Perpetuating Loss

I’m trying not to dwell on the fact that a 9-year old girl, born on 9/11/01 was shot down in cold blood this weekend. I hadn’t, until now ever thought of babies born on 9/11/01, moments of happiness on such a mournful day. I know I’m not the only one wondering what it all means. Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps it has some very profound meaning that we may never understand.

I had a friend tell me this weekend that I was still focused on being a widow. A 9/11 widow to be precise. He was referring to my dating life.

“It’s written all over you,” he said. I was shocked.

“Is it really? Do I look sad or something?”

“Not sad exactly. But it’s a part of you. It’s in your book, on your blog. Maybe you should try not writing about Arron for a year,” he suggested. I balked. Does writing about loss and grief and yes, Arron, mean I’m still mired in his loss, pining after him?

I admit, I did zero in on that little girl and the date of her birth. How could I not? I Imagined her parents. Their loss. Loss, loss loss. Loss seems to be everywhere. I’ve gotten better at not taking every single loss to heart. Now, when I think of the mothers, and fathers and kids who lose a close loved one, I think, “they will make it through. We all do, eventually. It will change them profoundly, but they will make it.” Maybe they will even find some magical thinking in their loss someday, like I did.  And they too will remain mired in it, because that magical thinking provides a far more satisfying way to live, a deeper way of thinking and connecting to the world.

I begin teaching a grief and loss class this weekend to a group of people who are recovering from addiction. Yes, more loss. But I know I will come away from the experience moved, changed, enriched. Working with people who have lost so much have much to teach. But some might look upon my teaching this class as another example of me perpetuating my loss.

I do worry that I am seen as basking in my widowness, at the peril of experiencing a healthy relationship, and yet I don’t feel at all like a widow. I feel like a woman. Healthy, alive, and grateful for my loss. I would not be who I am now without it. If makes relationships more difficult, then so be it. I cannot change who I now am, a person who feels deep sadness when an innocent, 9-year old girl dies needlessly.

14 Comments

  1. Andrea Renee January 10, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    You’re not wallowing in your loss… you’re doing something productive with it by writing about it and helping others. The little bit I know about you doesn’t tell me that you’re wallowing. Of course we’ll pine for our loves ones – that’ll never stop, and it will take a special person to understand that (when dating or otherwise). But we’re taking our experience and growing with it. (((HUGS))) I thought of you when I heard about that little girl. xoxo

  2. annie January 10, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Basking? Interesting term. I suppose some do “bask”. Actually, I can think of a few that do, but not you.

    You give back. Which distinguishes you from baskers who mostly take from the experience in ways that can’t be healthy long term.

    The 9/11 thing almost seems cyclical. Like an era has now ended and something is about to replace that cataclysmic event with a new one. Good? Worse? Remains to be seen, but I’ve just been told that Obama is heading to AZ on Wednesday. It feels like a bad move.

    In any event, if your friend is someone close and who knows you well, it might be advisable to dig a bit and see if his words feel true and act from there. Not everyone who “assesses” us is doing so from a place that is tainted with self-interest and it’s never a waste of time to take stock. Good luck with your class.

  3. Shafeen Charania January 10, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Hey Abby, feeling sad when *any* child dies is or ought to be a societal obligation. It is proof that we (adults) failed in the worst way, and impetus for us to do what we can to prevent any/every future death.

    The fact she was born on that one date is also important, she was in some ways a symbol of perseverance over those who seek to harm our society – that life prevails over evil or death.

    And she was a daughter to her parents, a friend to her classmates, etc.

    In either case our interpretation of the “meaning” of that child is colored by the label we choose to apply to her.

    What we name a thing or how we label it has a profound effect on how we regard it. Perhaps your friend was trying to say: “You are an amazing woman – everything that implies and more; so why is the tone of so many of the labels you use colored this one way? Doesn’t that limit the facets of the many-splendored Abby?”

  4. Cathy January 11, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Of course you responded as you did about the little girl born on 9/11, it is the date that changed your life forever, how can you not respond as you have? As for “basking” in widowhood, me thinks if you were truly “basking” you would not have dated as you have, that shows that you are looking forward. I am a widow, too. It’s not something that just happens to you and then you put it aside. It changes as time goes on, and that requires new reflection. It’s a process, probably a lifelong one I’m afraid….
    Stay true to yourself!
    C.

