Pet Peeve: Boundaries

I'm participating in the Widowed Blog Hop this month. Be sure to check out the other participants and leave them some comment love. For the largest list of blogs by Widowed folks, check my blog roll here. To add yours to the list, use this form.

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I have some pet peeves about the world of grieving people. Some of them are pretty popular misconceptions. Today's topic is the truism "no one understands except another widowed person."

Which might have a chance of being accurate if you didn't have the "no one" in the sentence. Because, seriously?

No one who's lost a child can feel as wracked with grief?
No one whose home was destroyed in Katrina or the tsunami has had as hard a time adjust as you?
How about someone whose arms were amputated by machete in Rwanda?

Really? NO ONE?

It's hard enough (and it could be true) to say that MOST of the people in our communities have not understood the grief and the tremendous life change that a widow or widower is going through.

People do say a lot of stupid things. A great many of very, very stupid things. Most of them mean well and are simply ignorant.

And yes, some people are scared of your loss or your intensity. We often feel we have leprosy. It's ridiculous. (I agree. I'm on your side.)

But that's not the same as "no one else can understand." (It's also not the same as us asserting that we will never be callous, insensitive, or dumb about what to say again, ourselves. But that's a pet peeve for another day).

Don't put up fences. Your community members may surprise you. Even if they have not been widowed, you may find that someone's empathy can affect you. You may find that a few people "get" it (at least in part). And they may not be the ones you expect.

Widowed people are GREAT company. Social connections with widowed people SAVED MY LIFE and I still cherish the friends I made during that period of rapid change. That support is why I am a creator of this larger global community of widowed people and why I created Widowed Village. It's EASY and NOURISHING to surround yourself with people who have "been there" and are okay with it all. We are TOUGH and wonderful.

But empathy is all around us. Do what you need to protect yourself. Find community and make friends. Don't shut the rest of the world out and for the love of Pete, don't create rationalizations to make it easier to close those doors.

After all, the world needs you, too.


Marriott Cole said...

I appreciated your blog. You're right; widows make great company because we're all in the same boat and totally understand. Sincerely, Marriott Cole www.marriottcole.com

Anne (From "Missing Bobby...." blog said...

Being around other widowed people gave me such a feeling of both empowerment and peace. (Camp Widow)

Unfortunately, I've found that many people who have experienced other kinds of grief like to tell me how "their's is worse than mine". Nobody's grief is worse! Grief is grief! It cannot and should not be compared and measured!!

Janine said...

I guess I'm going to play "Devil's advocate" here, because, no, I don't think anyone who has suffered a loss different from their spouse can understand.
Yes, many of us go through loss ...... the loss of a child, or a home, or whatever. But there is a difference.
If I had lost a child, Jim would still be here with me, to grieve with me and to hold my hand, and my heart, through the grief. The same if we had lost our home. But when I lost him, I lost anyone who could grieve WITH me. No one has my back. No one understands the depth of my grief, the immenseness of my loss.
I'm not making light of anyone else's loss ...... I'm just saying that, had I lost anyone, or anything, but him, he would be here with me, to grieve with me.
Losing him is the worst loss than I can imagine.
That in no way means that I am "putting up fences". Grief is still grief, and it's still horrible and long and difficult.
But it is different.
At least in my opinion.

Karen said...

OH MY GOD. I haven't even finished reading the post and I have to comment already and say THANK YOU. One of the biggest reasons I fled a bulletin board for young widowed people was that attitude: I had so many people tell me I MUST hang out with other widows because no one, but no one else would understand me. Obviously I cherish the other widowed people I interact with for their empathy and yes, their understanding, the fact that they "get it" - but a lot of people seemed to be insisting that ONLY widowed people would ever be able to, and that no one who wasn't widowed ever could. And guess what: there are some widowed people who are in every other possible way totally different from me, and who find me annoying, and whom I find annoying, and with whom I would never be able to get along in a million years. And my bff, whom I've known for 33 years? Not widowed, not remotely widowed. But she knew and loved my husband and WAS IN THE ROOM WHEN HE DIED. So yeah, you know - in enough ways, in enough important ways, she gets it. And she loves me and is there for me and I could not have endured the past 2 1/2 years without her.

