I read Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster a while ago. Actually, I listened to the audio version of the book. I loved it. I felt like it described life as a widow perfectly. I so identified with Nora even though she was younger than I and lived in a different country and time.
There were a few things I really enjoyed. I liked how angry Nora became with people who she knew were just trying to help or be kind. I really understood that. Also, her reluctance to emerge back into the world and how she eventually manages to do so felt very real to me.
Colm Toibin manages to describe exactly what it’s like to have a husband die. I’m not sure how he managed that but wow, he sure did. I highly recommend this book.
By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (enhanced Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
There’s this secret club that you hope never to become a member of and that’s being a widow. I’ve run into a couple of women who have been widowed recently or within the past year, which is still recent. I’ve pointed them to the services at The Grief Center and the widow’s support group there. It really does help to hear that you’re not the only person going through these things.
It doesn’t seem to matter who we are; there’s a common bond to this.
I’m doing well and am keeping busy. I’m running and working out and eating well and I feel good. That’s great but I still find myself missing Dave. There are days when I feel so very alone or that I just want to tell him something. I’ll say that those days are further apart these days.
I finally emptied that laundry basket of Dave’s clothes that’s been sitting in my bedroom for over three years. I still have some of his clothes to donate; that man was a clothes horse. I just discussed this with a woman at the library. She’s working hard to donate her husband’s clothes. She said he was a clothes hoarder. I said I knew the feeling.
I found it easier to get rid of my own clothing. Slowly, most of these clothes will go. This might have been a good task for someone to have done for me shortly after Dave’s death. Oh well, I’ll make it through them eventually.
Pet peeve: I hate listening to women complain about their husbands. I was in Panera ages ago and listened to four women who appeared to be in their 30s and 40s complain about their husbands. They were stupid, neglectful, absent-minded, and buffoons. Perhaps the women didn’t use those words but there was lots of sighing and eye rolling and laughter.
I really wanted to pop over and say “well, at least they’re alive.”
If you don’t like your husband, don’t be married to him. If you do like your husband, don’t bad mouth him in public. Probably not in private either.
I know we often vent about things to our friends to help us feel better but let’s not make husband bashing into a recreational activity.
Coffee. Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr.
There are some things about grief that I think most of us experience. I’m working with someone who is going through a sudden, very tragic death in his family and it’s made me realize that there are some things that are true for most of us.
First of all, people don’t know what to say so they often avoid you when you’re newly bereaved. So, if they’re not saying silly things, they try not to see you at all.
Secondly, your sleep becomes all messed up. It’s hard to sleep at night and it’s hard to stay alert during the day. It’s been over three years since Dave died and I’ve never managed to go back to the routine I had before he died.
Third, time stands still when you’re newly bereaved. I remember hoping that a lot of time would go by so that the pain would become less but also not wanting time to pass at all because I didn’t want to be living my life without my husband. Now, when I look back at that time, my memory is pretty blurred.
Fourth, absolutely everything reminds you of your loved one. This gets better as time goes on but I remember being devastated while standing in the grocery store looking at mustard and feeling waves of grief because Dave wasn’t telling me why we should buy a particular brand. I now manage to make it through most grocery stores without falling to pieces.
Fifth, everyone says to let them know what they can do to help but when you’re the person grieving, it’s almost impossible to ask for help. My co-worker said his neighbor just mowed his lawn for him without asking. That’s how you help. I remember some of my friends just doing things for me and I may never have thanked them properly but I remember it with great gratitude.
I know there are lots more basics but these are big ones. I’m sure some of you can think of others–feel free to share.
I was talking with a friend recently about the death of his mother who died in her 60’s. He is grieving for her but said he realizes that other people have it worse. I said “well, pain is pain and grief is not a competition. You’re allowed to grieve without having to compare yourself to others.”
There is always that feeling of “wow, that’s worse than my loss.” I don’t often think “well, my grief is worse” but I do tend to marvel at losses that seem worse. I think the important thing to remember is that people mourn for family members, for their livelihoods, for the destruction of their homes.
I guess there are some degrees of things being worse. I met a widow who was told by her co-worker that she now understood the widow’s grief because her dog died the previous evening. The widow didn’t feel that they were quite the same thing. The man who treats my house for bugs has said more than once that having to put his dog down after 15 years was like losing a child. So, a 15 year old dog has led a long life. The bug guy obviously has no idea what losing a child would be like. It would be better to say, “boy I miss my dog.”
If we go down the path of ranking losses, we’d have to assign points. So many for a parent, maybe more for a spouse, and double that for a child. Oh, and don’t forget our siblings and in-laws, and friends.
I think it’s better just to say, “grief is not a competition.”