Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Truth Behind the Considerate Griever

Throughout the last few years, I have thought a lot about how we all handle widowhood differently.  We all move at our own pace and grieve within our own comfort zone.

It’s been interesting to me the way I’ve grieved.  For the most part, I consider myself a pretty private person when it comes to just letting go.  I’ve never even really cried during group “therapy” because I was afraid of looking “stupid” (I know…that’s stupid, but there you have it).  In fact, I remember being at one ceremony with a young widows group that was really meant to be emotional and I was so mortified that I was there and that I might cry, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I don’t even like crying in my therapist’s office when it’s just the two of us.


There are very few people I will get upset in front of (and even then it usually takes a few glasses of wine).  But for so long, even at the beginning, I was very focused on making the people around me feel comfortable.  No one ever knew how shallow my breathing got at the college football games my husband was missing.  No one knew how I was swallowing a lump in my throat during my first Boy Scout meeting. No one ever knew how hard it was to go to parties and events on my own…when everyone else was a couple.

No one knew how I used to lay on my bedroom floor and just sob with my pictures.

It wasn’t their fault.  I didn’t let them know.

I guess this tendency makes me a pretty considerate griever, but the truth is I’ve always been jealous of the people who have just let it all out there, not really caring what other people think.  I know that many of them have felt like a “freak” and may have possibly lost friends who didn’t understand why they’re still grieving after the first 4 weeks of widowhood…but I can’t tell you how freeing that sounds.  And for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t one of those people. 

But now I think I’ve got it.

It’s a fear of abandonment.

Being a “pleaser” and someone who tries her hardest to make others feel comfortable in any situation, I have had a fear all of these years that if I just cry and let it all out there…people would get uncomfortable.  And then they would leave and not come back.

It’s not like this is such a random concept.  I’ve been to parties where I’ve told people, during the course of the conversation, what’s happened and we all know what the usual response is to that:

“Oh. I’m so sorry.”

And then I’ve brightly said, “Oh, that’s okay!  We’re totally fine now!  So tell me more about that problem you’re having at work!”

And why have I done that?  Because the few times I’ve actually gone into how hard the situation is, I’ve run the risk of that person looking antsy and doing everything they can to get out of the conversation we’re having.

I needed people.  I’ve always needed people, even before my husband died.  I love being surrounded by people.  And I guess in my mind that has meant that I’ve had to be more reserved “in the moment”…only to release the grief monster in the privacy of my own bedroom later.

Because then I know…my pictures won’t walk away.


  1. Catherine.. I find it so comforting to read you.. to see that I'm not alone.. sometimes it's like you are writing my story.. thank you.

  2. Dear Cheryl...

    Thank you so much for your comment. Sometimes it's nice to know I'm not the only crazy one out there!!! :>)


  3. A considerate griever. That describes me perfectly. It’s why I would rather stay home than ruin someone else’s Christmas dinner with my stinky mood. You always hit the nail on the head for me and I always look forward to anything you write.

    1. Yeah but last Christmas I stayed away from a family Christmas because the previous one was so devastating and my step children have never spoken to me since.

  4. This is so spot on. Right now, well tomorrow night, I have to go to senior night alone. My son plays soccer. I cried all day Sunday. Today, I reached out to 3 friends/neighbors and my husband's sister. I'm tired of trying this alone and if you don't say something, no one knows. Here my sister-in-law's plans were cancelled and she can go (2 hour drive for her). My only lesson to take away is you never know until you say something, but I'm the people pleaser too and don't want to let anyone know and suffer in silence.

  5. Great insight. Got me thinking...I lost my husband suddenly over 4 years ago. I’m still devastated. What I’ve noticed as more time passes, the more “considerate” I am. I completely agree that it is from the fear of abandonment. I don’t want the look in their eyes as they think “damn, why is she STILL a complete mess? Must be a crazy one.” I guess I feel like as tired as I am of still hurting so incredibly, everyone must feel even more so. Thanks for putting into words your experience so that I can feel not so alone.