It not like anyone chooses to live through either one of these scenarios, but I've been thinking a lot about the differences between them since my neighbor is trying to muddle his way through the aftermath of a recent divorce and had a particularly difficult time with father's day yesterday. It may surprise you, but I think divorce would be the harder of the two.
When Tom left the world, I knew I had been loved. My neighbor had his love, his family, disintegrate around him and in many ways it invalidated their previous years together. She cheated and she did the leaving. I was left also, but it wasn't purposeful. Wasn't his choice. I was still loved. My memories still intact.
My neighbor is surprised that he isn't further along emotionally. He still thinks about her being with someone else and can't seem to move on. I think about how Tom doesn't have to suffer with depression anymore. I couldn't fix it, only be there for him and it is a tough thing to watch someone go through that repeatedly.
I wonder if people reading my blog have the impression that our marriage was an effortless, perfect meshing of two people. It was not. We went through struggles and at times were nearly torn apart. It recently occurred to me that I had married a thunderstorm. From a distance a thunderstorm was beautiful and exciting, but if caught in the middle unprepared it was nerve-racking. It took years for me to not take his mood swings personally. To come to a real understanding of what he could and couldn't control. What was just the depression talking. I never doubted the love, though or failed to value his complete honesty or fierce loyalty. I could count on him in the long run and our love evolved to a very deep level.
My neighbor says he's not looking to date, though I saw reference to a dating site on his Facebook. When someone goes through a break-up or divorce their friends and family seem to encourage them to get right back out there. To look for someone new. This is not the case with death. Initially people looked at me and marveled at how well I was dealing with this and were happy. I believed in facing it directly. Not hiding my head in the sand. No living in denial. Analyzing why I was feeling what I'm feeling. I am much farther along in healing and moving forward than my neighbor. I believe this is because I was loved. I felt valued by another human being. I made a difference in someone's life. I still can.
Why is death treated differently? I'd like to date again. I'm not looking for a replacement or someone to take care of me. I can take care of me. I know this. I am doing things on my own and not asking for much help because I don't want to be reliant on someone else. Yet I feel that there is an unwritten assumption of a proper amount of time for grieving, like I'm supposed to put my life on hold indefinitely until others approve of my reentering the world. Six months, a year, tell me please what do you think is appropriate for my life? Would it mean that I loved Tom any less to date again? Do you want me to shave off my eyebrows (did you know that the ancient Egyptians did this to mourn their cats)? In Hinduism death is seen as just a turning point in an endless journey and excessive mourning would hinder the soul from moving to the next level. Mourners cannot help the dead. A period of 13-days of rituals starting at the completion of cremation is observed. I went through the rituals. The modern day versions. I threw myself into them.
I've seen it over and over, though.
"Can you believe he married again? It was only 6 months after her death."
"Dating? Really! What's wrong with her? Has she no shame?"
So what do I want?
Friendship. To connect. To feel alive. I don't know that I'm entirely sure. What I have learned repeatedly in my life is that we are guaranteed nothing except this very moment. We have to make ourselves happy first and not rely on others to do so. It is only then that we can give love freely without reservation and without conditions. I plan to be happy. Judge me if you must. It wouldn' t be the first time I've been the subject of rumor. I married the boss, remember…and that became a love story for the ages.
Accept the bitter or turn them into a sweet delight.