Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stirring the Water: Compassion

Journal entry 23

The fifth month begins, which automatically makes it a moody time. Five months ago today Evelyn died.

I call Judy, anyway, trying to move out of my dead zone. We were in grad school together but haven’t talked for fifteen years because she doesn’t live close by and I’m not a phone person. When her husband, John, died three years ago from a brain tumor, I didn’t do anything for her because I was heartbroken and couldn’t think of anything helpful or positive to say. I still feel ashamed, even though I now know there is nothing that anyone can say or do to soften a harsh reality like that, except to let people know that you care about them. But in the card she sent two months ago she asked me to call, so I do, knowing that my few words will ring hollow.

Judy is gracious on the phone with my apology. We laugh at the absurdity of our situation, both widowed in our mid-forties, and we cry for the sorrow of two compassionate people being dead. We share words of support and the tricks we’ve learned for getting through each day, like leaving the TV on so there are conversations in the house, and keeping busy until we can’t stay awake any longer, because then sleep comes quickly. For half an hour we talk and remember how much we liked each other. After three years of widowhood, she’s getting married in December and seems to have reclaimed her sense of joy. We arrange to meet in a few weeks.

Over the months, people have been supportive in different ways, sending cards and emails, dropping off food, and taking me out for meals. Most of that has stopped. So at work I intentionally spend more time with customers, trying to stir up my lethargy, not wanting to close in on myself but stay connected to people. I force expressions to my otherwise-blank face so they know that I’m listening, and sometimes I linger so long after their questions are answered that they try to slip away. I also seek out conversations with colleagues, especially married women, chatting for five minutes on general things, thinking that if I’m going to date again, it would help to be comfortable talking with attractive women. Married women should be safe, but I feel like I’m fourteen again and learning how to talk to girls.

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