I have always taken great umbrage at anyone criticizing, questioning or opining on how the widowed handle their grief and their highly individual and intensely personal healing journeys. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of it going on. Worse yet, it is causing amazing people who are going through one of the worst experiences that they will ever know to actually question their feelings, their Healing Journeys, their judgment, their hearts -- and themselves.
For example, a widow in New York shares the following**:
"I need to know if I'm a bad person if I don't go to the cemetery all the time. My mother in-law is constantly asking if I have been to the cemetery. I don't think of [my husband] being there. I want to think of him out hunting in the woods or fishing on the bank, not in the ground. [My mother-in-law] makes me feel like I don't care. Am I bad to feel this way? She and I are not grieving the same way and maybe I'm not doing it right."
Is she "bad"? Is she not "doing it right"? She has already lost her husband and now she is being made to think of herself as "bad" and that somehow there is a "right" or "wrong" way to grieve.
We next hear from a widow in Wisconsin:
"My mother-in-law is giving me grief. I had taken my husband off of life support, which was the hardest thing for me to do. I had to listen to the doctors give no hope and bad news every time a test result came in. My mind was constantly on what was best for my husband. Now [my mother-in-law] is bringing things up about the choices I made and that doctors are not truthful and that I just let [the doctors] murder my husband. Now I have had our third baby and she is just about three months old. I have a six year old and a three year old and I am trying to hold it together".
Let's assess... our widowed friend has a brand new baby, two other little ones, has just lost her husband and is being made to feel like she allowed the "murder" of her husband because she had to be an advocate and make a medical choice on her husband's behalf.
Thankfully, many widowed quickly jumped in to offer support and words of wisdom in response to these quandaries. We first hear from a widow in New Hampshire, who wrote:
"I can relate where in-laws are questioning medical decisions. I went through the same thing and began to wonder if another hospital or doctor would have changed the outcome. My in-laws took the medical records and sent them to an attorney to see if there was any malpractice which was not evident. They still hate the hospital and the doctors. The events surrounding his passing will forever remain a mystery to me; however, I cannot continue to question myself."
Another widow in Virginia wrote:
"I decided months ago to 'run away' during the week of the [anniversary of my husband's] death. A few family members made unkind comments about my being on vacation on the day of his [anniversary]. You know what? They can think what they want. It is about us and not them. Each of us processes grief differently and I have chosen to go away and sit on a beach. There will be no unhappy reminders of 'us' and that is how I want it."
And from a widow in New Jersey:
"I have learned that the only way to grieve is to do it in your own way and in your own time. [My husband's] father is grieving so I will let him bury [his] ashes in a cemetery with his mother but I will never go to the cemetery. We honor our loved ones' memories in different ways and only we know what is best for us."
What is the worst part in all of this? There are literally millions more stories just like this; stories of people who have lost their spouses and on top of the loss, on top of the grief and on top of the pain...they are being told things such as (and these are direct quotes):
"You're not grieving right".
"You killed him".
"I'm ashamed you were married to her"
"Why are you so upset? It's not like you were married or anything".
...and these are just a very few examples.
To anyone who has experienced anything remotely similar to what our widowed friends have shared, I have just one word for every single one of you:
Remember the wise words that have come directly from the widowed community itself:
"I cannot continue to question myself".
"They can think what they want. It is about us and not them".
"We honor our loved ones' memories in different ways and only we know what is best for us."
Never again should you question your right to grieve, mourn and recover in the ways that you see fit; nor should you allow anyone else to question you. You are done with judgments cast upon you by people who have no right to judge. You are done questioning your decisions, your judgment and your feelings. You are done with the "coulda, shoulda, woulda" portion of the program that has become your New Normal.
Always remember that when it comes to grief and loss recovery and the path that you choose to forge on your Healing Journey...there is no "right". There is no "wrong" ***. There is only:
...and whatever you decide is right for you - is right.
**With very special thanks to all of the widowed who so courageously shared their stories and observations
***Coping with grief in a destructive manner (defined as anything that is or could potentially be detrimental to your health and / or detrimental to your emotional or financial well-being) is never acceptable. If you are finding it difficult to deal with loss or grief or if you are coping in a destructive or potentially destructive manner, please IMMEDIATELY seek the help of your doctor, cleric and / or mental health professional
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." is the winner of the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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