Hush little baby, my poor little thing
You’ve been shuffled about like a pawned wedding ring
It must seem strange, love was here then gone
And the Oklahoma sunrise becomes the Amarillo dawn
What’s important in this life
Ask the man who’s lost his wife
–Chrissie Hynde, “Thumbelina”
Hey! Grieving folks! Lost your husband or your wife or your significant something-or-other in the not-too-distant past? Me too. My condolences. The one-year anniversary of my sudden widowing (don’t call it Angel Day or any of that crap around here) is fast approaching. I’d like to offer up some unsolicited advice from what I’ve learned over the past year, so those of you more recently widdered can be forewarned:
- Your loved one will stubbornly and selfishly persist in not coming back. So sorry. The sooner you realize and accept this, the better. I know; it sucks. It will continue to for quite some time. Unless you’re secretly happy about it (which I am definitely not).
- Don’t make any major changes for at least a year or so. Don’t move house, don’t quit or change your job. Unless you really, really hate your job, or can’t keep it because you’re now the sole caretaker of minor children. Everyone’s mileage will vary, some by a lot.
- Expect to be an object of pity for a good while. People will look at you differently. Expect them to think of you as “that poor soul.” They’ll also be keeping a surreptitious eye on you to see how you’re really doing. This can be very disconcerting if you’ve been accustomed to thinking of yourself as a strong, independent man or woman about town, or at least a hipster worth admiring. Instead of “Joe, the cool dude,” you’ll be “So sorry about Joe, poor bastard; he must be really miserable. Maybe I should put him on suicide watch or start not-so-surreptitiously spying on him and see how he’s coping/caring for the kids, so he can be even more miserable. In any event, I’ll start avoiding him except for the semi-obvious surveillance.”
- You need to say “The hell with this widow/widower thing” every once in a while. Get out and enjoy yourself. Caveat: If you consider something specific and say “It’s too soon,” it’s probably too soon.
- Contrary to the old trope, in my experience time doesn’t stop, but it does warp. Sometimes it will seem like forever since The Death, sometimes it will seem like days, or even hours. Clocks and calendars will become mere suggestions.
- Similarly, it’s normal to lose interest in politics, the quotidian doings of your Facebook friends, and what’s happening around the office. If you can take some time away from what now seems inconsequential, avail yourself of the opportunity. Time can be both your enemy (why was I left behind?) and your friend (take all the time you need, and don’t pay attention to people who suggest to you that dreaded phrase It’s Time To Move On. Only you can judge that for yourself, as there is no Grief Czar around your house but you).
- Other widders and widderers are valuable folks to connect with. Yes, their circumstances will be different from yours, sometimes vastly. Grief knows no distinction of age, race, class, or intelligence. With good fortune — yes, you may still be the beneficiary of that — you will find your way through the maze. But it will take some time. I hope to let you know when I see daylight. I hope you live to see yours.