A Case of Mistaken Sympathy


A Case of Mistaken Sympathy

Thriving.  That’s the verb my friend Rene Syler used some months ago when she looked at pictures, stories, and articles I’d written about my household.

I’ve never pretended that the blog here was more than a simple snapshot in time. It can paint an entire picture of what the whole day, week, or other time period reflects.  It can also be a simple moment, the briefest of blinks in the grand scheme of our lives.  For the most part, these posts, particularly now, are the latter.  Earlier, with struggle, loss, puzzlement and distraction they were a theme.  There was an abundance of prosaic writing lacking in any coloring of joy.

Then it happened.

There wasn’t a precise moment.  There wasn’t a switch that flicked and suddenly we realized that just enough time had passed and the wounds had healed.

Let me be clear, loss is loss.  You cannot get the person back and I postulate that there isn’t a “getting over” the person who is gone.  You simply learn to live with the fact that they are no longer there.  It’s not easy, no, but it happens.

Little things come up that remind you of them.  A smell in your workplace, a series of text messages (like yesterday’s post) but I write of those for what they are: glimpses.  A few years ago that smell of perfume would have thrown me for a loop.  The text messages, however mundane, would have dragged me to despair.

Today, though, things are different.  I see them as those glimpses, a peek into a past.  Where you place someone up high on that pedestal in the beginning the glimpse of life comes in…real life.  I see the beauty, which in the moment years ago I wouldn’t have seen.  I see the drudgery, which I would have ignored before.  I see . . . that it’s just different now.  Different, in this case, is good.  It’s not good because she’s gone, her travels on our road finished.  It’s good because we’ve made it good.  We’ve made a new life for ourselves.

The typical response – and I get it and totally understand, I’ve done it myself – is to express sympathy.  Most don’t understand what it’s like to suffer the loss of someone so young in their lives.

I honestly don’t write of these things in despair or in need of sympathetic intentions.  I thoroughly appreciate them, and they touch my and my kids’ hearts when we get them.  The kids are all in different places in their grief so their needs all vary.  Mine do, too.  However…I see life today and it’s a good one.  Where we were in need of the understanding before we aren’t now.  Nearly four years ago, when people said they thought of Andrea we understood, but also had to inform them – Andrea touched their lives but she wasn’t part of their everyday lives.  For us, simply cooking a meal held memories.  That’s a hard thing to overcome.

Today, though, we get those triggers and they, for the most part, make us smile.  Where the melancholy may come, it comes for a short time and blows away almost as quickly as it came.  Sure, some days are rough.  March 26th is never easy.

But I come back to the verb in the beginning – thriving.  We actually are.  Sure, money’s tight many times.  Sure, I have girls who need their Mom sometimes.

No.  I’m no longer married.

The change in those statements, though, goes something like this: I have girls who need their Mom, but I can tell them about their Mom when they need her.  I can call my Mom, their Aunt, my friends, any number of women who are perfectly willing to help.  My sons might need understanding and concern but I’ve learned to listen as much as strive to fix their situations.  It wasn’t easy, but it happened and we’re able to struggle together.

I also ease those same kids, knowing I’m no longer married, into the idea that their Dad needs some company once in awhile.  Maybe it’s just drinks with a friend.  Maybe it’s a date here and there.  One way or another, it happens and we learn to live with that.

I love the concern and sympathy and accept it with the dignity and love in which it was intended.  I also have learned, in accepting that sympathy, that we’re actually . . . thriving.

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