Friday, June 25, 2010

apples and oranges

Although apples and oranges are both fruit, they taste, smell and feel different. They are both round. They are both sweet. But one is crispy and succulent and the other is juicy and zesty. Some similarities but you would never mistake one for the other.
When attempting to understand another person's circumstance we often seek out seemingly similar situations that have occurred in our lives or the lives of those close to us in an effort to empathise and comprehend the feelings of others. These attempts are most often an effort to offer solace and comraderie to the speaker of said issues.
As with most people, I have had this occur so very many times....and these kindly meant comparisons have increased in abundance exponentially since Jeff died.
I have had people liken the loss of my husband to the loss of their cat, the death of their grandfather when they were three and most often, a divorce in their family.
As a child of divorce and as a generally empathetic person, I can certainly see some very pronounced similarities. But I would never go so far as to say that I fully understand how a divorced person feels.....or that someone who has experienced the break-up of a family from divorce completely 'gets' the loss of a spouse to death.
I have to admit that at times, this comparison gets my hackles up. I feel angered at the thought that my loss is at all.....chosen.
I realize that often people do not want to get divorced. I can see that no one sets out when getting married with the idea that they will also get divorced....and that in someways, we should be more prepared for the death of our other half (because death always does eventually happen) than the separation of spouses.
But in Jeff and my situation -death, no one CHOSE to leave the other. It was, essentially out of our hands.
There was no lead up. No warning. Yes, Jeff wasn't feeling well for a couple of weeks before his death. But neither of us suspected that his lack of zest would result in the loss of his life.
Yes, like a divorced single parent, I do my parenting alone. But I do it alone everyday. There is no one else to consult (which at times I am sure is a real blessing) and no one else to send the kids to on a regular basis...or even an irregular basis. The kids have me to watch their extracurricular activities. Just me. There is no one else to cheer them on (or to glare at me from across the field). There is no one else who loves them as much as only a parent can (although I am aware that in some unfortunate situations, even an alive parent does not provide this unconditional love for the little ones either).
Fortunately, I never have to see the love of my life with some other woman's hand in his. I know he died loving me. I do think that having someone I love tell me that they no longer cared for me would tear my heart into tiny smithereens. When I see Jeff's expressions staring back at me from my little one's faces, it is a joyous moment - he still exists in them....and I am sure that at times this must be a difficult experience when you dislike or have been hurt by the other parent of your child intensely.
Although in divorce, you watch your marriage 'die', you do not watch as someone you love dies. Yes, metaphorically it is very similar. In 'real life', it is grossly different. Different pain, different sadnesses....different phobias.
As with many divorcees, I am lonely often. Bone-achingly lonely. I still wish that our lives had turned out differently. I worry for my children and wonder how this loss will affect their lives in the coming years.
But I have the luxury of loving my dead husband. And you have the luxury of hating your live one.

**I do so hope that this entry does not offend anyone or their feelings regarding death and divorce. I have been musing over it for quite sometime and just felt it pour out....**


  1. That is my least favorite "comparison." And those who insist they know exactly how you feel because their husband left them for someone else, it was a total surprise, "at least yours loved you," all that - they seem to be the ones who are the most insistent that they are Just Like You. Complete with all of the suggestions of what to do to solve it, get over it - and no amount of saying "no thank you, I don't need to go out dancing to make this better and find someone new" makes them shush. Only walking away seems to do that.

  2. The widowed vs divorced issue. While it's understandable that comparisons are made, in my opinion, it's rather pointless to try and debate whose life was more shattered.

    And really, does it matter?

  3. Several of my friends are divorced - one bitterly so. One divorced acquaintance said, soon after my husband died, that "divorce, after all, is a 'death' of sorts."
    My children, although grown, now have no father to spend time with, to get advice from, to receive his love and support. My grandson now has no fishing buddy. My daughter, devastated by her father's unexpected death, has slid back into her world of depression and drink.
    Who can say which is worse - it's only different.

  4. It matters to me. Someone comparing their divorce to my husband's death makes me feel like they are trying to trivialize the enormity of our loss. It feels the same as someone saying, "Get over it."

    For all the reasons that are mentioned above, please do not compare your divorce to my husband's death. It matters!

