A really appalling thought recently occurred to me. I would even go so far as to call it an epiphany.
It happened as I was taking a good look around at what has happened within the widowed community in the years since I was widowed and what is now being offered to the widowed that simply did not exist in the not-too-distant past.
We established a non-profit organization in 2006 that would endeavor to serve the widowed community. At that time, and as does anyone helming an organization, I selected a motto that I felt would best represent who we are and what we are about. However, the motto that I chose -- the motto that is on the website, in the books and basically all over anything having to do with us -- is wrong.
Our motto is, "We're Here ... We Care", which initially sounded comforting, warm and welcoming.
Years later, the aforementioned appalling epiphany struck.
The reality is that the motto ought to be changed to, "We Don't Care."
You may be thinking, "Nice thought. Thanks a lot. How can you say something that insensitive? How is it possible not to care about the widowed community?"
I have answered that question by quietly watching the evolution of this community throughout the years. And it is the absolute truth. We really don't care:
** We don't care how old you are now or how old you were when you became widowed. You belong in a community of love and support regardless of your age and it horrifies me that many in this community have been turned away from other (alleged) sources of support because of their age. What difference does age make when one is widowed? Do you hurt any more or any less because of the date on your birth certificate? I don't think so. We have all heard the cliché that, "Age is just a number". I have never once heard the phrase, "Grief is just a number."
** We don't care if you are a widow or a widower. The fact is that most of what we teach applies to both and widowers have just as much right to and need for grief education and support as widows do. Although our widowers generally eschew the beauty and fashion advice, we are very proud to have hundreds of widowers in our membership. In short, our organization's name is a title, not a dress requirement.
(...well, except for me.)
** We don't care whether or not you were "technically" married. Some of you lost your beloved before you had the opportunity to walk down the aisle and were instead left sitting numbly at a florist selecting funeral arrangements rather than bridal bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces. Others were denied the right to marry due to arrogant and bigoted attitudes accompanied by antiquated laws that many are working to change. Whatever the case, you lost the person to whom you were committed for the rest of your life and you should be treated as the widowed of the heart that you are. I was moved to outrage to learn that there are those in our community who again were shunned by other supposed support groups because of the lack of a marriage certificate.
(Perhaps some of these other so-called support groups should look up the definition of the phrase, "support group.")
** We don't care how you became widowed. We are not widowed of an illness, an accident or a set of circumstances. We are the widowed of a person with whom we were in love and living a life. The way in which your beloved departed this earth is part of a life story, not a means of acceptance or denial into a support organization. Facilitating a healthy healing journey for you is all that matters.
** We don't care about sexual orientation. It does not matter whom you chose to love and who chose you in return. You have the right to love whomever and however you wish and the tragic fact is that you too lost the person with whom you intended to spend the rest of your life. Your love and your commitment should and must be recognized and honored...and your grief must be tended to with exactly the same respect and care afforded to any other widowed. If other support groups do not get that, it is their choice. That choice is abhorrent, but no matter. We get it.
** We don't care about the length of time that you were with your beloved. Unless I missed the part of the wedding ceremony that said how long one has to be married before it "counted" toward widowhood, how much or how little time you were together makes no difference. Whether it was 50 years, 15 years or 15 minutes, a lifelong commitment is a lifelong commitment and should be honored as such. Period.
** We don't care how long it has been since you lost your beloved. Grief does not have a statute of limitations. Unfortunately for the bereaved community, some support organizations apparently have an egg timer ticking in the background. For whatever reasons, the bereaved are being shown the door after a certain period of time has passed post-loss; sending the dangerous message that their mourning period is officially "over." Whether someone is ready to leave the support group is inconsequential; their time is up. But what happens if the bereaved need additional time? Or help? Or guidance? Or just the comfort of their community around them? We will always be here for those who need us and we leave it up to our members to decide when they are no longer in need of widowed support. We will never unilaterally make that decision for a widowed while directing them to the nearest exit.
I suppose it would both look and sound pretty awful if we actually changed our motto to "We Really Truly Honestly Don't Care," so we will stick with the tried-and-true original motto. It does make sense in a way. We do care about your healthy and productive healing journey. We do care about getting you through your grief to a place of peace. We do care about surrounding you with support, warmth and the community of so many others in your situation. We do welcome the opportunity to help you and are humbled to do so.
But all that other stuff? Nope -- we don't care. We have never ever cared.
And we never will.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has been selected as a finalist for 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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