There has been a tiny ripple of backlash that’s fallen out from the Widow’s conference that has been unexpected, at least to me. Like any such event, not everyone is going to come away with a positive experience. Widowhood leaves many open wounds, not easily healed in a weekend of extreme cheer. Sure, some of that cheer is manufactured â€“ a sort of laughing in the face of adversity, knee-jerk reaction to so much loss. And like any gathering of predominately women, groups form. Quickly, and more easily possibly given the extreme nature of our conversations. And I will admit to being in what others might have dubbed the “popular” group â€“ the authors, speakers, ambassadors. But I too felt alone at times. I know we all did at one point or another. Imagining that somehow the others were having more fun, were “further along” with their grief, were more media saavy, were more of something we were not. After one is widowed, social situations are just hard. There is not a social situation that I am in anymore where I don’t feel these thoughts, at least to a certain extent. I make myself feel better by knowing deep down that I am not alone in feeling this way.
As an “Ambassador” at the conference (granted, an untagged one, since I hadn’t actually been asked), I worked harder to approach new widows and hear their stories. This is not something that comes easily to me. I am terrible at remembering names and stories and putting the right names with the right stories. I am easily distracted in social situations, because I am used to watching from the sidelines. I know I didn’t do a great job at times of nurturing. I forget a name, mix up a story, get tongue-tied. But I did make some new friends that I might not have made otherwise.
Not sure where this is going other than to say that we were all nervous and alone and trying to make the best of a very emotionally charged weekend. We drank too much, laughed too loud, made friends easily. Unless we didn’t. I know some of us hid. Plan never to return. Felt alienated.
Anniegirl’s post today got me thinking, as it has to do with putting your story out there. I am hopeless at tucking a person under my wing the way I desperately would love to do. Comfort them, make them feel at home. I have always had to write my emotions down. My father and I used to communicate our emotions through letters. He is similar to me. Not great at the emotional stuff in person, but a mush at heart. And so I wrote my book. It was my outlet, my small way of helping others, the only way I knew how.
I wrote in my comment on Anniegirl’s post:
“There is no one size fits all â€œsolutionâ€ to grief. We are all finding our way in the dark. Each story that gets put out there helps others to see that. Memoir takes a tough skin, there is no doubt. You put yourself on the line, open yourself to emotion, criticism, perhaps jealousy and at times I think, you risk getting stuck living a clichÃ© or living in widowhood for longer than might be healthy. You donâ€™t have to write a book to â€œdo widowhood right,â€ but if my story can help even one person, then to me all that risk has been worth it.”
We are all finding our way, messily sometimes. We do what we can do.