chose to ignore my circumstances to make themselves feel better.
Here are the facts. In the past six weeks since Jim died, nobody has come by my home to check on my well-being. Not a soul. And I have more fingers than the number of inquiries initiated by local friends and acquaintances. All of my relatives live out of state. The person in my family who has contacted me the most is one not related to me: a sister-in-law who is separated from my oldest brother. Conversations with her have always been comforting. My oldest brother called me once and talked about himself. On a positive note, I have received many e-mails and cards from blogging and other out-of-state friends.
Since Jim’s death, I have reached out to several people and even called some of my blogging friends. It has been wonderful talking with them. When grieving, I have found it extremely difficult to be the initiator. But I push myself to do it. I’ve invited a couple of women out to lunch, one a recent widow. And, I got a welcomed invitation this past week to go to a movie with a group of women, and the invitation came from someone I met at the grief support group. One neighborhood couple has invited me to dinner several times, God bless them (including on Christmas evening, so I wouldn’t be alone). One local couple invited me over for brunch about a week ago. A retired, former co-worker of Jim’s tracked me down through the funeral home, and I learned that she is a recent widow too. I will be getting together with her soon. I also am participating in a grief support group, and it is helpful to be around other people who truly understand.
Have I received enough comfort and emotional support since Jim died? Undoubtedly, no.
Am I coping? No, not very well.
Do I feel abandoned and lonely? Absolutely, yes.
Is my heart hurting? Immensely.
Am I surviving? Yes, thanks to my sheer will and determination. God's mercy gets some credit too.
I look at the calendar and see that February 14 closes out the week. I don’t look forward to it. While other couples are celebrating, I will be mourning the loss of my sweet Jim, the love of my life. There are going to be many holidays this year that I will dread, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas, because I will be reminded of my solitude. I now wake up alone and go to bed alone. I have no one to talk over the day, share routines, or celebrate milestones. There is no one to regularly share a meal, joke, story, or experience. There is nobody on this earth who unconditionally loves me, no matter what. Valentine’s Day will be just another day to get through, focused on household or death-related tasks that need to get done. However, I will get through it. What other choice do I have?
Well, I think I have rambled enough for today. I may have given you some food for thought. Perhaps you will consider what you can do or say to someone you know in your life who is hurting. Perhaps you will think about how you might be the one hurting some day in the future, and how your new life will unfold.
As always, I greatly appreciate your prayers.