Sunday, March 17, 2013

Addiction or Grief

A friend posted this on Facebook.

Warning. This is a rant and a poor me post.

This week has been full of downs.

Most of my downs this week are from feeling unsupported in my grief.

I think everyone in my life is either getting over my husband’s death, or sick of hearing about it. I’m not sure which.

And everyone is going through it at the same time. Besides me.

I've heard “It’s been 3 years already, when are you going to get over this?” I've heard “Forget the anniversary, it’s just a date, and eventually you will forget anyway.” Eventually I will forget the day my husband died? Seriously? 

A friend gave me a not so friendly lecture this week.

It started with sharing my excitement of going to camp widow. I was blabbing on and on about what I want to do while there.

My friend says “Why are you going to camp widow?”
Me: “Err.. because I’m a widow? And camp widow has amazing support that I really need.”
Friend:  “When are you going to give this up?”
Me: “Give what up?”
Friend: “Being a widow.”
Me: “Ahh.. give up being a widow? My husband died. How do I give up being a widow?”
Friend: “It’s like a drug addict or alcoholic. At some point they have to decide they don’t want to live that lifestyle anymore, give it up and move on. Same with you. You need to give up on this life style or you will never move on.”

I was so shocked that I just sat there. And honestly, I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself.

How dare I let being widowed turn me into a widow. How dare I let that fact that my life is shattered effect me.

Now, I remind myself, that the people that always have their 2 cents to put into my grief, have no god damn clue what it’s actually like to live with it.

In the last couple of weeks, it seems like its one person after another, not being supportive.

I try to remind myself that these people care, and want to see me better.

What they don’t realize is I will never be the same person again. Never. I am forever changed from this.

It makes me feel so alone, I can hardly stand it. I feel like I can’t talk about my husband, cause god forbid, someone has their own opinion about my life, my grief, the amount of time it's been since he died, blah, blah.

I've thought a lot about what my friend said. Basically referring to my grief as an addiction.

I think there is maybe some truth in that. Maybe I have gotten so used to be widowed and dealing with my grief, that it has become a habit. A habit that is impossible to break.

What if it was an addiction, and a support group or medication was the cure; could I give up my addiction?

After fumbling for words, I finally told my friend “Well, I guess I’m not ready to give up being a widow.”

Maybe it’s a decision, that one day I will wake up and say “Ok, I give up on being a widow. I give up on my love for my husband. I’m moving on.”

Honestly, I hope it’s that easy. But I know it’s not.

My support system is shrinking daily, and I don’t even know how to give up being a widow.

I can’t wait to get to camp widow, so I can be surrounded by people that get what I am going through.


  1. Grief is not an addiction! I have always thought of my widow experience as similiar to post dramtic stress syndrome. You never get over it,just learn to live with it! It hits you at unexpected times and it isn't always something you can control. I wish I could go to camp widow! It sounds amazing to be in a place where everyone gets you! I wish this happened closer to New England! I would be there in a heart beat! You will always be a widow. You do not change it, by not adknowledging it- we make it worse, because your feeling will be burried, but come out in a different way.

  2. I wish I was GOING to Camp Widow. I was married for 30 years. My husband died 33 months ago, and none of my friends truly understand what I am going through. Everyone thinks I am doing so well. I smile all the time, I seem so well adjusted. But when I am home, alone, I am in agony. My friends are tired of hearing me talk of my husband and how much I miss him. They too think that it is time to move on. My answer to them is that I may never be ready to move on, but I can move forward.

