Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How am I doing?

Mourners are constantly asked, "How are you doing?" Rarely do we have an honest answer. Many of us wonder which of the five stages of grief we are in or out of. Although the grief comes and goes, the wondering is constant. Am I healing? Why at some times do I feel worse now, years after losing Bob, than the first few months. If I am enjoying life more now, why does grief whack me when I least  expect it, seeing a couple whispering, listening to a song, or smelling cardomon seeds. I want to be finished with it.

Claire Bidwell Smith, a grief therapist, suggested recently in an article in the HUFFINGTON POST, that the five stages of grief are fluid.  You might stay in one stage for years and then move through the other ones quickly. "Everyone's journey of grief is different." (May 10, 2012) Although the paths are diverse, what seems to be common is that all mourners she meets are like me. They wonder, "How am I doing?"

Friday, June 8, 2012

Good Op-Ed Piece on Grief

Allen Frances is right to oppose listing grief as a psychiatric illness. Grief is the most vivid, piercing and transcendent of emotions. People grieve in their own unique ways. The problem is that we expect grief to follow the same throwaway, “get over it” ethic that drives too much of modern life.

Many people expect a funeral or memorial for the deceased to bring “closure” for the grieving, when, in reality, preparations for such ceremonies only postpone mourning. After a few bereavement days, a griever is often expected to go back to work without missing a beat. After two weeks, the mere mention of the deceased or your loss may be considered rude or burdensome to others.

Little wonder people are depressed. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grief as Depression?

Something caught my eye online last week about the stages of grief. Some said there were four, some said five, plus there were a couple of other models that were interesting. But what really shocked me was an article in the NY Times about the definition of depression being expanded to include grief if the grief lasts longer than two weeks (whereupon it becomes a "disorder".) Of course this would greatly increase the number of people 'treated' for it. Maybe the drug companies are behind this move. I need to look into this some more and hope others will too. Right now it seems as though "normal grieving"––two weeks and under––wouldn't give a person much time to get through all those stages.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Counter Man

        Yes, the counter man knew me by sight at Lange's Deli, just two blocks away from my place on the main street of town. He knew my voice when I called early in the morning to have three fried egg sandwiches delivered for Bob, the nurse, and me. He saw me on my way home from work to pick up two chicken pot pies. He rescued Bob, stuck in the middle of the road in front of the deli, and brought him in, fed him, called me and never asked what happened to your husband. He knew. Other counter men had the same ethic as John. Lange's deli served more than food. 

        During the early months of widowhood I returned to the comforts of Lange's Deli. I wonder if Joan Didion, the author of the Year of Magical Thinking, and a a widow like me had a place of comfort as she started her new journey. I didn't read the book or see the play. You mentioned in our book Fresh Widows the book had affected you deeply.  Did Didion's community help rescue her husband or her?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eating Out Alone

Mary's post a couple of blogs back reminded me of  what I wrote in Fresh Widows about going out to restauarnts on my own. 
" An unscientific survey of my fellow widows pretty much comes down to a consensus about this: going to movies alone—yes! Going to restaurants alone—no!
 I’m the exception. I’ve always liked walking in by myself and ordering a table for one, insisting on something front and center.
I feel bold when I eat alone in public. I feel I’m the closest I’ll ever be to Katharine Hepburn, who commanded respect just by showing up, especially when I’m well dressed and have high heels on. I’ve gone to a neighborhood bistro so often now that the maitre d’ greets me with “Good evening. Your usual?”
But there are limits. I avoid the early bird special at the King China All-You-Can-Eat Buffet on Central Avenue. The food is okay, but at four in the afternoon there is no way to feel good about yourself with all those husbands and wives trying to get a head start on the shank of their evening. That would make me feel as ancient as the old Tom Paxton song about Victoria dining alone, skipping the potato.
Mary never eats out alone, but the counter man at the deli knows her on sight."

Taking the next step

Dear Mary,

Your memory about how we can only do one thing at a time and that Barbara hasn't
yet gone to a restauarnt alone reminds me of a touching evening a couple of weeks ago when
I reunited with an old, old friend whose husband passed away almost three years ago. Over the years we had drifted apart, but when I came across her husband's obituary online I called and asked her to go with me to a wonderful French restaurant in Hanstings-on-Hudson, Le Buffet de la Gare. I asked her to meet me there, but she suggested I come to her place first and we would go together. Pretty soon I understood why....it had been "their" place, a routine of life they cherished as their weekly rendezvous.... and she had not been back as a widow. Couldn't do it. But when we walked in together and she was greeted like a long lost friend––which she truly was––the spell was broken and she knew that she could go again and again, with me or even on her own. It was a step forward and a way to bring some joy back in her life of a kind she had missed.