Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grief: I Want To Be Seen, I Want To Be Heard but I Don't Need To Be Fixed

Lately I have been having experiences where people who I think understand me completely - because they are intelligent, creative, funny people - say things that make me wonder if they have ever truly heard what I say.  People who have had deep grief in their life seem to often get it immediately, people who haven't - not so much.  The latest one was - if you have been reading my posts - you know I often wonder if I will some day want to have another relationship.  When I expressed this uncertainty to someone they interpreted it as my being ready to have another man in my life.  I am still wearing my wedding ring and my husband's wedding ring on the finger on which you wear wedding rings.  I took them off for a while - but I like wearing them so I put them back on.  I talk about Artie all the time.  I explained to this wise person that no thank you, I am still wondering.  I am not ready to take action because I already have a soulmate.  I already have the great love of my life.  He unfortunately is dead.  This person couldn't hear that.  That along with people who say other things that are far from what I am expressing - even people when they read my blog - have made me have doubts. (I said that - no, to be honest because I was tired, yelled it - at someone once when they said something to me so far from who I am - Don't you read my blog?!? They said Yes, they did.   I don't know what they were reading.)

I always say that I am lucky to have friends who listen to me talk about Artie; who listen to me talk about my sad and lonely part.  I wonder now what they say when I am not in the room.  This is not a good path to take since unless I set up spy cameras I have no way of knowing.  I don't want to be healed.  I have more and more a full life.  I am happy with my unhappiness as well as my moments of joy.  I wonder if my being outspoken about grief leads people to say or think that I am stuck or living in the past.  I wonder if people want me to move on even though they don't tell me that because they know I will argue with them.  I wonder if people wish I would stop talking about Artie but are too polite to say so.

I guess it is a problem for all people to feel that lack of deep understanding from people who have not had a similar experience.  My husband was a recovering alcoholic.  He felt - and rightly so - that it was alcoholics and other addicts that could understand each other best. I have often thought that you shouldn't work in child abuse prevention if you have never had children.  It is hard to understand the joy and also difficulties of raising a child if you are an observer.  Was I effective when I worked on suicide hotlines because I had attempted suicide many years ago and knew what it felt like to want to give up?  Maybe as much as I talk and write those who understand me best will always be other grieving people.  Should I lower my expectations?

It makes me sad.  I understand the loving gift of someone wanting to help me.  On the other hand, when I think I am so clear in my speech and expression it feels very strange for someone to want to help me in a way that has nothing to do with who I am.  I have started to call what I believe in transformative grief.  A grief that does not end - but transforms both itself and the grieving person.  I am learning how to be alive with grief.  That is so different from thinking that grief will some day fly out of the window and I will no longer be sad that my husband is dead.  I love our love and him and wait to be together again.

I am alive and can remarry - can love again - but I don't have to.  It is not as stupid as telling someone whose child has died that luckily they have other children.  I can't believe people actually say that.  But, they do.  Why is it so difficult for some people to understand that there are people in our lives that are central to our lives?  Each person is unique and takes a unique space.  They cannot be replaced and it is foolish and unfeeling to think they can.

I do not want to forget Artie or to stop missing him.  I wish I could live my life fully with the full understanding of those who are close me.  It might be easier if I chose silence as so many do - but I am astonished when people say certain things to me and I keep explaining myself whether they can hear me or not.

My Facebook page Grief Speaks Out has, as I write this, over 56,000 likes from all around the world.  It is astonishing me.  It is not that I am a good writer (although I think I am) or that I choose interesting pictures - which I do.  I think it is what one person said - they just wanted someone to tell them that their feelings aren't crap.  I like that word - crap - because it was so direct.  Grief must be a common language because people have posted in German, in Arabic, in Spanish and in Japanese.  Unlike my blog, more people read my Facebook page in Egypt , Pakistan, Bangladesh,  Kenya, Vietnam and Mexico than in the United States.

This is what I want.  I want people to know that after 4 years for me - six months for some - 21 years for others - time doesn't matter.  Our feeling aren't crap.  They don't need to be fixed or healed.  There is no disease to treat.  There was a quote by the actor Gregory Peck.  He said in an interview that many years after his son died he doesn't miss him every day - he misses him every hour of every day.  We see our beloved dead in every blade of grass, we feel them in every breath we take.  They are a part of us.
Grief is not a disease to be cured, or a mental disorder to be medicated.  That doesn't mean that we shouldn't seek therapy if we need it, or take medication if it helps.  I did a lot of that.  Still do if I need it.  Grief is not depression - but if it has depression as a side effect then we should treat that depression.

When we find our uneasy balance - when we see that we are living and loving and grieving all at the same time - when we move in rhythms of being stuck and unstuck - I would like people to honor that in us.  I want people to know that we have learned to be okay without being okay.

Having beloved dead is not easy.  It can be made easier with understanding, with listening, with acceptance.  I have many new relationships and many old ones (though some have disappeared).  I am lucky to have loving people in my life.  None of them are Artie - nor could they be.  That is my loneliness.  It is part of me.

I wish for you people in your life that understand and accept you as you really are.  I wish that the others would get hearing aids or have the Wizard of Oz give them a new heart or whatever it is they need to know that grief speaks out because it wants to be heard.  Whatever you are feeling is normal.  I wish - as always - for you to have happy and sad moments both - for you to experience the full component of emotions that you have been given.  I wish you love.  xo


  1. Jan......AMEN!!!!!!!

    (My grief is carried inside because "noone" wants to hear it.....get over it! They will know it when death comes for one they love.


  2. Jan, That is such a moving post. I agree - it would be so much less hard if people listened to what We told them rather than what they Assume we must be feeling or saying or thinking!
    We are lucky that we have people who do understand or listen whether they be next door or over the internet. At least we know we are not alone. Thank you again for saying the right thing. You seem to do that very well. Hugs to you. Sophie

  3. Thanks so very much for this post! I got tired of people wanting to "fix" me (because of my grief) and I finally began disregarding what they said or tried to do and became a very transparent "me" and guess what? They're beginning to "get it"!

    Some days are easier than others. Some days are much harder than others. But they are all my days, and my grief is part of who I am.

    Again, thanks for such a great post!

  4. Just discovered your blog ... thank you, Jan ... Love, cat.