Grief illiteracy has been on my mind quite a bit in the last couple weeks. Even if you don't know that term, you'll know what I mean when I tell you about my face-to-face with it. And you'll nod your head and say to yourself (or to the room in general)....oh, yes....
I keep a personal blog in addition to writing for Widows Voice, and I have for years. It began as a way to chronicle my and my husband's travels. After his death it became, and remains, about the most difficult of travels; alone and without the man I love next to me.
Everything I write on that blog and on my travel fb page is very raw, very intimate, same as here. This grief is too big to hide even if I were so inclined. Because of the rawness of my writing, the honesty about this widowhood, I hear from people around the country, sharing their own stories of grief and loss. 98% of it is amazing and all about giving space. But you know how some people just want to judge your grief and flail you with the hows and whys of how you really ought to be doing this, according to them? Yes, you do know. I know you know.
I met with two such people reference a couple pieces in which I was very honest about this grief. Both took huge offense to what they called my self-involvement (my word, not theirs) with my grief. You act as if your grief is the only grief there is. You're filled with anger. You should look at the beauty of the world. You have to care about other things. You should go out and help others. Unspoken was Why are you still grieving? What's wrong with you? And, well, you catch my drift.
Both of these people know me, I might add. Or I thought they did. Perhaps they thought they did too.
I went back and forth with each of them because I won't be silent any longer when stupid and unknowing words and judgements are thrown at me, especially not when it comes to grief, because such callous disregard also targets others who grieve. It is, as I see it, my responsibility to educate those who need it.
Here's the thing. Another someone commented on a post and said that she'd known my husband Chuck in high school. Immediately I messaged her, inquiring if she had any memories of him that she would share with me and she wrote back with a memory that came from a time before I even thought of knowing him but it was a memory that well described the man who walked into my life many years later.
And then she wrote "I only reconnected with Chuck as you two were on the road, two years before he died but I want you to know that he told me about you and how much he loved you, how you were the light of his life and he believed that God put you in his life because He didn't think he was smart enough to find you on his own. He loved you so much".
All of which I knew, of course, but this grief is so godawful and for the first time since Chuck died, I remembered what it felt like to have him in my life, loving me. Because I know he spoke that way of me, as I did of him to my friends. I cried as I read her words to me of his words about me and a little bit of the blockage in my heart loosened up.
And I want to say to this man who felt he had to attack me in my grief, who judged how I'm doing this and how long *read inappropriately* I'm grieving (with every implication that somehow there is something wrong with me)....I want to say Given the choice between what you said and what this friend of Chuck's, and a stranger to me, wrote...which one do you think helped me heal just a little bit? Which one do you think showed compassion? Which one showed kindness? Which one showed love?
It costs nothing to show compassion. Don't we all already judge ourselves harshly in our grief? Don't we already worry whether we're normal for our reactions to the death of our loved one? Bashing us further is so unnecessary. Weirdly enough, some people apparently feel it is indeed necessary and seem to invest a vast amount of energy in doing so. (At some other point my immediate response would be Fuck off, nobody asked you but I wanted to use it as an educational opportunity).
In the meanwhile, I'm here in Florida, counting the days til Camp Widow. I'm anxious, I feel as if I'm standing on the edge of a cliff but I am surrounded by so much love, and I cannot express how I'm looking forward to meeting my fellow writers, meeting Michelle and Dana (who has been so helpful to me this week) and as many of you, my fellow grievers, as I can possibly meet in one weekend.
You'll be able to find me, at least out in the parking lot. My rig, PinkMagic, will be parked out there and I'd love to get pictures of you with her, so that I might carry the memory of this weekend more tangibly with me as I continue my Odyssey of Love.
Safe travels, all who are coming from a distance. And as a side note, I love hugs. Just sayin'~