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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

Recently I had someone, truly trying to be helpful, suggest that because I am relatively young, 38, that I could start my life all over again now. I could remarry, have babies and raise a family, again. I should look at this as a blessing in that I could get to do it all twice. This was said as if it was a good thing, an enviable thing. I could only shake my head slowly and reassure her that I would likely be grandmother in the next ten years and had no desire to “do it all over”. She sort of shrugged it off but I could tell she thought it really was a good idea. I didn’t have the heart, or balls, to say what I wanted which was, “That is the dumbest thing I’ve heard all month! How can starting all over possibly help me with this absolute heart wrenching grief over losing John? No, no I don’t want to start over-that is dumb.”

Of course, from the outside looking in there is the truth that those that have not had this loss think that there is, there must, be something good to come from this loss. Some lesson to be learned. Some good to be found and if I would simply be a less reluctant student. I have found in that vein of thought there are those around me who continue to repeat small minded ideas and advice that I will learn something from this, come away as a better, stronger person for it or my most hated platitude of all, that everything happens for a reason and if I could just find that reason and learn my lesson I would grow into a better, wiser person and then be healed and grateful for the experience- I’m going to call out bullshit when I hear it, and that is bullshit.

The truth is that those who believe there is a lesson to be learned often also hold an equally misguided belief that they have already learned this lesson that I am supposed to be learning and so they are then protected from the crazy woman inducing grief that I am enduring. They will be spared this grief because they already know the secret lesson that I am supposed to be so diligently and gratefully seeking and learning. What they don’t know is that there is likely no lesson to be learned here. That there is no chance that I will ever be grateful for this experience, if for only the reason that it meant that my love died, young, strong and beautiful in body and spirit he died-how stupid for anyone to think that the person left behind would ever feel grateful for the experience of losing “their person”, their love.

And I hate to be the one to tell them but they are not immune to loss, to death, to craze inducing grief. Yes, as a younger widow I am a statistical anomaly and yet even on the grief sites I see I am not alone. Not alone in my grief, not alone in my youth of having lost my spouse, not alone even in being an anomaly.

Life is fragile, people get sick and they die. Sometimes they get hurt and they die. People are fragile and no lesson that I could learn from this or that those who think they are somehow walled off and safe against loss because they already know the secret lesson will make being human any more or less fragile. It will not protect those that we love, it will not protect us from loss. Believing that there is a lesson to be learned, spouting off that in everything there is gratitude and beauty and that all things play out exactly as they should be will not protect anyone from grief or from pain.

My truth, is that only in the seeking out of others who are in my statistically unusual state have I experienced any gratitude-for if there is one thing that I am truly grateful for in this crazed and ugly grief it’s that there are others who are willing and strong enough to stand up and shine a light on their own grief, their own sorrow, their wretchedly hard nights and empty days. I’m grateful for those who bravely stand up, share themselves in their raw grief, expose themselves in their most vulnerable state to others in hopes that somehow, SOMEHOW it will help and save both the brave one, and the not so brave one watching from afar. I’m grateful for others, who in their brokenness find the energy to reach out, and in that I suppose there could be a lesson of humanness, that in our most fragile emotional states, that in our standing side by side, and in our willingness to touch each other’s grief that we may find our way out of the isolated world of loss- not as anomalies, not alone, but together.

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Comment by Asha on April 29, 2014 at 10:15pm

Oh I hear you so well Flannery! One of my close friend kept telling me "hope you find all the answers" and "everything happens for a reason" sort of things. She actually believes them and I know she means well, but I couldn't take it any more. Finally I told her that there simply can't be a great reason or purpose for a 38 year old healthy, happy, good man to die suddenly of an accident. Nothing can be worth that price. So please don't tell me that one day I will know why this happened. It happened, and I have to deal with it. That's all there is to it for me. I don't have any unanswered questions. I don't think she got it, but she definitely backed off.

Comment by flannery on April 29, 2014 at 12:04pm

LauraJay I love your words,  "Maybe we are called to life with the answer being the mystery that lies therein." So true! So true! I'm grateful that you have your daughter to remember and talk about your beloved husband with. Having someone to share those thoughts with is so comforting for me. Thank you for your words and insight.

Comment by laurajay on April 29, 2014 at 11:52am

oh flannery.  More tears at your written insight. So beautifully said.  My daughter is your age. Happily married to her best friend.  Wonderful children. Many blessings.  We talk.  She was  daddy's girl  and misses her father terribly.  They were a lot alike and sometimes I envied their closeness though I never said so.  Her father died unexpectedly.  We were and are still stunned.  I cannot imagine what she would do if she were widowed at the age you both are... but having  witnessed unexpected death  she sees me differently and we talk about life's wretched surprises much the same as we talk about life's delights.  If people say stupid things to you about some lesson learned or some good coming from loss it may be because they are so very afraid  that bad things might really happen with no lesson no good coming from them.  Maybe all we can do is keep our memories and tell our stories  and live each day "in the now".  that way we will not miss   or give into hopelessness.  I know I don't know.  Some questions I will never have answers to...everyone alive has unanswerable  questions.  Maybe we are called to life with the answer  being the mystery that lies therein.  If so,  we can accept that and go from there...or we can choose to lament  endlessly and weaken.  I say let those of us who "get it"  stand together in the mystery, share our sorrow, and cheer one another on to step into the changes that may heal us.  Thank you for your post.  lj

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