Home > General, self-help, women's issues > Discovering a new letter

Discovering a new letter

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Of the 26 letters in our alphabet, there are two I have recently found distasteful: W and V.   Like Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, I’ve discovered each of these letters pinned to my chest in the last few months and I have wanted to rip them off.

The letter W— for Widow.   Did I think ignoring or getting rid of that one would somehow change my reality???!!!

The letter V— for Vulnerable.  A word that probably most people don’t want to have attached to themselves; and oldest daughters generally— and particularly this one — really reject.

Last week I watched an interview with NY Times columnist David Brooks about his new book, The Road to Character.  One of the key points he makes is that we are all flawed and that the key to becoming a better person is identifying your weak spot.

That’s where the V word comes back in. A definite weak spot for me.  I don’t like being vulnerable.  I much prefer being in control.  Ask for help? Huh uh.   Against my nature.  Lead the way. Meet challenges and plow right on through.

But God/the universe/whatever you choose as a name knows just when to step in. And nothing subtle .  After watching the interview, I couldn’t miss a regular, morning meditation that appeared that day in my inbox with the title, Ask for Help.

For the past several months I’d been ignoring a hospice-sponsored newsletter with information about grief-support groups. My thinking:  If I called them, if I went to a meeting, I’d just be reinforcing the W and V words. I so didn’t want to do that.  But I could no longer refuse.

Yesterday I went to my first meeting.  I cried through half of it.  It was a safe place to do so.  No need to put on a “just fine” face.  Everyone there — those mourning the loss of spouses, or a daughter, a son, a  parent,  a pet — understood.  The boxes of Kleenex at each end of the long table were reached for frequently.  As were the pitchers of water.  (Did you know that there’s a need for the body to replenish the water lost through tears?)

We are all in this Together.  It’s an expression I’ve heard so many times, it had lost it’s meaning. As  had the adage, It’s by our weakness that we are made strong.

I’ll go back to the meetings.  The W and V are still on my chest.  But I’ve added a bigger one: T.

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  1. Laanti Riederer
    April 16, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    So glad to hear you went to the group, and I encourage you to go back. Yes, that w letter is a tough one to face, live with, understand, deal with, all those things. Think of you every day.
    Saw the David Brooks interview and it was so good.

  2. Carole Barnickel
    April 16, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Is the “T” for triumph
    thankfulness or what? They all fit you.

  3. bbartocci
    April 16, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    You have written some very good blogs but this one is REALLY well done. Could it be because it is more personal? I’m sure many readers will appreciate.

  4. April 17, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Happy to know that you are now sharing your grief and your many strengths !

  5. tom purell
    April 20, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    as usual a great letter, I’m sure going was hard, good luck. Let me know when you get the book club started

  6. Pat Schudy
    April 21, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    “Mary Kellly,” an oldest daughter who follows this blog, for some reason was unable to add her comments to this most recent post, so she sent them to me in an email.  

    ’I have the option now that wasn’t available to me when I first became a W. Then, all I could think of was that it was my word and I had to drag it around.  But now,  I cannot let it be my word.  I don’t want it to be my word.  That isn’t who I really am after 10 years of filling out forms, single, married, divorced, widowed.  I may wear  a lot of black but that is for practical reasons–doesn’t show the dirt, is slimming, is practical. And I finally think that being practical about being a W (that is not making it my word) is a good thing and it helps me to function better, to feel more in charge and to be who I really am.  I want to keep moving along.  No W in my name now but I am an S.  Stands for single.      

  7. Nora E Richard
    April 26, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you for your honest and heartfelt expression of what you are experiencing. I only hope there are others who will read this and be comforted by your expression of how V and W might be dealt with in their own lives

  8. Lanti Riederer
    April 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    I liked your last entry. And I am glad you went to the grief group. I went to two different ones, and one in particular was very helpful. The absence is still striking to me almost 10 years later. I thought this passage in a book I read recently was very telling and I am sending it on. Think of you a lot. Love,L

    So this was what being ALONE WAS LIKE, SHE THOUGHT. IT WAS NOT THE SOLITUDE SHE HAD BEEN GOING THROUGH, NOT THE MOMENTS WHEN SHE HAD FELT HIS DEATH LIKE A SHOCK TO HER SYSTEM, AS THOUGH SHE HAD BEEN IN A CAR ACCIDENT, IT WAS THIS WANDERING IN A SEA OF PEOPLE WITH THE ANCHOR LIFTED, AND ALL OF IT ODDLY POINTLESS AND CONFUSING.

    FROM NORA WEBSTER BY COLM TOIBIN

    And I don’t think my wandering has been or is pointless, but it has been or is confusing. It is the anchor lifted part that rang a bell for me.
    ——————————————–

  9. Pat Schudy
    April 28, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks, Lanti. Your comment is an example of what I hoped for in naming this blog a forum.

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