HALLOWEEN. IF YOU’VE LOST SOMEONE TO SUICIDE OR VIOLENCE, THIS TIME OF YEAR YOU CAN EXPECT TRIGGERS EVERYWHERE. WIDOWHOOD IS NOT STATIC. IT KEEPS CHANGING, AND IT KEEPS CHANGING US. LIKE THE LEAVES IN FALL (A TIME WHEN GRIEF, ITSELF ZOMBIE-LIKE, RE-EMERGES FOR MANY), WIDOWHOOD HAS AN INFINITE NUMBER OF COLORS. HERE ARE FIFTY OF THEM. 1. I take a… 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
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It is also the birthday month of the late David Koff, with whom I lived for almost a decade, and who ended his own life. I wrote this exploration of the collateral damage of suicide, six years ago, three years after David’s death. In 2014, I had a new cat come to live with… Read More
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN, IN THIS SEASON OF RENEWAL, LIFE STILL FEELS LIKE A LIFE-SENTENCE? HOW DO WE GRIEVE AT A TIME WHEN EVERYTHING (EXCEPT THE PERSON WE LOVED) SEEMS TO BE COMING BACK TO LIFE? Easter. Passover. Spring. The days lengthen, grow warm. Everything seems to come back to life. Everything, that is, except the one we loved. The… Read More
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY ALOUD THE NAME OF THE DECEASED. DON’T BE AFRAID TO REMEMBER HIM OR HER. ALOUD. WITH US. KNOWING YOU LOVED OUR BELOVED TOO HELPS US. IT EVEN, SOMETIMES, BRINGS HER OR HIM BACK TO LIFE, JUST A LITTLE. THERE CAN BE NO BIGGER GIFT. I’m often in touch with a friend, the musician Bill Haymes, … Read More
“Her first husband died in a workplace accident when she was 24 and pregnant with their second child. ‘Becoming a young widow changed my life,’ she said.” Suddenly, reading these words recently in the New York Times, sitting there at the old oak table in the kitchen, having breakfast, the hair on the back of my neck rose. There are… Read More
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRIEF AND SORROW? BETWEEN MOURNING A DEATH BY SUICIDE VERSUS ONE BY ACCIDENT OR NATURAL CAUSES? IF SO, DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE? OF COURSE IT DOES. SHAME AND GUILT ARE PART OF THE WEIGHT EVERY “SUICIDE WIDOW” CARRIES. HOW DO WE HOW INCORPORATE THEM INTO WHAT WE HOLD ON TO, AND WHAT WE LET… Read More
HERE ARE SOME THINGS YOUR WIDOWED FRIEND WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW. SHE’D TELL YOU IF SHE COULD. BUT SHE CAN’T. THAT’S PART OF THE PROBLEM. 1. Please understand that right now your widowed friend is not herself. Literally not herself. Most of the constructs of self she had have vanished, some temporarily, some permanently. Everything — her role in life,… Read More
IS WRITING A WAY TO KEEP YOUR HEART AND LIFE WIDE OPEN, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO, BECAUSE YOU’RE DEEP IN THE MONOTONOUS PAIN OF GRIEVING? SHOULD YOU? HOW CAN YOU, WHEN THERE IS SO MUCH HURT, AND SOMETIMES, SO MUCH UGLINESS? YET, ALTHOUGH WHEN DEEP IN GRIEF WE DO NOT EXPERIENCE OR BELIEVE IT, THE OPPOSITE IS ALSO TRUE…. 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
Our beloved partner is no longer on earth. And now it’s the holidays. Sometimes other people, not realizing they’re doing it, ask us to dress grief up in party clothes. We may even ask it of ourselves. But we don’t have to do it. In the fall of 2004, Richard, my friend Kay’s husband and the love of her life,… Read More
This week I am sharing with you our Widowhood Wednesday message via video for reasons I will explain at the end of the message. Our monthly call will be at 8 pm eastern on Wednesday, May 30th. The call is a pay what you will if you can, or simply join us. Registration is required, so that the teleconference call… Read More
OUR FRIENDS WANT TO HELP US. THEY DON’T KNOW HOW. WE DON’T KNOW HOW EITHER. BECAUSE WE ARE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. DEAR WIDOW, I WROTE THIS LETTER FOR YOU TO GIVE YOUR FRIENDS. PART ONE: A LETTER TO THE WIDOW’S FRIENDS Dear Friend of the Widow, You already know this: ___________, the beloved life partner of your… Read More