Throughout the last few years, I have thought a lot about how we all handle widowhood differently. We all move at our own pace and grieve within our own comfort zone.
It’s been interesting to me the way I’ve grieved. For the most part, I consider myself a pretty private person when it comes to just letting go. I’ve never even really cried during group “therapy” because I was afraid of looking “stupid” (I know…that’s stupid, but there you have it). In fact, I remember being at one ceremony with a young widows group that was really meant to be emotional and I was so mortified that I was there and that I might cry, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I don’t even like crying in my therapist’s office when it’s just the two of us. Weird.
There are very few people I will get upset in front of (and even then it usually takes a few glasses of wine). But for so long, even at the beginning, I was very focused on making the people around me feel comfortable. No one ever knew how shallow my breathing got at the college football games my husband was missing. No one knew how I was swallowing a lump in my throat during my first Boy Scout meeting. No one ever knew how hard it was to go to parties and events on my own…when everyone else was a couple.
No one knew how I used to lay on my bedroom floor and just sob with my pictures.
It wasn’t their fault. I didn’t let them know.
I guess this tendency makes me a pretty considerate griever, but the truth is I’ve always been jealous of the people who have just let it all out there, not really caring what other people think. I know that many of them have felt like a “freak” and may have possibly lost friends who didn’t understand why they’re still grieving after the first 4 weeks of widowhood…but I can’t tell you how freeing that sounds. And for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t one of those people.
But now I think I’ve got it. It’s a fear of abandonment.
Being a “pleaser” and someone who tries her hardest to make others feel comfortable in any situation, I have had a fear all of these years that if I just cry and let it all out there…people would get uncomfortable. And then they would leave and not come back.
It’s not like this is such a random concept. I’ve been to parties where I’ve told people, during the course of the conversation, what’s happened and we all know what the usual response is to that: “Oh. I’m so sorry.”
And then I’ve brightly said, “Oh, that’s okay! We’re totally fine now! So tell me more about that problem you’re having at work!”
And why have I done that? Because the few times I’ve actually gone into how hard the situation is, I’ve run the risk of that person looking antsy and doing everything they can to get out of the conversation we’re having.
I needed people. I’ve always needed people, even before my husband died. I love being surrounded by people. And I guess in my mind that has meant that I’ve had to be more reserved “in the moment”…only to release the grief monster in the privacy of my own bedroom later.
Because then I know…my pictures won’t walk away.
Catherine Tidd 2011