Friday, March 20, 2009

My Widow Advice #5 Helping Others Helps You

Before I launch into today's letter I want to alert you to a wonderful site that came to my attention http://www.ilasting.com/. It's a quiet, reflective and respectful place to post photos and videos and memory notes to loved ones.

I'm changing my list of 'favorites' and adding this one and others that reflect the spirit of this blog. Take a moment and click on to it. NOT NOW! I"M STILL TALKING HERE!

...About memorial photos. I had the dumbest thought. As it approaches the third anniversary of Jimmy's death on April 13th I wanted to buy space in Newsday with a photo and a few words as I did for year one and two.

However, I thought "I don't want to go with the same photo. I'll use an updated one." Duh...

Dear Carol,

I just got home from my very first bereavement group. I thought it would make me feel better, but listening to every one's horrible story made me feel worse, like I was a loser.

I don't want to be in this club and I don't want to go back. My friends tell me to give it another try. What do you think?

Just some background - My husband, Mike was killed 7 months ago in a car accident and he lingered for 8 days. We were married for 14 years and have no children. I am 50 years old as was Mike.

I don't know if my situation is considered sudden. I had some time for it to "sink in" not like poor Liam Neeson, but I still don't feel comfortable talking about it to strangers.

I don't intend to sound like a snob or anything, but the people were barely functioning and from what I saw I wanted to slap them. Don't get me wrong. I have my bad days, but I haven't lost my ability to laugh. They seem to have. This is why I like your blog so much. You tell it like it is.

A Private Person,
Addie

Dear Private Person Addie,

You've said so much in one e-mail. Let me break it down. According to the experts 7 months is an ideal time to be in a group. They say between 3 months and 13 months. Their reasoning is that before three months it is practically impossible for widows to focus long enough to hear what others are saying so what's the point of sitting there all foggy?

You don't say how long the other members of the group have been widowed. It could be that your fog has lifted somewhat and they are still in the center of that awful cloud. That may explain their appearance of "barely functioning."

I don't know what the definition of "sudden" is, but my evil shrink Gene told me that Jimmy's death could be considered sudden and he was sick for one month. Of course, she was dealing with me, a person who was continually saying,

"How did this happen? He was fine and then he wasn't."

Talk about not sinking in...it was me and high school Algebra all over again.

Groups of any kind are not for everyone and it maybe they're not for you. I joined two and stayed for three sessions each. I guess you might say I officially failed bereavement groups. I was eager for the experience because when I went out with friends in an hour or so I would use up my social energy. My close friends saw it in my face and movements.

"You've had it, haven't you?" They'd say. I would nod not understanding what I was feeling. I just had to go home, but I wasn't comfortable there alone, either. Why not stay out with friends who love me? I'd think to myself. It doesn't make sense, this widowhood.

I joined a group to be with others who were feeling the same. That's the pull, Addie. I needed a nod of clear understanding from those who walk in my shoes. (not literally)

And, speaking of shoes, (literally) I was able to notice that several women in the group were wearing ugly shoes. Trading tragedies one moment and then slipping into sarcasm and laughter is human.

It's wonderful that you recognize this in yourself. Many people can't bring themselves to see the funny, unless someone points it out...like ME.

After all is said and done, grieving is not an inherent state. Our minds and our hearts operate on different frequencies.

You would be a valuable group member. Go back another time. Don't slap them though. Just tickle them gently with humor.