Unmerry Widow: I’m Not Depressed, I’m Sad
“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief — But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” — Hilary Stanton Zunin
After Peter died I read book after book about grief. It appears that there is blueprint, rigidly entrenched in our society, prescribing the stages of grief. Society has labeled a gold standard for behavior after a loss. Societal expectations are in our cultural consciousness, spouting all the levels that you have to go through in order to emerge in a timely fashion. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross dictated the five stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Stages of grief be damned! Societal expectations take a hike! I will not cotton to these archaic and formulaic presumptions. I will take this journey of grief in my own time and on my own terms. I know I am depressed but I also know that my depression is from deep sorrow and loss and not a clinical depression. I am not angry. How can I be angry at a man, who was so kind, and so good, and didn’t want to leave me? He would have rather died than leave me. Ok, he did. Too sick a joke? Perhaps.
I do know that talking about the pain of my loss to a counselor is helpful. Peter died in front of me and I have to tell that story several times so I can get it out there and not keep it inside. The trauma of losing a spouse in front of you has its own particular pain. Peter never knew he was dying and that fact alone helps me come to terms with this pain. But I saw it all and reliving my helplessness is incomprehensible. To come to terms with my emotions, my therapist has me imagine a path in a garden. I immediately see poppies and the Wizard of Oz. I see Peter clearly as the cowardly lion, not as an ineffective person looking for courage, but as a soft and warm cuddly love, who guided me so evenly through life. Then I see Billie Burke as the Good Witch Glinda. Every time I go to the trauma of Peter’s death, I now have the good witch and the cowardly lion, to accompany me on my journey of grief. I am still alone but my mind is adding some visions to guide me.
I know that the better the relationship, the harder the grief. The risk of true love makes the loss that much harder. I am paying a grief charge for a life of love and support. It is a hefty price tag but I will get through it knowing how strong a love I experienced.
I also know that comparing grief is a useless task. This is not a competition. I need to show compassion to myself and surrender my self-critical judgments. The grief I am feeling has its own voice and its own timetable. I don’t earn extra points for speed. I know that I cannot do this journey quickly. I must be patient with myself and with others who only want to help me. Grief is work and I will go through it on my own terms. It’s a lonely journey but at least I have Bert Lahr and Billie Burke to keep me going.
After my last blog a friend sent me a beautiful poem entitled “When Will I Be Myself Again?” which rang true for me. I Googled the poem and found it on, are you ready for this, Shiva.com!
When Will I Be Myself Again?
“When will I be myself again?”
Some Tuesday, perhaps,
In the late afternoon,
Sitting quietly with a cup of tea,
And a cookie;
Or Wednesday, same time or later,
You will stir from a nap and see her;
You will pick up the phone to call her;
You will hear her voice — unexpected advice —
And maybe argue.
And you will not be frightened,
And you will not be sad,
And you will not be alone,
Not alone at all,
And your tears will warm you.
But not today,
And not tomorrow,
And not tomorrow’s tomorrow,
But some day,
by Rabbi Lewis John Eron