“If I were in your shoes,” or “I don’t know what I would do if I were in your shoes,” is a statement no window(er) wants to hear. While they seem innocent enough and rarely come from a place of malice, they are statements that take away validation in our feelings and actions. The comment goes from being about the person in pain, to becoming about the person trying to fit in their shoes.
Every person who has experienced some type of loss doesn’t want their feelings compared to those who haven’t, or those trying to imagine the pain. Grief takes you on a journey that is as unique as a person’s finger print. While a widow may experience the same thoughts or questions and go through similar courses of action, the way that pain is felt and for how long and how deep varies day-to-day.
I am apart of a grief group for women and the variances of issues that arise daily makes it very clear to me that no two grieve the same. So many stories of heartache and pain and very few comments about improvement on emotional well-being. Which leads me to wonder what type of support most of these women are receiving. Which then leads me to thinking about how our society as a whole acknowledges those who are grieving.
I see these women mentioning that friends or family are telling them it is time to move on, or expecting them to feel better after a certain amount of time. So little compassion expressed to those in immense amount of agony. If there is one thing, especially to those who are reading this but haven’t experienced the death of a husband, or wife, or any extremely close relationship…THERE IS NO TIMELINE. Grief doesn’t own a calendar. Grief doesn’t care if it is Friday and the weekend is here, Grief doesn’t care if you are sitting having a cup of coffee with a friend, Grief just flat-out doesn’t care about time or space.
If you support someone whose heart has broken to pieces, release your expectations of them. Again, thinking about how YOU would handle the situation they are in does no good. Lets be honest, after hearing about Matt’s death I am sure some may have thought about how they would act if their loved one passed away. Let me tell you, no matter how much time you have to prepare or if it happens in a blink of an eye, you can never predict how your emotions will take over. That is why support, empathy and compassion is extremely important to anyone in a time of need.
If you can honestly be there for a widow(er) and I mean fully be there for them, then do it without hesitation, without thinking about how long will they need me? Some may seem “fine” in a few months then slide back down into the pit of despair. Others may go a year, blazing a trail of fierce determination but as soon as the one year anniversary hits, the black cloud resumes position overhead.
Too many times have I felt that because I have maintained an air of strength that if I was to falter people would think I am letting grief win. Too many times have I held back tears and saved them until I’m safely in bed for the night, only to feel like I was drowning on my sadness. There have been too many times I have hid my grief because I didn’t want people to pity me or ask me if I was ok. 7.5 months on and I think I cry more than I have in previous months. I don’t fear grieving, I fear the continuous heartbreak. But what I hold on to is knowing this pain is making room for more compassion, more understanding. What I hold on to is that every moment I feel weak, there will be more moments of strength. I made a choice, a choice to not allow my grief to own me. I promised myself that I would not let Matt’s death be in vain. I am here, I am living, it is my choice to continue living fully.
Thankfully, I have the best support from my friends and family and it has made all the difference. If people constantly questioned me and my grieving process I highly doubt I would be where I am today. By getting messages of love, even just a simple, “Hello, I am thinking of you,” does wonders for the soul. I gain confidence in knowing that if I were to stumble and fall and needed help regaining my balance, a million hands will reach out to me offering me a smile and a hug (even if it is virtual hug).
They say it takes a village to raise a child, well I think that saying is equally true for those who are grieving. If you are there for someone during their darkest of days then there is no doubt you will be there during the brightest. A lesson I have learned during this time about friendship and support. So in the end, if all you get out of this is to understand that grief has no timeline, then I am confident the support you give out will be very much appreciated by those who need it the most. Compassion, empathy and love shouldn’t be extending only during times of pain, or heartbreak, it should happen every day…and we all know there could be a little more of each in this world.