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I have some pet peeves about the world of grieving people. Some of them are pretty popular misconceptions. Today's topic is the truism "no one understands except another widowed person."

Which might have a chance of being accurate if you didn't have the "no one" in the sentence. Because, seriously?

No one who's lost a child can feel as wracked with grief?
No one whose home was destroyed in Katrina or the tsunami has had as hard a time adjust as you?
How about someone whose arms were amputated by machete in Rwanda?

Really? NO ONE?

It's hard enough (and it could be true) to say that MOST of the people in our communities have not understood the grief and the tremendous life change that a widow or widower is going through.

People do say a lot of stupid things. A great many of very, very stupid things. Most of them mean well and are simply ignorant.

And yes, some people are scared of your loss or your intensity. We often feel we have leprosy. It's ridiculous. (I agree. I'm on your side.)

But that's not the same as "no one else can understand." (It's also not the same as us asserting that we will never be callous, insensitive, or dumb about what to say again, ourselves. But that's a pet peeve for another day).

Don't put up fences. Your community members may surprise you. Even if they have not been widowed, you may find that someone's empathy can affect you. You may find that a few people "get" it (at least in part). And they may not be the ones you expect.

Widowed people are GREAT company. Social connections with widowed people SAVED MY LIFE and I still cherish the friends I made during that period of rapid change. That support is why I am a creator of this larger global community of widowed people and why I created Widowed Village. It's EASY and NOURISHING to surround yourself with people who have "been there" and are okay with it all. We are TOUGH and wonderful.

But empathy is all around us. Do what you need to protect yourself. Find community and make friends. Don't shut the rest of the world out and for the love of Pete, don't create rationalizations to make it easier to close those doors.

After all, the world needs you, too.

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Comment by Lori on February 19, 2013 at 7:05pm

Robin thank you so much for this, i have been in and will continue to be able to relate to the people in all the groups you mentioned, my divorce was horrible terrible and caused me to go into premature labor.  i had to raise 4 kids by myself and a lot of what i experienced gave me the wisdom to deal with the death of my dear mark, falling in love so fast with ron and the back lash from some has been interesting as well and because of the the deep love that ron and i shared with our late spouses we were able to love again, we had both experienced very hard divorces. Walking through that and loving again was hard as well.   I was a care giver for most of my marriage to mark and that loss was great...losing that community as well as loosing family members, grief is complex, heck life is messy.  I made a choice to live, forgive, and embrace what life and people had to offer again....and i thank you so so very much for having widowville here so i could learn to live again.  I am so blessed and so so grateful for the hours and the love and the care you give to us all.  I get it this living thing now...because of you!

Comment by jean on February 19, 2013 at 10:02am

Thank you Supa!  can't wait for the insensitive remark blog because Lord knows, I make stupid statements all the darn time!  Which gives me more empathy for those who say stupid things but mean well.  :)

Comment by Krista W. (whoknows) on February 19, 2013 at 9:26am

MrsD - I think it might be helpful to unpack what your definition of healing is, to find out why you are resistant to it. 

It's probably different for everyone, but here's some of what healing means to me:

- Surviving.

- Allowing the grief/loss to be a constructive force in my life, rather than a destructive one.

- Keeping my love for my late husband in my heart, the memories of who he was and how important he was in my life and my children's lives, and who we are today.

- Missing him, but living on, whatever that looks like on whatever day it is. Some days are still more raw than others.

- Being present for my children to help them with their grief, and to help them live as "normally" as they can, under the circumstances, while still acknowledging the "not-so-normal" of it. 

- Accepting both joy and pain in this new life.

- Wrestling and accepting. Wrestling some more.

- Celebrating small victories, while not fearing the setbacks.

- Sharing the highs and lows with others in the same circumstances.

- Learning to breathe again.


Comment by MrsD on February 19, 2013 at 8:58am
I think I took offense because what you listed as a "pet peeve" is something I need to do right now. I cannot be around other people. They do not understand, and I'm sorry if it offends you that I feel that way, but I do. But it is my feeling. The only people I can tolerate are the ones who acknowlege that they can't know what I'm feeling. And if "the world" needs me, that's unfortunate, because the me that I was, the true me, is gone.

I think the issues I've had with this site are perhaps mine. It is about healing, and I think that's wonderful. But I am not ready or willing I guess, to heal. The issue isn't that the site is too positive in general but, I think it's just not where I'm at.

Comment by Soaring Spirits on February 19, 2013 at 7:35am

Twinkles, I too am imperfect which is why I take offense, perhaps too easily, and cause offense, usually more than I have to... please no stress about this good conversation, really. I often express even a good idea imperfectly, and even if it is a good idea (which it isn't always) I can stand to have folks disagree.

This is all part of our journey, all of us, and it's a dark time of year, and I'm touchy, too.

