I must have had a very confused look on my face when it happened.
It was the same look that I have seen on our cat when she sees a talking parrot in the waiting room of the veterinarian's office.
It was the same look that I get on my face when I hear about the multi-millions of dollars that multi-millions of women spend to have their breasts enlarged... and then I read articles in various women's magazines that teach how to "minimize" a large bust line.
Utter and complete confusion.
I had recently observed numerous complaints from widowed who were leaving various support organizations and online support groups (including our own) because of the "negative and depressing" (direct quote) attitudes or posts being shared by others. We received many emails; complaint after complaint that essentially stated, "I'm here looking for hope and for help. All I see is people talking about how awful life is and how awful it's always going to be. I can't take this".
Obviously concerned about anyone feeling as though life was always going to be an exercise in pain, grief and raw mourning and thereafter leaving these various communities of hope to try and cope alone, I perhaps unwisely chose to share these sentiments within the widowed community. Instead of being met with compassion and understanding for the widowed who were having these issues, I was instead the recipient of very defensive and hurtful responses.
There I was -- just like the cat in the veterinarian's office
How could fellow widowed -- people who were all in the very same boat -- not understand how others might feel at constantly reading discouraging posts, knowing full well how emotions can crest and cave, wax and wane -- sometimes from hour to hour. It didn't sound right. It certainly didn't feel right. I second-guessed my judgment on broaching the subject to other widowed and thought that perhaps I should have remained silent on this apparently growing issue.
Then I had an "Oh yeah...now I remember what we're doing here" moment.
I remembered that we are here to serve everyone in the widowed community. Everyone. Even if there is disagreement, the people who were and are leaving support organizations and social media forums in droves because they feel that the atmosphere is overwhelmingly negative and hopeless still deserve to be heard.
As do the people who so badly need these very same places to vent their true, organic, authentic feelings.
The people who are feeling truly, organically and authentically grief-stricken, sad, angry, overwhelmed, depressed, abandoned, confused, frightened and/or completely lost also deserve to be heard -- and their musings may be negative or discouraging to read. Nevertheless, these widowed indeed have a right to be heard and they need to be able to exercise that right in places where they know that they have found safe haven amongst others who actually understand the widowhood journey. After all, most of us either have been or are now surrounded by people who simply do not understand -- must the widowed now be afraid of honestly expressing themselves within the widowed community as well?
Yes... it's pretty confusing.
Because no matter where you fall on the spectrum... you deserve to be heard too.
You deserve to be helped.
You deserve to receive what you need in the way of support whenever you need it.
Can hurt and hope co-exist?
I believe so.
But it takes understanding on both sides of the issue.
And so, to the people who are either contemplating leaving or who have left online pages, support forums, support organizations or any support groups (online or in-person) that are in place to help the widowed community because of "negative and depressing" remarks and writings, you have to remember that all of these places exist for the common purpose of giving the widowed community a sense of -- well, community. This means that anyone within the community must and should be able to freely express how they are feeling at any given moment, how they are coping and most importantly, feel comfortable in asking for help. Whichever forum they choose, whatever the mode of expression, it is perhaps the one place that they can go and just be who they are in the moment, without fear of judgment or recrimination. Don't unilaterally decide that just because someone else is sad, depressed or scared, that your journey is going to be identical to theirs. The fact is that your journey can be however you fashion it to be. The bottom line is that you will gravitate toward that which you choose to focus on. If you need positivity and hope, focus and connect with the positivity and hope in these organizations; rather than choosing to focus on only the negative aspects, concluding that absolutely everyone is "negative and depressing" and choosing instead to cope alone.
To those who were or are a little less than tolerant upon hearing these complaints or who have no patience for the widowed who are, in fact, searching for a beacon of hope in a seemingly endless sea of darkness... you too are called upon to show understanding. We are talking about other widowed. We are talking about people who want to be proactive in their healing and proactivity should always be encouraged. These are people who are making a courageous choice to heal and move forward. These are people who desperately want to hear that there is life after loss, triumph after tragedy and hope after hurt. They want to be told, "I was where you are and I'm getting through it, one day at a time" and they want to learn how to do the same. Constantly seeing or hearing story after story that seem to indicate otherwise can be discouraging. You absolutely have every right to vent and express yourself -- but you must also be compassionate and show grace toward those who are looking for the other kinds of messages as well.
Messages of hope.
Messages of promise.
Messages of healing.
Messages that say, "I may be down, but I do not have to stay down. I am going to get better and I am going to use every single tool available that will help me get to get me to a place of peace."
The lesson is clear. By acknowledging that hurt and hope are each part of the Healing Journey and that we must welcome and embrace every person at every stage of that journey, both hurt and hope can peacefully co-exist.
Let us embrace that concept... and move forward together.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has just won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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