    1. Dampdynamite January 11, 2011 at 11:21 am

      I don’t really think it is a fair assessment of you even if he does know you well unless he has suffered the loss of a spouse. Then, maybe, he might be on to something. From my standpoint, as a widow of 5 plus years, I look to you as an example of how NOT to “wallow.” I too thought about that little girls birth date and wondered if there was something to it. Plus, I thought of you and all the 9/11 families since I read your blog. I guess we will never figure this all out, but we will persevere nonetheless.

  5. Meredith January 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I agree. You are not just perpetuating your loss, it is part of you as much as any other life changing experience is a part of other people.

  6. Abigail - Site Author January 11, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Thank you all for your comments. Glad to know I’m not seen as wallowing in widowhood. But Shafeen narrows in on the point. Do the labels we attach to things and the tone we use, speaking in our widow-y words limit us in some way?
    I’m not sure, Shafeen if they limit us or expand us. Surely, they become just one more splendid facet.
    I’m not sure my view of that little girl is all that different to the rest of the world’s, except that I may empathize more deeply with her family.

    1. annie January 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      Our tones are an extension of our experiences. I am not sure tone can be anything else. Even when we attempt to live in someone’s shoes, it is still tempered by what we’ve actually lived ourselves.

  7. Shafeen Charania January 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Hmmm… this is a great discussion! Caveat – I’m a marketer – I think a lot about setting context and how words affect perception.

    Labels *do* both expand and contract one’s view. And sure – widowy labels are an important and interesting facet. But (and I’m not in ANY way diminishing things widowy), they’re not the totality of any person. (I was watching “Water” again recently (if you haven’t seen it, it’s a must!), and in India, widows literally become monochromatic, but not so here, and not so Abby.)

    I think it’s about *proportionate* voice – you are a woman, a mother, a writer, a widow, a… surely none of these dominates you?

    Perception is an interesting and complex thing – it is generally created with a few “sticky” labels – and once set, the perceiver’s viewpoint is colored by them; more than that, the perceiver’s mode for engaging that thing is defined by these labels and *their* definition of what these labels connote.

    All I’m saying is if a disproportionate number of your labels are of any one ilk, it becomes more difficult for your peceivers to view you as other than that…

  8. Debbie Jo January 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    I hope you won’t take your “friend’s” comments too seriously. You are a 9/11 widow, so, yes, it is a part of you. He may not feel comfortable with that, as many others are not comfortable with others who grieve; they want you to “get past” it. I think you’re doing really well from what I can tell on the blog; if your “friend” doesn’t like what he reads, he can stop reading. Everyone handles grief and loss in their own way. If it makes a relationship difficult, it isn’t a relationship you need; that person can’t cope with your loss and doesn’t want to be reminded of it. I love what you do on this blog to help others deal with loss.

  9. diane January 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    You could write about your dog for a year! lol If and when you do come back to the subject of Arron and loss, it would be from a new perspective. Think of it as an extended writing exercise. Even though Arron is a huge part of you and always will be…there “is” a lot more to you, you know… lurking behind the door. 🙂
    xx

  10. Abigail - Site Author January 14, 2011 at 11:53 am

    This has certainly been an interesting discussion and one that is very apropos to what I am attempting to write at the moment which will ultimately touch on perceptions of others when it comes to loss. OK, maybe this is a new post…

    1. Carolyn Stephens January 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm

      A VERY interesting discussion. I am sure it is healthy for us to look into our motives of how and why we write and otherwise present ourselves to the outside world, if for no other reason than to notice if thinking widowy thoughts is just a habit? or if we are indeed “dwelling” (the word I have started to hear bandied about in my real life world of friends and family, after 1.5 years). When I first started writing about losing my husband, I sent a piece to a dear friend who is a teacher of writing at the local college. He wrote back something that made me laugh out loud and brought me up short at the same time. He said “This is great stuff, but what else do you do?” and went on to say why it was good and why other subjects might be fulfilling to explore also. And I think he’s right, what else DO I do? (I was rather in the depths at that point) but I know I still have more to say about THIS. The subject matter of my widowy thought expands as time goes on, so far. And if it can be helpful to anybody else who is walking this dark and dangerous path that other people simply cannot fathom, even if only to let them know they are not alone or crazy, the way others have helped me, then that is more than enough reason to keep on. Plus, is not the #1 rule of writing: Write What You Know?

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