Awhile back, I wrote a blog that I felt sure I was going to get blasted for. Back then, I thought I would lose the 2 people who were actually following it at the time. But, lucky for me, I happened to land with a very understanding bunch that may not have agreed with me, but still kept following the blog.
Either that, or they didn’t know how to take themselves off the list.
I’m finding myself in somewhat the same position now. I’m going to write something that may irritate some, but I’m hoping that even if you don’t agree...you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
When it comes to friendship, or any relationship for that matter, and words of comfort...those of us in the Widow World feel like we get burned a lot. A LOT. We can talk for hours about the insensitivity of others and the things we hear from the people we run into every day. I mean...how many blogs have I, myself, written on this subject?
Lately, I’ve been trying to think of our group and what we encounter every day...but through the eyes of the people who are trying to support us. And it started to worry me.
We all know that we run into people who are just plain insensitive. They seem to say things, over and over again without thinking. The ones who compare their traveling husbands to our dead ones and say they think we have it easier. The ones who think they would handle this better than we have (and think it’s appropriate to tell us so). And the people who have just flat-out walked out of our lives.
But this blog is not about them.
This is about the people who may not say what we want to hear, but are doing the best they can to help us and be our friends.
Don’t kid yourself. We’re an intimidating bunch. It could depend on the day or my hormone level how I’m going to take what you’re saying to me. So...at some point along the way...we need to give credit where credit is due. For those friends who have stuck by us, stumbling over their words, fearfully looking at our faces to see if we’re going to hug them or hit them...they’re here. They didn’t leave.
Now, I feel like I can say this because I tend to be part of the problem myself. Sometimes I get so distracted by my own feelings about what has been said, that I don’t look at the intent behind it. Was it meant to hurt me? Was it meant to get a “rise” out of me? Was someone saying they hope I find happiness someday...or were they saying “quit yer bitchin’”?
You have to keep in mind, too, that what they’re saying and the way you’re receiving it is very individual...on both ends. As I’ve said before, what one person finds comforting will make someone else want to run them over. They could have said the same “comforting” words to someone else and totally hit their mark. And then said them to you and you’re ready to put Drain-o in their wine.
(On a side note...if you waste a good glass of wine, that could be enough to get you kicked out of the Widow Cult. I’m just sayin’.)
I’ll give you a little example (and this is a pretty mild one). When I first lost my husband, one of the closest people to me would say over and over, “Oh sweetie. This is awful. Awful, awful, awful, awful, awful.”
Now, you may not think this is so bad, but it just hit me the wrong way. It made me feel like it was so “awful”...I would never dig my way out of this hole. And it made me want to drive my head through some drywall every time I heard it.
I know the person who said this to me was doing her best to be there for me. She was commiserating with me. She was letting me know that she didn’t take this whole mess lightly. It was in fact...awful.
I mean really...it was.
And because I loved this person, I felt it was okay to say to her, “Please don’t say that anymore. I know what you mean and I know you love me. But it doesn’t make me feel any better.”
Was there an uncomfortable moment of silence? Yes. Did we overcome it? Absolutely.
When we’ve been through a loss like this, and our minds and hearts are reeling, it’s hard to think of other people. We hope that others are thinking of us and that they will step in and just...help us for a little while. But we also have a responsibility, as friends, to say what we need. What works. What doesn’t. They’re not mind readers and, as we say ourselves all the time...most of them have never been through this before. If a relationship can’t withstand that kind of friendly honesty...well...maybe it wasn’t what we thought it was. But if it can...both sides will be the better for it.
And if you’d like to know how I know there are a lot of good friends out there...you should see the emails I get. People get my contact info from the blog or support websites and I get messages like, “My friend just lost her husband. I need to know the best way to support her.”
I don’t know about you...but that sounds like a damn good friend to me.
All I’m trying to say is...if this is someone you’ve known for 15 years and has been your closest friend up until some remark...please really look at what they’re trying to do. Look at the people who have walked away...and the ones who are standing there with you. It takes a brave friend to do that. I know I’ve been moody enough in the last 3 years to completely wipe out my entire “friend population” (would that be friendocide?).
Think of your responsibility, as their friend, to tell them what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t assume they know...they won’t know until you say it. And wouldn’t it be great to have a friend who knew what to say to you when things got really rough?
I hope that, when you read this blog, it doesn’t hit you the wrong way. That you know that I write it with love in my heart and an attempt at understanding what we’re all going through.
Because that’s certainly the way it’s meant.