Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Widow Advice #9 Chocolate Cake & Liver

Dear Carol,

I've read that you were in two bereavement groups. I think part of the reason you had an adverse reaction to them was that you had a preconceived attitude.

You must go to these gatherings with an open mind. No body is perfect and while it's nice to make friends that's not the purpose of groups.

A Good Group Experience

Dear A Good Group Experience Terry,

Your 'know it all' letter makes no sense. My last group experience was a parenting group thirty years ago. Comparing that to the bereavement groups is like chocolate cake to liver and guess which one is liver? I have no idea what makes you think I expected these experiences to be similar.

My daughter, Jackie was 18 months old when I joined the Mother's Center, an organization designed to ease young mother's isolation and to emphasis that we are all "good enough mothers." Fortunately, Susan Smith and Andrea Yates weren't members or the Mother's Center would have had to close it's doors.

Anyway, back then, we sat in a circle (that hasn't changed) worn out from chasing young children around and fighting with our husbands about how we didn't feel like having sex with him because the kid finally stopped hanging on our breast and fell asleep. The last thing we
needed was to listen to a grown man whine and then breast feed him and his scratchy mustache.

I did not join to make friends, although I did. The group members I hated the most were the perky ones. They would introduce themselves:

"Hi all! My name is Susie and I'm married to Brad and we have two wonderful children, Jason and Jennifer. I used to work in the deli, but now I'm a stay at home Mom and I love it!

I no longer get a discount on cold cuts, but I still get to make sandwiches in my very own kitchen! In my spare time, if I have any, that is ("snort-snort") I enjoy making placemats."

As expected and as you know, Terry, the bereavement group had a somewhat less bouncy atmosphere, which normally I would prefer, but true, I wasn't prepared for introductions like:

"I'm Eva. It's been six months. My husband Charlie wasn't well for some time and the doctors put him through all kinds of tests and when pancreatic cancer was discovered we knew he would
have to have chemo. He lost so much weight and was really really weak, although he managed to come to our son's wedding but he wasn't strong enough to dance. His mother told me...wait, I'm sorry, am I talking too much?"

"YES, Eva, stop! I said to myself. The group leader told her, "Please go on. That's why we're here."

Is that why we're here? I remember thinking. To hear horrible stories? There are no happy endings here. Soon it will be my turn to tell my horrible story. How will I do that? I'm not even convinced it really happened.

So, Terry, yes. I was unprepared for all the pain. I couldn't deal with so much disclosure and had difficulty revealing myself. I'm not a good group member like you are, but at least I'm not a bitch.


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