Friday, June 3, 2011

guilt and acceptance

First posted 7 months post-widowhood on personal blog

I have worried since Jeff's death that he didn't know how much I loved him. The stupid things I did and the things I took for granted have weighed so heavily on my mind. I have felt terribly and guilty for the things that I complained about and the issues I thoughtwere important.
Since Jeff's death I have realized that these 'things' were nothing. Not important. Not worth the words or the breath I used to express them.
I have always known Jeff loved me. I have always felt his comforting presence and his teddy bear gentleness when it came to 'us'. I have never doubted that he loved me and I was his 'Snuggles'.
A friend recently expressed her worry that when she dies, it will be after she has lost her patience, yelled or been in a generally foul mood. She worried that this would be the last thing her kids or husband remembered about her. I assured her that it wouldn't. That they'd remember all of her and those times of stress and anger would be forgiven and almost forgotten.
I told her of the last few minutes I had with Jeff before he died. He had been an ASS. He had told the doctor that he thought I was hoping he was having a heart attack so I could 'be right'. I had replied, "No, Jeff. I am concerned about you. I am worried and I want to find out what is wrong."
Jeff didn't like going to doctors. He didn't like to admit that anything was wrong. He could be combative and angry trying to dissuade me from taking him to a doctor. Years ago, he once told me that he would leave me if I took him to the hospital again after he had passed out on the floor and was turning blue. It became the source of laughter just days later. But it didn't mean he didn't love me. It meant he didn't like going to the doctor. He didn't like being 'told what to do'. As simple as that.
Since telling my friend about these incidents, I have been thinking about it. I am realizing that even though I have had my complete 'ass' moments, Jeff most likely had the same feelings about me. That I am human. I obsess about ridiculousness much to my detriment just as he did. Even though he was angry with me for dragging him to the doctor, I was there. I was trying to save his life. I loved him enough to go up against his defiance and fury to find out what was wrong. Even after he used these angry words, I tried to save him. I would have no matter what he ever said, did or was. I knew he loved me. And I loved him. He died in my arms as I tried to save him. And, now, I am sure he knew I loved him. And it is a relief. I can let go of my guilt. I can realize I am human and like everyone else, I am imperfect. He loved me despite of it all. And I loved him despite any of his faults. And he knew.


  1. I'm quite sure many would feel the same about guilty moments, & would eventually come to the same conclusion: that those moments were part of life & in the incidence of death, barely rate a mention. The only occasion where they would be an ongoing issue, I feel, is in a relationship dominated by violence by either partner. [Sincerely hope this latter comment does not distress anyone reading here. If so,may I recommend counselling?].

    So pleased that you have reconciled these feelings to a point where you realise your humanness did not detract from your love for him & vice versa.

    Your openness is refreshing.

  2. Wow Jackie - this post really hit home. I worry about whether my husband knew how much I loved him and feel guilty about the wasted time we had fighting over trivial things. I feel guilty about all of that. My husband was an insulin dependent diabetic and on several occassons I had to call the paramedics because of low blood sugar. He was never happy with me when I called them. The night he fell silently to a deadly stroke I can't believe I almost hesitated to call for help because I thought he would not be happy with me. I do wish I could have just 5 more minutes to tell him all the things I regret. But I know he loves me and I love him.

    Thank you!

  3. THANK YOU for this post and especially for this blog. I just found it via twitter and greatly look forward to reading it each day, particularly interested in the posts from men. My wife died while we were vacationing in St John last December and I think I'm doing OK most days but there are those days that simply kick me in the ass. I'm hopeful this blog will help me get through those difficult days. Thank you again. Tom S. Illinois

  4. Regret is a most painful place and surely if we have lived and loved fully we will always have some regrets. Like your post Jackie, my regrets were seeing small symptoms of my husbands brain tumour and trying to convince him that I had legitimate concerns. But a little more frequent napping, a slight hearing loss, increasing moodiness I put down to stress and to age. We had started a new business and retired from an incredibly big one to retire part time. He was busy, he was tired. My regret always comes at night as I weigh the "what if" scenarios. Despite being told by more than one doctor. It would not have made a difference because of the location and size of his tumour. Still it persists.
    Early in my husbands diagnosis, after reading of the things - terrible emotional things that can occur with a brain tumour he said to me "no matter what happens, don't ever doubt you have and will always be the love of my life". I needed those words in the last months. As the tumour took over.
    Now I know - he loved me even more than I could comprehend at the time and I him.
    We are all human. If we loved, we did all we knew how to do at the time and I believe that.
    We can never know what we don't know.
    Only experience can give us that understanding.
    If my husband were here and I could start all over again - knowing what I know. I would have never had one argument with him over our 36 year marriage. But - I didn't know we didn't have until our old age. But once I found out he had a terminal cancer. I made a promise and I kept it and I loved him a thousand fold before he died.
    In caring for those we love, sometimes they won't understand our motives, our concerns. But - I remind myself. I remind all of us to let go of the regret and remember the love.

