Driving to work, I heard a song recorded by the American rock band Imagine Dragons titled “Radioactive.” The refrain “I’m radioactive, I’m radioactive” struck a chord with me (no pun intended). Arriving at work, I felt a plethora of emotions: sadness, anger and the realization that, now that I’m widowed again, I indeed felt radioactive.
I asked some widowed friends their views on feeling radioactive. Well, folks, they not only agreed, but urged me to write a column about widowhood. This column is not for the faint of heart; I’m gonna tell it like it is — and it ain’t pretty.
In his memoir “A Grief Observed,” C.S. Lewis writes: “How often — will it be for always? How often will this vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment?’ The same leg is cut time after time. The first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again and again.” Yup, this about sums it up.
I know most folks are well-meaning; however, looking into the “eyes of grief” can make one feel impotent and threatened. It’s difficult to know what to say or do. Widows belong to an exclusive club that has no waiting list — and when you’re forced to join, the dues are astronomical.
Immediately following Frank’s death, I was bombarded with calls and invitations. After the crisis passed, the invites gradually stopped. The call-me-if-you-need-anything folks simply dropped off the face of the earth. News flash: Widows are in crisis mode, indefinitely.
Others hung around longer, dispensing unsolicited advice like: See a therapist; this is the second time. (Like I’m not aware of that?) Get a hobby, job or a boyfriend.
What the hell do they think I’m doing? I did get a job in addition to my consulting business. I go to yoga and meditation classes. I’m involved in my church and local politics. Nope, I don’t have a boyfriend, yet; however, I’ll post it on Facebook when the fortunate guy walks into my life.
Forgive me if I sound a tad ticked off (anger is part of grieving), but please refrain from saying:
“Frank was lucky, he went fast.” Lucky? Frank didn’t win the lottery, he died.
“He’s in better place.” Huh? Home with me is the better place.
“A year already? Wow! That went fast.” Ya think?
“My dog died; I know how you feel.” Seriously? When Frank died, my world turned upside-down and, like most widows, I’ve mastered the art of walking on the ceiling.
Grief is a splintering pain that shreds the heart — and once in it, there’s no turning back. We go through our days feeling displaced and we’re prone to grief attacks. When a tidal wave of grief washes over us, we feel like we’re drowning. Somehow we surface — face blotchy, eyes swollen, mascara running — and sally forth.
Although we look great, happy and healthy, we’re still fragile. The runaway roller coaster of emotions that we’re strapped into causes us to feel a tad insane — perhaps we are. And if this sounds weird to you, imagine how we feel.
Grief is a releasing process. The brain is engaged in reality, but the heart lags behind at a much slower pace. Invite us to dinner, listen to us, weep with us, hold us, but don’t pity us.
Thank you to those special people who didn’t cop out after a month and have accompanied me on this perilous journey. Know that you have sustained me.
Widows aren’t radioactive or contagious; widows simply miss the “we” that used to be. Look deep into the eyes of grief, if you dare. You will find “us” still there.
The poet T.S. Eliot wrote, “In life what we call a beginning is often an end and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
And so we valiantly continue to move out of death into life: triumphant, reborn!
Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.