This is an extension to my earlier post. Just the other day I was reading a novel (Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani) in which the main character faces the death of her mom and moving from her home. The author mentioned how these two events are at the top of life stressors. Reading this was interesting to me because I had been contemplating this very issue. I will use the example of the annoying baseball mom and the hypothetical issue of her caring for her parents. In real life her dad attends all the games and both parents are spry and chipper. But for the sake of an example I'll alter the situation so she is caring for elderly, sick, feeble-minded parents.
On its face, of course this is a difficult and trying situation. Many of us baby boomers are involved in this aspect of life. But it is generally easier (physically and emotionally) for a married woman to be involved in this task compared to a widowed mom with young kids as I was when I was involved with caregiving. So it is not the sad aspect of the situation that is different (caring for aging parents) but rather the circumstances surrounding that situation.
When I look at other people's lives what hits me is not that they don't have to face problems or grief, but rather that they haven't had to deal with so much upheaval in their lives. Perhaps that is where the difference lies. And it ends up having nothing to do with problems or grief but rather the upheavals surrounding difficulty.
The upheaval surrouding the death of a spouse and being left with children to raise alone affects so many aspects and areas of one's life, I don't have a short and sweet way to describe it. You are thrown into a tailspin, left reeling, spinning and dizzy, yet expected to get up, dust yourself off and bravely march forward. That is upheaval. Moving from a large home and into an apartment, selling a home to avoid foreclosure, packing and sorting and tossing all by oneself with no one to lean on is upheaval. Example baseball mom didn't lose a spouse and spend the next set of years raising kids alone. Nor was she forced to leave her home.
Yes, she experienced the normal range of daily annoyances we all do but she had the support of her husband next to her. So in the end it is easier for her to cope, deal with and face the issue of her aging parents. She has more energy and resolve because there has been less upheaval in her life.
The definition of upheaval is great agitation and change. When I look around me at the other women in my community, I don't see any who have moved or had to cope with the death of their spouse. Those are events of such magnitude, agitation and change. I think that is where my frustration has been lying. That the seesaw is so tilted in regard to the amount of upheaval the boys and I have had to face vs. less upheaval of others.
There is reason to be concerned. Some days I am so worried about finances and how the boys are going to get through college I believe I am at risk for cancer and/or a heart attack. It is widely believed that people with less emotional support in their lives face greater stress and greater health problems. Married folks (even those with problems and what marriage is perfect) have better health than those who are unmarried and desire to be so. I feel all of this when I'm with the moms and parents of my community.
There are various stress tests out there (even Dr. Phil had one in one of his books) that rate life events. If some of us have experienced far more of those events in our lives, of course our lives, perspectives and feelings are going to be different than those who have not. How can the bridge of understanding be crossed to give acknowledgment to those differences? Why is it such a bad thing for someone to say, "Gee, she's had to face a heck of a lot" instead of trying to always have an even playing score. Life isn't fair. People's experiences aren't either. What's the purpose of those life stressor tests anyway when all is said and done in the end?
I want to get past the feelings of unfairness and betrayal I feel when I compare my life to that of others. But it isn't easy for me to dismiss - perhaps because I am still struggling and life is so hard. Maybe these feelings will only dissipate when my life improves a bit and I start to regain some of the footing I've lost. Maybe when you're still caught up in the struggle it is too hard to be able to stand back and have a more alturistic nature.
There is a difference between a grief event/experience and then the upheaval that comes afterward. They are not one and the same. Maybe this all has nothing to do with grief but rather surviving upheaval, hardships and change that have wrecked havoc on my life the past seven years.