Friday, July 16, 2010

My First 'F'

This week has been all about failing. My grade for widowhood? I gigantic "F".

I have offended, I have avoided, I have cancelled plans. I have missed meetings, missed answering phone calls, changed my mind five minutes after making a decision.

I apologize to the friends and family reaching out, trying to help, that I have been unable to connect with.

Please, please, please try to understand that being a widow is a 24/7 job. You may see me for a couple hours a week and I may appear fine but that is simply because you are catching me on the couple hours that I have found the strength to get up, get dressed, and interact with the rest of the world.

The other 166 hours of the week I am usually a mess.

Let me define this for you.

Mess: Barely get out of bed, only shower if I have to, eat leftover crackers and possibly soup from a can if I feel a sudden burst of energy, cry my eyes out, clean only the dirtiest dishes, cry some more, emotionally cut by going through photo albums or listening to the funeral, wail on the floor, read a few pages of a book, rant and rave to myself about everything from the unfairness of life to the short shelf life of yogurt, make the few phone calls or send the couple emails I can muster the strength for, cry some more, stay up all night tossing and turning, repeat.

I ache constantly. Even if I am laughing, I am hurting inside.

I do not mean to offend anyone. I love you all. If I say no or change my mind it is not because of you. It is because I have literally run out of any scrap of energy or shred of ability to function. I do not want to worry you further by letting you see me this way. I am terrified that in my miserable state I will say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing simply because I am unable to focus on anyone else's feelings or life - I am utterly consumed with my new world.

I am trying to let everyone help me as much as possible but please know and accept that the way you think I may need help is not necessarily the help I actually need. It may be in a week or a month or a year, but in this exact moment, I might need something else.

Everybody around me has expectations of me. They may not say it, but they are there. I actually love it when people don't say it - it gives my ears a rest. Remember that there are dozens and dozens of people who need me right now, not just you. I have Craig's parents, his extended family, his coworkers, my family, my friends, my coworkers, my bosses, our neighbours, members of our church... the list goes on and on and on.

They all have ideas of how a widow should behave, what she should do, how far along in this grieving process I should be. They compare me using the world's largest yardstick to the way I used to be or to the elderly widows they have interacted with briefly over the years.

They wonder, why aren't you doing this? Why aren't you seeing more people? Why don't you tell people what you need? Why on earth are you doing that? Don't you think you should do this instead? It's what I would do.

All I hear is, you are not doing it right. You seem too sad. You don't seem sad enough. You seem like you are over-analyzing. You seem like you aren't thinking enough. You are crying too much. You aren't crying enough. You don't answer your phone enough. Your phone is always busy. You aren't getting out of the house enough. You should spend more time at home. You shouldn't hang out so much with that person. You should hang out with these people more. You should, you aren't, you failed.

I understand everyone has opinions and beliefs and ideas about what they would do if they were in my shoes. I used to have those ideas too. And I can tell you with 100% certainty that no matter what you think, no matter how you imagine this, you are dead wrong. You have no idea. The mind simply cannot fathom this kind of pain. You must live it to know it.

So please. I beg you. Please, please, please stop telling me what I should be doing and how I am failing. I am doing the very best I can just to survive. Do not compare me to you or to anyone you know or even to the old me. Apples and oranges. No, apples and elephants. They do not even come close.

I am tired of being graded 'F'. I think I at least deserve a little credit for the effort.

Because I have never worked so hard at anything in my life.

Please be patient with me.

It is the very best way you can help me.


  1. There is no right way or wrong way to grieve and everyone must understand that and I think you realize that too. I pray that your family and friends contiune to rally around you but also give you space and a time to grieve. You can cry, holler or whatever to help you because although I haven't experienced the type of pain you are I do know that "venting" at something (not someone alive if at all possible) can help. You can holler at Craig's picture, a book whatever and let it out. There is no set time when the pain subsides and then it only subsides for a short time so do what you have to do and know that God loves you and He does understand. You are in my prayers.

  2. The honesty is great, Emily. All you can do, all you can be is honest and I am humbled. Thank you. You have been blessed with a gift of language, of using words. You can use them to shape whatever images and emotions you want. I'm glad you're also using them to speak truth, because truth is necessary for survival.

  3. I'have never in your life Emily known you to be a failure at anything on the other hand I wouldn't hand out a gold star for the best widow either they just don't go together.
    I wish desperately some way or another I can or could possibly take at least some of you pain away or make things easier for you. I'm sorry you hurt so bad everyday, I love you more than you could know and I am here if and when you need me. I love you and am praying for you.


  4. Thank you for your honesty, it will help so many. I completely agree with you, people have ideas about grief and how people 'should' be grieving....the 5 stages of grief etc. and although they are a good outline, there are no exact steps to do it 'correctly'. If you feel like crying, if you feel like screaming, if you feel like laughing, do that! Whatever you need at the time is YOUR right way to grieve, and that is all you need to think about. I know other's opinions are often in our face, whether voiced, in a look, written etc but please remain true to you. You are the only person you need to concern yourself about and although others may not 'get it' you are grieving the way you need to.
    Noone knows how you feel, even if they have been in the same situation, it is very different for each individual and hopefully people will come to realize that. Continue to grieve how you need to, whatever gets you through the day, hour, are absolutely not 'failing', the fact you get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other shows that (even if it isn't every day and sometimes with a can of soup and spoon in your hand!).