In one of the dozens of “grief books” that friends gave me after Mark died, I learned a helpful lesson. When something bad happens to you, people around you may react to you as if you are a little radioactive.
Granted, I probably was. People want to show that they are compassionate, but most aren’t ready for a deep walk in the emotional woods with you on a moment’s notice. It’s a strange place to be, socially. People circle around you to help insulate and protect you, but if you need someone to be with you in a big way, the list of those capable is pretty short.
And even the capable ones have their days that they just can’t.
That’s good to know. I was pretty tender-hearted back then — and still am often — so it helps to know that I scared people even more than I normally do, and to not take it personally.
I ended up spending a year with a grief therapist. I could have joined a group and got the same kind of support from others, but I recognized that my level of introspection (some might call it navel-gazing) would probably scare the people who could see the thestrals, too.
The perspective is helpful as I look back on Sam’s early childhood. People are especially challenged in supporting you because it’s not a true tragedy. As the years go by, I’m finding it easier to lay a lot of those experiences to rest, knowing that some people were trying, but what I might have been seeking was more than they had to give.
Yes, Virginia, sometimes there isn’t a Santa Claus. But, you’ve got a spine, and prayer, so you’ll be fine.
We’re going through another round of that “radioactivity” in our lives. I’m pretty savvy to it — the list of people who can tackle the topic is small, and I have had to re-arrange my life somewhat in acknowledgement of that. I’ve even overwhelmed my family from time to time. Most of the time when friends and acquaintances push for information, I tell them it’s really not suitable for polite conversation.
But I forgot that little social rule today, and shared too much with someone who just seemed endlessly curious and capable of the conversation until I got the look. I knew that look, it was the get-me-out-of-this-conversation-this-lady-is-radioactive look.