Friday, March 8, 2013

Please Just Let Me Be... The New Me

It’s remarkable to me how present the feeling of loss remains after nearly four years without my sweet Maggie.  Much of the endocrine-pulsing sharpness has been dulled by time, thankfully, but it shocks me how often my mouth forms the words “Maggie and I” which gets quickly and silently censored into just “I” so I can avoid any social discomfort.  (The “Maggie and” part becomes my own silent chant - a personal nod to a past that doesn’t feel so distant.)

Sometimes, my omissions force me into comically uncomfortable situations that require linguistic judo to escape.  Most recently, a post-Maggie-era friend has started dating Maggie’s sister.  During the discussion with the new boyfriend, I stated that the situation was a little awkward for me to which he naturally inquired why.  In keeping with the censorship that I’ve practiced (specifically in regard to mine and her relationship) I replied, “She’s my sister.”  A barrage of hilariously uncomfortable questions ensued.  Maybe I should have stuck with the truth.

Despite my daily filtering and censoring, and much to my surprise, I recently learned that some of my friends believe that I am still waving the grief/death flag way too much.  Apparently, I am sitting in my grief and refusing to get over it.  Some even believe I’m taking advantage of my situation for attention and milking it.  Sadly, I’m told that by associating with others who have also lost spouses, that I’m choosing to stay stuck or being enabled to wallow instead of what ever it is these blessed innocent folks would rather I be doing.  This makes me sad.

It’s so odd and so surprising to me how difficult it is to measure up to what other people think I should be doing.  At first, I was moving on too fast.  Now, I’m not moving on fast enough.  I guess, according to these experts, I should be over all this by now.  Gosh, I can only wonder how people would react if I were to outwardly display all the inner turmoil I have with coming to terms – yes, still – with my Maggie being gone.

I’ve noticed something, though.  I now have several post-Maggie-era friends.  Many, if not all, know about Maggie even though it’s never been a conversation.  Of these post-Maggie-era friends, not one has even hinted that I might be clinging to my past or whipping out the ol’ death flag too much.  I’ll bet if I were to ask any of them, they’d probably be surprised that I asked.  It seems, at least from this widower’s perspective, that the only folks who think I’m stuck are those who still miss Maggie, too.  This makes me sad, too.   But I can’t help them.  They have to figure this out on their own.

So, I’ll continue to aggressively build my network of post-Maggie-era friends.  I fear that ultimately, those who knew and loved Maggie will represent a smaller and less influential percentage of my current friends.  It makes me sad that I’m going to have to let them go but those people can’t seem to see me for me anymore and that’s not helpful.  Now, more than ever, I need to be able to be, well, just me - the new me, the post-Maggie-era Chris – who ever that may be.  Fortunately, the post-Maggie-era friends like the post-Maggie-era Chris. He’s a fun and happy guy with a bright future.  What’s not to like?


  1. I'm 2+ years out and I am so blessed that my friends & family seem to get that I'm not over Andy and I never will be. Will I move forward? I'm trying. But it's a slow process. And they seem to understand that. Thank God!

    I like your comment about the fact that the people who have the most problems with how you're dealing with your grief are the ones who also miss Maggie. You'd think they would understand better than anyone, but that's not always the case. But you're right . . . you may have to weed out the ones who can't deal with your old grief and your new you. I've had to part with friends in the past who just drained my energy through their negativity. Sounds like that's what you've got going on. Better to let them go than to have them drag you down. We can take that downward spiral all by ourselves. We don't need someone else leading the way for us!

  2. I would agree with you Chris! I say so much less about what I am truly feeling! That is why we need others who get it! That we will never be over it, but are learning to live with it.

  3. I agree; never thought I'd have "post Marty" friends, but I do and I like them! They seem to have an easier time letting me be me; and my conversations about Marty ebb and flow, just like my emotions; sometimes he is in the conversation alot and sometimes not as much, it just kind of happens - but ONLY when I am free to be me. Otherwise, I too, say much less than what I am truly feeling as well! I keep it in unless, I know it is welcomed by those that I am sitting with. I never thought it would be like that, but it is. And while, not my preference, some things cannot be helped.

  4. Good point about the friends who point it out are those that miss her just as much. It makes them uncomfortable... they want you to be over it so they can be over it... much easier for them that way. Let them sort that out and good for you that you realized that you need to find new relationships that nourish this new you... i think this happens a lot in the case of widow-hood...

  5. I'm going to wave the grief flag as long as I need to, not as long as they think I should. We all sit with our grief as long as needed...too bad our "friends" can't do the same. Some days I miss them, other days I don't, they have not treated me with the kindness that I expected, so good riddance, I am making room for others.

    My heart is heavy enough without having to deal with people who pain me more, and I no longer want to measure up to where they think I should be. It is what it is, and I am where I am. I have accepted that, they should too.

  6. A grief flag - what a wonderful idea. I could have replaced the St Patrick's day flag outside my house with it yesterday on my husband's birthday. It could an invitation or a warning to those we know that we're feeling particulaly "widowy" that day - they can love and be with us in that moment or stay away until it passes. It would be so much easier than trying to explain why such things still hurt my heart.

  7. This is such a profound post, and I could write a volume about the issues you discuss here. I will try to make it brief. I am three and a half years out. Very early on, when I was in grief counseling, my therapist (who was widowed) told me that five years from now, I would have all new friends and none of my current friends would be in my life anymore. This was not good news to me. As time has passed, most of them are still my friends, but not without struggle. As I have reflected on these relationships, I have realized that nothing in their lives has ever changed, their lives are as "normal" as ever, and three years ago is a long time for them. It is like yesterday for me, as I time travel between then and now, and even long past (as I'm sure all here can understand). My life has not felt "normal" at all since my husband became ill and passed. It is like two completely different realities, theirs and mine. I agree, Chris, that they don't want to keep dealing with the sadness so they push us to move ahead. But I have also found that healing from grief is a biological, spiritual, emotional, and life changing process that takes a very long time, and one really does not have the choice to make forward moves until one is ready and some healing has taken place on all of these levels. Only then do we make some progress, in very small steps, and sometimes we move backward. My husband also had long term, heartbreaking illness that lasted several years, so I can appreciate where you are coming from. We have seen and experienced things which they have not. We have had our hearts broken a hundred times a day. We have learned to appreciate what matters and what doesn't. We have been cracked open by our pain. They have not evolved to this point, lucky for them. One of the most difficult parts of this socially is that friends do not realize how long we need alot of extra support, and expect us to go on as if nothing happened after a few months or a year, when the reality is that we are still in the abyss. I don't have the answer, other than to say be true to yourself and at the first sign of discomfort with others, don't go back for more. Spend time with whatever positive people that come into your life. The pain has definitely eased up for me, time does help, but it doesn't cure completely. He is still in my thoughts and my heart every day (twenty eight years of marriage) but I thank God the acute stage of grief is over. Again, be true to yourself, and do whatever is best for you.

  8. Gosh, I'm so grateful to have found this blog tonight. It's like walking through the world speaking an unknown language, and no one truly knows how to reach you, and you them.

    But I understand the voices here. They are mine too.