When I first became a widow, I realized the word grief being used for anything else other than the death of a loved one puts that emotion on a scale so long that it starts to lose its significance. Being a widow is nothing like being divorced. I know because I’ve experienced both. Losing a child is nothing like losing a house in a hurricane, though people will tell you their idea grief in both instances. While grief has this huge space where we put everything from getting fired to the loss of a loved one, the reaction to grief is what I have discovered is uniform: fear.
You can see this fear being played out on social media. The fear of being the victim of a predator *again* has given rise to the #metoo movement among feminists (itself a creation & conglomeration of people who feel victimized). The fear of falling victim to a false charge of sexual harassment had led to mgtow (men going their own way). But if there is anything I have learned from reacting to grief with fear, it is that acting in fear ends up prolonging the damage that grief has already done.
What does it mean to face your fear? It can’t possibly be the same as facing your abuser or the cause of your fear, because there is no person to face in mine. I’m not afraid of any person on the planet. I’m afraid I’ll lose someone, permanently. There is no going into congress to protest fear or demand that they pass a law that says the world can’t make me afraid of being a widow, a divorcee at 50, or a gold star mom. All anyone can do for me is either empathize or react after the fact.
That leaves all of the action to me. The real problem is when your fear mingles with someone else’s. My kids are afraid of losing a dad, so they don’t bond to a new step dad. My new husband is afraid of being divorced again, so he steps into his bomb shelter when he’s feeling vulnerable. Friends and family are afraid to trigger you because they have been through the experiences with you in the past.
The one thing that people don’t seem to be afraid of is offering advice, when they really should be. In my experience, if someone wants you to solve their problems, they will tell you or they will pay you. Most of the time, all anyone really wants is for people to listen so that they can work out the fear. For some people, the only way to work it out is to say it out loud. There are some, like me, that can write it out, but sharing it face to face with someone sympathetic, who isn’t going to tell you what you SHOULD do, is an important step in working these things out.
It’s not as simple as just talking it out either, it takes practice and patience with yourself and from others to ‘get over it.’
There is a famous mantra from the book by Frank Hebert called Dune that goes:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
The truth about fear is that facing it is not a one off. It’s going to still be there. There will never be “nothing.” Maybe the imprint will be feint, or washed over, but it’s still there–because fear comes from experience and your personal history, and no matter what anyone says about changing the past, you can’t. It is always there, exactly the way it was made. All you can do is smooth out the path before you by facing your fears again and again until they are only memories.
I haven’t gone back to look at Sam’s blog posts. I don’t think I’m strong enough to face him again in that way. I feel like my heart will break again and I will miss him too much. I am scared it will rip open the old wound, like Lancelot or Frodo — it still gives me pain. It is my weakness, but I don’t know if that’s because of fear or not. I’m still trying to get my feet under me so that when I bend, I don’t fall or break.
And I don’t know how long that takes. I think that’s a case by case basis sort of thing. Other than that, I don’t know what to tell you but visit my etsy store and buy something so I can better able face my fear of an overdrawn checking account: