You're Allowed to Break When Empathy Has Left the Building: What the Television Show 'Nashvi
I've finally watched my DVR'd replay of CMT's Nashville. In this episode, the main character, Deacon (played by Charles Esten), is a widower and attends a charity event and brings an authentic, concert-worn jacket of his late wife, Rayna (Connie Britton), to be auctioned off, which triggers emotions. It's such a touching scene. He sits at the table listening to the auctioneer "sell" his wife's jacket. It started off at $1,000, then $5,000, then $10,000 and finally, it reached $50,000. He's amazed by the excitement in the room - all because of a jacket of his deceased wife. Why?
-the audience showed no remorse. -they could have cared less. -empathy had left the building.
Although he was only a widower for only a few "movie" months, he decided to attend this very public, high-profile event. It was his choice. For a minute I had thought, if that were me, would I have sat there and allowed the auction to continue for the sake of charitable giving? Honestly, I don't know. But what I do know is that this season captivated my attention ever since the unforeseen death of Deacon's wife. It made me want to watch more.
Thinking back, it reminded me of a similar real-life situation I had. Eight weeks after my husband died, I too attended a semi-private, trendy event. I had to get out of the house; I took a chance. Once I arrived, (after getting acclimated to the program, selecting my food and beverages and eating like I hadn't eaten in days), I actually had great conversations with the attendees. Somewhere in the conversation, the death of my husband somehow became a topic. After my admittance of my widow status, they were empathetic and yet surprised that I was in attendance only after eight weeks. I surprised even myself but this was a test for me. I had to be happy if only for a moment. My joy was needed and by attending that event I had joy for the day. But it was the opposite for Deacon. The charity event's sole purpose was to auction off a precious and personal item from his wife's closet. It was too much for him to witness - empathy had left the building so he went with it.
In my situation, I didn't have anything that was being auctioned off at the event I attended. I wasn't a celebrity. He wasn't a celebrity. And I certainly didn't have anything of his that would garner such a high bid. I was just an attendee with a memory that was my uninvited plus-one. I was on the path of adjusting to the world without him in it. In Deacon's case, it appeared that his adjustment was just too much. He wasn't prepared. But are we ever?
Although Deacon wanted to help the charity by donating a cherished item, you could tell he was hesitant about giving away a physical piece of his other half. He had not yet adjusted to the possibility of something so tangible becoming yet another memory; he simply wasn't ready for worldly adjustment without his wife.
Is eight weeks enough time to grieve? Is eight months enough time to grieve? Who really knows how long a widower/widower needs before stepping out into a world of laughter, food, and fun - without our spouses. We can't set an alarm for grief, I know I can't.
Often times my grief alarm sounds off while I'm shopping at Belk when I happen to pass by the men's section (his favorite section) or maybe it just may go off while I'm making my way through the aisles at WalMart (we shopped there together). The ultimate reality is that our grief alarms can sound off at any moment and we shouldn't feel guilty for it.
My takeaway from this show: Don't ever allow yourself to be bullied out of grief - you're allowed to break.