Whose Grief is It Anyway?

I wrote this post about 8 months after Michael died. My thoughts haven’t changed. I know a number of people in the grief process. I thought I’d share my feelings again in the hope that someone might find them helpful.

BC5F3DFA-3390-4E52-B946-77B024FFD2DCI am a really lucky person. I lived with someone who never asked me to be anyone but myself. The joy of reaching the space of true authenticity is hard to describe. Being able to always be yourself has a lightness to it. A sense of freedom. Arriving in that spot which enables you to say what you think, feel what you feel and be who you are, regardless of circumstance, is my idea of having truly self-actualized. I’ve treasured the luxury of being genuine.FF27030A-5C1C-4D57-8536-D33F0D609AC5

That authenticity has been challenged in the eight plus months I’ve lived since Michael died. The me that I am has created many odd moments as I work through my emotions. I’ve had some tough issues with people regarding the way they’ve handled my expression of grief.

Mostly, they don’t know that. Our culture does a wretched job with death and grief. There are lots of books out there which describe the steps everyone must take to handle what is the inevitable for all of us. There are timetables. The first and most popular one seems to be that you’re not supposed to do anything for a year after an important death. Otherwise you might regret your actions. But at one year, you have permission to act. Where’s the magic button for that change, I wonder? Can’t find it on my phone or computer.

Then there are the platitudes. “He’s in a better place.” “I’m sorry for your loss.” “It’s still too soon, but in time, you”ll believe you’re ready for a new companion.” Really??? Where’s the better place? I’d like to pay a visit. I haven’t lost Michael-I know I didn’t leave him at the mall. Why on earth would you think I want a new companion? I have a dog.

Let’s not forget the people who make you feel like a leper. They run the other way and say nothing. Your presence reminds them of the fragility of life. The ones who ignore you because they don’t know what to say. Saying I don’t know what to say isn’t on their radar. 

When I speak to people, I have often felt a recoiling.  If my words don’t match the common perceptions of what this pain is, people pull back. At a time when you feel most isolated, there’s a sense that if your truth makes someone uncomfortable, you should be quiet or agree with a thought you truly don’t believe. So you feel more alone than ever. And irritated that you’re the one who needs to fill someone else’s emotional gaps.

So here are a few ideas. The first is to try to simply listen. If you aren’t asked for an opinion or suggestion, don’t give one. We are all so different. What you hope might sound healing may have the opposite effect. Quell your internal noise and hear. Often, all that is required is a simple I’m sorry. Or perhaps a friendly pat or a briefly held hand. A hug. No one can change the course of another person’s journey. Don’t try to assist unless you’re asked for assistance. If what you hear sounds disturbing, unsettled or wrong to you, just let it be. Most importantly, don’t argue or try to convince a grieving person that you have The Answer. You don’t. Except what you decide for yourself. And don’t be afraid to feel helpless.  Everyone feels somewhat helpless in the face of another’s pain. But you can still bring a little warmth and solace into the impossible. Small moments count. Being marginalized or unheard hurts.

I’m happy to be able to purge myself of these thoughts. I hope you find them useful as you move through your own unexpected circumstances. I want to be helpful as well. Thanks for the listening.

Quote of the day: Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what’s right. Isaac Asimov

On this day in history: January 2, 1788 – Georgia becomes the 4th state to ratify the United States Constitution.

Hello friends,
On this first day of 2018, I step off into the virtual world to share my thoughts and ideas with many of you who joined me on the journey through my husband’s rare cancer, Merkel Cell carcinoma. He lived more than 5 years and during that time, I learned how much a person can stretch and grow in unexpected ways. I learned that developing a community of supporters is essential in maintaining the strength to be an advocate. I learned that the once unimaginable world of science could be conquered by a person who loves literature and history. I learned that being honest opens the door for surprising experiences with a multitude of people in widely differing situations. I learned that ageism is a useless artifact of modern life.

I have a wide range of interests. Foremost is my desire to be a resource for people who are trying to navigate the medical universe, either as a patient or an advocate. But I’m also keenly interested in current events, nature, literature, movies, ramblings, laughter and grief. I’m up for following lots of threads and have no idea what I’m likely to share on any given day. I guess I’m a peculiar cross between activist and dilettante. I guess we’ll see how things shake out.

It’ll take me a little while to get used to this format I chose. so bear with me. I’ve jumped off this cliff with no clear idea in my mind, but I believe it will evolve as most of life does, with unpredictable twists and little-imagined directions. Best to do it now while my brain is still functional. And by the way, my blog’s name comes from my love of music and the beauty of the rocks that grace this planet.