Have you ever felt as if, since losing your partner or spouse to death, the outside world treats you like you are a child? Perhaps I am just extra sensitive lately, or maybe I am slightly resentful that I’m a 46 year old woman who had no choice but to move in with her parents after 5 years alone of struggling financially post-loss. Whatever the case may be, lately, I feel the need to stand on top of the nearest mountain and shout to the universe defiantly: “MY HUSBAND DIED! PLEASE STOP TREATING ME LIKE A CHILD!” I would do it, but that seems like a rather childish thing to do, which would probably not help much in making my point to the masses.
Why is it, that after the death of a spouse or partner, people want to collectively treat you as if you are not an adult who can make their own decisions, live their life, and generally function on the planet? Listen, I truly understand the need for our loved ones to coddle us or baby us some in the beginning months – when our entire world has been turned off its axis, and when we feel like we can’t possibly breathe or shower or do anything except sit in the fetal position until the end of time, and then a little bit longer.
But slowly, very slowly, we start to figure out our life again, and we begin to go to work, pay bills, take care of day to day issues, on and on and on. It is at this time, when our families and friends and people in our lives, often begin to have an opinion about every single aspect of what we are doing or not doing, from moment to moment. At the same time, the person we have lost to death, was our foundation, and really the only opinion we might want to hear – because, after all, they were our partner, and we shared everything together, including what may come next for us in our shared life path.
Why is it that, for widowed people, we are forced to hear the opinions about OUR LIVES, and how we should live them, from every person we have ever come in contact with since the beginning of time? If you decide to relocate, suddenly your neighbor that you barely know, or your second cousin twice removed who only talks to you on Facebook, thinks that you moving is the worst idea ever and how could you possibly want to do that? Never mind telling her about the PTSD and panic attacks you suffer daily, from driving by the hospital where you found out he was dead – or how you can’t go grocery shopping in your town anymore because if you see one more old couple that got decades of marriage together and gets to argue about which cereal to buy, you might throw up You can’t tell her about how you feel like you’re being suffocated by the walls in your apartment, or how you’re living a life that no longer exists. You can’t tell her any of that, because she would never understand. So why the hell does she feel like she gets an opinion on my next step?
But it’s not just the big things in life. It’s the little ways that everyone makes me feel like I’m some 10 year old kid who doesn’t know anything about the world around me, or who doesn’t know simple everyday things that are basic knowledge. Why does losing your husband to death somehow make you an idiot, in some people’s eyes? Sometimes I feel like the people in my life, have forgotten the kind of trauma and hell that I have been through. A man broke into my apartment and raped me and tried to kill me, in the middle of the night, while I slept. I was jarred awake by his disgusting body on top of me, and by him choking me. I had to fight for my life, and nobody heard me. 15 years later, the man I loved and thought would be my future until we were old together, left for work and never came home. I was jarred awake by the ringing phone that told me to get myself to the hospital, where I would find out he was absolutely fine one second, and then suddenly dead. I had to pick caskets and make decisions about cremations and organ donations and go into a tiny room and see him lying there, dead. I had to figure out a way to walk back into our apartment, with the knowledge that he would never walk through that door, ever again. I had to get myself through multiple health issues, trauma, anxiety, and over 3 years of grief counseling, so I could rebuild something that resembled a life.
And now you’re implying that I don’t know how a stove top burner works, or telling me not to bring up politics because basically my opinion is meaningless, or that I shouldn’t “interfere” when you’re cooking in the kitchen, or that I need a chaperone to show me how to take a train into Boston – when I lived in NYC for 26 years, and knew the trains and subways and everything else, just fine. These types of comments are not said by one person – its multiple people – and they often don’t mean anything by their words – but the implication seems to be that I’m somehow “less than” or not as valid anymore, because I’m no longer married. Who cares about my political opinion, or that I used to do a lot of cooking for my husband and for us in my other life so I’m no stranger to the kitchen? Who cares that I know how to take care of myself, and did so since I was 18 years old and left small town Mass for the big city? Sometimes I feel like nothing matters to people, except that after 6 years, I’m now “with” someone again. I’m in love again. I’m happy about this, of course, but why is this what makes everyone happy? I have done so many things since Don died. I have accomplished so much. But certain people out there haven’t had much interest in me, until I was again part of a couple. Like my very worth is somehow more valid or interesting now, because I’m with someone again. There are times when the things people say to me or how they treat me, makes me feel small or belittled. I don’t know how much of this has to do with being widowed, but I have spoken to other widowed friends who feel a lot of the same things from people in their life. So I know there is something to it. I don’t know what to do about it, or how to stop people from talking to me like I’m not in the room, or like my opinion means nothing , or like I don’t know what I’m talking about – all I know is that when it happens, it is a terrible feeling. I walk around with this heaviness for days, like my insides are made of led. People in my widowed community – do you know what I’m talking about, or have I finally lost my mind? Thanks for reading.