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Short and Sweet Summary: Here are eight ways to check yourself and see if you’re a widow who’s making grief harder than necessary. It’s time to reevaluate what brings you joy and peace and serenity instead.
Grief is a cluster-fuck of whacked out emotions. Seriously, it’s a shit show. When your spouse dies and your world becomes a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces that will never, ever fit back together, it’s excruciatingly hard to accept your new normal.
Grief is hard work.
But sometimes widows fall into bad habits of making grief harder than necessary.
Say what? You’re suggesting that I’m making grief harder than it has to be? This is on me?
There, I said it.
If you are participating in the following useless activities you’re making grief harder than necessary. Here are 8 ways to check yourself and stop doing the things that don’t bring you any serenity whatsoever.
Ignoring Your Grief
Your grief is your grief.
Wallow in it.
Make friends with it.
Scream at it.
But for the sake of everything good and holy in this world…acknowledge it.
Grief doesn’t like to be ignored.
It’s not going anywhere and there is no fix for grief so you might as well stop trying to pretend it’s not there. You’ve suffered major trauma. Losing a spouse #1 on the Holmes and Rahe Life Stress Inventory scale.
But ignoring your grief only compounds it. It keeps coming back and usually with a vengeance. It’s important to remember that grief needs a place to go. Whether you decide to talk to a therapist, dance, meditate or write about it, please give your grief an outlet.
Getting Mad at All The Stupid People
No one can really understand what it’s like to lose a spouse until it happens to them. You don’t know what you don’t know. So, you’ll have to endure the pitiful platitudes and sorry-ass statements like, “everything happens for a reason” and get on with it.
If you get mad at all the stupid people and what the stupid people say or do, you’ll be mad for, like, ever.
I don’t think most people are inherently mean or thoughtless. Yes, those people do exist and even your immediate or extended support system might have one or two (or twelve) of those folks. But, mostly, people just don’t know what to say. Or do.
So, you can get mad because Aunt Becky didn’t acknowledge your anniversary date or your neighbor forgot that it was your dead husband’s birthday when she invited you over for Bunco. Because these dates are important to us. Not to anyone else. To criticize and punish people for not remembering important dates or forgetting death details makes grief harder because instead of playing a supporting role, grief gets top billing.
You’re making grief harder than necessary if grief constantly gets center stage.
You can remember all the important dates you want to. And reach out to your support circle in remembrance of those dates.
But stop expecting other people to remember, too.
As far as stupid people saying the wrong thing? This is a no-win situation. The only thing you can do is leave the stupid people alone. You can’t fix stupid.
Expecting to Know What to Do
I used to think I knew everything. Like I was the controller of the universe. After my husband died I was reminded pretty harshly that I don’t know shit. Just because I could easily figure something out pre-widowhood doesn’t mean that my post-widowhood brain can do things as well.
Doing everything on your own now means you have to figure everything out on your own. It’s overwhelming and scary. Once I started verbalizing that I don’t know what to do in many situations, people started stepping in to help more. Because people think you know what you’re doing unless you tell them that you don’t.
My friend Rebecca Cortez (Instagram: @rebeccacortez) summed it up pretty perfectly. We widows are now “don’t know” specialists!
You shouldn’t expect yourself to inherently know how to live like a widow when everything you’ve ever known has changed. EVERYTHING. So, give yourself a break. You’ll figure it out. It might take some time.
But throw the expectations out the window.
Lying to Yourself
When you sit at home by yourself at night thinking about your new normal and how this whole widowhood business is for the freaking birds, it’s very easy for little lies to creep into your thoughts.
You’re alone. No one is there to back you up anymore. And you’re convinced you’ll never recover.
“The worst lies are the ones you tell yourself.” – Anonymous
It’s easier to assume you’ll never recover than to contemplate how to move forward. So little lies like, I have no control over my life or I’m destined to be alone forever or I’m a terrible parent because I can’t keep my shit together start sabotaging your every waking moment.
These little lies serve as defense mechanisms to protect us from future loss. When you tell yourself that you don’t have control over your life, you’re not responsible for anything, right? If you’re destined to be alone, you can’t risk another broken heart. And, when you convince yourself you’re not strong enough to parent alone, you can label yourself a terrible parent.
But those are lies. Please stop lying to yourself. I know the defense mechanisms make sense to you, but they’re not serving you.