Um, so yeah. That. Sorry for e-shouting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you. I read a few widow blogs because I have a dear friend who is a young widow and I want to be as supportive as possible. Reading these blogs gives me a peek into what might be going on with her. And I have to say, it is SO discouraging when I read that I will NEVER "get it", that I have NO idea, that it is a "club" that I have NO business being even in the same room with, etc. It feels like being shoved away when I want to help as best I can. I understand of course that I haven't experienced it, so I don't have first hand knowledge, but give me a break, really, I bring NOTHING to the table? I really appreciate your post, because it validates my own feeling that I need to continue to be there for my friend and try as hard as I can to support her.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Hi Janine,
Yeah, I thought I was the one playing Devil's advocate? LOL. I didn't expect everyone to agree with me and I know I have a minority opinion on this... except I think that we can probably all agree that any time any of us says "never," "always," or "no one" we are sort of daring fate to prove us wrong. But I don't think you're the type to shut folks out either and you do among the most amazing outreach of anyone I know.
So... here's to continued healthy discussion, friend!
@Karen, thank you for testifying that we are even less alone than we sometimes think, and @Anonymous, who's being such a good friend, THANK YOU. You are the reason I don't like to say never. The person who knocks on closed doors. GOOD FOR YOU.
Adjusting to loss is about much more than grief -- and we need all the friends we can get. We do each bring something different. Kudos to you for being a fearless friend.
Keep sticking by if she keeps shutting you out, too... this is a very long hard road, with isolation and a lot of "never" statements as part of it, and that can make us less-great as the giving kind of friend sometimes. We still need folks like you.
X to all for a healthy discussion --

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragement Supa! I have realized by reading all the wonderful widow blogs that I can take nothing, and I mean NOTHING -- no amount of unreturned calls, cancelled plans, unacknowledged meal deliveries, etc. -- personally. So thank you to all who write for helping me understand this. I just keep plugging along and reaching out as best and as sensitively and hopefully as helpfully as I can. Sometimes I feel like a pitbull of a salesman -- "here's my Monday call, you ain't buying what I'm selling? No problem, talk to you next Monday!" lol! Anyway, I appreciate your encouragement, and I thank you for your insights.

Tim said...

A few months after my wife died, there was a plane crash in Africa with lots of Dutch people on board. My two boys and I are Dutch/American, and at the time in the middle of our mourning. Only crash survivor was a 9 year-old boy. He lost his brother and both his parents. Upon which my son, 9 year old at the time, said: "This boy has a tougher life now than we do." And he meant it, being able to set aside our own grief (which at that point was much worse than anything in the world). I thanked him for his wisdom. Thank you for yours.

Jess said...

Loved this POV! Not another sob story, instead a honest look at who we are and our inadequacies when we get too wrapped in our loss that we isolate further. Great blog!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Thanks, Jess. XOX

Anonymous said...

Seems so many have a loss story, and the others have yet to have a loss story. None of us can understand anyone's story in its fullness. I've talked to people who have lost both a child and a spouse in their time, and they indicate that losing a child is much harder than losing a spouse. That said, grief is grief. People seem to have varying empathetic abilities, regardless of the loss they have experienced or not. I think there are widows and widowers with little empathy for others, widowed or not, and also people who've never lost a spouse but who have a great deal of empathy. If we think we will only find people who understand our loss in the widowed pool, then I think that's exactly what we'll find. If that's what's needed to get by, then that's all good. I just hope it doesn't mean we shut out others.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Thanks, all. The best advice is really those who say "don't compare," but for some reason, I'm not good at saying that.

We can find angels in all sorts of places though, thanks for appreciating that.

X to all for your thoughts!

Bill said...

I haven't read all the replies, but I think the blogger and some of the people reading/replying are confusing some things. Here's my take:

1. The ONLY person who totally and truly understands your loss is YOU. Period. Even people who have had a similar loss have only a ballpark idea.

2. That said, there is an understanding between people who have suffered the same kind of loss that others simply do not, cannot possibly have. That's not a criticism; it's simply not possible. You have to live it to truly "get it."

3. But THAT said, it doesn't mean others can't sympathize or be helpful and compassionate and great to have in our lives (etc etc).

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Bill, Wow, another hair splitter like me. Yup. Thanks for chipping in.


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