A few days ago I had a friend confide in me that someone I have a casual friendship with complained that I have “changed” that I am “really different” since John died, that they would really like me to “get back to the old me because they missed that version of me”. Well, no shit, I miss that person too.
Of course as she went on, what she meant was she missed the me that was more outgoing, as a introvert I find that statement hilarious because I have never been that outgoing, she also misses the person that laughed more easily, that was more responsive to her needs, cards and invitations to go on outings, she misses the me that was less immersed in myself and my in sadness all-the-time. Again, yeah, me too. I miss that person too.
I try hard not to let others opinions get to me, for the most part having walked as a widow for over two years now I have become fairly good about letting comments such as those bead up and roll off, like water droplets on feathers, but then there are days when you just get pissed off. Pissed off because it is unfair and unrealistic to expect that someone could ever “go back” to a before version of themselves after tragedy, unfair because it makes it seem like your grief and sorrow are things you get a choice in picking up and carrying with you. Unfair because it makes the griever feel like they are “doing grief wrong” when all they are really trying to do is survive it.
This person accused me of being different and changing since John died, and upon some reflection she is absolutely right. I have become more quiet, more still, and more easily heartbroken. I have become more self centered, but not in a look at me way! but in a self reflection, a how do I move from this place of loss sort of way.
This type of self-centeredness is where the work of grief happens and the hard questions get asked and hopefully somehow answered. Such as, who am I now that I am not John’s wife? What plans from my marriage do I keep for myself? What plans must now be set aside? What role can I play in my community and peer group now that I am called “the widow” more often than I wish I was? How do I move forward without a road map or compass to guide me to the correct place for myself and my family? And most importantly, how do I shake the great fear that tags along with me everywhere and makes me question every decision I make now that the person who would have given me the best advice is dead? In short, how do I exist in a world that often feels overwhelming since John died, unexpectedly, that warm September afternoon?
The truth is people are always in the process of changing from life happenings big and little. Someone gets married and settles down and becomes less of a night life partier and more of a Sunday morning brunch with the family personality and everyone calls this becoming responsible, they are glad to see it. Someone goes to college and gets a degree where they learn to buckle down, study hard, and push through the hard times, learning to see it through to the end goal where they develop a better self awareness in the world and we are pleased to invite them to the dinner table. Someone has a baby and becomes very selfless and completely involved in tending a new life and we say this is natural and endearing and insist on taking precious pictures.
People change all the time, it’s what we do if we are still breathing and trying to live in the world at all. The difficulty for those around us, especially those who are asked to watch us grieve is they simply don’t like it, it’s not pretty. The sorrow and change is too much for them to stand and bear witness too, for some, it may be too hard to even take a sidelong glance at. It’s uncomfortable for them to watch, but I have to say, as someone living it, it’s a hell of a lot worse to endure it’s day to day realities.
The problem as I see it is that we only want to see change when it’s easy to watch, when it benefits our family or friendships. However, death, deep grief, and the bitter betrayal by sudden abandonment doesn’t have a lot of happy outcomes or long standing changes that those around us want to or can bear to witness. It’s not the type of thing that is warmly accepted or encouraged and it’s certainly not invited over for dinner, and quite frankly, if a friendship is hovering on the edge because they can’t accept the me I’ve become, the me I’ve had to become to endure and survive this loss, then I wouldn’t want to find myself sitting at the dinner table with them either.