Thursday, February 6, 2014

Keep Your Band-Aid and Put it Over Your Mouth.

Dear John,
 
I've had it with Band-Aids. Not the little sticky things, but the platitudes people say when you're unhappy and they think you need them to fix it for you. I've seen and heard a lot of them lately. The theme seems to be that you shouldn't feel bad because loss is just an opportunity to get something that will be so much better than what you've lost. My most polite response is, "How dare you!" It seems that, like ogres, this has many layers.
 
First, how dare anyone tell me that there is anything in this world better than the man I've lost? I gave all of myself to you; I still love you with all my heart. Where I choose to give my heart is not open to public evaluation and commentary, nor does it require anyone's approval. My heart is my own to dispose of as I please, as Louisa May Alcott said. How dare anyone tell me that they know its depths or its future?
 
Second, there's an issue of logic here. How can anyone assume that every day in my life should be happier than the day before, until I suppose that someday I drop dead of unbearable joy? Is life supposed  to consist of ever-increasing levels of enjoyment? It's dangerous and unhealthy to assume that pain and sorrow are aberrations and always to be avoided. That's an extreme denial of reality that will come back and bite you someday.
 
Third, there is a counseling term for this, and that term is disqualification - the diminishing, denial, or dismissal of uncomfortable events or emotions that others experience, in order to maintain your own comfort. How dare people try to talk me out of my grief just to make themselves more comfortable? It's a common behavior - everybody with an invisible illness meets up with it all the time. But it has never infuriated me as much as it does now. Disqualify my physical pain, my exhaustion, anything else that you just don't want to deal with in your tidy little world, but keep your attitudes off of my bereavement. Disqualifying grief is the same as disqualifying the love, the relationship, the shared years, even the person whose loss you're grieving.
 
And that's the heart of it, isn't it? When people tell me platitudes about the best days of my life being ahead of me, or finding another husband that I'll love even more, or whatever makes them feel better, they're telling me that you aren't worth my pain. And I have nothing printable to say to that.
 
Whew.
 
I'm glad I got that off of my chest. I can't remember the last time I was this angry. I can see you  sitting there listening to me, leaning back with your arms crossed across your chest, with your pastoral counseling expression fighting with your impulse to laugh. Laugh away - I feel better for having vented my spleen and I thank you for listening. And I know you understand completely. I don't know why it is so hard for some people to acknowledge that someone else is going through something that is hard, and just respect it and let it be.
 
I will end here so I can calm down enough to go to sleep. I'll listen to Pandora, cuddle with the cats and hug the dog, take a deep breath, wash my face, snuggle into flannel sheets, and not kill anybody tonight. No promises about tomorrow, though!
 
Love you with all of my heart (which is mine to dispose of as I please),
Joan. 

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