The thing about being a writer is that – shockingly! – not everyone is going to like everything that you write. Sometimes people write me privately and sometimes they comment on my blog. Almost always, I let negative comments on my blog stay, because it’s important that I hear other people’s opinions, especially other widows. (I do delete vitriolic comments, because no one needs that.)
Anyway, I wrote this post a few days ago about tough love, thinking that I was being thought-provoking about how to treat people who are in the early days of grieving. I talked about all of the support I had received, which I’ve documented on this blog.
Here was one comment I received:
While tough love and early grief are no doubt incompatible, very few are afforded the luxury of the compassion you received and continue to receive. That level of compassion is truly a privilege.
Most often times, young widows must endure tough love and continue with their parenting, working, etc., the children and the paycheck and the day to day tasks must be prioritized.
I’m thrilled for the few that receive such support as you did, but like you, I couldn’t walk away from commenting on this one. Please recognize the amount of privilege involved.
I wrote this commenter back, acknowledging that she was right. I wasn’t thinking about my privilege when I wrote that post, which probably came off as a bit tone deaf. This commenter was right: I did receive a lot of support and I continue to receive a lot of support. I’m super lucky that I have a community that rallied around my family and had the resources to be able to do so much for my family, especially in the early days. I know that very few workplaces that operate like mine, where fellow teachers worked together to cover my classes for months after Shawn’s death. And my dad – well, he’s one-in-a-million.
Her comment it made me think, and it made me admit something to myself that sometimes I forget: I am a privileged widow. I have most things that someone in my situation could really need. I know it could be so much worse, as I’ve written.
And yet so often, it still feels impossible. And totally fucking unfair. And horribly draining even with the help I’ve gotten and still get. It’s messed up that my situation is “the best” that a widow can get. Because it is still often terrible.
I’m not even talking about the grief. I’m talking about the basics of making it through the day. I feel like I sometimes just can’t do it even though I have all this privilege. I don’t know if it’s because it’s really, really hard to be a single mom (even with support) or if it’s because it’s really, really hard to do everything in this life without Shawn by my side. I don’t know why I feel like life is impossible, but it does feel that way sometimes.
Still, I think it’s important to acknowledge that things could be far, far worse. So I’ll say it again, loud and clear: I am a privileged widow. I did not lose my house, my job, or my health insurance. My children have been loved by my community and by so many family members. I am lucky – so incredibly lucky – to have so much support around my family.
You know what people say to me all the time? “I can’t even imagine what life is like for you.” I always feel like this is a ridiculous statement, because really, it’s usually not that people can’t imagine what it would be like to be widowed. It’s that they don’t want to imagine it.
So I’m not going to say I can’t imagine it being worse. I can imagine it. And I know there are a lot of widows who are living that reality every day.
Just in case one of those widows is you, I want you to know this: I see you. It’s horrific to lose your spouse and more horrific when you don’t have the financial or logistical or emotional support you need. Life should not be like this.
The other day my widow friend Abena was over doing laundry at my house after her washing machine broke. We sat on the couch, folding laundry, and talked about all the things that we wish were different. “It’s the worst,” I said, feeling defeated about life. She let me go on and on about the things that were frustrating me, adding in a few of her own, and then she said, “but I’m lucky to know you, even if we had to meet in the worst way possible.”
I agreed, wholeheartedly. I am so lucky to have my widow friends I know in person and those I know online. And yes, this blog is no substitute for a friend who will sit on the couch with you, folding laundry and crying or laughing with you. But, online widow friends, let me say this: I’m glad you’re here, even if I wish we didn’t share this shit circumstance that brought us together. And I hope this is a place where you can find some support. I can’t pay your mortgage or make you dinner, but hey, I hope we can find some love in the community here.
And if someday you read a post and think, “Marjorie hasn’t gotten it right,” you can always put it in the comments.