Our culture, I think, is filled with contradictions. In general and most certainly when it comes to grief. Here's a few I've encountered.
People love a good love story. The public especially seems to admire and go awww when a couple long married, die within hours of each other, unable, even unconsciously, to face life without one another.
When we're widowed, and speak of not wishing to go on without our loved one, there is an immediate rush of but you must he/she would want you to be happy, you have to live for both of you now you can't give up it isn't healthy to think that way!
Possible medication suggestions may follow. I guess the aww's only exist for elderly couples.
We are encouraged to have strong marriages, to live our vows, to honor one another. So we do that, and do it well, and we build strong and loving partnerships over the years, dividing our lives up with tasks we're each best suited to, as is natural, learning healthy dependence on one another (Chuck and I called it interdependence), striving to be the it person for each other. And then one dies and the one left behind feels overwhelmed and uncertain and lost and dislocated and, especially I think, as women, there is an unspoken criticism of you need to be your own person you were too dependent you need to stand on your own.
I wonder if men who are widowed feel the same pressure, culturally speaking, as women do. There are many common pressures but I wonder if there is also that sense of judgement of self and from society at large. Not doing it right. Do more. Do less. Wait. Go faster. Stop. Go. Unspoken pressures but there, subtly (and sometimes not so subtly).
I've always been a very strong woman and I felt strong and independent in my marriage. But I've got to tell you-since Chuck's death, I feel like a piece of cooked spaghetti. Wobbly and floppy, unable to gain my footing. Like I can't breathe without him. Like I don't want to breathe without him. I hate my life without him and, honestly, have no real interest in creating a life without him. Of course, I must do that because I'm still here, but my mom used to say this in various situations My lack of enthusiasm is exceeded only by my lack of interest.
Sometimes it seems that we're supposed to love just enough, but not so much that our lives crumble when that person we love dies. Enough so that our lives are fulfilled but not so much that we are left stunned and shocked when that person is poof! gone. Enough so that we feel loved but not so much that it kills our soul in the aftermath of death.
It's a strange computation, isn't it? At this point, coming up on two years since the man I loved more than life itself died, I don't care how others think of my grief, one way or another. In many ways I've become an observer of reactions to grief and it leaves me wondering at this world we live in, that there can be so much judgement and critique and lack of empathy.
All I know is that I loved my husband. I miss him with every heart beat. His absence in my life hums and pulses through my body on a daily basis and I don't know that that will ever change to any great degree. Not for any other reason than I loved him for 24 years and will always love him and he died and will always be dead now and I'll always miss him.
With every beat of my heart.