Flippant and jokey, it actually advises divorcees to “turn a frown upside down.”
Now, I am not arguing in favor of a bad attitude, but I wonder if someone would give that advice to the recently bereaved? “I’m sorry Bob is dead. But geez, lighten up a bit! You’re such a bummer to be around.”
Divorce is a loss too. Only it’s often, especially in cases of infidelity, a loss with a shitload of injustice. And people don’t bounce back as quickly as some of the non-grieving might like them to. Not only did you lose your spouse, probably your financial security, and time with your children — you’re dealing with betrayal. And that hurts like a motherfucker. It’s injury AND insult of the most humiliating, intimate kind.
Grieving after betrayal is very Alice in Wonderland. Things are not what they appear. Who can I trust? What’s real? What’s fiction? Who is my friend? Who is my enemy? Who’s that crazy lady in red screaming “Off with his head!” and why am I at a tea party?
The last thing a person in that bewildering state needs is for some jerk to tell them to quit being a buzz kill. Which is really just another way of saying It’s Not That Bad. Expecting someone to be buoyant and positive after such a tragedy is minimizing their grief and really, denying their reality. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said on the subject of forgiveness, that the depth of our anger reflects the depth of our love. Chumps love deep. Not only did we lose, we were played. It’s a very angry grief.
I get that some people don’t want to be around it. Makes them feel powerless and frightened. Gee, if this can happen to you, maybe it could happen to me. I’d rather feel smug and safe, so clearly You Did Something To Make This Happen to You. You know what tells me this is your fault? Your bad attitude!
I’m not arguing against resilience. I think everyone should face adversity with a kick ass attitude. I think on those hard days, yes, count your blessings, will yourself to function, and be as positive as you can muster. Have faith it WILL get better.
But I don’t think you get there without grieving. And IMO what propels you towards acceptance and “meh” faster is the acknowledgment that what happened to you was unjust. That it was devastating. That doesn’t mean you get to skulk around being “bitter” forever. It means a terrible thing happened to you, and you’re gathering your strength to rise above it. But it’s work. And it hurts. And no one would like to be further ahead in this grieving shit than you, the chump, and not Miss Norman Vincent Peale there with the platitudes.
This column ran previously.