Monday, February 13, 2012

Which road is the right road?

At the urging of a friend, I decided to start writing again and I have to speak up regarding something that affects all widow(er)’s. It’s been on my mind lately and I just thought I would offer my perspective (insert shameless plug for my BLOG name here).

My perspective is a bit different than the general population regarding this issue. I have had widow(er) friends echo my sentiment and some vehemently disagree with me. This is just my opinion and has no basis in fact. I just wanted to clarify that.

Some people who have suffered a loss see the journey as moving on or past their loss. They are convinced that the only way to move is to take the pain, the pictures, and the tokens that remind them of their loss and store them in a place that is safe. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing this is their way of telling themselves and society: “See, I’m all better now. I’m healthy again and I’m ready for my next chapter.”. For them, I see it as a necessary step in their journey. They need this. They need to close that part of their life in order to open the next part. They see this as a way to invite society, and possibly their chapter two into their lives. I have no issue with this. If it works for them, I say good for you!

Some people (like me) see the loss as moving forward. It’s taking all of that baggage and bringing it with you. I see this as a part of me, much like my hands, my eyes, and my soul. They made me who I am today and they helped shaped my perspective on life. Why would I want to hide that? Why is that such a bad thing? Any person who is going to be in my life is just going to have to accept that. Because ultimately, if they cannot accept my past, they cannot accept me. It is who I am. For better or worse.

For those on the outside, I can see how this baggage can be intimidating. One friend mentioned you never hear a love song that mentions, “You’re my one and only 2nd one.”. They all say “You’re my one and only,”. How true that is. What a wonderful insight into how society views love. If we widow(er)’s had our one and only, what does that make our chapter two’s? I can’t imagine how tough that can be for those who love us. When dealing with us, you need to have a lot of strength and a lot of self-esteem. I have no doubt that is true... because we can make it hard to see how much we love you. Trust me, it’s worth the fight. We widow(er)'s love with such appreciation, such is hard for those who have not suffered our kind of loss to understand. We truly understand how fragile love can be. We know how quickly it can all be taken away. We know it is not owed to us.

At least for me, I believe that it takes a lot of strength to keep those memories alive… to keep those momentoes out in the open. It is a reminder. A reminder of the pain AND the joy that brought me to this place in my life. I wear those mementoes with pride. For me, I am able to face them and they remind me of how far I have come. I’m proud of those tokens. How can I not be? And I would expect any one who loved me to also be proud of those accomplishments. They should not be seen as a threat, but as something to be cherished and nurtured.

Each one of us has to do what is right for us. There is no playbook for how to live after loss. Some websites, authors, etc… will try and take what has worked for them and make it “the right way” to move on/forward. I will never disagree that this worked for them. My problem is the way it is presented: That it is the right way and they have figured out the universal truth of moving past loss.

One individual in particular even will sell you a book or perhaps tell you that you are angry because you haven’t properly grieved. I’m intrigued at how sensitive they can be to any challenge of their “right way”. In does scream of insecurity and certainly does not lend them credibility as they seem to have a very narrow view of the world. How is acknowledging the many different roads that are grief, a bad thing? I’m somewhat baffled at how they cannot see that. What’s wrong with having a lot of paths in our journey? What’s wrong in trying to figure out which is the right one for us?

Why does there have to be only one road?

An analogy for me is to picture us widow(er)’s driving from L.A. to New York City. There are literally thousands of combinations of roads that will get you from L.A. to NYC. Some take longer, some are quicker. Some are more scenic, some more drab. Some have potholes, others are newly paved. Some of us might even pick one road, and decide that it’s not the way we want to go. We may even detour and pick an entirely different path in the middle of the journey. Sometimes, we need to go backwards to move forward. It doesn’t mean you have chosen the wrong path, it means it wasn’t the right road for you. It’s not the way you get there; it’s that you get there. The only thing that matters is that you pick the roads that work for you. There is no “right way”.

What I have learned is that the journey is very unique and there is no playbook for life after loss. It’s an individual choice and don’t let anyone tell you that have gone the wrong way. As long as you are moving, it’s the right way.

Stay true to yourself. Trust who you are, and eventually…on your own… you will arrive.