I’ve been sitting on this post for about 24 hours, trying to find the words that perfectly reflect the intent behind it–an intent that does not involve resorting to shouting obscenities from the rooftops, despite how crushingly infuriated I absolutely feel.
Choose to be kind.
I hear this phrase a lot. It has been one of my mother’s favorites recently–a frequent response to my three-year-old niece’s developing personality–and it is rapidly becoming my own mantra.
When my uncle passed away seven years ago, there was a rift in the family. I watched people I loved and respected and held close to my heart turn on each other with disturbing hatred. It was one of the first things that I feared as a widow, a memory so vivid and painful that I found myself fervently policing my own grief, dreading interactions with anyone beyond those immediately close to me. My world was eggshells and broken glass. There was this looming sense that at any given moment, something was going to snap, and I would lose more than I had already lost.
I quickly learned that there were truly people that I could trust, in both my family and Ron’s, and am surprised on a nearly daily basis by the number of people who have shown me love and support and come to my defense when I need it. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I also, unfortunately, learned that my fear wasn’t unfounded. Grief is a divisive bitch and seems to bring out the worst in people, often at the expense of other grievers. It turns out that keeping my pain mostly private, remaining as neutral as possible in the presence of people I didn’t know if I could trust, and being one of the closest people to Ron over our six year relationship made me an easy target for angry outbursts, cruel commentary, and a (fortunately small amount) of the same hatred that I watched my aunt suffer through those seven years ago.
I’ve had a pretty outspoken, “take no prisoners” approach to this stuff in the past. Widowhood hasn’t necessarily softened me, and I still sometimes find myself sinking to insults and silently fantasizing about those who have hurt me someday feeling my pain in those moments themselves. And yet, my perspective on expressing these things has changed. I often remind myself that retaliation is not worth the consequence of more loss.
However, toxic people do exist.
In the midst of grief, I don’t think that it’s an inherent quality; I think toxic people become toxic people because they have no other outlet for their agony, and perhaps and hopefully, as time passes and the wound slowly scabs over, they grow to realize that none of the hurtful actions they took out of agony ever fixed anything.
In the meantime, I distance myself–something that is agonizing in its own way. As much as I would love to involve and be involved with those that Ron cared so deeply about, I can not lose myself in the process. I can not continue to put my own feelings in a box. The past month has been one of the hardest months of my life, because I just started peeking in that box and letting myself think about and feel the depth of the fact that Ron is never coming back.
Sometimes I think of how easy it would be to use spite as my own outlet, and when I can not choose to be kind, I leave.
Spitefulness was not a quality Ron possessed, and I want to lead a life my husband would be proud of. There’s no perfect outcome, but I like to believe that distance doesn’t do the permanent damage that expressions of hatred do, and I absolutely hope that the distance and toxicity all someday fade.