Saturday, August 9, 2014

The green-eyed monster
On my good days, I can look at some of the qualities I’ve seen in myself since my husband died and feel proud of how I’ve handled this pain.  For example, I see a lot more strength and resilience in myself now.  I see a compassionate person, a sensitive person, and someone wiser who can focus on the bigger picture rather than get angry or stressed out over small matters.

However, on my bad days, I also see things in myself that I have to confess, I’m not proud of.   This is hard to admit but I thought I’d write about it today, because I'm guessing I might not be alone.

There has been a story circulating in the media this week about an elderly couple in California who had been married for more than 60 years and died four hours apart.  It is a beautiful story and they sound like a lovely family. I want to clarify up front – I don’t begrudge anyone a long and happy life, I’m sure if we had a choice, we would all chose to go this way. 

However as I read the various articles about how this couple were so in love, that their love was so strong and pure, they died together because they couldn’t bear to be apart, I felt some strange emotions.  The story claims that they were ‘supposed to be together’ and that the man loved his wife so much, that when she passed away, he left with her.  It was being hailed as 'the ultimate love story'. 

As a young widow who lost my husband after six weeks of marriage, this story just made me feel sad.  For a start, I'm jealous – I wish I’d had longer with Dan and that we’d gone together peacefully, at an old age, surrounded by our grand children. 

Secondly, I felt like by comparison, I should conclude from this story that that any couple that DOESN’T die together, just didn’t quite love each other as much.  Now, I know that is not what was intended.  I am aware that my feelings come from a place of hurt and I am over-sensitive to the situation.  I also know that the love I have for my husband was pure and strong and could not be questioned, compared or judged.  This negative view is not a great way to look at something that was meant to be a happy story.  But it is how I felt.

Which then lead me to question what is wrong with me!?  I am not an angry, bitter, person, I don’t want to resent the happiness of others.  What a terrible way to be.  Since Dan’s death I have tried very hard not to wallow too long in self-pity but instead, to focus on the blessings in my life that I can remain grateful for.  However, sometimes, now and then, I have a day where I can’t escape the thoughts of ‘this just isn’t fair!!’ and envy is an emotion that I have to work hard to keep in check. 

With so many of my friends sharing my early 30’s age bracket, it seems like there’s a new pregnancy or engagement announcement almost every week.  I love my friends and don’t expect them to put their lives on hold just because mine came to a grinding halt, but it’s also so hard to keep my sadness in check and be happy for them when I see them celebrating milestones that I am supposed to be sharing with Dan.  It really does hurt so much.  I remind myself that I can’t compare my situation to others’ and I will have a reason to smile again some day.  But it is a constant painful battle. While I'm using every ounce of energy to smile and be supportive in public - because that's what they deserve - in the privacy of my bedroom at night, sometimes I cry and wail and just feel so angry at the world and jealous of my friends.  

These are feeling I've heard my widow friends speak about too (cautiously, like they're waiting to be judged or condemned) so I know I'm not the first person to feel this way.  It's interesting how we feel such guilt at these emotions, rather than acknowledging the effort we are putting in to attend other people's weddings, baby showers and anniversary celebrations with a smile plastered on our faces.  I realised this week that we are walking an impossible road and sometimes I need to give myself a break rather than place the added burden of guilt on my shoulders for how I’m handling it.

I don’t like these feelings and I don’t like being the person who isn’t happy for others. However in my heart I know it’s not a major character flaw that I need to be concerned about.  I’m not a bad person.  I’m grieving – and that brings with it all kinds of emotions and feelings, mostly negative.  I realise it’s ‘natural’ for those of us who’ve had our future and our happiness ripped away to feel upset about it, so I try not to panic too much when the envy creeps in because I’m determined not to let it linger or make me bitter.

Luckily it doesn’t happen very often.  The majority of the time I can genuinely feel happy for the people around me who are making the most of their lives and celebrating the love that we all should get to experience.  I want to continue to focus on the positives where I can, but I need to be patient with myself on the days that it’s just too difficult.  


  1. THANK YOU for your honest description! My husband died 5 years ago and we were married 35 years and I feel the SAME way. In fact, the story you referenced about that couple hit me the same way! I struggle almost daily ( still) to beat down the demon of jealousy. It is a constant struggle to stay above those feelings of wishing I had what other couples have. So thank you for addressing it and writing so beautifully about it. Prayers coming your way for continued healing.

  2. Thank you for writing this. You aren't the only one that was offended/upset by some of the implied criticism of those who don't manage such a long marriage and the happiness of dying together. When we celebrated our 25th anniversary I honestly thought we would be able to enjoy another 25 or 30 years. Little did I know that I would only have three more years with my lovely wife.

  3. Great post Rebecca.
    I think all of us have these same feelings about being a widow or widower. You see everyone's lives going on as normal, but yours no longer is normal. I feel cheated too, my husband died in his 50's 2 years ago. Our friends talk about retirement and are happily planning that. It is hard to listen to some days!

  4. I'm in my 70's, and we were married almost 50 years, and I relate to everything you have written. For starters, I'm envious of those who actually made it to their 50th wedding anniversary. And on and on. No matter how short or how long your life together (married or otherwise committed), it just is a fact that we wanted more time, expected that there would be more time, and feel cheated that there wasn't more time. Thanks for expressing these feelings for us to ponder in the open, without the unnecessary guilt.
    Carol M.

  5. Hello, me tooooo.. Thought when we had our 30th anniversary party w all our old friends, new friends, all family both sides, thought we were on our way to the Golden 50 like my parents and many grandparents both sides...even when we were really young he would say to me grow old w me the best is yet to come.. I'd say where did u get that? He'd say don't remember borrowed it, he borrowed it for 34 yrs... Yesterday hard dy for me our engagement day....oh the memories .....

    1. This is a paraphrase of Robert Burns', Rabbi Ben Ezra. "Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be. The last for which the first was made.". Tom and I recited this just days before he became my guardian angel. Forever is elusive at best.

    2. Im self correcting my comment. Right quote, wrong author. It was Robert Browning. My appologies to two of my favorite poets. Please forgive widow brain. Much love to all.

  6. Great post. It does take a lot of emotional energy to try and hold ourselves together in public. Thanks for sharing that part as well.

  7. I so get this. Today would have been our 15th wedding anniversary. I just hope people who still have their beloved by their side appreciate what they have.

  8. dear Rebecca,

    thank you for writing about those feelings - I have them, too. I think sometimes it's easier to feel jealous and mad and cheated than to feel the constant, deep, unrelenting ache of longing for our Beloveds while we watch others live what we wanted so badly to have - a happy future with our Person.

    much love and gratitude,

    Karen xoxo

  9. This is exactly my feelings. Thanks for helping me feel "widow normal". After 30 months I still can't always feel happy for others' celebrations of anniversaries, family milestones or vacation pictures celebrating the good times. I feel robbed, angry, negative. At the same time I am grateful for the blessings I have, when there are so many others who are worse off, suffering. Death sucks. Grief sucks. It's a constant mental and physical battle to fight for the "new normal" when nothing is normal. Thank you so much for writing and sharing. You all help me feel sane.