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Death Is Not a Catalyst For Positive Change- So Please Shut-Up Already

There are those memoirs or blogs or random stories of people who will tell you that something beautiful came out the death of their loved one. That they found their true calling or that they became more empathetic and kind, or that suddenly the fragility of life made them looked around and they became a better person in their world because of that death. Shut-up already, I haven't heard one actual person I know say that.

I don’t personally know one single person that has happened to in reality. Some perhaps are more aware of what is important and what is not, but from what I have seen there are the two fringes of grievers and then everyone else- the first fringe group who maybe change a little for the better- softer, more attuned to the needs of others and then there is the second fringe group who are angry and bitter. However, I think most grievers live in the middle.

In the middle, where the vast majority of widowed grieving people reside, are the stories I hear about. Those grievers who simply, and often with great reservation, eventually put the yoke back on and began in one way or another to simply trudge their way through the fields of daily life again, one laborious step after another. They are not better people, they are not worse people, they are simply the same person they were before, however now they are tasked with carrying a huge package of sorrow while nursing a soul scaring wound that the world cannot seem to understand with much compassion. And yet they still somehow get up, take in deep shaky breaths to steel their courage and then try to step forward in some direction.

I am in this middle group. There hasn’t been something good that came from John’s death. Honestly it’s been crappy, super painful and in many ways unbearable to put the yoke of daily life back on and trudge forward. I’m not a better person; I am not a worse person. I am in general a more quiet person. I may also be a bit more breakable around my emotions and general heart and I am certainly a more fearful person, so I am some changed and yet I am mostly the same. What I have done is survive, which is the same thing most people do after a terrible trauma happens. They survive somehow among the imploding of their life and the desolation of their safety net and the world as they loved it, somehow among the rubble they survive. Perhaps not in a way that some, specifically grief outsiders, would see as a thriving or acceptable way but they do survive.

Knowing how hard it is to even contemplate the idea of stepping forward after such trauma I feel this vast middle pancake of grievers are no less incredible or courageous then those who say their life was changed for the better after the death of their loved one, no less remarkable than those who loudly proclaim victory over grief and loss. As I look around and read the stories of other widowed people, I see us each as pilgrims stepping into what were once the familiar fields of our daily lives and poking about in it as if it were all new territory, with caution and curiosity. And I see our tribe of widowed people, as brave beyond measure as we trudge this path together and individually, each nodding encouragement and compassion to one another, because each one of us knows deeply in our core just how difficult and courageous it was to stand up and step forward at all.

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Comment by lauriesv on December 20, 2015 at 6:06pm
This was written from the soul and beautifully honest. I thank you for in a way helping me see a new thought of where I am...the middle. I am approaching the four year in Feb and my life was devasted and altered. I, too, am doing the best I can but miss my husband terribly. I was 55 (he was 56) when he died suddenly and unexpectedly. I sometimes think when I hear people say, write or talk about how this loss can be a time for a new chance or new beginning. I didn't want or need a new beginning. So, just keep on trying to figure out my life now without the love of my life. What has changed that is beautiful since he died is my three granddaughters who he sadly will never know. I appreciate your writing and wish I could post it in a huge sign somewhere. Thank you!
Comment by IBelieveInYou on December 20, 2015 at 5:35pm

Thank you Flannery. I have one particular friend who keeps saying comments like the ones you mention. It's unreal. My beloved Tam only died on October 29 (suddenly and unexpectedly) and he wants me to think about getting a new wife. There can be nothing good from loosing Tam. Thank you again for expressing what I've been thinking. 

Comment by AEDforever (Ali) on December 13, 2015 at 12:29pm

" I see us each as pilgrims stepping into what were once the familiar fields of our daily lives and poking about in it as if it were all new territory, with caution and curiosity. And I see our tribe of widowed people, as brave beyond measure as we trudge this path together and individually"  Yes, Flannery. Yes.  One of my pet peeves is that we are somehow "better", or "wiser" or more compassionate.  I think that that is possible, of course. To be better, to be wiser, to be more compassionate, but the experience of my husband's death will always be a sad one, no matter what the final "outcome".  I can say, with resoluteness that the people I have met here in my grief have been an amazing asset to my life, and have actually saved my life. More times than once, and more people than I can say, although some of them have been key.  Approaching the 4 year mark now, and in a new relationship, there isn't anything I would attribute to Paul's death as "good".  One thing does not necessarily lead to the other.  I don't believe in fate, I believe in experience. The experience of his death is forever with me. Always. It does not mean I cannot feel joy again. It means I feel that joy, acknowledge it, and also acknowledge the sadness of losing him.  That will never leave.  It is the tapestry of my life that is woven. 

Comment by MissingRKK on December 1, 2015 at 4:58pm

LOVE this Flannery, thank you.  I am right there in the middle, as well. Not changed for the better, not changed to something worse, not in touch with my life's calling, not newly creative, maybe a little softer, definitely quieter, hopefully more compassionate--and trudging along, trying to make a decent life for myself and my girls.  

Comment by Hawky (Rebekah) on November 24, 2015 at 8:32pm

Flannery,

I read this because I saw the title and knew I would like it. I'm at my 5 week mark tomorrow, and already those type of people are driving me crazy. I too think it is crazy to think that this would turn anyone into a person that is so much better and learned so much. I think that's a slap in the face to all of us who are just struggling to get through another hour of the day. You put it so well, thank you for sharing .

Rebekah

Comment by Catx on November 23, 2015 at 4:09am

Yes!  It has been almost 3 years for me and I no longer just say that I miss my husband, which of course I do, now I feel profoundly lonely. Nothing good came for me. :(

Comment by only1sue on November 22, 2015 at 11:11am

Yes, I feel the same as you do.  In my pastoral care role I am around widows a lot and on the whole they live as bravely as they can, lonely and too much alone now where they once were happy and contented. I  am the same despite my attempt at filling my life with busyness..

Comment by oceangirl on November 21, 2015 at 1:44pm

Flan - this is one of the most honest, truthful like it is, comments I've ever seen about grieving, and the aftermath. Thank you for putting your thoughts out here. And I'm in the middle group, too. Marsha

Comment by laurajay on November 20, 2015 at 5:37pm

I lov u flan   thx

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