Paranoia: A mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system.
Justified: a good or legitimate reason.
When Peter died my friend Vivian game me a book called Widow to Widow. The book, as you can imagine outlines things for you to expect during the stages of your widowhood. One widow to another. One of the chapters is called “justified paranoia”. The chapter outlines that people MAY become curious of how you’re doing or may give you a hug or a smile for no reason. Well that was the understatement of the year.
The only difference between paranoia and justified paranoia is the word justified.
Once I read this everything became clear. It wasn’t just that I THOUGHT people were staring at me. They really were. When people I knew turned the other way when they saw me coming, I was not just being sensitive or over-reacting. I was being paranoid, justifiably. People want to know things about you that they would never care about in any other situation.
When you are a widow at the ripe old age of 39, one of two things happen:
One: people surround you, they take care of you, they bring you meals, advice,desperately needed laughter. They keep your children overnight, while you cry yourself to sleep. Or
Two: People leave, they shun you, they see you and literally run the opposite direction.
It is a living breathing representation of fight or flight. People either fight for your sanity or they fly away.
I understand the need to fly. I feel it myself, If I could leave this situation, my life, I would. Or would I?
This whole year I have vacillated between being so grateful to have had a good marriage for twenty-one years and hating every aspect of my fucked up life. But what is really important here-cue the sappy, overinflated orchestral maneuver. Everybody is touched by grief, pain,tragic life events. It just happens that I wear my tragic event on my sleeve and I might just start wearing it proudly. From now on, if someone asks me something or stares at me or my family for inordinate amount of time, the answer will be….
Why yes I am a widow.