Saturday, August 7, 2010

Are you ready to party?

Sybarite Party :Raja,Savoy 2,Parsley,Savoy 1
Originally uploaded by

An evening out with the widows.

Tonight was the camp widow banquet. We were provided a wonderful dinner, along with drinks and live musical entertainment. Everyone arrived dressed to the nines. It was an interesting evening to say the least.

My first observation was this. I appreciate the desire to provide us widowed attendees with a party atmosphere in which to celebrate a weekend of connection and shared wisdom. But I couldn't help but notice those that either didn't attend, or those that quickly left the venue. I believe there is a delicate balance of what it is that people are ready for, or comfortable with, depending on where they are in their grief journey.

I know that for the most part I am not really looking for a party quite yet. Although for me, I am easily moved to have a good time with those who get me, and that have a desire to find some joy in our coming together. At the same time I wonder how this evening could have been altered slightly to meet the needs, or the grief developmental stages, of those not quite ready for celebrations.

It was interesting to interact with the attendees when they first arrived, and approached the registration desk. Some who were further from their time of loss appeared to be ready for a weekend of instruction, suggestion, and celebration. Yet, some had traveled here quite early in their grief. They approached the desk looking quite wounded. They would accept their registration materials, and quietly walk to a corner for some quiet solitude. They would be the ones who spoke with tears in their eyes. They were the ones who clearly had not had the opportunity to interact with other widowed people, and now appeared lost and intimidated. These were also the people that I didn't see remain with the group as the evening progressed.

What this told me is that we must always anticipate that others might not be ready for sage wisdom and celebration. Some may need something entirely different. I think these people needed to sit in a quiet place, with a small group of people, and be given the opportunity to share their stories. I have had that opportunity in the early bereavement groups I participated in. I have also had that opportunity with my many fellow bloggers and followers. I arrived here this weekend already knowing many people through my writing, and through theirs. I arrived this weekend having made some major recent strides in my grief journey. I am not quite yet at the 11 month mark, yet I am beginning to feel more comfortable with my grief. I no longer walk around feeling completely lost or vulnerable.

What I learned tonight is this. I, we, must anticipate that others may not be moving along with their grief in similar time periods. We must find a way to bridge the gap that occurs in a group when some are ready to celebrate milestones, while others are far too fragile to even be in this type of environment. I am fortunate to be in a place where I can feel comfortable with both. For those who can't, I will be mindful to create a space that allows them to be with the group without feeling completely overwhelmed.


  1. that is actually my true, main reason for not attending. Financial reasons, yes, but I could have solved those if I felt strongly. It was largely the "stand up and cheer" energy I read in the description of the weekend that made me hesitant. I am in no way ready to be motivated, or to celebrate. My thought was that,if I went, I would connect with the people I "know" already, and not attend any of the lectures, and certainly not the party. I'm not a party/big social event person anyway, but it also felt just wrong, for me, to be focused on celebration, or even "making the most of this." I figured I'd do what I usually do - make my connections, and take off frequently on my own to explore san diego.
    Thanks for this Dan - was thinking I was just a downer.
    One of my favorite lines, from someone's blog - widows can be a pain in the ass. :)

  2. This is a good and useful analysis, Dan. I very much agree that, especially in the first few months of grieving, few people are in the mind space that would allow them to feel comfortable at any kind of celebratory party. I'm not even sure if I'd be ready now, at 2 years out. At one year out, I needed a lot of quiet. Did they have a hospitality room where people could sit around talk quietly? If not, that might be a suggestion. Also, maybe a way to encourage visiting between hotel rooms as is done at many kinds of conventions. Anyhow, good of you to have paid attention and notice how others were reacting.

  3. Hi my favorite hijackers.

    Yes, since I was there with someone who was feeling very vulnerable, I then began to focus on others who appeared to be struggling in the same way. At first I thought I was just looking out for their needs, but then realized that I don't listen yet to loud and lively music. I have chosen to not attend gatherings that felt too festive. As my kids know, I still spend most of my time being quiet, and doing quiet things. I do hope that people won't feel offended by my comments, as they are meant to be constructive. It's not that there wasn't quieter places for people to go. It's that I didn't feel that they should feel made to seek out other places, away from the group. The group should have been a bit more sensitive to how they felt during these early days.

    Thanks both of you for your comments, and for your friendship. By the way, I hung out with some pretty groovy Canadian ladies this weekend. Go Canada!

  4. Aw, Dan. I read "my favorite hijackers" and said out loud, well, I'm glad to be someone's favorite. Then burst into tears, realizing - right. I'm not anyone's favorite now, without matt. Crap. blindsided crying. Anyway.
    This post also reminded me of something I was writing awhile back about how I was in a lovely rainforest, then was suddenly, violently, shoved into a desert. People kept trying to tell me, (a) you're not in a desert, it's exactly the same rainforest, or (b) who needed that forest anyway, you'll find a much better rainforest - look, here's one now, or (c) here are some lovely fake palm trees and a stuffed parrot - now doesn't that make it all better? Look! It's a forest!
    The thing is, it is a desert. It IS a desert. And I just wanted people to stop trying to say it isn't, or to jolly it up with fake happiness. What I wanted, what I needed, was to find a way, for myself, to find my desert beautiful, for itself, in itself. The desert is not a rainforest, and it never will be. but deserts are beautiful too. I think. Maybe. Yeah. Not there yet.

  5. Go Canada indeed!

    I am so very thankful to have met you this weekend. You were definitely one of the big highlights for me.

    Even at '15 months out', it was very emotional for me to walk in and register, but seeing your face there was just what I needed.

    I, too, found the music too loud after diner at the banquet. I was in the middle of a conversation with the woman next to me - you likely remember as you were nearby - she and I had just discovered that our husbands had died of the same, awful disease - though hers was only just two months earlier. We were able to get some of our stories out before the music started, but it wasn't comfortable to try and continue the discussion once it did, though we could have moved somewhere more quiet to finish the conversation or found another time as I can also see where the music (though not so loud) was an important part of the evening.

    Now - though in most circumstances I still don't often feel 'celebratory', I found this weekend to be one where I had something to celebrate - for me it had nothing to do with where I was in grief - feeling more healed or anything of the sort. For me it was simply the ability to be around others who 'get it' and to finally feel a bit more free and normal - 'because' of my grief.

    And, sorry if I hurt your ears with the over the top kareoke! =) It was quite a release though!


  6. Dan, you are 100% right. Last year when I attended I in no way felt like partying .... and so I didn't. But I did meet some great people and made wonderful friendships.
    This year I am in a much better place and was ready to dance. But many weren't. We do need to be more aware of those who are not ready, of those who are still feeling "fragile", and encourage them for their bravery to just show up. I was stunned by the number of people who were only 0-6 months out.
    Thank you for posting this.