Take People at Their Word in the Valley of Suck

I keep wanting to wake up.  I want the choice between the red pill and green pill.  I do not want to go down the rabbit hole any farther.  Wonderland is not wonderful - it sucks - which is why Alice was running to get out.  

Becoming used to the widow or widower description is an odd transition to make in one’s life (so don’t try to understand it - you don’t want to and can’t till it happens).  While we tend to be a culture rebelling against labels, I find it helpful, and in a way, comforting to have the label.  It does provide immediate clarification about a very important part of who I have been and who I am now.  I’m also learning how important this is for relationships.  To know I am a widow/widower is to know my wife has died and I am living with the burden: always. Now, there might be an attempt to put up a front either through one’s presence or words, but it does not make grieving any less a reality.

So clarifying labels can be most helpful.  They give some understanding to the words being used.  But there are many other labels tied to emotions which seem to be a problem - cause confusion for those who suffer and those who comfort.  It isn’t an exhaustive list, you may have one or two to add.  

These are the words and definition people seem to confuse.  I have found they fall under the category of “wandering wordsmithing.”  Rather than allow them to just “be” people feel the need to play word association and not actually listen (or read) what someone in grief is saying.  Here are the top 7 Wandering Words I find people misappropriate and redefine in the valley of suck and grief. (even those of us who grieve):
  1. Anger does not equal being bitter.
It is one of Dr. Kubler-Ross’ 5 stages of grieving.  So just because I have rants about #cancersucks or #valleyofsuck, don’t take my anger for bitterness.  Anger can become bitterness if left unchecked but anger IS part of grieving and it is okay.  Be angry and get it out.   Or sit with someone who is and let them get it out.
  1. Questioning does not equal doubt.
My wife’s cancer didn’t reveal this to me but it has made it more real and taught me even more so, the value of good questions.  Questioning is the process of searching for more - of seeking answers to give peace to a sufferer’s soul.  I don’t doubt God’s faithfulness - God is faithful, I just don’t always understand and who really does?

  1. Hurting does not equal a loss of faith.
I have so many scars from growing up and just getting older.  The bigger the kid, the bigger the toys, and usually, the bigger the wounds.  Just because I lost some of my blood along the way, it doesn’t mean I lost all my blood.  And keep in mind, your body is always making it new and fresh.  Some of my faith needed to be lost so something new and fresh can become part of my life.

  1. Grief does not equal obsessed.
I cry.  I reflect.  I weep big, loud sobs sometimes.  Hell, I cried at the altar when Heather and I got married!  Tears can express joy and sadness.  As the grieving process moves through its phases, those tears change and so will my conversation.  I lost my wife and my kids lost their mom.  That is kind of a big deal really.  It is not an obsession I’m having it is just grief that I’m experiencing.

  1. Alone does not equal lonely.
My best friend is gone.  I am alone even though I have kids and family and friends.  It does not mean I’m wasting away.  Not everyone has a significant other nor is company always what is needed.  Sometimes a drive alone is good as is working in my office and so is a short hike...by myself.

  1. Lonely does not equal needy.
But sometimes it does get lonely and having a friend to talk with is good.  I do not intend to come across as needy because I did not mean to do so.  Sometimes I need my friends and sometimes my friends need me.  Just because I grieve, doesn’t mean I stop being there for you either.  We were made for relationship.

  1. Single does not equal available.
I hate to even write this one but it is warranted because I have heard from others and had just a bit of experience myself already.  Almost nobody who was the “rebound relationship” in High School, college or adult life, got a good thing.  You got baggage.  You know what, I DO!  I have so many memories and love that surrounds almost everything that was Heather’s.  Don’t confuse me being single with looking for a relationship.

What is the solution to wandering words and wandering wordsmithing? Taking time to listen and to read what others are saying and expressing. Words already come with meaning. During grieving and suffering no one has time to nuance anything - who has time for that?!? Don't be a therapist. Be a friend.

Tolkien wrote, “All who wander are not lost” (more of Heather's legacy).  They are wise words for the valley of suck and a grand piece of wordsmithing too!  I am not lost.  I know I am in the valley of suck.  I know what these words mean and I am figuring out, day by day what is next both personally and spiritually.  And while time heals wounds, the scars of loving and loss do not disappear.  If you’re friend or family of someone in grief and pain, you don’t have to define terms, just listen.  And you who wander, know you are not lost, even though it may seem so.  You’re in the valley of suck and as you wander you will come to know your way.

Much love from the valley of suck.


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