  5. I agree it does matter. It implies a choice by someone. And my husband would not have chosen to leave me. He did not chose to have an affair, to fall out of love with me, or to just "grow apart". We were madly in love. And with the death of him, I am also mourning the loss of all our hopes and dreams. Things we talked about mere hours before he died.

    The only other comparison that drives me battier, is the "my husband works all week, late into the night. I know what it's like." Grrr, really?!?!?!? Because Saturday night, I am still alone. And Sunday, and again Monday morning.

    I can appreciate that to each person, their "loss" is enormous. But, it seems to me that maybe people should learn how to filter their thoughts. To think about how what they say may effect those they are speaking to. I would never tell someone who is divorced I understand, not would I tell someone whose s.o. works late all week. It's not the same.

  6. No experience is the same. Even from person to person being divorced or widowed is a different experience.

    I think people who've experienced loss instinctively try to find common ground with others who've had losses even when the losses are really quite different at their core.

    An old friend is divorced. Her husband murdered their son in retaliation after she filed on him. I spent three years watching my husband die and if our losses were a contest - which I totally don't believe they are - she "wins" - no contest. Her loss, in my opinion, is worse than anything I went through.

    There are levels of tragedy/loss and they differ depending on the person. It's so individual that all I can do anymore is try to acknowledge each person's loss on the level of their emotional understanding of it. I try not impose my own. I've weathered - really - quite trivial things in my younger days that rocked me severely and my older, more seasoned self, has to shake her head at the young woman I was.

    How others see the world doesn't change anything in my own perspective of my self and my life. I know what I've been through, I know it's true impact. If someone else feels my experience was easier than something they went through - than they do. Eye of the beholder.

  7. I definately agree that it is wrong for people to relate the two situations. I think you have expressed what many of us feel, but do not say. Besides divorced people are quite common, but young widows and widows are not. We have to deal with how to start a new relationship with someone at some point and still be able to honor the memory of the love that came before them. I am still wondering how in the world will I do that without hurting the new love in my life?

  8. What I have discovered about dating, falling in love and remarrying is that it really has nothing to do with my late husband aside from the fact that he came first and I cut my relationship teeth on him, so to speak.

    My husband and I seldom talk about our late spouses. Their names come up here and there and the children will talk about them some, but really, this is our time. What I had with my first husband was good, but it's over, and I live in the now and focus on my new husband and the trajectory is a forward one.

    That said, I don't think my husband is hurt if my late husband's name comes up or if I decided I need to do something to commemorate him (I don't do anniversary stuff for the record - not something I grew up with and it feels forced to me). I am not a Barbie fresh out of the box. No one is. I think most people understand that their SO's have histories but as long as the primary focus is on the current relationship, I can't see how problems or hurts could happen all that often or easily.

  9. I try to smile and not let someone see how it bothers me when they compare MIke dying with their bitter divorce...hear "well, at least he loved you". Mike never cheated on me and told me every day how much he loved me. He was sick for 6 months, congestive heart failure, but we thought we were dealing with an illness, not death. Mike died April 30, 2009, and none of my friends and most of my family do not understand what I am going through. I though at a year, it would be a lot better, magically. Now, at 62 weeks it is still as hard as the one day I knew he was going to die. I feel like I will never be happy again, and what am I here for? How can I go on?

  10. @ susieg - You go on one minute at a time, putting one foot in front of the other each day purposefully. You intentionally make yourself remember to breath. You focus on today and try to do what is best for you today. You cry for your loss, but you live today for you. Find a support group, if for no other reason than to just sit and listen to other widows' feelings and realize that the displacement you feel is absolutely "normal". You cry some more and allow yourself to feel the pain. But you also look ahead. Your husband will always be a part of your life. But you are here and he would expect you to live your life again.

    It's been almost a year for me. I've had to search for the small moments of laughter and scraps of new friendships that are few and far between. But I didn't die and neither did you. So we have to take baby steps and learn to live again, differently, but again.

    It sounds like your husband loved you very much. His pain is over now. He wouldn't want you to continue to live in your pain. He wouldn't want his death to overshadow your life and he doesn't want to be your roadblock to happiness. Recognize the sorrow and feel it. But push through the pain to touch the goodness of every day that you are allowed. Actively look for the happiness in the small things. They will lead you to more and more down the road. It's a difficult journey. Hang in there!