Friday, June 5, 2015

The club no one wants to belong to

I believe it was Groucho Marx who said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member." That's how I often feel about widowhood. I think all of us who find ourselves grieving deeply feel this way. No one wants to be in this club, but here we are. I expect this is true for any kind of grief; you don't want to be part of the club but are so grateful for others who share your experience.

I have met wonderful people since losing Kevin, other people who have lost their beloved and are stumbling forward in spite of it all. If I were given the option I would have Kevin back and not have these friends, but that's not a likely scenario, so here I am. In the club.

We are everywhere. Now that I am a member I keep meeting more members. It's kind of like being a friend of Bill, once you know the codes you find allies in the unlikeliest of places. I have found support from other widowed people online, in line, in public restrooms and on airplanes. A few days ago I was in the grocery store at the fish counter. I started chatting with the fishmonger. swapping recipes then talking about what we cook for our families. He started telling me about his sons and then he said, "My younger boy is having a tough time since his mother died. He just can't find his way, you know? I try to be mother and father but she was just so good. I'm not that good. And I miss her so much."

I caught my breath and asked when his wife passed then told him my husband died 14 months ago. He looked at me with such sympathy and before I knew it we were hugging, tight together, in front of the fish case in the middle of the supermarket. There was nothing uncomfortable about this. There was everything about knowing each others' stories without needing to say a word. We're both in the club.

It's a club no one wants to belong to but, once we join, we don't have to be alone. We can find others who understand our pain and in that moment of connection it doesn't hurt any less but it is a fraction less lonely.

I am widowed. Kevin isn't on the other end of the phone line, the first person I want to tell about these people I meet. I would love to tell him about this, to tell him about the meaningful conversations - there's no need to be subtle or engage in the social dance around grief - but I can't. So I cry in a stranger's arms, hold others while they cry. And that's okay. What a relief to know I am not alone. What a relief to know other people understand what I am feeling and, while we may have nothing else in common, in this one enormous way we can comfort each other. Beyond politics and religion and beliefs, we are in the club and in the moment that's all that matters.

I've always had mixed feelings about the various communities to which I have belonged. My need for camaraderie conflicts with my need for alone time. And yet... we all need community. We all need a place where we are understood without any explanation because everyone else has a common experience. No matter what happened before our loves died, we know what it is to keep breathing when they have stopped. We all know what it is to wake up sobbing. We all would much rather not be a member of this club and yet we are, so we may as well try to help each other.

If we are lucky we grieve. If we are lucky we love enough that when that love is lost we are destroyed and get to rebuild ourselves. If we are lucky we find ourselves members of a club to which we never wanted to belong. If we are lucky we find the right community at the right time and are understood without explanation. If we are lucky. How odd it is that it took this much pain and loss for me to truly understand luck.

If you are reading this, are widowed (your beloved has died) and want community, check out the following:

  • search Facebook for widowed people's groups
  • go to Soaring Spirits, the sponsors of Camp Widow and many other resources for widowed people
  • write to me. I'll listen. 

You don't have to be alone.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Laura.........your warm, radiant heart, your consistent generosity of spirit, your piercing and unflinching honesty, your courageous search for truth and your cogent and articulate voice........are ALL such potent gifts. I marvel at your strength in vulnerability and your profound ability to excavate the pain and the unexpected gifts of mortality and its ongoing impact. I was so moved by this blog entry......... it touched my spirit and my mind in such ways that I could feel my being transforming, growing, evolving and becoming more conscious, more compassionate and even more grateful to be alive. I am so sorry that you are dealing with this loss. I am so deeply appreciative of the ways you are sharing the experience with us........your generosity is awe inspiring and I count you as one of my great teachers.

    Thank You,

    Chris J.


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