"It's my life. I live it. I love it. Critics be damned."
-- Hans Prager, restaurateur
Look around you.
They are everywhere.
Nowadays, there are critics in virtually every area of our lives -- from movies, music and the theater, to food, clothing trends and -- Lord help me -- books. The advent of the Internet has only served to expand both the ability and desire to criticize (whether deserved or not) and in many cases, with the added advantage of complete anonymity. Rather than being something done only by those who weigh in on the movies we see, the concerts we attend and the clothes we wear, the facility to criticize has since extended to the "Everyday Joe/Jane," who can now post a lengthy review on any number of websites if exception is taken to a newspaper article, an overcooked cheeseburger or an unpleasant hotel stay.
Unfortunately for the hundreds of thousands of people with whom we are so privileged to work, critics have invaded their lives as well. Perhaps you have personally experienced the insensitive post-loss judgment of critics while on your own healing journey. Regardless of the kind of loss you have suffered, these critics strike at a time when you have never felt more vulnerable or ill-equipped to handle it. Some of your critics might be relatives, others may be alleged friends or acquaintances and still others might be your coworkers. These so-called experts on the subject of Your Life and How to Live It may be imparting criticism on everything from floral arrangements at the funeral to the food served afterward; from how you are handling yourself emotionally to whether or not you choose to keep or sell your beloved's collection of vintage hood ornaments.
Aside from the obvious lack of compassion so badly needed during a difficult time, the primary problem is that the people critics target are actually paying attention to what is being said. Moreover, not only do these poor people lend far too much credence to criticism, they begin to question their own instincts and best judgment as to their healing processes.
Be they past or present, whoever the critics may be in your life, this I know to be true:
No one -- not one person -- who ventures criticism or observation as to how you are handling your none-too-easy healing journey is you. Yet these same critics feel somehow qualified or otherwise entitled to criticize you as to how you are handling your personal life after death.
What if the exceptional occurs and one or more of the critics in your life has experienced a loss that is similar to the loss that you have endured?
... and are still not entitled to criticize. Furthermore, there is no such thing as "constructive criticism" -- a most ridiculous phrase and one of the biggest oxymorons on the planet (ranking right up there with "jumbo shrimp," "mild turbulence" and "quick shopping trip").
If every single one of us is unique as a person, it naturally follows that every single healing journey is unique as well. Never ever should another person's healing journey (or anything in connection with a healing journey) be criticized. It is fine to gently advise or make suggestions, but only when asked to do so and never in a disparaging manner. No one has the right to criticize how anyone suffering a loss handles anything -- from whether or not they visit a gravesite (be it sooner, later or ever) to a decision to sell everything that they own and sail around the world.
One of the things that the loss experience offers us is an opportunity to examine where we have been, what we have been through, where we are today and where we want to go from this point forward. While you are making that examination and figuring out how to deal with any self-appointed critics who may have invaded your life, I would encourage you to grab and hold onto one word:
Since your loss, you have likely already heard over and over about how strong you are, how strong you have to be for your children or how your loved one wanted you to be strong. I also understand that strong may be just about the last thing that you are feeling right now. However, the strength that I am talking about is the kind that comes from within... the "little voice" that you must turn into a "great big voice." Find your inner voice. Find your strength to face the critics and say, "I'm doing the best I can. I'm doing this in my own way. I'm doing this in my own time."
Remember that critics will eventually find someone or something else to criticize. You will soon become old news. Critics have too much time on their hands and instead of being active and positive contributors to your life specifically, and to humanity in general, they instead wish to tear others down or apart. Let them carry on. You have other far more important things to do.
You have healing to accomplish.
You have people to meet who will nurture and care about you.
You have a life to live.
For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com.
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