Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Friday, March 23, 2012

Expert Advice---or Not

I woke up this morning before the rooster crowed---assuming I had a rooster which I don’t---and I started reading articles on grief. The first thing I learned in one titled Emotional Jet Lag is that grief is like "having your brain filled up with three quarts of molasses” and grieving people shouldn’t use power tools. Damn, I’ll have to put off buying that new circular saw I’ve been lusting after since Don’s death.

Then I read an article titled I’m Fine and Other Lies. That one covered a survey that was conducted where it was found that no one likes being lied to and that everyone lies about their feelings. Widowed people, it concluded, are the worst liars of all. Can you see me raising my hand? Yup, I’m guilty of the “I’m fine” lie and if my brain wasn’t filled up with so much molasses I might be able to explain why the article ruled that telling the “I’m fine” lie is such a bad thing.

Moving on to a piece titled Emotional CPR, the article writer talked about how we wouldn’t tell a person having a heart attack that we’ll be back to help after we go to the bookstore and read up on how to do CPR. “Oh, great,” I thought, as I read along, “all these articles I’m reading on grief should have been read months ago, before Don’s passing.” And all my friends and family---well, the whole damn world!---should have read all these articles in advance of anyone dying in our circle of human contacts so we’d all know how to deal with molasses damaged brains.

Next I read an article titled You Can’t out Run Your Heart. It talked about some old prize fighter who coined the iconic phrase, ‘you can run, but you can’t hide.’ The whole point of the article was that the only way out of the circle of grief pain is to keep moving through it. Frankly, that author could have saved himself a lot of time if he would have just regurgitated that famous quote of Winston Churchill’s---If you’re going through hell, keep going---because that was the bottom line of the entire, too-wordy piece.

Since it took me several weeks before I had my first cry after Don’s death---and now I can’t seem to get through a day without a few tears---I was next drawn to read an article titled If I start Crying will I be Able to Stop? It talked about how we are programmed as children not to show our emotions with commonly used parenting phrases like: “Go to your room if you’re going to cry” and “knock off the crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” I actually DO remember my mom saying both those things to me! So once again we get to blame the mothers of the world for all the ills of the world, even for the misguided way we grieve as adults.

And last but not the least was an article that talked about how cleaver the author was in creating “some helpful language” that he has since used thousands of times to help grieving people. This helpful language was and I quote: “A relationship should leave a legacy of love, not a monument to misery.” I don’t know, maybe it’s that three quarts of molasses in my brain that is getting in the way of me seeing the value of that platitude. Check back with me in a year when my emotional jet lag has lifted and I can better process that sentence. All I know, now, is I’m glad I didn’t pay that grief counselor a lot of money to see him beaming with pride when he spat those words out of his silly little mouth. After all, timing is everything and I’m obviously not ready for his brand of expert advice. ©

4 comments:

  1. I'm sure there are very worthwhile counsellors doing good work. But your article reminds me why I continue to resist going to see one about dealing with the harder parts of caring for a husband whose brain is deteriorating. I feel I know all the platitudes, I don't want advice from anyone who hasn't 'been there', and I prefer the Winston Churchill approach - i.e. just keep going. So our aphasia support group is my counsel of choice.

    Twenty-two years ago my first husband (father of my only child) and I had a difficult divorce when our daughter was six. She lived with him for two years, but when he moved interstate we all realised she needed to be with me. She saw him only a few times in the next 12 years. Then one day he sent her a registered letter saying he never wanted to see either of us again! Her grief was devastating, and I insisted she get professional help. After many weeks of counselling, she came home one day and said "Here's what I'm supposed to do: Take a collection of things that remind me of Dad, put them in a box and bury them in the back yard - and tell myself my father is dead to me now! Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous? What do I do if I should happen to meet him face to face?" And in fact, that did happen years later. (He walked on by!) Instead of following that insane advice, she gave up counselling and decided to study psychology instead, saying: "I'll just try to understand what makes people do such things." She now has a PhD in psychology, is a university lecturer and very active in the field family relationships, giving papers at international conferences. In a way, she too followed Churchill's advice. She just kept going. I wouldn't say she's ever come out the other end of that grief. How could you! But she put it to work for her - and others.

    I'm not at all opposed to counselling. I just think we all need to find what works best for us. And that takes time, and maybe a few mistakes. In the meantime, just keep going.

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  2. Wow, what an extraordinary story about your daughter! Thank you for sharing it.

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    1. (Just one correction to my post: in the 2nd paragraph, that should say "32 years ago", not "22 years ago"!)

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    2. Jean:

      I love your blogs I learn valuable lessons from them. I know after dealing with my own grief during my stroke phase. only way to deal with grief is going through it one day at a time & remembering tomorrow is another day & something good is going to come out of it even though I don't know right now. I pray for your strength to get through this another phase of difficult period in your life.

      Asha

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