  3. Melinda, this truly breaks my heart for so many reasons. It breaks my heart that you have to feel so alone, and that we ALL have to feel so alone. It breaks my heart that people who are NOT going through this, are so quick to judge us and TELL US how we should feel, or that its "time to move on", or that being widowed is like an addiction. Its not like an addiction, and you DONT EVER MOVE ON. You move forward - you live your life - and you carry him with you in your new life - but even if you remarried one day or whatever, you will always be a widow. Its just part of who you are. I think if you were sitting in a corner 3 years after his death and not doing a thing with your life, THAT would be worrisome ,but youre not doing that. This "friend" really has no right to say what she did, because she has no clue at all what this is like. Im coming up on the 2 year mark this July, and I already feel like so many people in my life have forgotten, or are tired of hearing about it, and they are "over it." Well guess what? They get to go back to their fmailies and their spouses and their lives, after they are finished lecturing you and me. THEY WILL NEVER GET IT , until, of course, it happens to them. I will be presenting at Camp Widow this year - please come up and say hi and introduce yourself so I can give you a hug on behalf of all of us who get it and who will always move forward, but never move ON.

  4. I think your friend was heartless in that discussion. Asking a person to stop being a widow is like asking a person to stop being funny or compassionate. It is who we are. And we didn't become one by our choice. I chose to become a wife, a mother etc...But not a widow. I don't know if that makes any difference, but for me it makes it harder to accept. I feel like whining, "I don't want to be a widow." My husband died 17 months ago. That isolation you described is so accurate. We don't have anyone to stand by our side and be our "person" first and foremost. I don't think grief is an addiction. I think there is a risk of hiding behind it like someone does humor. I can hide behind grief because it feels better than the thought of moving on and moving farther away from the time my husband was alive. Your friend was off base. Healing takes a long time, and those types of words just rips the scab right off. I can see myself in the future only sharing my grief with others that have experienced a great loss. Those that haven't lost a loved one will be unintentionally callous.
    I'm glad you are going to Camp Widow.

    1. I truly can relate to the comment that people can rip the scab right off the wound. My husband died 4 years ago in an accident helping his brother cut down a tree for firewood for the winter. He died in October and two months later just before Christmas my brother-in-law came to see me. He asked me how I was doing and when I said I cry everyday his comment was that he thought I would be over it by now, and I made him feel uncomfortable. We had been married for 30 years. What a stupid and callous comment! I also then thought my husband died for nothing helping such a selfish person. That cruel and stupid comment has made my grief so much worse and added layers of complications from his death to my grieving process.

  5. Melinda, I am so sorry you are losing your support system, I hope you know we are all here for you.

    When I talk about my husband, after 3+ years of widowhood, people look at me funny, like why on earth would I still be thinking about him? Why on earth would I NOT ?? I can't close the door on all those years we had together, they are, and he will, always be a part of me. This person has impacted your life, and I think it only normal that he is still impacting it years later. Our friends have a lot to learn, and I am trying to educate those around me. Some days they understand, other days not. Some are still with me, many are not. Their loss, not mine.

  6. Hang in there Melinda! Go to Camp Widow and surround yourself with others who understand. Three years is NOT uncommon and as far as I know, grief is not an addiction. Be proud of steps you've taken to push through the grief. My husband's sudden death in 2000 devastated me. I never thought I'd get through the loss. I'm alive and well today.

    Support from others and taking small steps forward every day helps. In spite of set backs, those small steps will turn into bigger strides and eventually into leaps. Your life is forever changed, yet you can find meaning in it again. It took me several years to process the grief. People did get tired of my story, but finding support in places like Camp Widow helps. You're stronger than you realize. Keep going! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Author Twenty-Eight Snow Angels A Widow's Story

  7. Grief is not an addiction. Telling you to get over it is like telling someone who lost a leg to get over it and grow a new one. The loss is always there.

    I lost my Charlie in April of 2012. I am in the midst of reliving that last terrible and torturous month of our lives together. I'm not doing it because I want to. I'm doing it because I HAVE TO and NEED TO.

    I'm glad you are going to Camp Widow. Sometimes, I seriously think all of us widows and widowers should just form our own colony. The experience of being in a roomful of people who "get it" is overwhelming.

