Sunday, May 9, 2010

Grief Overload

In this blog I've tried to describe how it is to live in The Land of the Untouched (those whose lives have not been touched by much loss or grief) and The Land of the Married. In a nut shell, these past almost seven years, I've felt constantly judged and compared to those who live "normal" lives, married and with a spouse. I have struggled to keep up with all of this - continuing to volunteer at school events and to be a part of car pools. But I have reached the conclusion after my futile efforts that I can't keep up and I am so miserable trying to do so, it is just better to say "No" and not care if I'm judged negatively or not.

I'm always going to come in second place or fall short because the criteria used to rate me hasn't been adjusted. And that has been a big source of my frustration over the years. It would simply be easier and more fair for everyone involved to simply cut me some slack or give me a break. To acknowledge that my load is unfortunately different from that of intact families. But there has always seemed to be such a force to keep me at that same level of evaluation. Wouldn't it have been a kind and decent gesture on the middle school to have pardoned the boys' Saturday morning detentions for being late when it was their poor overburdened mom that was the real reason they had been dropped off a few minutes past the final bell?

Why has there been such a lack of sympathy and compassion expressed? Such forceful, mean-spirited adherence to the "laws" and "rules" without even consideration of their being slightly adjusted (even once as a favor?).

When my husband was in his final weeks of life, my boss, a master's level clinician in counseling, refused to give me time off to go to the hospital. I was so disgusted I pretty much told her I was quitting because I knew it was the end and I knew that I had to be with him. It was eye-opening to me that a woman of her intelligence and education, working in a humanitarian field besides was giving me such a hard time. Did she really believe that I would ask for precious time off to go off and spend my days at a hospital? Wouldn't it make sense that I'd only be doing so if it were an emergency?

Two years after my husband's death, my oldest son needed surgery to remove some cysts. The doctor tried to assure us that they were almost certainly not cancerous but there was that remote chance. My son was scared out of his mind because his father had died of an aggressive tumor. He pleaded with me, crying, "Mama, just get them out..." The kid had reached the point where all he was doing was digging into the cysts on his leg. He was not eating or concentrating at school. Then there was a snag with scheduling the surgery because it was around spring break. the doctor was leaving on vacation and wanted to do the surgery the Friday before break. But that meant I'd need to take a day off from my job.

I was working as a teacher's aide for children with autism at the time. And when I made my request for a personal day off, they refused it. I met with the school's principal and the head of administration to explain the situation - I'm a recently widowed mom, there isn't anyone who can be there with my son, because of his dad's death from a cancerous tumor my 12-year-old is becoming frantic, the doctor is going out of town for two weeks and I don't think I can delay the surgery...

None of this made any impact. I was told that I had to make a decision on the spot and if I chose to take the day off, I'd be demoted to a substitute aide. I should add, that they were being hard-nosed because I had taken days off throughout the year when my sons were home sick or to care for my father. I was not aware that there had been a problem or that they'd been tracking my days off. I pleaded with them that now that I knew, I would not take days off in the future but could they please grant me the one day off.

They wouldn't budge. The principal suggested I try and find someone to be there with my son. I replied that I felt I needed to be present in case of an emergency. She had also suggested that I just drop my son off for the surgery and leave him there on his own. To that I responded that I felt it could qualify as child abuse since my son was so young. She just shrugged her shoulders.

Well, you know the decision I made. I took my son to the surgery and I never returned to that job again. I started taking more care of my parents with my time off and shortly thereafter, met my second husband. Life went on.

But this same type of obstacle just keeps repeating itself over and over again. Thankfully, not to the extent of this example. But recently, when I started the new job and was so horribly sick and really taken to task for having to take three days off.

I've disclosed a lot about how disheartening it always is to live among the married, among their rules and guidelines. There has been such little regard, compassion or understanding for my role as an only parent. If I had I husband, we'd probably be able to double-up and come up with alternate workable solutions. Just no comprehension of the dilemma an only parent has to face.

