Jonathon's Closet

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not educable? Huh.

Yeah, I'm loving it.

My previous blog entry was also shared on my other web-page, on a site where I facilitate a support group for widows. The site serves hundreds of thousands of people and of course, like everywhere, widows are in the extreme minority.

One responder chose to believe that my post "indicates that I'm clearly consumed by my recent loss" ... yeah, you're a dolt. Whatever. Uh, no. I'm no where near consumed by my loss and it most certainly wasn't recent. I'm not even writing about ME actually - just a huge generalization based on what every single widow that I work with both on-line and in real-life groups shares. And really, if you read ANY of my previous writings, you'd know this. This brainiac then went on to encourage me to give my pain over to God. Well isn't that special. Can you see it? She was practically screaming that she is one of the ignorant and ill-informed that I was talking about. Niiiice. And of course, don't allow yourself to be educated. Nope. Never. Just assume that the problem is someone else's, because after all, it couldn't possibly be YOU. Whatever. (and when I tossed this back at her - basically what I've stated right here - she turned tail and ran. Bwaaahaaaahaaaaaaaaaa!)

She was an annoyance. Nothing more. Just one more fool wanting to show the world how bright she is by waving her stupidity like a banner. Yeah, that ought to work.

What really got to me were a couple of responses from "friends" of mine. Couldn't possibly express how totally disappointed in them that I am - there just aren't words. This kind of lack of comprehension of the issue - after several years of "friendship"? It's simply offensive. And this lack of comprehension consistently accompanied by the cry "I can't understand, I haven't been there". They deserve credit for one thing - they're right, they can't understand the depth of the pain. But ya know, that's not what they're being asked to understand. They're being asked to understand that all of the things in the post below are hurtful, offensive, and inappropriate. You don't have to be there to be able to be educated.

And of course the fact remains that there was nothing offensive in what I said - unless, of course, YOU saw YOU in my words. If YOU realized it was YOU I was referring to. When I held up the mirror, did YOU see YOU?

It's an educational process. And one where far too many people are too busy living in denial of the fact that they need to be educated. And those that deny it the most? They're only proving that they need it the most.

Now I was far from disappointed in the overall outcome. Many great women spoke up. Many shared honest thoughts like "I didn't realize" and "I'm going to keep this so that I won't make these mistakes". These are wonderful women who are secure enough with who they are to do a little self-examination and realize that yep - they tend to be like a lot of our society, and they're not particularly good at dealing with these issues. And here's an important part of this: they showed that they're willing to be educated, capable of learning, and wanting to try. To them, I send my deepest of thanks.

My e-mail was over-run with great folks sharing personal experiences (my FIL just died, how can I best help my MIL? ... an acquaintance's husband died, help me NOT to handle it badly ... my son's teacher's husband died over the summer - do I address it or not?). Every one of these people wants to do what's right. How wonderful - and how refreshing!

And then there were "my" girls. The widows from my group, many who watched this post evolve. Many who were back in my group and in my e-mail; upset, irritated, hurt, angry. They were, and rightfully so, offended at some of the blatant indifference they saw. Offended at some of the obvious condescension. And offended at the total ignorance that some were so blatantly displaying.

It's difficult to find your voice - your strength to advocate for what is right - while in the depths of grief. It's difficult to find any strength at all during the early stages of bereavement, and even later as you go forward in parenting alone. There's not a lot of energy left over even then! But "my" girls - many of them found their voices. Many of them spoke out. Many of them decided that it was time to stop sharing these frustrations only behind closed doors. Many of them decided that it was time to stop allowing society to treat widows with indifference and disrespect. These strong women have my admiration.

Will it all change today? No, of course not. But my work didn't begin today. It began many years ago.

Is the problem solved? Absolutely not. But that's ok. I'm a long way from done. My advocacy will continue.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In case you didn't realize: THERE IS A REASON

There is a reason that widows tend to isolate. There is a reason that widows end up isolated. There is a reason that widows are generally destined to a more solitary life than they would have otherwise enjoyed.

Do you want to know what that reason is? That reason is YOU.

Yes, I said YOU.

YOU, the one who is uncomfortable with death and will quickly duck the other way in the grocery store, because YOU don't know what to say. After all, it's all about YOU, right? and YOU just couldn't handle that moment of discomfort - which really is absolutely nothing but the blink of an eye lost in all of time in comparison to what the widow feels every moment of every day.