Honestly.... yeah, I got upset, but what was really upsetting was the person (on the other blog) who commented without even READING the damn thing. LOL.

Thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts and your experiences and for being here. (((hug)))

Comment by Krista W. (whoknows) on February 18, 2013 at 10:09am

That's pretty much how I interpreted it, too, Patrick. 

Comment by kshy on February 18, 2013 at 8:33am

Sending you hugs twinkles. I think we can all relate to "moist wounds" and "sensitive emotions". Especially in the early days, weeks, months. Early on, there were days where I couldn't even make eye contact. I was afraid I'd break if people even looked at me. So painful and confusing. And thanks to Supa, and all others in this discussion, for being honest, having the courage to voice our feelings/opinions, and showing compassion.

Comment by twinkles on February 18, 2013 at 8:10am

I value your response.  I recognize what you are implicating in your blog post.

Matter of fact: I agree with you.  It is great to discover comfort from others that have experienced loss.   It isn’t good to obese, in only finding contentment with widows, but to discover that wellbeing in others.

I don’t need the “protection” from anyone that desires to express their outlook; however, I do ask for “respect”.  Rather we agree or agree not agree, we should regard each other‘s sensitivity to our deceased husbands as well as the sensitivity of everyone else’s distress.   However, I don’t believe that you intentionally intended to come across that way after your response. 

I do apologize for my sensitivity, and for the misreading of your post.  I am not delinquent in admitting when I’m wrong.  I’m learning, I’m stepping, I’m growing, and I’m trying to get to where you are. 

My wounds are moist, as I have just lost my husband,  my emotions are sensitive, and I‘m easily confused.  I hunt for comfort and as I have a extensive road before me. 

I marvel at widows that are down the road further than I am.  I feel they steer me to where I essentially will be, someday.   I look to all of you for inspiration, encouragement, and insight for what lays ahead.  You have been on this road for 5-6 years, and I’m just starting my journey.  There is a comfort that I can only find in my widow friends.  I wouldn’t say “Only widows“, but they give me a comfort, a positive push, and a guidance I can’t find elsewhere. 

Don’t you understand?!  You are an inspiration to me!  I want and need to be where you are.  I need to read things that can get me there.  Don’t you remember?  Do you remember the pain?  I look for clues in every post to help me grow to where you are today. 

I may fumble, and I may fall short, but my fellow widow acquaintances, empathize.  Please don’t be offended, I need a guiding hand from time to time. 

I’m confident that you and I would have more perceptive in person.  I don’t doubt that in the least. 





Comment by Suz on February 17, 2013 at 7:26pm

Well, good for you, Supa. You have a good point. Now, I am going to contend (without much thought, so maybe I am just flying out of no that people who have developed some compassion for others are ones that have some compassion for us. It doesn't take a death in one's life to get that but death is a pretty good teacher. There are many other things that can develop empathy...some are just born empathetic; some are raised to be empathetic; some fall upon hard circumstances and learn to care for others in hard circumstances...and so on. My two best friends during this time (who, interestingly, have not been in the "inner circle" since we were in grad school as older students together) both had losses from suicide. One lost her daughter about six months before Jud died and one lost her closest brother as a young adult. We laugh harder than I do with anyone else but I also feel perfectly comfortable crying in the next sentence...and they get it! Just like some wonderful widows I know! 

Gotta keep those doors open. Honestly. I need all the REAL friends I can find right now.

Thanks for making me THINK!

And big hugs and thanks for this special place.

Comment by Soaring Spirits on February 17, 2013 at 5:34pm

Actually, what I am saying is that your grief should NOT be compared. What I am saying is that other people CAN understand.
Yes, the wording is harsh. I believe if you look at my writing as a whole you will learn some of my flaws and I can be preachy. If you read this post more closely you will read that I do think widowed connections are valuable, in fact, I think they saved my life... the only reason I started this site (giving hundreds of hours of my time free) is because I believe in it... and I SAY that it's great. I just say it's not the ONLY thing and you shouldn't say ALWAYS.

I am fine if I occasionally provoke negative responses because this post has also provoked many positive responses. I don't think you all need to be "protected" from my strong opinions, which I publish on my regular blog, which has been active (and opinionated) since 2007. 

This is a community and we all know many people here who are bigger trouble makers than I... LOL... and for the most part, we are all welcome here. Part of being a community is being diverse and disagreeing occasionally... if I wanted people to agree all the time, I'd have to shut the site down.

And BTW, I don't "own" the site... I created it for a non profit organization and everyone here IS widowed.

Krista is absolutely right... if we were in person, you might not like me, you might disagree, but you would hear the tone and know my record and I would repeat things more gently if I saw you looking upset... and we would work it out... because we all have more in common than not.

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