Grief is hard enough without additional negative self-talk from you to you. You’re a badass who got out of bed this morning. You are incredible because you are moving through an unfamiliar maze and you keep going.
Kudos, kiddo, for making it this far.
Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do (aka Trying to Please Everyone)
Here’s a newsflash for you: No is a complete sentence. You no longer have to do anything you don’t want to do. Play the widow card if you need to. Seriously.
If surviving a spouse’s death has taught me anything it’s that I don’t have extra energy to expend willy-nilly. My energy stores deplete pretty quickly these days, so I can’t afford to spend extra energy on things or people that don’t matter to me.
I have gotten SO good at saying no.
I don’t want to go to the Pampered Chef party. No, thank you, I’m unable to attend. I don’t want to meet for coffee with the ladies who don’t work and still have time to get manis and pedis and waste away the afternoon. Thanks for asking, but I’ve got a lot of work to do. Or, when I’m negotiating with the awful cable company, No, that offer is unacceptable.
It’s so liberating to say no.
I’m not nasty about it or mean or anything. I just don’t want to get stuck doing things that don’t bring me joy or get taken advantage of by manipulative or deceitful or BORING AS HELL people.
The next time you really feel like saying no, go on with your bad self and SAY NO!!!
Filling the Void With Material Things
Grief shopping. It’s a thing.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of widows buying everything from exotic vacations to hot tubs to new cars to try and fill the void of their dead person.
The thing about material things is they are just things. Nothing can replace the dead person. Nothing.
Shopping for shopping sake makes your grief harder than necessary because you’re trying to bypass the grieving process. See #1 above.
I’m all for self-care and making purchases to take the best possible care of you, but material things purchased under the guise of needing this thing right now only serve their purpose for a very limited time.
And if you’re spending more than you earn, grief gets compounded even further because now your miserable and broke. That’s a bad combo.
Settling for Less Than the Best in Relationships
The biggest thing to remember when deciding when and if you’re ready to start dating again is that you deserve nothing less than the very best.
You are worthy.
You don’t need to settle for anything less than spectacular things, even though some days you feel unworthy or broken or damaged. You’re deserving of great relationships. And great people.
The only way to attract great relationships and great people into your life is to NOT settle. Don’t accept people who say one thing and do another. Run away from folks who say hurtful things and pretend they’re only joking. Call BS on the guy who can’t seem to find time for you.
How do you know if you’re settling? Your gut will tell you.
Pay attention to your instincts. If something or someone feels off, it/he is.
Don’t continue making grief harder than necessary by accepting ho-hum relationships. Believe in your value and worth and attract only those who believe it, too.
Living in the Past
Ahhh…the past. It was such a nice place, wasn’t it?
The operative word here is “was.” Past tense. No longer applicable.
I have many, many days where I reminisce about how great things used to be. I had a husband who loved me unconditionally, put me on a ridiculously high pedestal, co-parented with me like we were the world’s perfect team and took care of his family.
All of that is gone.
My days now consist of second-guessing this shit out of my decisions, solo parenting difficult teenagers and working hard to provide for my family. Throw grieving in the mix and it makes for a challenging lifestyle.
But as often as I reminisce about my past I know I can’t live there anymore. I’m moving forward and settling into this new life.
“We do not heal the past by dwelling there; we heal the past by living fully in the present.” – Marianne Willamson
My new life is challenging, yes, but it’s also rewarding on so many levels. I am in a committed relationship, my kids and I are healthy, we don’t want for much. The things I used to take for granted like belly laughing at a corny joke or beautiful sunrises over the lake are hard to ignore now. I know what loss is like. Deep, grieving loss and I’ve survived. That’s gotta count for something.
I’m so proud of the life and family my husband and I built. I am so proud of my past. But I don’t live there anymore.
Don’t continue making grief harder than necessary by living in your past. Honor your past, give it thanks, and start living where it matters. In the here and now.
Widow Wrap Up
Grief is hard work. Sometimes we unintentionally make grief harder on ourselves by participating in useless activities like doing things we don’t want to do. If your negative self-talk is being especially mean or you find yourself settling for less than the best, it’s time to STOP doing those things.
Reevaluate what brings you joy and peace and serenity.
Start doing those things instead.
- The Truth About Fixing Grief You Shouldn’t Ignore
- Where to Find Grief Support Options for Widows
- Don’t Compare the Beginning of Your Grief Journey to Someone Else’s Middle