    Thank you for all you do here. I wish you peace. Julie

  8. Tell your friend that you don't move on from losing a's more like a "moving through". It's been 6 years for me and I still have moments where I lose it. Nobody can tell you when YOUR grieving process is over. Love does not die even though your spouse did. And as far as comparing this process to an addition, dear God in heaven, your friend does not have a clue. She hasn't experienced it because if she had, she would not have said those things to you. You were certainly gracious though. I think I wouldn't have been. I am sure you will find some new friends that are more relational at Camp Widow. I've never been but Michele's Soaring Spirits Foundation has helped me in my time of sorrow. I'm excited for you; enjoy your time at camp. (Donna)

  9. I know it hurts when friends are not supportive. My "in real life" support system disappeared very quickly, but I found the online support through Widowed Village was just what I needed to work through my grief. I can be honest there (at least as honest as I allow myself to be publicly). I am surrounded by people who "get it", who are feeling the same things I feel. Now, at almost 2.5 years, I still find it very comforting to share there.

    Perhaps I do live two separate lives ... the online Dianne who connects to the widowed community and the Dianne at work who others see as "so strong" because I don't talk about my widowhood there. But it's working for me. I no longer resent the fact that those I interact with in person rarely ask how I'm doing. They assume that because I'm actively living my life that I'm "all better". It took some time for me to get there, but that's ok with me now. Those that do really care, can read my blog and see how I'm doing. The others? One day they will understand and I will offer to be there to help them find their way.

    I can't wait for you to get to Camp Widow next month, Melinda. Being surrounded by all of those lovely people who are struggling with the same things you are is so very powerful ... and healing. I'll be looking for you.

  10. Melinda,
    I really get what you are saying.I only have a couple of people I talk to about my husband because one herself is a widow and the other is just a good friend. I don't talk to a lot of people for my own reasons...I feel like they don't want to be "brought down" by my children need to see a mother who is able to cope. I will be a Camp Widow and I look forward to talking to you as it has been 3 years for me as well and I have not moved forward. I look forward to being with people who are like me.

  11. Melinda,
    Thank you for posting this "rant". I've had a really down weekend. My birthday was Friday, yesterday was Opening Day at the course - my husband was an avid golfer, today is St. Patrick's Day - and my husband was the Fighting Irishman! I've cried more these past three days than the past 3 weeks. It's been 22 months and I get a very uncomfortable feeling around most everyone. I've almost always cried alone - in my house - or in my car, Because the first several months I was in the fog and then I think people's expectations were higher. They probably assumed that except for special days like Christmas and birthdays, I was "moving on". I'm so sick of pretending and it's exhausting to keep all this to myself - except with my therapist or other widows. Thank God for this website. Wish I could be with all the folks at Camp Widow. Have a wonderful, loving experience there!

  12. I no longer have anyone to speak to about it. After 8 months, one sister and 3 so called friends who had the nerve to say I was stuck in my grief process. . . of course neither of them have ever lost anyone. Gradually I stopped talking about it and my feelings because I honestly don't want to hear someone's 2 cents.

  13. I'm new to the widow board and blogs, but not to widowhood. Tomorrow will be 5 years out for me. It should have been today but there was no way I was going to let my Irish-Catholic husband die on St. Patrick's Day. (He was nearly full Irish on both sides of his family.) I feel so bad that your friend said such horrible things to you. I have never really had anyone say such terrible, thoughtless things to me about my new life. But, most of my friends were very close to DH as well. I can see in their eyes that it still hurts them if I talk about him. Several tear up whenever they hear his name. I guess since they're still grieving his loss they are respectful of my feelings.

    However, my friends don't truly understand what it's like to lose a spouse. I've had two work colleagues lose spouses in the last two years; both were under 45 yrs old. One friend said "well, when XXXX gets back to being herself again since losing xxxx, she'll be fast-tracked through the next levels of her position at work". I was stunned by the comment, since it had been only about 6 months since our colleague's husband had died very unexpectedly. I remember just looking at her like she was crazy and said "you realize, she'll never be the same again. Her husband died, her college sweetheart, the father of her two children. Even if she remarries, she will be permanently changed by her experience." All of my friends seemed so surprised by that, but they didn't say a word. That's why groups for widows are so important. No one else can truly understand the pain you're feeling.

