Recipes from Well-Wishers
Many of this book's quotations from widows describe how problematic it can be to hear advice from well-wishers, no matter how sincere or caring they may be. Here are some of the suggestions for feeling better, which one widow calls “the ever-fail recipes.”
These are recommendations frequently offered by those who have not lost a spouse. While these well-wishers may truly care, and their sympathy provides momentary comfort, they cannot begin to understand the depth or the reality of your grief. They have not experienced what you have been through; their words cannot reach where you are.
Recipes for “keeping busy” deny your reality and shame
your grief. A gap forms between you and the speaker, and the isolation grows.
But, at the same time, you may hopefully believe the well-wishers have the key. Could keeping busy work? Would running, going, scheduling every minute help you ultimately to feel more peaceful, less frightened? Could it soften the aloneness, the reality of your loss?
Some widows answer affirmatively; they will tell you that they follow this recipe. They fill every moment with events and people. Many seek out constant company: lunches, dinners, movies with acquaintances. Some of us have come to refer to this method of coping in a kind of wry emotional shorthand as “widow-mania.”
While many people initially find a kind of solace in “widow-mania,” they will also tell you that while it works to alleviate some of the pain and fear; it does not work well or for long. Distractions cannot always be found, and they cannot always be relied upon to help. An enormous panic comes over them when there appears to be a stretch of time without a plan—a kind of emotional horror vacuii.
These frenetic activities often block a natural mourning. This is not to say that mourning follows some kind of hydraulic model, but instead that these distractions can delay the feeling of loss, making the pain surface more brutally, whether somatically or cognitively.
If distraction is not the best answer, then, how can you far the alone times? The moment you wake . . . the evenings . . . dinner time . . . weekends . . . What can make it bearable?
Read on: Distraction vs. Connection