Saturday, June 16, 2012

Extremes - Are They Really Necessary?

I was reading a blog post today on a widower's blog, and the post was really frustrating. In a nutshell, the post was about how widows and widowers need to get over their loss, its not the worse thing that ever happened to anyone, get remarried, and live life. It seemed a little bit too extreme for me.

Then there is the opposite. Widow(er)s who wear their widow status like a badge, hoping everyone will feel sorry for them because they lost their spouse. Every time they screw up or make a mistake, they blame it on the fact that they lost their spouse, whether it was last month, last year or the last decade. They treat others poorly, and blame their grief.

Why does it have to be one way or the other? Why can't there be a middle ground?

Lets address these one by one.

Get over your loss. One thing I've learned from other widows (happy widows) is that you never get over the loss. I know I will never get over the loss of my husband, whether I am happy, sad, sick, healthy, poor, rich, employed, unemployed, fat, skinny, you get the picture. And why should I? I loved him, I still do, and I always will. This world lost a really good person with a big heart who helped people on an almost-daily basis. I lost someone who loved me more than anyone else in the world. Why do I need to get over him? I will always remember him, and feel sad that he is gone.

It's not the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. Really? OK...I will give you this...I know someone who lost a child. So I agree, losing my spouse is not the worst thing to happen, but it's a close second! I know I've said this before, but I've been through some really tough times in my life, (see third paragraph of "Kid Power") and none of those even came close to what I am dealing with.

Get remarried. Kick the deceased spouse to the metaphorical curb, and make sure you never mention them again lest you hurt this poor new spouse's feelings. (Widow(er)'s feelings no longer count here). This is the be-all end-all to make life complete. I am not saying that I will or will not get remarried, and I'm not for or against it, either. Each person has to make their own decision that is right for them. But to tell widow(er)s that they only way to have a full and happy life is to get remarried is ludicrous. There are plenty of people out there who are happily single, who have never been married at all!

Live life. Isn't that what I'm doing? I'm busier now than when Bobby was alive simply because of the fact I am now the only parent. I used to be cooking dinner while he drove the kids to activities. He cleaned the kitchen after dinner while I helped with homework. Now I'm driving the kids, cooking the dinner, cleaning the kitchen AND helping with homework. I literally fall into bed exhausted every night, and I'm asleep in five minutes. If that isn't living life, what is? I'm raising two boys, and damn, it's hard! Rewarding yes, but hard. I wouldn't trade those boys for anything in the world.

Now the opposite...

Widow status. I'm a widow. People know I'm a widow and frankly, I'm much more comfortable when new people I meet know I'm a widow. One reason is because I am uncomfortable when people assume I am divorced or a never-been-married single mom. But it's certainly not because I am looking for people to feel sorry for me or pity me. Another reason I want them to know because I've learned to be proud of my status.  I've been to hell and back and lived to tell about it.  Proud because "widow" means that I lived up to my vows. I loved and honored until death we did part. And whether you get married in a high holy religious ceremony, or by an Elvis look-a-like at the Chapel-O-Love in Vegas, the vows say, "until death do us part". So being a widow should not be a cry for pity, but status to be proud of, one that shows strength and resilience.

Blaming widow-hood. Yes, there are some things I can blame on being a widow, like feeling lonely at times, or being extra-tired from all the things I need to do (see paragraph "Live Life" above). But when I screw up at work, I can't blame that on being a widow. Any mistakes I've ever made at work since Bobby died are mistakes I probably would have made even if he was here. When I lecture the kids because I'm frustrated they aren't helping around the house or because they forgot their book in their locker, I can't blame that on being a widow. They never happily helped around the house before, and Lord knows my younger one leaves stuff in his locker all the time. So no, every time I mess something up, I cannot blame it on my widow-hood.

Treating others poorly. I'll admit...I went through an angry phase about Bobby's death about a year and a half ago. I was not angry at him, I was angry at the world. I was angry because the man who loved me so much was gone, and I was feeling very unloved. So I lashed out at a colleague. I was in the cafeteria with him and another woman, with whom I was talking to about my situation. This man was recently separated and getting a divorce, and knowing this I loudly said to my friend, "All the good men are married or dead." Then I turned to the man and said snarkily, "No offense." He said, "None taken. But just so you know, not all men are jerks." Ouch...he put me in my place. My friend looked at me as if to say, "What are you going to say to him?" and I turned in a huff and walked out of the cafeteria. This was so not me. I was wrong for doing it. Luckily, I've spoken to this man at work since then, and it all seems to be water under the bridge. I had no excuse for making that snide comment to him.

So there you go. My take on why widow(er)s do not need to go to either extreme while grieving. I've been lucky enough to meet several widows who walk the middle-of-the-road line...more about them coming soon in a future post.


  1. Thank you for this -- sometimes I feel like I've been on both extremes, and neither is right. Neither represents my heart, my experience, my life, and my late husband well. It is a balancing act, and I think people go to extremes as they try to find their way, as they find that balance.

    I wanted to comment especially on two things:

    1) I'm not sure that losing a child is worse than losing a husband. I had a relative who's lost two children send me a card and say she could relate, but that losing a spouse seemed unimaginably worse. I really don't know how you compare though. To me, losing a spouse is also the best friend, support system, and envisisioned future of your life. That being said, I think they would both be utterly crushing and devastating (I KNOW one is). I'm not sure they can be ranked, or that it matters.

    2) The paragraph about "widow status" stood out to me. I don't have kids, so that doesn't spur the conversation, but I still struggle sometimes with feeling like I mention my widowness too much to people I've just met. Your post re-affirms why I do this, and that it is okay. Not just okay, but actually something to be proud of. I always struggle because I don't want to make others uncomfortable or to seem like I'm looking for pity, but I do want to be honest about my past, and it seems to discount my husband's impact and his life if I don't tell people. (I don't go out of my way, but it will eventually come up in conversation, one way or another, where I either have to tell them, or find a creative way to answer a question without mentioning him, and my widow status.)

    Thank you for sharing -- good stuff.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. It is true tragedies cannot be ranked, but it still frustrates me when people say certain things that are just completely insulting, even when they don't mean to be.