Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Disenfranchised Grief": Mourning the Loss of the Things You Never Had

Today I read what is quite possibly the best explanation of what it feels like to be single and Christian that I've ever read. It was one of the first times I've heard SOMEONE ELSE voice some of the things I feel GUILTY for feeling. I highly encourage you to read it before reading what is, in essence, my response to it. Check it out here.

I won't echo her post by going on about how the church unintentionally puts married life on a pedestal and makes the rest of us feel like aliens, but I will note how much I resonated with one of the comments on that concept. There are tons and tons of sermons and messages about marriage and family out there. There are not NEARLY, not by a long shot, as many about being single. So everyone's like "Don't be discouraged though, I mean, you can find ways to apply anything to your own life, and it never hurts to learn more about marriage if you someday hope to have one." You're right. I do listen to plenty of these messages and gain a lot from them. I also listen to many of them and cry because it makes me want to be married more than ever. One of the comments on this post essentially said that, married people and pastors tell us that all the time, so let's flip the tables. How about we start having churches focus their sermons on what it's like to be SINGLE. Lets start bombarding our bookstores with books on being a single Christian, with very few resources for marriages.... and then tell them "It's okay, you can find a way to apply it to your life." Not so easy huh?

Anyway, that's not the point of my post. The title of this post is "Disenfranchised Grief" because I feel like those words FINALLY summed up the feelign I've been trying to express to my friends for YEARS.

Very often when I'm having one of my truly horrific lonely days, I express to my friends that I feel like my husband has died. That sounds extreme, for sure, but that's exactly how it feels. The kids I've never had, I mourn them. I see other people have kids and I grieve. I am no less happy for my friends that they have children, but for myself, I feel like my dreams have been stabbed in the heart. Every time a friend of mine posts a picture that says "Date Night," I cry over the dates I've never had (considering I've NEVER once been on a real date, ever).

Then, I feel guilty for feeling this way. Because I'm told I should be hopeful. I'm told I should be so happy for the "freedom" I have. On that note: NO ONE WHO KNOWS ME WILL LOOK AT MY LIFE AND THINK I'M NOT ENJOYING IT. When it comes to finding silver linings and squeezing out every ounce of living that life has to offer, I'm your authority. But that doesn't make the pain of not having the one thing I've prayed for and asked for since I was a kid go away.

Everyone says to simply look at the blessings you have and be thankful for those, because why dwell on what we DON'T have. You're right, and trust me, as noted above, I AM thankful for every single blessing I have, but I've asked for ONE THING, repeatedly, for years upon years, and I'm getting everything BUT that, and I have ZERO control over that, and it's not okay. It's like, at Christmas, when year after year I ask for Saints tickets, and I'm given a bazillion other awesome things that aren't Saints tickets, and I'm never disappointed, and I always feel like I've had a great Christmas, but just one year it'd be nice if I actually got Saints tickets - and I'd be willing to trade in all of the other things I might have gotten instead. Except, it's so much bigger than football tickets, obviously.

I'd trade so so so so so so so so so many of the blessings I have to have a family of my own. Each year that passes is one  year I get closer to it being impossible for me to have that family. And that scares the mess out of me.

I've made the comparison before to the barren woman. I've had many people try to tell me that's not the same, but then no one can really articulate WHY. Because it IS the same. I am just as unable to have kids as any of my friends who can't. I've had several friends have miscarriages in the last few years. That is a truly painful experience. They're mourning the baby they never had.  But when trying to comfort a woman who's dealing with infertility or miscarriage, would you ever say to them "Oh, it's okay, you're young, there's still plenty of time to have kids"? or "Maybe God wants you to focus on him right now instead of a baby"? or to the woman who's been trying to get pregnant for several years "It's okay, it'll happen one day. All in God's timing"?

If you would, you are insenseitive, and you should stop trying to comfort people because you're bad at it.

So why do people feel like it's okay to say that to single people? Every time someone says to me "Stop worrying about getting married, you're young, you have plenty of time." I want to punch that person and let them know that YOU ARE NOT HELPING ME!!!!! AT ALL!!! SO STOP!! 

In the comments of the blog someone made the following comparison: "It's like telling someone who hasn't eaten in a week 'It's okay, your body can go six weeks without food.  You have plenty of time to eat before your chances die out'" while they sit in front of you with five pounds of crawfish, potatoes, corn, and a Purple Haze (okay, the exact food they compared it to was different.... but you get the point).

Also, people don't tell women who haven't been able to get pregnant for years that they will someday have a baby because THEY DON'T KNOW IF THAT'S TRUE. It's dangerous to set such expectations on something both you and they have no control over. Same thing with being single. I've never ever had a boyfriend in 27 years. I've barely even skimmed the surface of coming close to it happening. Time and time again I watch as I meet new great guys and they somehow immediately check off the "Friend only" box and leave me there. I've had guys who were in every way shape and form perfect for me, even one in particular who I just KNEW was actually interested and we had everything in the world going for us and this was most-definiely-certainly-going-to-turn-into-something-no-doubt-100%-yes, and everyone agreed and then. it. never. happened. THEREFORE I have ZERO evidence that this will ever change. So don't be confused when I run into a corner and cry after you tell me "He's out there somewhere." Because maybe he's not.

