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
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
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
1. Welcome. It looks like no one is here nor ever has been. How did you get dropped into desolation thorny rocky pathless dry You are not sure what country you are in nor what language is spoken not that there is anyone with whom to speak alone, slight word for so vast an isolation 2. It was in the… Read More
Though we spent our first anniversary in Paris, we’d honeymooned in the Ozarks, in Ponca, Arkansas, not far from where we lived. When we drove home after our days in that rustic, rubble-wall hotel on the Buffalo River, we stopped in Berryville. For some reason I can’t recall, he needed to pick something up at a hardware store. He went… Read More
I call it, “the club no one wants to join.” I look back, seventeen years as I write this since I joined, absolutely against my will… so much against my will that when the local paper, reporting on Ned’s death, referred to me as his widow a few days after his death (a bicycle accident), I actually phoned the editor…. Read More
I blame, or credit, Carol Gaddy. She heard me reading poetry between sets of a bluegrass band at a now-defunct nightclub in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. If you are silly enough to attempt such a reading, you will find your poetry greatly improved by the endeavor. The feedback is like no other: if one single phrase isn’t smacking your audience upside… Read More