A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
I think I understand the challenges that many bereaved people face when it comes to their relationships with others after the death of someone very close. I use the word ‘understand’ not because I know the answers, more because I think I appreciate that grief can create a lot of questions.
Do I only spend time with the people who know me best because I believe that they will be better placed to help me through these difficult times?
Do I make new friends because it’s too painful to be around people who are grieving the loss of the same person as I?
Do I befriend others who have experienced a similar bereavement in the hope that they might be able to provide an empathetic ear and that I might feel a little less terrible if I can also support someone in as much pain as me?
Do I revisit old friendships that have been left unattended for some time in the hope that these people may still know enough about my distant past to understand the person I used to be, even if I haven’t been that same person for quite some time?
I don’t think anyone can decide which is definitively right or wrong at any given point and with any degree of credibility other than the affected person. I’ve done all of the above and each has its emotional pros and cons.
But this week I did the latter and spent some time with an old friend who once knew me well. We were able to talk about the majority of the most significant people in our lives because we once knew them well too, albeit over a decade ago. Above all it was good to catch up but it was also interesting to talk to someone who had a relationship with my old life but no first-hand knowledge of my more recent past. It made it easier for the conversation to be more mutual and less one-sided than I frequently find it is these days. It’s all too often me, me, me and, quite frankly, I’m starting to find myself to be a real bore.
Recently I’ve found grief to be a very isolating place. One that has made me decline conversations and push relationships away even though I’ve come to expect both to be available to me when I need them. I want to feel understood and yet my feelings contradict themselves because I know that no one can truly understand what I’m going through, quite simply because I’m me and they’re them.
I’m learning that while a sudden bereavement can be a glue that binds people together, the long tail of grief can just as easily become a wedge that divides. I often hear from bereaved people who have found themselves disappointed by the way some people, who they feel should be there for them, have actually responded since their loss. Apparently this experience can really rupture relationships.
I’d say I’ve been fortunate. My friends and family have been nothing but supportive and understanding. And yet I still feel the divide. The only difference is I think it’s me who’s creating mine. My divisiveness comes from my disappointment not in others but in myself. I don’t really want to see some people because I’m not sure that I want to sit around chatting about the same old depressing shit for the billionth time, having to start from the beginning again due to the fact I haven’t seen that particular person for a while. But I don’t really think I’ve got it in me to change the subject yet either.
What I really want is to make someone laugh. I want to feel passionate enough about cooking again to bother asking someone over for a dinner that hasn’t been pulled from a box. I want to start caring enough about food (or anything) again to stop eating fish fingers or jam sandwiches. I want to be disgusted at myself for even admitting I eat either. I want to stop using the response “I’m not bothered” to every choice I’m offered. I want to have enough passion and drive to have a view.
I guess what I’m saying is that I want to want to see people and do stuff. But the truth is grief just leaves me not really wanting to.