YOU, who is selfishly unaware that no, the widow really can't be driving the carpool right now, and yes YOU should be stepping up to fill the gap for her but of course YOU won't, because YOU might be inconvenienced by that one small thing that YOU could do to make someone else's life easier during their time of need.

YOU, who prefers not to realize that the loss of a spouse impacts a person's life FOREVER and who acts as if there is a time limit on grieving.

YOU, the one who comments "I don't know what I'd do" - and just for YOU, I have a special message: "That's right - you don't - you have no idea".

YOU, who tosses the word "widow" around carelessly, lessening it's impact and lowering it's meaning. YOU, who sees the start of football season or the opening weekend of deer hunting as an excuse to cough up inane comparisons such as "football widow" and "hunting widow", which is about as appropriate as it would be if I were to use the word "reetard" to describe any child with a disability.

YOU, who asks "so how long have you been divorced?" when meeting an only parent - and for the record, it's not an enjoyable moment for a widow, having to once again deal with the likes of YOU making that assumption.

YOU, who offers the anecdote of "well, at least you don't have to pick up his dirty socks all the time - I'm ready to kill my husband myself" to the widow.

YOU, who chooses to stay in a bad relationship and constantly complain "I hate my husband" - ya know, if that's true? Get the hell out. Life is too damn short to stay in a bad relationship.

YOU, who has the audacity to suggest to the widow that perhaps a new baby would make her feel better - and hey, while I'm thinking of it, does that mean that YOU are offering up YOUR husband for stud? After all, common sense would tell ya that a widow doesn't really have the means at hand to manage to get knocked up. (oh, and by the way - no thanks - I doubt he's much of a catch)

YOU, who abandons your widowed "friend" each and every time you realize that someday YOU likely will be faced with many of these same issues, when that thought frightens YOU, when it just becomes too much to handle, when YOU feel this eminently.

YOU, the one who chooses to weakly and lamely attempt to compare grief and loss, and refuses to be educated, to research, to learn and grow and realize that no other loss, no matter how very painful and how very sad, can be compared to a loss that impacts the family in so many ways as the death of a spouse.

YOU, who 'offers' your religious upbringing as the cure for grief, who shares your opionions on "why" and spews nonsense about "reasons" instead of offering support or friendship. YOU, who offers platitudes and pushes YOUR agenda, instead of offering help.

YOU, the one who chooses to bitch and whine over the color of napkins at a school dance, and about other things of no importance whatsoever in the greater scheme of life. Yes, the greater scheme - because there really IS something out there that is more significant than YOU.

YOU, the one who chooses to complain that someone annoyed you (and then complain about this same person again and again and again) instead of learning to accept that person, to shrug off their eccentricities, to take them with a grain of salt, to accept them for who they are and still find ways to be grateful for their presence in your life.

And there are a LOT more of YOU out there. So many versions of YOU that it would take all night to identify all of YOU. But frankly, YOU exhaust me. And I won't allow YOU any more of my time this evening - because contrary to popular belief? IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.

just a note:

if you see yourself in the above, do something about it. change it. learn. grow. expand your world. become a better person. and know that you are not alone - sadly, you are in the majority.

if you don't see yourself in the above, give yourself a hug. know that you are an exceptional person. when the opportunity presents, encourage others to reach out as well.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sunshine on a dark night

2 a.m.

He wakes in a cold sweat. Shaking like a leaf. Clearly unsettled.

Unsettled. A place we've spent a lot of time in recent weeks. Make that months.


I am the bear. The teddy bear. The security blanket.

It's clear that I'm the lifeline. And he's holding on tight.


Sing for me. Baby, please. It's your voice I need.

Do WHAT? uhhh......

My mind goes blank. But only for a moment. And the words just come:

The other night dear
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear
I was mistaken
So I hung my head and I cried.

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You'll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

So let the sun shine in
Face it with a grin
Smilers never loose
And Frowners never win
So let the sun shine in
Face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sun shine in

My daddy told me something
That little girls should know
It's all about the devil
And I've learned to hate him so
I know he'll be unhappy
Cause I'll never wear a frown
And if we keep on smiling
He'll get tired of hangin' round

So let the sun shine in
Face it with a grin
Smilers never loose
And Frowners never win
So let the sun shine in
Face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sun shine in

Words my father used to sing to me when I was a small child.

In my voice, he found his comfort.

In these words, I found mine.