A few days ago this came up yet again when someone tried to arrange a meeting with someone she felt I led "parallel lives with." This other person is going through a hateful divorce and bitter custody battle. I ask you...what is parallel about that?
One of the most insulting things widows endure is the dismissal of our feelings. We're encouraged to date way before we're ready. We're judged for the tear in our eyes at a milestone moment like prom or graduation. People want us to act like their divorced friends who have already remarried or are at least dating regularly. They don't want us to talk about missing our departed husband...they'd rather we rant about our hatred of the male species. But we're different...we're walking another road paved with grief and the knowledge that our loved one is missing out on all things great and wonderful. That makes us sad...and, yes, sometimes mad, but for different reasons than our divorced counterparts.
Divorced women rarely still wear their wedding rings or wish their husbands were still in their beds. Divorced women's children still have a father who walks on the earth--even if he is a bastard. My kids have never gotten the chance to know their dad because he died when they were only 7 and 8 years old. They've never gotten a chance to decide whether he was a nice guy or a jerk. Those chances were ripped from them---and from me---without our consent.
Widows are not the same as the divorced.
I know people who have gone through divorces and I understand that they are horrible. I understand that they endure their own kind of grief and am not discounting that in any way. But they would also agree with me that our journeys are different.
I think it's presumptuous of people outside of a situation to presume they know my journey or anyone else's. I also think it's somewhat insulting to throw two people together just because they are "single" and say that they have led parallel lives when the truth couldn't be further from the truth. How dare you judge my life? How dare you judge hers?
Oh, and another thing--I'm proud of my journey. The uniqueness of it. I own my pain and my triumphs. The other woman who is going through the divorce? She is allowed to own her journey as hers, too. No two people grieve the same or experience the same pain. Allow us to wear our journey with pride and not diminish it by saying we are all alike. We're not.
There are quite a few people in the world who think they are above tragedy. They think their lives are flawless and that they are making all the right decisions to keep them from ever experiencing this raw pain of loss. They judge. They say things like, "when I leave from visiting so-and so, I realize how fucked up her life is and how great mine is." Real sweet. Real compassionate. I heard that with my own ears during a Thanksgiving meal over a year ago and almost dropped my wine. Oh, and the person who was so-and-so is the same person I was suddenly asked to meet a few days ago because we're "living parallel lives." Am I supposed to take that as a compliment after hearing that Thanksgiving comment?
A phrase comes to mind..."there, but for the grace of god, go I."
Before you lump people you deem somehow damaged together, pause. Ask yourself what you're judging or what you're afraid of? Do you want to put all the damaged marbles together so you don't have to deal with us individually? Do we make you uncomfortable from your perfect snow globe of a life?
People may experience similar things, that's true. After writing my memoir, Free Fall, about surviving my husband's suicide, I heard from people all over the world who shared their stories with me. I cried over every email. Yes, our stories were similar but none were parallel. We each owned our own love...our own agony...our own journey. Never would I discount their strength and their burdens by saying they were like anyone else's.
I am not divorced, I am a widow. More than that, I am Amber. I have overcome a helluva lot and am a survivor on my own merits. I am an individual who stands alone at the end of the day owning my own shit--my own despair, my failures, my successes, my joy, my creativity, my neurosis, my fear, and my courage. It's all mine.
And your journey is yours and so on. We all have stories to tell, heartaches to heal, and joys to celebrate. Don't let anyone take away your own story or tell you that you are or should be like someone else. We are individual souls who came to this earth to learn our own lessons for our own reasons and, when we die, we alone will see those moments flash before our eyes. It's good that they be unique and chaotic and wild and painful and joyful and messy and weird! If those are the final images we see as we pass from this realm to the next, why not get a smile from them and think, "that was my journey, damn it, and I am proud of every tear, every smile, every single damn second because I lived...and I lived fully and loved deeply."
You are unique. You are beautiful because of your scars. You are fucking spectacular and don't you forget it.
Peace to you.
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.