Mourning — A Secret Society

by Alison Carrillo

Rich in my poverty
Bellowing for my beloved
He is gone
He is gone
And left me with all the secrets
of the mine.

It’s hard to be a widow. People are afraid of me. They don’t know what to say. Who knows what to say? I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless most of the time. They don’t know whether to mention “it”. Instead of saying, “How’s your grieving coming?” which doesn’t seem that hard to think up, I mean, it’s relevant anyway, they will talk about anything else to distract from their discomfort about not knowing what to say. I feel for them. It’s most awkward.

Of course, some people do say, “How are you today?”

What I would love to hear is, “Oh my dear, I am so sorry you lost your sweetest love.”

That would make me cry and then you could hold me and I would feel better. We would be closer and you would have helped me at a hard moment. All moments are hard because they are a reminder that he is gone. I am constantly reminded that he is gone. What do you say in the face of such a brutal reality?”

Say, “I’m so-o-o sorry,” and then touch me.

Yes, I forget that he is gone when I am busy with something else,but in-between my forgetting I remember. The more I cry, the more I shine. I see it in my skin and eyes.

This widow’s road is incomprehensible. I had no idea. When Joan suffered three years ago I could barely comprehend it. It’s another world. It’s an experience of the other world. It’s a secret society, hidden. Who wants to feel such great loss? No one, we hate it, we want to keep it hidden. Mom said, some women would be glad if their husband died. That was her
experience of marriage. Not so when a woman has lost her true love.

After nine months when the shock started wearing off and I began feeling worse, Pam said to me,

“Oh, you’re in the abyss.”

“The abyss?” I said. There’s an abyss? I’ve heard about it, is this it? This feeling of free fall down a black hole where I have no idea where I will land? Yeah, I said, that’s where I must be, in the abyss.

Every morning I wake up and fall farther. Oh, this again.

Night is the high point of my day when I reconnect with Ed. I remember a dream where we were lying together and I was begging him, oh please Ed, can’t we be together in some way, can’t we at least be lovers? He closed his eyes and enfolded me in his arms, no, my darling, not now. I sobbed as he rocked me gently.

It is hard enough for him to die. For him to stay dead is my outrage.
Everyday he is dead again. Everyday I remember. It still is shocking. Dead? No! Impossible! Our life was my life, how can it be over? And there is nothing I can do but submit to the vicious truth. By nightfall my horror is complete and has broken down to resignation. I surrender to sleep, the blessed balm, and into the arms of my beloved.

This much I know. If you want to comfort a widow there are four things that make a difference: show up, hug, listen and cook. Don’t get me wrong, Cards are nice, especially as they evoke memory and tears. If you want to feel better, like you expressed your sorrow, done your part, send a card or call.
Say things like, if there’s anyway I can help let me know, or, we’ll have you over when the crowd leaves. But these are more for the sender than the one who is grieving. If you truly want to comfort your friend, then show upat her house. Listen to her. Hold her in your arms. Give her a safe place to weep and rage. She needs touch, food and sleep. Eating is a problem, she cannot taste and has no appetite. Cook simple meals like rice andlentils and sit with her while she chews and swallows. Give her glasses of water. Whereas she used to sleep in the arms of her beloved now she is alone. She will get used to this soon enough but if you can, spend the
night with her, stroke her and sing lullabies as you would to comfort a child. This is your beloved sister who needs you right now. Do you know how deep is the love you are showing her? Do you know how much she appreciates your being there and how strong is the bond you are forging? Yes, you do, because you too have suffered or know that you will soon
enough. The truth is this is a solo journey. There is nothing anyone can do to relieve the pain. That is the frustration of it. If only there were a pill, a platitude. But no, there is nothing save to weep and dream.

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