A few months ago, I was talking to an acquaintance and had a moment of candor. “I’m really lonely,” I said. “I miss Shawn. And I’m also tired of being alone all the time. They’re two parts of my sadness that are linked, but also separate in a way.”
She looked at me thoughtfully. “I understand you really miss Shawn. But if you want to get rid of the loneliness, can’t you just set up an online dating profile?”
I awkwardly tried to tell her that it wasn’t so easy. Putting myself out there is a really daunting prospect.
She meant well. She was trying to be helpful. I wasn’t upset by her response. It was merely part of a pattern I’ve seen from some people I encounter.
“Can’t you just….?”
This phrase usually comes from a well-meaning acquaintance who is trying to help. He or she sees me in pain and wants a solution to the problems seemingly causing that pain. This person – one who likely hasn’t been through tragic loss – thinks about what he or she might do in such a situation. There must be a solution, right?
Let’s say I want to go out to dinner. Yes, my dad lives with me during the school year, and can usually provide childcare. But in the summer, I’m totally solo.
“Can’t you just get a sitter?”
Or maybe allergy season is getting the whole family down, and I think it may be partially due to the air in my house.
“Can’t you just install a new air filter?”
Or maybe I’m feeling stressed about how much TV my kids watch, because when Shawn was alive they watched very little, and now I use screen time to help me remain sane.
“Can’t you just set a timer to monitor them?”
Or maybe Austin wants me to chaperone his class trip, but I’ve already taken off two days to care for Claire when she was sick.
“Can’t you just take off one more day?”
My good friends and family know better. They’ve seen that it’s not so easy for me to keep moving through seemingly “easy” parts of my life. They watched me struggle with almost everything, including how to simply move through the grocery store without having a nervous breakdown.
But if you haven’t had as much contact with me, or another young widow, you may not know how difficult some of these seemingly “easy” things are to do. Sometimes, it’s a logistics problem (no, I can’t easily find a sitter every single time I want to leave my children) but sometimes it’s much deeper than that (my kids find it much harder to be with a sitter than they used to before Shawn died. They often only want to be with me.)
The thing is, I want to make my problems go away. I want life to be easier. But sometimes when I hear the phrase “can’t you just….?” I want to scream back, “no! It’s just not that easy!”
Because that’s exactly what this phrase implies. When someone says, “can’t you just….?” what I actually hear is, “it’s easy! If you just tried harder your life would be better.”
So I’m here to tell you this: I’m trying as hard as I can. And no, I “can’t just” do lots of things.
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.