  5. To Tom from Illinois.

    Come back here. To this blog.
    I can tell you - it saved my life.
    I almost didn't make it this winter, it was too painful. It was a very dark time. When it was at its worst, I came here.
    To the place where others understood. Where someone knew what it felt like to not want to carry on.
    The widows voice community has offered such wisdom and support and hope. That I can say now 7 months from my spouses death. I am doing better than I was. I still have dark days and hard nights but when I do - I know I am not alone. I come here and read the stories and hear the way others have coped and I know I can carry on.
    I hope you do return.

  6. This brought back so many memories. My husband hated hospitals,, having been in one for 2 months in 1979 when he was shot as a policeman. I did not realize this fear.. He was good about going for yearly physicals, except for atrial fibrillation which was brought under control he was fine. He was tired for several months and complained about that...I thought it was just old age... I mean, what can something like being tired mean...How BAD can it....well, trust me, it can be bad. As it turns out, even tho he had a cardiologist, his heart was worse than he thought, so oxygen didn't get to liver and kidneys and he had stage 3-4 liver failure..he was liver transplant here...he would not have withstood the surgery anyway so they could not fix bad heart was just a house of cards. About 6 months before he died we knew there was something really wrong...I went to the doctor with him and yes, a few times I lost my temper...He was in the hospital for 3 weeks 2 months before he died....he used to call me his angel. We never thought he would die from this...even though he was carrying about 40 lbs of water doctor ever told us how bad it was. If they knew. I am grateful we didn't know he was dying...I only had one day to live with that. We told each other all day we loved each other...he told me a few things I needed to know...and so many other things I wish we had talked about....if I had known, I would never have complained about having to live in a hotel room in Tucson for 2 weeks...never complained about endless doctor appts...never have complained about him needing to do more walking...God, to have it all back. But we did the best we could with the knowledge we had. That's how I look at it. I am sure he knows that now.....

  7. oh wow this has helped me beyond words x

  8. In regard to the blog and all of the posts, I have done alot of research on grief (as many of you probably have) and there is a name for this.."grief guilt." I suffered from it also. No matter how hard you tried, how far you stretched, even if you have absolutely NOTHING to feel guilty about, apparently you will suffer from it for awhile. Add in the fact that the people suffering had their own free will and refused to seek medical care, you were both terrified and panicked, and kept soldiering on, well, you get what I mean. Of course they knew how much we loved them, and they loved us. I suppose alot of it is in the disbelief that they are gone, that we should have been able to save them (in our minds), and no human being can withstand very much of that level of stress and fear. Again, I suffered from it too, for several months, and I still get flashbacks. And I did alot, for a long time. It would be such a gift to each other, ourselves and our departed loved ones to set ourselves free of this constant guilt. It took me a long time and alot of pain, but I was finally able to admit that we each have our own destiny laid out before us, and there are some things we can't escape from. So let's all give one another that gift right now, of letting go of the "grief guilt." I set mine free right now to all of you, please return it to me. God Bless.

  9. I wish I had been as strong as you Jackie. When my husand became angry and ordered me to leave the hospital, I left... I was worried if he was angry it would make him worse. I have regretted to this day, my actions, I should of stayed with him, so many times on the drive back home, I wanted to turn bak, but I didn't, I drove home, and only returned to the hospital several hours later when I was sent for, I arrived half an hour before he died, that was all the time we had, if I had not been such a wimp and gone home, I could of been with him all afternoon.... in all my life I have never been so stupid.

  10. To anon above who regrets not staying: From my perspective, you showed a great deal of respect for him and his wishes. That takes courage. Please don't regret it. Sometimes when a person is in pain or uncomfortable or they just want rest they want and need to be alone. Most people would have done just what you did, and it was the right thing to do. You gave him respect and dignity as a human being, even though he was sick and vulnerable. That is not only OK, it was the right thing to do, and I'm sure he appreciated it. It was your gift to him. Blessings to you.

  11. I too left the hospital when my husband got mad and went to sit in the waiting room. This was his sixth time or more in the hospital with Appendix cancer. I did return to his room only to see the doctor. I have no regrets. He was mad at the world because of his illness. But I had the courage to tell him that no matter what he was going through he also shouldn't disrespect me. I was trying to save his life. After this incident he respected and appreciated me more and understood were I was coming from.

  12. I am sitting here reading everyone's post with tears streaming down my eyes. I too am suffering from the guilt feeling, although I had never felt guilty until my husband passed away 6 months ago from terminal cancer. Reading all of these comments is greatly helping me realize that guilt is going to happen to almost everyone that has lost a spouse. Thanks to all of you with your encouraging comments about letting grief go. I am really going to try to get my mind off of it. It set in about a month ago and I know deep in my heart that my husband loved me and I loved him to no end. It was a beautiful love, so I need to pray that this guilt will pass.

  13. I nursed my Husband for 7 years and I know I did a good job but the last two years he came to expect too much from me, I had always been able to make him comfortable but the cancer was winning and he wouldn't accept that the fight was over, he thought I'd had enough of caring for him, he didn't sleep, walked round the room day and night begging me to help him. the week before he died I completely lost it, I screamed and cried, told him he was being unfair and said I wished I was dead because I couldn't cope anymore, the next day he let the Doctor send in the Hospice team. My Husband passed away peacefully at home with me at his side but although I was with him 24/7 and told him how much I loved him I can't forgive myself for shouting at him when he must have been so very scared.