It has been tiring to try and have to explain myself again and again to people who just don't get it and will never get it. It is like being stuck in a car in a snowbank, unable to get out. The wheels turn over and over endlessly but you stay in the same spot, not even moving an inch. You're stuck!

I've come to the conclusion that this is the way it is going to be for me until I am hopefully in the position of being remarried. Endlessly spinning my wheels. In the end, it doesn't matter. All my qualified and reasonable explanations go unheeded. Are they even heard?

I am growing weary and so despondent of this chronicle of my life. I think that when I started this blog I really believed that I would in some way be a catalyst for change. That my posting about my widowhood would provide me greater clarity and I'd be able to somehow transmit that out into the world. But that doesn't seem to be happening. I have the clarity and the introspection but the rest of the world hasn't made any progress.

I am finding that the more I blog about widowhood, hardship, grief and loss, the more I feel all the crappy stuff surrounding my circumstances. It is like I become enmeshed in the pain - it permeates me. Sometimes I reflect on the topics I want to post about for considerable time. In writing this blog, it is as though I think about my widowhood all the time. And I've reached the point where I have to take a break from it all.

Again, I reiterate that I don't see the world or its people doing much to change around me. Is it unreasonable to even request they do so? No, I don't think it is too much to ask for people to consider the circumstances surrounding your life - to have a bit of compassion and understanding. But I haven't seen much shift in that direction by the untouched and the married. So I am resigned to this now. Not happy about it but resigned. The issue has become that I don't want to continue to endure the level of pain that putting out this blog has resulted in. I already live with a bunch of pain on a daily basis. Does it make sense that blogging about it results in me feeling and experiencing it 10-fold? I hope I am explaining it so it somewhat makes sense.

I guess the bottom line is that I want to take a vacation from my grief/loss for awhile. It won't mean it will all go away. My scrambled egg life will continue with the hurdles of financial pressure, only parenting and the relentless efforts of trying to fit into a world ruled by couples and intact families. But I do think I've spent a considerable effort trying to get through the muddle of grief/loss that I've been saddled with. People take vacations to rest and recover after long periods of work. They return refreshed, revitalized with renewed energy and insight. I am hoping taking a break from blogging will accomplish that for me. I just want to stop thinking about it so intensely and processing so much. I've reached grief overload if there is such a thing.


  1. People who have never walked in your shoes or mine or any widows will never understand. They are unable and it just uses up precious energy that we need to carry on in a life that will never be the same. I looked up retreats for people who are grieving on line the other day. I do not know if it was a good idea or bad, just looked it up. I do not think there is a getting back to normal. I think there is just finding a another place to exist in now. I like to read what you write because for a little while i don' have to pretend with my feelings and that is nice-but i am so sorry you hurt.

  2. Carol - I am sorry there are others out there all sharing in this pain. Interesting idea about the retreats for people who are grieving. Did you find any that you would attend? I really like your realization to give up trying to explain our lives to others and to conserve our precious energy for ourselves. I wished I'd come to this realization much sooner than now. You put it very well!

  3. I completely understand your need for a break. It will be interesting to hear what transpires for you by taking this break.

    Good luck with this new direction.


  4. Rest and return (or not) as it is best for you.

    I am personally quite appalled by the behavior of the people you have worked for in the past. That is a reflection though of them and their short-comings as human beings and shouldn't be taken personally - you were right and they were oh, so wrong.

    If you have the time, try and contact Supa Fresh about Camp Widow. I know she wrote that there are scholarships and she has connections - maybe could help you find a roomie or something. Otherwise have you checked out the YWBB and their Bago's (meet-ups). It's not a retreat but a way to meet people who know and listen and might be able to help. Just a thought.

    Take care.

  5. I am so sorry for all you have had to endure. Seems empathy, compassion, and patience are lacking now-a-days. I hope that you will find peace while you are away. Know that although we followers do not live close by, we are here to give encouragement.

    You are an amazing women who has not given up. This takes great courage!!

    Take care of yourself and hope to hear from you periodically to see how you are doing.