I’m a bit late with the blog last week/this week.. avoidance levels have been pretty high! I had some friends over at my place for a long overdue “woine toime” catch up – which was a much nicer night than last time we did it (see earlier post – WTF), went on a wine tasting tour with a group of widowed people and then spent the next day watching and supporting a friend at a sporting event (that went for 14 hours!). I had a really lovely weekend, but a couple of things that happened did make me think about how hard it is to feel and be vulnerable.
One of the people that we were interacting with, had a moment in the group (alcohol may have been a factor) where she shared a whole lot of stuff about her life and her situation that she has never shared before. She broke down in tears telling some of us her story, and it is a harrowing story. She has been widowed for a long time now (10 years or so) and has been so busy maintaining her life, raising her children and putting a façade over the reality of her life, that she has not really done any grieving for her loss – which was very sudden and unexpected (much like mine). She has had some pretty full on issues with her kids who apparently have also not done a lot of processing, and just needed to let it all out. She was so incredibly apologetic for breaking down and crying in front of the group. She was worried that we would all judge her for not having her shit together, and she was scared of her grief and of being so public with it, and she was just so vulnerable in that moment.
I think we all worry about how people perceive us, especially when we are feeling weak and exposed. When we are emotional, it is a hard place to be. And while I know that it is the same for everyone, being widowed adds a level to that feeling that wasn’t there for me before. I always had Claytie to lean on when I was feeling low, I had him to bolster me and reassure me. Now I have to either somehow deal with those feelings on my own, or find someone I trust enough to share it with. I know I have people who are there for me, but it is hard to ask for that support, and depending on why I’m feeling like that determines who – if anyone, I will talk to.
Being widowed and missing Claytie, makes me feel really, really needy in lots of ways. I have to outsource my emotional support in ways that I have never had to before. It’s hard making yourself deliberately vulnerable and trusting others to catch you falling. Vulnerable is another one of those words that has taken on a much bigger role in my world than it used to. It’s not one I particularly like, especially when other people use it for me or about me… but it actually applies a whole lot more than I would like.
Being incredibly lonely and on your own makes you vulnerable. It makes you accept things and situations that you would not have previously. It is scary. It makes you question and second guess things that you would have taken at face value before, and it has been particularly true (I think for me) with dating. It is constant questioning of motivation – is this person interested in me for me, or are they looking for a quick scam because I am a widow who may have received a life insurance payout – something that you get warned about and see on TV all the time. Am I the only person that they are interacting with (and at what point do you have the ‘exclusive’ conversation). How true are your feelings or are you clutching at anything to avoid being on your own, and when do you mention that there are feelings. I know other people have a lot of the same concerns, especially if they have been hurt before, but for me they are a new thing and they do make me feel a bit weak and helpless in a lot of ways.
Vulnerable also applies to my boys. I think they feel as though they have to be strong and emotionally tough, both for me and everyone else and that’s a hard place for them to be. They lost their dad. They lost a man that they absolutely adored and looked up to, and their grief is still really raw. I think they try to hold it all together, but every now and again there are huge cracks that show up. It’s really hard seeing them being so vulnerable and hurting, trying to support them as they process their grief. It makes me feel helpless because there is really not a whole lot that I can do to help them, other than being there, listening, hugging and supporting them as they go through it.
I hate feeling vulnerable, it is a hard place to be and it is hard to know how to make yourself feel strong again. Sometimes leaning on a friend helps, other times it makes you feel pathetic and weak. It is easier to be empathetic and understanding for a friend or stranger where you are yourself removed from the situation. It is much more difficult being kind to yourself and letting yourself fall when you’re feeling like this. It is having hard conversations and being honest about your feelings, and it is just putting one foot in front of the other and seeing what comes next. It is part of being human and it is all part of the journey I guess.