Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The pretence of the grieving angry widow...

When discussing grief on a widow's message board yesterday, I ranted and raved about how I am so tired having to pretend that the children and I are fine. Why do we pretend? We do it to make other people feel less awkward and uncomfortable. Silly? Perhaps. Necessary? Yes. I asked on that message board: "Is this how it is now? We put on a brave face and pretend everything is okay?". Everyone who replied related to what I said and had experienced the same thing. 

We already knew (and expected) that people would disappear back to their old lives after a short time but what I didn't know was that even when I did see them again I would have to put my grief aside and laugh and joke and put on a fake smile. 

One of the women who responded to (and related to) my musings asked something that stuck out in my mind: 
"Is time just a teacher? At 10 months [bereaved] it certainly isn't a healer."

She really hit the nail on the head. That is what I was trying to say. It's what I fear and sadly I think it to be true. So from here on in we must learn how to 'act' differently around others to make them feel less uncomfortable. Time gives us the chance to learn those skills of pretence.

I'll admit some people in my life have been great but hardly anybody gets it. The anger and loneliness inside is so personal, so devastating, so inexplicable. No, I don't want to socialise. No, I don't want to smile and laugh. No, I don't want my old routine back minus my husband. No, things will NEVER be normal again. NEVER. Sorry if that upsets your life but it is what it is.

Don't get me wrong. I know that it's perfectly okay to say that I'm not doing great or that the children are not doing great but it seems to me it's not okay for us to ACT it. 

It sounds so self-pitying but I know that my grief and my children's grief are not wanted. I guess when you think about it how could it be wanted? How could I sit in somebody else's house and stare at the wall or cry or reminisce about old times? They don't want to hear that do they? So I try to get through the time, counting the minutes til I can go back home to my cocoon. Even my wonderful, jovial, smiley eight year old daughter looks very sad sometimes because she's thinking of her Dad but the majority of people don't acknowledge that or ask how she's feeling because it would take great maturity and wisdom to do that. Much easier to pretend that all is well and ignore the child's sad face or my sad face. She already senses that there is no point in telling them that she's sad. She knows they don't get it. She's more emotionally mature than them. So many people are assholes. Sheep. I always knew that. It didn't take this to make me see it.

So, to sum it up, it seems the majority of people insist on living in a bubbly happy shiny world and my grief is seriously cramping their style.

How I wish I could sit in a room with beer and food and comfy seats surrounded by others who have been through this life-shattering grief (or those rare people who haven't been through it but can empathise). We could cry, scream, hug and just relax, knowing exactly what all the others are going through. I can be a grieving angry widow without prejuduce. Bliss. 

As it is, yes yes yes, people mean well. If I hear that again I'll scream. Interestingly, people say "you mustn't pretend that you're okay, it's fine to be sad" and yet if there is even one spark of positivity in my day they will leap for joy, so relieved. For example I cut my hair today and my mother acted like I had brought about world peace. She felt, I suppose, that if I care enough to cut my hair then I must be healing. No, not really, it's just that my fringe was in my fucking eyes.

The same woman on that message board said that she read the following: 
"Let the grief take you where you need to go. Your grief is wiser than you."
Now THAT's the best line I've read since Diarmuid passed away.

I really like it. Maybe we're too scared to let the grief take us where we need to go? Are we overly conscious of what others think? Or are we just craving some love and attention from those we would have expected it from? And, if so, isn't that perfectly natural? I think I might just let it take me where I need to go from now on. If that means running away with the kids somewhere else (if I have the money) for a month or two then maybe that's what I should do. To hell with what others think. Let that make them uncomfortable. Hey at least they'll be off the hook then as we'll no longer be the sad people upsetting their routines.

Perhaps grief is its own entity, separate to our individual selves. So maybe we should let it take us along for the ride and be whatever it's telling us to be? That way perhaps we wouldn't feel so pressurised to fit in to what others want because after all we're not in control, the grief is? Perhaps. It does feel nice to think of not trying to force ourselves to be or do or act a certain way and just let grief lead us. Maybe in another few years this grieving angry widow will be a happy carefree... er, widow.


  1. A few months after I was widowed I became so upset about people asking how I was doing and barely even listening when I responded. I figured out pretty quickly that they wanted and I was even expected to tell them that I was doing well or at least better. So I responded by answering truthfully and not caring when people looked shocked when I replied that I was terrible...But boy were they uncomfortable and wanting to run for cover away from me! They asked how I was, yet couldn't deal with my honesty.

    Most upsetting to me probably about widowhood in general is this "rule" that I'm supposed to keep on plugging away optimistically. In fact, I have been scolded and criticized too many times to count for telling it like it is. Finally my grief counselor told me that it is okay to be honest in relating how I feel about my life and what I am living. If my life is hard, challenging or difficult because of widowhood, so be it. It is what it is and relating those aspects of my life don't make me weak or a loser or whatever.

    Take care! I'm rooting for you!

    1. Thank you so much. Your blog is wonderful. You certainly have a style of writing and a skill for getting to the root of the issue. I can fully relate to so much of what you say. Oh yes, what is that rule about? I feel it too. Yesterday my mother was visibly angry because I refused to be positive about something. It actually annoyed her that I wouldn't shake out of this doom and gloom. And the thing is I DO have good days but just not around her. lol!

  2. This Is Awesome.

    ...Time gives us the chance to learn those skills of pretence. ... Amen. And the whole thing about someone saying "it's okay to feel how you feel" and then leaping for joy if you say you had a moment of goodness. For Christsake, it's obnoxious.

  3. Thank you Megan. :)

    Yes it really is obnoxious and it cuts to the bone. Of course everything is amplified these days with our grief. I was meant to talk to a counsellor a few days ago but I had to work. I was expressing to my mother how disappointed I was that I couldn't make it and she said "but being able to work shows that you're okay and you don't need counselling". Oh god, she meant well, she really did, but she really and truly doesn't see the pain. So sad that people grasp at the most brittle of straws to avoid seeing the truth.

  4. Oh my, I decided to look and see if I could find some widow blogs that spoke to me. I saw a few but this particular post grabbed me. This is it! I keep telling myself to focus on the love they are offering rather than the stupid remarks and attitudes. I keep reminding myself of how stupid I was before I knew it first hand. It doesn't make it any easier. I went to a widow's retreat and many said the second year was more difficult for them(I am not quite one year out). I told my mom what I heard about the second year and she said, "Well, just don't let it." Unbelievable. Since it came from my mother, that may be the worst I've heard since my husband died. Yes, you are right, people latch onto every single "normal" fragment they think they see so they don't have to deal with it. They don't know what to do. I know no one can help and I am weary of the pretend game and I am weary of people telling me what should be. I am weary of reminding myself that they just don't know and that they love me. I've tried to tell a few people aboout the experience and that makes them uncomfortable and then they know even less what to do; they are afraid. I am jealous of their naivete even as I find fault with it. I just want a lousy cup of coffee and someone to let me talk once in a while without trying to fix me or the situation and without trying to show me how they "understand". He was my future and my future is gone, a year is not enough time to begin to build. I am only just trying to deal with daily living. Thank you for this post.