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
Monday, March 5, 2012
Grief is Grief
Her death was a traumatic event. She’d been going to the doctor every week for a dozen weeks complaining of pain. Near the end my brother started going with her to get some answers about what was going on and the doctor told him Mom was just getting old and looking for attention. Mistakes one through ten. Unbeknown to anyone she had a small hole in a kidney and blood was slowly seeping out and filling up her body cavity. Mistake eleven came the day she died and the ambulance got lost trying to find my parents’ house. (They lived on a lake in a rural area.) Mistake twelve through fifteen happened on the way to the hospital when the ambulance caught on fire and they had to wait for another. She died of septic shock and a doctor told me later that dying that way is very painful. Her death was a series of human errors and oversights and it was filled with the kind of shoulda, coulda anguish that only comes with hindsight.
Mom only lived ten minutes after she got to the hospital and I remember an ER doctor saying that they could have saved her if they’d had a little more time, and then a nurse replied,” Someone should do something about that ambulance company!” She was looking right at me when she said it. But I was in shock and the true weight of what she said didn’t sink in until much later when someone started a class action suit lawsuit against the company that built the ambulances like Mom rode on that fateful day. There had been ambulances catching on fire all over rural America.
One of the worse weeks of my life was when the deadline for joining that class action suit was coming up and I had to decide if I wanted to get our family involved in it or not. Don was right there with me, talking it out and helping me come to the conclusion that I couldn’t do that to my dad. He’d just started dating a lovely woman, moving on and it would have been cruel at his age to put him through reliving the details surrounding Mom’s death that a legal deposition would have required. No, it was up to someone else to “do something about that ambulance company.”
When I go to an online support site for widows sometimes it makes me feel lonelier. It’s common to see statements from women in my age bracket like: “This is the worse thing to ever happen to me” or “I don’t know how I can go on.” What bothers me more is when the people there complain about others who try to console them with words like, “I just lost my father/mother so I know just how you feel.” Sometimes I want to scream: “Grief is grief!” But I can’t do that. People have to work through their mourning in their own way and if they need to believe their grief is deeper than other people’s grief who am I to challenge that opinion? In the words of novelist Paulo Coelho: “We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”
But I know. I know to the depths of my soul that most humans are resilient. We can be happy and whole again after horrible, life altering events. I have the ghosts of past grief to thank for teaching me that. Even now, with Don’s death so recent, and my mother’s so long ago, I can still hear the words he kept repeating in my ear during Mom’s funeral: “It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay!” And when I’d finished writing my family history book, it was okay. I had purged the grief induced melancholy from my life by introducing the relatives from the past to my relatives in the future. Writing truly is my saving grace. ©