That last Thursday in November, I had been at Miller Williams‘ sixth or eighth Survey of Western Poetry class, which I was auditing at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.I’d drive over each Thursday — it was about an hour from Eureka Springs — immerse myself in Miller’s world, do any Fayetteville errands that I might have, and drive home…. Read More
COMFORT, REFUGE, & TRUTH-TELLING: THE WHAT & WHY OF WIDOWHOOD WEDNESDAY
“This weekly post on widowhood begins an overdue conversation. Half of all people in committed relationships will lose their spouse first; will be left to live solo. Almost everyone will be called on to console someone bereaved.
"This is my attempt to speak the unspeakable, for all of us… to enable others to speak and listen.
“I’ve been widowed twice. I am who I am in part because of loving, knowing, losing and grieving these two very different partners, each of whom left life under very different circumstances.
"What understanding I have of grief (which I perceive as less an emotion than a tsunami-like force of nature) is provisional. And yet – I say this reluctantly – the experiences of widowhood and grieving are not without hope. Over time, even egregious, cruel losses and disorientations can reveal strange gifts.
“Writing of her own widowhood, Joan Didion said, ‘Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.’ It's a journey for which few are ready. We each make our unique path as we walk it, in isolation.
"This isolation is profound. But side-by-side with its truth is this: it is also true that others in ‘the club no one wants to join’ are walking their solitary paths.
"Which means that no matter how it feels, we are not alone. Let us take, and give, comfort in telling our stories, and hearing those of others. If we must bear this, let us also bear witness."
--- Crescent Dragonwagon
How do we travel through widowhood and grief towards whatever the next phase of our life will be if, as we said last week, “healing” doesn’t work as a model? And let’s look at a couple of other commonly used phrases that also don’t apply; “getting over it,” and “closure.” How can you “get over” the death of someone you… Read More
Most of us, before widowhood was thrust upon us, gave little thought to what that state would actually be like. And when and if we did try to conceive of it, most of us got it wrong. ” … In the version of grief we imagine ( before we are widowed),” writes Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking,… Read More
In the little Arkansas town (population, then, just under 2000) in which Ned and I had lived, everybody did not exactly know each other. But we certainly knew about each other. Maybe two years after Ned’s death, still deeply bereft, I ran into Freddy. We were friends, though not close. He was someone I knew and liked, had worked with;… Read More
“What’s on your mind this morning?” Facebook asked me cheerily last week. As it does daily, to any user who opens it before noon. That morning happened to be September 10th, 2017. What was on my mind? Quite a bit. It was the day before the 16th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. It was the day before Hurricane Irma was… Read More
I have a new cat. New to me, that is; she is actually 14 years old. She belonged to my friend Rupa, who died on the 4th of July this year. Intelligent, affectionate, and calm — as was Rupa herself, a glowing soul — Nomah quickly made her way into my heart. To the extent that, when I went to… Read More
You expect things like anniversaries. Like birthdays. Like Father’s Day (if he was the father of your children). Mother’s Day (if she was the mother of your children). Like “We would have been married 31 years today.” Like, looking at your watch and seeing the exact dark beat of time, when according to the death certificate, he or she crossed… Read More
Three months and eighteen days after Ned’s death, I took his ashes, as per his written request, to India. This was still relatively early days, so perhaps I can be forgiven for my persistent illusion: I still thought you could somehow outsmart grief. I did not yet know that when grief wants to be felt, it will find a way to… Read More
“For months after Ned’s death I barely ate. (How could I taste, let alone digest, when my sweet partner had suddenly, absolutely vanished from the earth, could never close his eyes again in ecstasy at something so simple as a perfect baked red yam or a plate of pancakes?)” I wrote most of Passionate Vegetarian when Ned was alive. It… Read More
Grief, in the early stages; grief, after the first layer of shock has worn off: so excruciatingly painful is it, and so discontinuous with the reality we knew before death took the person we most loved in the world, that we do not want to feel it. And, as we struggle against it— for who would willingly accept such pain?… Read More
I wrote, last Wednesday, about the awfulness of others saying “You were lucky to have him,” to us, the bereaved, often at a moment shockingly close to the beloved’s death. But the more complicated truth is, not only do others say this to us, we say it to ourselves. My friend, the writer Jane Yolen (who has been widowed for… Read More
There are a lot of things never to say to a widow. This is one of them. “You were lucky to have him.” If someone were run over and lying in the street with their legs crushed, would you say to them, before the ambulance had even arrived, “You were lucky to have walked” ? “You were lucky to have… Read More