First are the ones who, regardless of the circumstance, will always think what happened to them is worse than someone else. The ones who lost quickly tell ones who fought a long battle, "Well at least you got to say goodbye. I didn't even get that." The ones who strapped up everyday for war tell the ones who's world ended in the blink of an eye, "At least you didn't have to watch them die everyday, a piece at a time." In truth no way is better or easier than the other because the end result was the same. No one is more valid in their grief than anyone else. I have begun to actually stop answering the questions. If I want you to know what happened, I will tell you, but in my time and not on demand. There is no reason to press me for answers unless you simply have no manners. When I have to say the words "I am a widow" I try to say it without inflection or indication that I want to discuss it further. When the person presses further and says "What happened?" I simply reply, "He died." That should be enough of an answer for anyone. Somehow them prying into my life is seen as okay. It simply exhausts me. Why can we not simply say "I am so sorry for your loss. You have my deepest condolences." and leave it there? Why must one qualify their loss? Cancer, heart attacks, car accidents, HIV, suicides, old age, drug and alcohol addiction, or anything else that took your spouse is a vicious beast that ripped your life apart. Maybe you fought Godzilla and I had a nuclear explosion, nevertheless we are both on the same road.
The second qualifier that drives me to distraction is the children. Let me explain something to you ladies and gentlemen, the fact that my son is 22 and your son is 2 makes me no less a single parent than you. My problems with the situation may be different than yours, but they are still issues addressed as a single mother. You have dance class and chicken pox. I have car insurance and job interviews. But, I still face these things alone. While you are upset that the deceased parent won't see all the home-runs, perfect pirouettes, straight A grade-cards and Christmas mornings, I am wrestling that my son's father will never see him get married, settled in a good job, hold his first grandchild, or teach him to hang a blind in his first house. Simply because he doesn't live under my roof doesn't mean I don't worry that he is clean, well fed, safe and healthy. I know what you're doing alone, and I know it's hard, but don't look at someone else and say "At least the children are grown." Don't say "Those children will never know that parent" and not think about the ones who remember the last seconds of their parents lives. Although the damage is different its still damage. Just because my issue is something with a different skill set, doesn't mean I don't cry myself to sleep at night, sick with worry of what tomorrow will bring. We are all single parents. Why must your parenting issues be worse than mine? The simple answer is because your perspective is inside your life and mine is from inside my life. If we stop looking to be more important or our loss more significant than the next ones, we just might be able to help one another and not be quite so alone. Yes, I successfully raised a teenager. I've been where you are standing. I might know a little something to assist with your problem. You're closer to my son's age than I and your perspective on a situation might just shed new light for me as well. Others look at a surviving spouse without children and say "At least there are no children involved." which is a fallacy as well. They can look at you and say "You have part of your loved one living on in your child." Perspective is all that matters.
Then there are the people who do well with support groups and the ones who can not abide them. I have heard "You need to find a good group to support you." I have also heard "Those groups are the worst thing because you cannot heal by tearing the wound open again and again." For myself, I simply don't get much out of the experience. I am somewhat self contained. Walking into a group of strangers with all those different agendas is simply not conducive to my sanity. I am a very private person. I don't rip myself open and bleed for just anyone. For many others they are real life savers. They glean insight and gain support in that arena. They flourish in that structure. I am always happy for someone who finds a place to lean. But because it doesn't work for me, doesn't mean there is something wrong with me. It simply means I don't do well with that program.
What works for you may not work for me. The one thing that holds true for all of us is that if we don't work our grief, it will work us. Lean into it and feel it all. There is no way around it. There is no way over it or under it. We must walk through it. Shoulder to shoulder. Some will hold hands and some will not. The major component is that when one does reach out, there is a hand to hold rather than a finger to point. There is an answer to be found to every question. There is also something to be said for "I don't know but lets find out together."