The Isolation of Grief


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Funerals are totally acceptable. As long as a widow doesn’t audibly cry, tears are allowed to come down her face. People quite easily tolerate death, but definitely not dying. The most taboo emotion is grief, especially if it’s visible. During the time of David’s dying, I stayed in the apartment as much as I could. David disappeared like a Cheshire cat, inch by inch, and I mourned every loss. My visible grief acted as a warning signal for people to stay clear. No one wanted to see evidence of what they might face. When I would get on the elevator to the 21st floor, with tears streaming down my face, someone would say, “have a good day, Nancy.” Sometimes people would pretend they didn’t see me, or walk away from me. I became invisible. Near the end, as I was walking out of the medical center, in tears, a resident said in a loud and dismissive voice, “now what is wrong with her?” After the funeral, which many of David’s clients and partners attended, the entire entourage disappeared. Two of them carried out their promise to support me. One still calls me regularly and advises me on business matters.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Barb Nielsen

    Dear Nancy — I’ve just finished reading your Carthusian book and found it helpful. I am not a widow, but what you say here resonates. My husband and I are one year out from the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA, where we lost our home and our entire community. We are elderly (78 and 80), married for 45 years. After the fire, we made the decision to move back to Tucson, AZ, where we had lived for 24 years before moving back to Paradise in order to be with my husband’s mother during the last years of her life. She died in 2017, three weeks before her 103rd birthday.
    We walk in what seems to be a glass cage where sounds come through muffled and distorted. We are surrounded by people who haven’t a clue what grieving is like.
    We are documenting our journey, but it is a rough and bumpy passage. Thank you for your words.

  2. NKM

    Bev, many thanks for your comment and for sharing your horrendous loss in Paradise, California. I’m sorry, and am equally sorry for the lack of empathy in your current life. Grief is a taboo subject in America. I don’t understand it, but it outrages me. Yes, in deep grief we are surrounded by a cage or blanket which warns people not to come near us. We live in a psychological world unknown to most people. Our grief should attract people so they can learn from us. Keep writing.

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