Yup, dissed. Old school 70’s and 80’s babies can appreciate the deepness of a wound that requires me to use a form of the word dis. After the dis, I allowed my feelings to be hurt for 1.2 seconds before shaking my head from side to side while laughing to myself. Looking back, there is no sting; just clarity.
Let me tell you what happened. I’ve been pretty open about my struggles as a widow. It’s been a challenge to find the right amount of support for myself. I’ve been of the mindset that a grief support group for those who have lost their spouses was something I needed. I tried many (ok, just three) groups and I didn’t like the way I felt in any of them. In all the groups, I was the youngest person by at least 20 years and the only person with a young child. I certainly don’t believe in a distinction amongst those that are grieving; a loss is a loss. After the loss of someone special, the living must survive. Of those that survive, only the strongest and luckiest figure out how to craft their lives into some semblance of normalcy.
I figured that in a room full of other widows/widowers, I’d be able to share, acknowledge, commiserate, seek solace, give encouragement, etc. I thought I’d find a “tribe” with these folks. Sadly, I did not. Our general issue (loss of spouse) was the same, but nothing else was. Those facing retirement, grandchildren the age of my son, and people who intentionally choose to never have another love had nothing in common with me.
After the local/in person attempts, I figured, let me try these here interwebs. A few keystrokes, a little help from Mr. Google and ta da – online grief support. One specific group on the book of faces seemed promising. Let’s call the group something generic like “Young Widows” (not the real name). I was intrigued by the word “young” in the title, hoping that it would mean there would be folks between 20 and 50. Boom! I found them. People in their 20s and 30s, pushing forward at work and home, young children like LittleTDJ, etc. For about a year, I hung on the periphery of this group, finally diving in a few months ago. It felt good to seek specific support and offer direct encouragement to those who were in the early days of grief. I made a couple of buddies in the group and I was generally pleased with my interactions there. From time to time I noticed overly negative messages and tones, but I tried to ignore them.
Things reached a fever pitch when a young widow from the Midwest, let’s call her Katie, announced that she had just gotten engaged. She seemed like a super sweet woman and her new fiancée sounded like a good guy, who had been very respectful and understanding about honoring her first husband. I was the first to post a message of congratulations along with a prayer for love, peaceful times ahead and space to forever grieve her first love while allowing her new love to soar. Folks!! You’d have thought I called somebody’s mother a female dog! Within minutes, the thread had over 30 responses with the same consensus – Katie was a dishonest, evil heifer who never loved her husband and I was scum of the earth for wishing her well in a new marriage. Folks started saying that we were bad wives and bad mothers for not wishing we had died instead of our husbands and for not wanting to remain single forever and die soon to join them
Huh????? Say what now???? What????
After I got past the general shock, I took a few minutes to re-read the comments that were coming in fast and furious.
PEOPLE WERE TYPING IN ALL CAPS FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!!! And we all know that caps indicate RAGE BEHIND THE KEYBOARD!
The more I read, the more I knew that I had to respond. I needed to say something for poor Katie. I needed to say something for myself! I knew that I needed to make my response coherent, emotional and rational all at the same time. I don’t normally get my feathers ruffled in online forums, but this was different. The attacks against Katie and I had taken a very mean and personal turn. I composed in Microsoft Word first, then cut and pasted into the FB group. I didn’t know what I was really trying to say except that I knew I had to say something. To speak up for myself, for Katie and for anyone else who felt too intimidated to speak up. And then I realized that I needed to share my words here because, well, I feel like I tell you guys everything. LOL!
This is exactly what I wrote:
Whoa! Can we please ease up with the personal attacks?
I stand by my original message of congratulations to Katie and her new fiancée. As happy as I am for her, I’m saddened by all the negativity that her joyous announcement has spawned.
She’s in LOVE folks. LOVE! Isn’t that what this group is all about? The love that we each had for our spouses? The deep and endless hole of sadness over the loss of that love? The universal love that we feel for one another since becoming united in this awful category? Not one of us, if asked, would have chosen to join this support group, but look around folks, we are here. Who amongst us would not rather have our spouse back? But you know what? It’s not happening!!! They aren’t coming back. Our lives cannot return to THAT kind of normal ever again.
However, that’s just it – our lives! We are still here. We are alive. For that, I remain eternally blessed and thankful to God. Yes, we have pain, and sadness, and loneliness, and tears, but we also can have joy, and humor, and fun, and yes……..LOVE. I know that my husband loved life, and he loved me, and he would NOT want me to spend the rest of my life sad, depressed and alone as a result of his death. Nope, he loved me too much for that.
So the question is – how much do you love yourself?
Do you love yourself enough to take the risk of finding love again?
Do you love yourself enough to step out of the shadows to show your heart to another person?
I call bullshit on anyone who dares pass judgment on Katie or I, and how much we loved our husbands. And the ridiculous idea that we are bad mothers? Ha!
Sitting in forever solitude while worshipping a personal shrine to your dead spouse doesn’t make you any MORE of a widow than it makes us.
Crying daily, wearing black and choosing to never date, have sex or remarry does not mean you loved your spouses MORE than Katie or I.
Choosing to remain unhappy and wishing that you would die means that you need HELP!!
I salute Katie for making the step that many are afraid to make.
Within 30 minutes, the thread grew to over 100 responses and I was called all kind of bad names that I choose not to type here. Katie sent me an inbox message thanking me for understanding and stating what she couldn’t get the words together to say. One particular comment made my blood start to boil and I found myself typing out a not very nice response, but when I tried to hit post, the craziest thing happened
The book of faces told me that I couldn’t because I was no longer a member of that group. But………but………I was a member 20 seconds ago.
I quickly logged out of the website and logged back in. I scanned all my groups on the left side of the screen and did not see the “Young Widow” group. Da hell is going on? I clicked over to my notifications and I could see alerts from the heated conversation. I tried to click one and got the same dang message. Not a member of the group.
Well, don’t that just beat all? Those funky admins kicked me out of the damn group. My opinion was so unpopular that they felt the need to permanently remove me from their online community. Wow. Just wow. Katie messaged me again to say that she couldn’t tag my name in the response that she was typing, so I told her that I had been booted. I let her get angry but warned her against venting to the group if she still wished to stay in the good graces of those folks. She and I are still online buddies to this day, and it’s delightful to sit on the sidelines as she approaches marriage again.
Although I have a strong personality, I’m not always the most outspoken person. When I have something to say, you’d better believe that I’m going to say it, even if my opinion doesn’t side with the majority. We were each granted with a brain and life experiences that have hopefully armed us with independent opinions. I’ve never succumbed to the pressure of agreeing with the “cool kids” in order to keep the peace. That’s not how I roll. Yes, I was defending my buddy Katie, but really, it was more. In her defense, I ended up defining the next part of my journey. Thoughts and feelings that I’ve had, but had been unable to put words to suddenly sprung forth with ease. So yeah, I allowed my feelings to be hurt for 1.2 seconds, and then I laughed myself to the point of tears. That’s exactly the kind of “support” I don’t need.
I stand behind EVERY. SINGLE. THING. that I said in the group message above.
My husband died – I DID NOT. I do not wish to die. I am alive (and sane) through grace and mercy. Even if he didn’t occupy my heart and my memories, my husband will forever live on through my son. My hopes and dreams for our future are in no way proportional to the immeasurable love I had for my husband. I pray that I meet a fantastic man who can appreciate, embrace and love the wonderful child that my husband and I made. And, I pray that I will once again discover romantic love and experience the joy of being a wife.