    My DH and I were both only 36 when he died. About 6 months after he died, my 97 year old great-grandma died, and I went out of state to go to the funeral. One night during dinner with some of my family, one of them mentioned how sorry she was about DH dying and how she wished she could have met him. My grandma jumped in and said, "well, you know I'm a widow too", like she wasn't getting the attention she deserved, like her experience obviously was worse than mine. She's just like that, though, but I can say that's the only time someone really p*ssed me off about DH's death. I don't have others to talk to either, but at least I don't have to deal with insensitive jerks. So sorry you do. ((hugs))

  14. I am 4 1/2 yrs out from my husband of 40 yrs death. I'm finally ready to say that I need to let go of him in order to move on. I don't want to move on, because I love him so much. But I know that it is the right time for me because the message came to me so strongly. I had to admit that my late husband was now a bag of bones in the ground and my time as his wife was over forever. Doing this was very healing for me. I know that John is now in a level of joy that could never be experienced here on earth. He is more than fine. And I need to move on to my new life without him as I continue to treasure our memories together. I realized that he wants me to move on and that I need to. You will know when it is your time to move on.

  15. Has anyone defined what they mean by "addiction"?

    One that framework is established, can that person identify the behaviors they see as consistent with that definition?

    I think some grieving people get into comforting habits of behavior, but that's entirely different than the grief itself.

  16. I'm so touched by the level of support here, the good hearts and the shared experiences.

    I don't think it is true, that only widows can understand and support widows. But for most people, a widow's grief, this journey over years, represents everything that they fear the most. Death, pain, helplessness, an emotional intensity and complexity beyond anything they can imagine or embrace, a life falling apart and never becoming the same again.

    Who wouldn't want to run away? And if you can't run away the next best thing you can do is tell the widow to "move on". Until life teaches us one of its toughest lessons, this is how most of us react. It is human.

    Perhaps you can forgive them, bear with them. And if you can't now, that's OK too. You have more than enough on your shoulders.

    My warmest greetings and best wishes


  17. I am sad to hear this. I am not that far out so not sure how it will be for me. But I have to say...this is her stuff that she is going through and has nothing to do with you. Probably that she wants to get over it and can't if you aren't. Hoping you find someone that is more understanding and hope to meet you at Camp Widow!

  18. No one can understand what widows go through until they go through it themselves. There is no "getting over it", there is just going on with your life.

  19. My mind keeps coming back to the fact that people who are alcoholics or addicts are ALWAYS alcoholics or addicts, even if they are in recovery for many years (at least according to the 12-step groups.) So, in that way, once an addict always an addict, and once a widow, always a widow.

  20. The addiction is love not grief. Much like the need for water and food,love is not an extra. Marriage when good is the best monopoly. Owning dibs on the love of your life,best friend and confidant is huge. The loss is epic.hence the grief. Don't be too hard on those who can't understand. I've been loved from the roots of my hair to the tips of my toes. Thank you Tom,Happy Anniversary, Miss You

  21. I can relate to having just about no one to talk to. The only support I have with my grief, is my mother in law. I lost my husband may of 2013.... and I'm having a very difficult time with this! My whole life has been flipped upside down. We have 2 young daughters together, ages 2 year old and 15 months old. The pain is unbearable.. my own mother, and her parents, don't ever check on me, never see how I'm doing... it hurts, but is also reality. So now I'm moving my daughters and I to another state, where my mother in law is. Her and I are close, and we are each other's support.

  22. Same thing happens with me my relatives n frnds wants me to be that which I were before my husband died but its not possible I want b able to like dat my life is totally changed, my husband commited sucide when I was at my mothers home n I dont even know the reson I feel so shattered y he did so? He loves me so much then how can he leave me like this, I feel so alone n its a weiered feeling, how bad is my condition that I dont even know the reason , I feel guilt of myself dat my love dont share his major problem with me n leave me alone..its really very tough to live a life like this,..