In the 3 years and 4 months so far of this death tsunami I'm living since losing my husband, there is something I have learned about other people. Sometimes they suck. A lot.
When it comes to living with the death of your partner or spouse, I have found that there are two kinds of people I deal with: the supporter, and the critic. Technically, there is a third type of person, and that would be the "disappearing magic trick", but since those people sprint so fast out of your life and choose to handle the death of your partner by ignoring and abandoning you forever, I won't count them here because I am not actually dealing with them at all. They are gone. So, that leaves us with the supporter and the critic. The supporters are those wonderful and often unexpected friends and family members, who, although they might not fully understand or comprehend what you are going through, do their best to sit with you inside your pain and to get on board with how you are coping and choosing to live your life. The supporters are there for you, they continue to be there for you well after the initial funeral and first few months period, and they let you be yourself; which means being able to talk about the person who died without them staring at you like you are some sort of circus freak. Supporters are very often people that you weren't even very close with before your person died, but who jumped onto the "I am here for you now" train after your world changed forever. Supporters are wonderful. They are also quite rare.
The more common type of person that appears over and over again in this tsunami, would be the grief critic. They come in all shapes and sizes; family members, friends, acquaintances, Facebook "friends", co-workers and colleagues, total strangers, and more. You cannot get away from the grief critics. They are everywhere, and they seem to multiply and grow like cockroaches. Ah yes, the grief critic will show up without warning, uninvited, spewing their opinions and their forced thoughts about your life down your throat. The most ironic part about the grief critic is that they all have one thing in common, every single time: They have not been through this themselves. They have never lost a partner / spouse to death. Most grief critics are married, single (which is totally different than being widowed, even though they like to act as if it's the same), or divorced. Now, some divorced people absolutely love nothing more than to inform you how it is the same thing exactly to be divorced as to be widowed, and they will insist upon it and then continue to say more hurtful things. (but that's a whole other blog for a whole other time, really) Bottom line is, grief critics usually have no basis whatsoever for what they speak, and they usually have little clue what they are talking about.
Grief critics will say things such as: You really need to move on / get over this now. - Don't you think it's time you started dating again? (or) Don't you think it's a bit too soon to be dating again? - Maybe you should take these pictures down of him/her. - You shouldn't make any big decisions in the first year after the death. - You need to move. - You need a change of scenery. - Don't be so negative. Focus on the things you do have. BE GRATEFUL. - I think it's time you got rid of his / her things. - You need to stop living in the past. - You should see a therapist / get on some medication. - Why are you still seeing that therapist / taking that medication? - You need to stop talking about him / her so much. It's depressing. - You should just be happy. Life is too short not to be happy.
In the first few months or even year of this hell, I was much too fragile and scared and broken to take on these types of people. Usually, when things like this were said to me in the beginning, I would get very hurt by it, run to my counselor and cry about it, and genuinely ask her why are people so mean and cruel and with little compassion or empathy. As time went on, however, my sadness turned into anger, and then eventually, into not really caring much. Now, I recognize these grief critics far sooner, and I dont usually have a problem letting them go from my life. It still hurts, but it has become easier for me to realize that person and their comments are no good for me.
The grief critic has one comment that I will never truly understand, however. A common judgment or comment from most critics comes in the form of them suggesting that perhaps I shouldn't hang out with my new widowed friends so much, or perhaps I should stop going to Camp Widow, or maybe maybe that isn't the best way for me to "get better" - because as we all know, losing your spouse to death is very much like the flu. In fact, it's the exact same thing. (sarcasm alert)
Why on earth would anyone try and stop me or other widowed people, from being around other people who share our experiences? To me, being around others and creating bonds with them through our grief makes total sense. If you're an alcoholic, you go to AA meetings and talk with other people who are a lot like you are and who understand. If you are going through a divorce, your friends who are also going through that experience will get it. When you are married, you usually hang out with a lot of other couples. If you have kids, you hang out with other couples who are parents. Why is this any different? Why would anyone try to take away or critique the one thing in my life that gives me hope and inspiration? And it's not just Camp Widow they want to judge. It's the very idea that I now have a lot of widowed friends in my life. Again, there are many people who understand this and are hugely supportive of it. But the grief critics like to ask in their condescending tone: You doing that camp thing again? You going out tonight with your widow people? Isn't that depressing? Do you all sit around together and cry?
No, we don't, you idiot. And sitting here talking to your judgmental ass is a hell of a lot more depressing than being with my friends who lift me up, understand my constant changing emotions, and give me hope that I can survive this and even feel joy again. Yes, there is crying. There is also tons of laughter, and my widowed friends are some of the strongest, most incredible, compassionate, empathetic, beautiful, inspirational people I have ever met. So when you sit there and talk to me in that condescending voice when I try and tell you that Im writing a book about my grief, or that Im having dinner with widowed people, or that I am presenting my comedic presentation again at Camp Widow - you are not only insulting me, you are insulting my friends. These are the people that have been beside me every horrible and painful step, while you were home having an ordinary night with your husband who is still alive. These are people that matter to me, and this is the life that I never asked for, but that I now have. And in this life, I get to choose who I spend my time with. So either get on board the supportive train, or get off at the next stop, because I have no time for critics.