So bear with me when I mourn these things. When I meet a little girl whose name is that of one I'd planned to name one of my kids and I cry the same way a mother who lost a child with that name would cry becuase I don't have MY little girl in my arms (or when a close friend or family memeber actually names their child the name you've always dreamed of and you realize it is now off the table). When I see a little boy in a Saints jersey and I have a breakdown, because I don't have the little boy I just knew I'd have by now. When I see people holding hands walking down the street and I mourn the hand that I've never gotten to hold. When another guy friend gets engaged, and even if I was never interested in him as a husband I question, "Why didn't he ever consider me?"

Bear with me when I ask you over and over "What am I missing?" "What am I doing wrong?" "How did I screw this up?" because I cannot fathom any reason why I've never ever had my affections for someone reciprocated, but there must be something. Some grand secret someone's not telling me. Bear
with me when I start crying because you're telling me just how "incredible" and "beautiful" and "smart" and "fun" and "such a prize for any guy out there" I am because that's NOT helping the fact that THEY aren't seeing it. And especially bear with me when I get upset because you tell me I've just got so much going on that it "intimidates" guys, because that's a bunch of BS.

It is soooooooooooo incredibly frustrating that the struggles of single people are seen as petty. That they are seen as a problem to be remedied. That the church avoids addressing them because frankly, it's just too hard.  It's so frustrating that almost every book about being single is written by a married person, or that every sermon preached aobut singleness is preached by a married man - because so few churches are hiring unmarried pastors. It's frustrating that I've actually had people tell me "You know, maybe you're dwelling on this too much, and honestly, I'm kinda tired of hearing it from you," when you know good and well that you would never tell someone who was grieving an actual physical death or loss that they were "dwelling on it too much." It is a loss. A painful one, and one that may never have an ending or resolution.

I'm not writing this to get a pity party. Because I'm a pretty happy person, with a pretty awesome life. I'm writing this because I read this post, and, it was one of the first times I've felt truly VALIDATED for feeling GRIEF, and not felt guilty for it. Her next post is about validating feelings, and I highly encourage you to read that.

On that note, I'm going to try to get some work done and then start reading her book, which I totally downloaded right after reading that post.


Jenni Liddle said...

Wow another single person, it's like you went inside my head expressed everything that I've ever thought about being single! You're so right about what you said...the only thing you didn't mention that I can attest to as being equally frustrating is when people try to force a relationship between you and a single man 1) because you are both single and therefore must be a perfect match, and 2) because as a couple, they secretly are waiting for the day when you can go out on a couples date instead of you (or the friend's significant other) looking like the 3rd wheel!

Monica...a friend of your parents :) said...

Awesome...perfectly written! :)

Anonymous said...

Danielle - Thank you so much! You have finally put into words what I have felt for so long. I am married now, but for many years I was "wife material" not girlfriend material for several guys who were no where near ready to settle down. To be told...maybe in 5 or 10 years you would be perfect for me, but not know, was devastating. I finally did meet "the one", but now we have struggled with infertility for almost 12 years. Every month when my body sends me notice that we have failed to conceive again, I feel a huge sense of loss and I grieve. Of course I put on that happy face and pretend that I am ok with waiting on God and His time, but the knife jabs get sharper and sharper each passing month. I try not to be jealous of the joy others receive, but I get so angry. And then I feel guilt for that anger. It is a vicious cycle for me. Thank you for sharing and I pray that one day your life is fulfilled in everyway that you desire.

Sharon Lynch said...

Hey, so I read this and I think it's pretty awesome. I know I'm married and blah blah, but I just wanted to let you know that your feelings are valid. It's okay to mourn for this. I ended up marrying my first boyfriend after years of waiting, not dating, and of being in the "friend" zone until 21 years old. I valued my independence. I enjoyed my life. I traveled and explored, but when I met him…I knew it was good. It was right. The right timing, the right man. But I remember the years of singleness before that, of watching friends date, of experiencing loneliness. I'm not going to tell you to "enjoy" it. I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't long for that relationship. I'll just say that He will not give a desire that He will not fulfill, and hope that's of encouragement. I love reading blogs like this one. It reminds me of the power of our words. Thank you.

ThistleAshD said...

love you girl :) preach on

complain away to me

Heather said...

Thank you for sharing the truth. Not alone. 33 and single and never been kissed. The way felt in church has led to me gradually drawing back from going. Its tough. Yet as you say, we continue living to the full in the midst of the grief and pain.