grief myths

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“Let’s trade in all our judging for appreciating. Let’s lay down our righteousness and just be together.”
Ram Dass

Does being opinionated count as “judging”?

Yeah, I kinda thought so too. Damn you, Ram Dass, for your timely appearance in my reader. And for being so “yoga” to boot.

Sometimes being yoga is very inconvenient

Apparently, though I have not bothered to ascertain the facts by actually trudging across the webosphere to take a peek, the Women Who Love Widowers site took issue with my perspective on … probably everything, knowing how that sort of thing goes – as you, dear long time readers, know that I do.

A commenter on another blog ever so kindly gave me the heads up on the “brutal blasting”  directed at those of us who, um, take a different stance on dating, remarriage and the bereaved. Never mind that once having been bereaved gives us a bit more of a leg up on the whole subject, or that by flaming out in a predictably postal way, it sort of proves my point that the GOW’s are no less mired in grief myth than their counterparts on the widow sites.

But whatever, it comes as no great surprise someone takes issue. With me. About widowhood – the blog, the movie, the book, the EXPERIENCE.  Grieving myths exist for a reason. That being that the myth is so much easier to accommodate than the reality, which requires honesty, introspection and work. Myth is sexy. And who can fight that?

Back in the day on ye olde widda board, I entered into the arena with some truly hardened battle-axes as I naively sought to point out that attitude counts, resiliency matters and that grieving is really just another life experience. It isn’t personal. It’s doesn’t make you stronger, and it doesn’t come with entitlements attached. You aren’t allowed to wallow or wail at others’ expense. It’s simply not okay. Grief should never be used as an excuse for anything. Call it whatever floats your semantic boat, but please don’t make it a life long affliction – because the research doesn’t back that up. It just doesn’t. Irritating, I know. Who couldn’t use a tragedy with lifetime pity powers? Sadly, the seemingly arbitrary year cut off that society clings to has actual basis in fact.

It’s not meant to be a career. Shit happens. You deal and move on. Most people do not come out on the other side of a life-altering experience with enough distance to be able to counsel others with any degree of objectivity or integrity. It doesn’t make them self-serving for wanting to try but when your scope is too narrow to admit other perspectives, or the possibility of being wrong, then the probability of misleading others instead of helping them is high.

And it’s not like I knew any of this going in. I learned it as I went along, so I can assure you that mistakes were made. That’s just part of the adjustment, but so long as attitudes adjust – and allow for others to adjust as well – it’s all good.

So people are angry with me because they feel judged, but I’m just saying is all. If believing that grief is a factor in a man’s not making you and your relationship a priority works for you then it works. I wonder though why one lonely opinion in the blogosphere can call up vitriol in someone who feels secure in what they know.

Over the last four plus years, I have been somewhat regularly ridiculed for my belief that grief is doable and eventually over, and my disinclination to buy into the somewhat female view that dating and remarriage is a difficult path fraught with woe. That’s not true from my perspective or my actual experience, and over time I have simply stuck to the reality of what I know and who I am. I am even friends – virtually – with many widowed who believe in Kubler-Ross and secretly think that one day I will dissolve into a puddle of latent or delayed grief due to my serious denial issues – which is nonsense. There is no evidence to support any of those ideas. But we agree to disagree and we share our perspectives and experiences in the various online venues – where I am thought to be, if not completely atheist then certainly a heretic – and we remain friendly.

Not all widowed are hysterical turf warriors or unhinged loonies.

That was a joke.

Seriously, lighten up.

Mea culpa, I believe but don’t know for sure because I ducked Latin in high school because the nun who taught it was very scary, means “my fault”. It’s “yoga” of me to take the hit for this. Very good for my karma. So I will.

But I stand behind what I wrote. I won’t be harangued (pretty anonymously really as no one seems to want to discuss it with me here, which doesn’t surprise me at bit really) out of what I believe or who I am.

I am happy. I have never been so happy as anyone who knows me for real can attest. I know who I am, as Rose would say, and I am not bothered*.

*That’s a joke too. Really. Sense of humourous perspective is a good thing to cultivate.

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Interesting article on MSNBC today by Wray Herbert who writes the “We’re  Only Human…..” blog. The title was Psychology: Time Only Heals Some Wounds. In it he talked about a research study by Michigan State University psychologist Richard Lucas.

Lucas questioned the idea that people have set-points for happiness in much the same way people seem to have set-points for weight for instance. It is the idea that some of us are just unable to sustain prolonged states of melancholy or conversely happiness. We are divided it seems into glass half empty or glass half full camps. What he found, however, was that people’s feelings are effected by life’s stresses and turmoils and that whether or not a person can adapt or overcome them is not predictable or even predetermined by personality. The stressful event has much to do with it.

For example adjusting to divorce is not the same as adjusting to being widowed. Widowed people, according to the study, seem to “get over” their grief though it appears to take about seven years on average* for this to happen, but the divorce appears to leave permanent emotional scarring that affects divorcees for the course of their lives. The reasoning behind this rather odd finding is that it may be easier for  people to adapt to an event that is a one time hit of “bad luck” than to adjust to a “chronic condition” like divorce.

They liken divorce to that of a chronic illness whose reminders are constant and go on to further postulate that people who get married and stay married until” death do they part” were actually happier people anyway whereas divorce seems to strike those who tend towards misery normally.

The widowed are able to reframe their thinking and adjust their goals/expectations and “escape” their misery and the divorced are trapped because the lack of real resolution makes it impossible for them to do that.

An interesting theory.

A poster at YWBB today,  Jenna, posted today about being irritated by the board and other widows. I could relate. Can relate. There have been more than a few instances when I have been “irritated” to the point of snarkiness at the defeatist lifer attitudes of another widow on the board. But what makes me, or Jenna, fight and “reframe” and others content to put on the black weeds of acceptance? Why are some of us “Scarlett’s” and others “Aunt Pittypat’s” or “India’s”?

*Update – Recent studies have found the time limits on grieving to be rather arbitary and anecodotal at best. Researcher George Bonnano has found that the vast majority of people, who have no underlying mental health issues, take on average 6 months to a year to leave active grief and begin to move on with their lives.