This week, I greet the 2 year anniversary of moving to Oregon. At this time last year, I still felt so new to the area. It was still such a strange thing to introduce myself to people who had never known Matt, and had never known who I was before.
When I first moved here, I shared my widowed status easily – with people I would never see again. The man at the door at that estate sale? He mentioned the woman holding the sale was a widow. I said, “I am too.” The workers training for fast water rescues down where I take the dog for walks? No problem: “thank you for your work. My husband died in a river just like this. Thank you for being here.”
It was easy to share this central fact with people who weren’t going to be in my life. It was harder with others, at least at first. I shared the news cautiously, as much out of respect for them as for my own privacy. These days, I’m more likely to state the fact of Matt’s death, and the life I’ve built since, as a personality sorting tool. How someone responds to my disclosure-of-dead-husband tells me a lot about who they are.
I’m always so relieved when someone new receives this news gracefully, kindly – neither dismissing it nor leaning in for more information than our relationship warrants. Fortunately, I’ve had many, many people respond in this way.
Do you have people in your life who don’t deserve to know about your grief or who you’ve lost?
I’m talking about those people who don’t handle the information with the skill and reverence and grace it deserves. I’m talking about the people who might respond to this delicate information with the skill of a raging elephant – stomping around, asking questions, or worse – brushing it off like it was no big thing.
My readers, if you choose to not reveal your inner life, your broken heart, or even the cold hard facts to other people, you are not betraying the one you’ve lost. Though it feels bizarre to talk around the gaping hole in your life, to answer “I’m fine, thanks” to a routine question when you are not in any way fine, it really is a kindness to yourself.
Not everyone deserves to hear your grief. Not everyone is capable of hearing it. Part of living with grief is learning to discern who is safe and who is not, who is worthy, and who is not. Part of living with grief is also learning to discern, for yourself, your own right timing in sharing this with others.
It’s definitely a work in progress. The non-grieving world just doesn’t always understand. How could they? But we want that, don’t we. People who understand.
Do you ever wish there was an island for grieving people to go to, a place where everyone gets it, and no one spouts off platitudes?
The Writing Your Grief course gives you that community (sadly, it does not give you a tropical island). Click here to find the next session.
How about you? What goes through your mind when you choose not to disclose your grief-status? How have you chosen to share or not share? What are your biggest hopes and fears in terms of responses when you disclose what’s true? Let us know in the comments.