You’d think that the worst part of becoming a widow is, well, the obvious: losing your husband. If and when you actually become one, though, you are forced to learn that the physical loss of the man you exchanged vows with is just the tip of the iceberg. All the really hard crap lies underneath the surface. I wish I could tell you that it can only get better from here, but I want you to hear the truth. I want to tell you the things that nobody told me on the day my husband died.
- People will break their promises to you.
Right now, the loss of your husband is still fresh for all who cared about him. Many friends and family members are likely telling you that you can count on them at any hour of the day. They are sending you food and flowers and gifts. They may even be coming over to do your laundry, help with dishes, or offer to spend the night to fill the silent void in your empty home. This may even go on for months, but it will gradually stop, as they settle back into their daily routines and continue to move forward with their own plans for the future. Their lives will mostly go back to normal while you are still trying to figure out what the hell “normal” even means without him.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am not saying these people don’t genuinely care and want to help you through your difficult time. There’s a good chance they wholeheartedly believe in the promises they are making to you and really plan to keep them, and are completely unaware of how unrealistic they actually are. While other people lost the person they worked with, saw at family gatherings, or maybe even spoke to everyday on the phone, none of their daily routines have been as directly affected as yours. You lost the person you made every decision with – from grocery lists to what to eat for dinner to career moves. It’s only natural that you will feel the effects of his absence in a way that most others won’t be able to relate to or understand.
The most important promise in the aftermath of your husband’s death can only be made by you, to yourself: KEEP GOING. Anyone who stays along for the ride to help and support you is a bonus, but the hard work has to come from you.
- You will be judged – by others and by yourself.
So many opinions and unsolicited advice will be thrown at you. You’ll be told you’re crying too much or not enough, that you need to express your feelings and yet need to keep it together, that you should sell your house because it’s too much to manage on your own, but that you shouldn’t let it go because it holds so many memories and you may regret it. Like the saying goes, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” You will feel this way a lot at first. Again, most of these judgments will be what I like to call “innocently ignorant” because most people can’t even begin to understand what you’re going through. You will hopefully learn to tell the difference between good and bad intentions and lean on the people who have your best interest at heart.
The most important thing to remember is not to judge yourself too harshly. You didn’t ask for this, you don’t know what you’re doing, you will make mistakes, and you will change your mind about things.
Be patient. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Learn to practice forgiveness early.
- Your relationships with people will change drastically, and some may end altogether.
Some bonds will be strengthened immensely. Others, though, will fade. It’s not because anyone stopped caring. The dynamics of your relationships with people will be altered forever, and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s simply because a piece of the puzzle is now missing and the remaining pieces may not fit together the way they once did.
- You may feel angry with your husband at times.
I know. This sounds really harsh and completely unreasonable, right? Unless he took his own life, you may be thinking, “He didn’t choose this, how on Earth could I be angry with him?” I’ll tell you how – because grief can be insanely irrational at times.
You might feel angry that he left you.
You might feel angry that you have to deal with all the secondary losses that his death caused.
You might feel angry that you have to go through all his hoarded crap and organize all his paperwork, when you’d been nagging him about it for months before you even knew he was sick.
When you feel this way, I want you to try to remember something. You are not a terrible person and you are neither the first nor the last widow that will experience this. More importantly – I’m willing to bet you aren’t actually angry at him, but rather, angry that you have to live without him.
- Time won’t “heal” this wound.
Shortly after Ralf passed away, I had a counselor tell me that it would probably take me 3 to 5 years to “fully” grieve my husband (ha!). I’m not a mental health professional or a grief specialist, and I don’t have data or statistics to back my argument, but I have to tell you that I completely disagree with this statement. I’m almost 3 years out and my grief has no end in sight.
Time isn’t healing my wound; it’s just showing me how to live with it. Most importantly, I am still grieving even though I’ve also found new love and have rebuilt my life. Yes, you can do both simultaneously – don’t let anyone try to convince you that moving forward and grief must be mutually exclusive of each other.
These are the things nobody warned me about on the day I lost Ralf, and I had to learn them on my own.
On the other hand, there was one thing that I was told repeatedly and had difficulty believing. Now, I can tell you that it is absolutely true, as long as you don’t give up….
You are going to be okay.
Recently widowed in April 2023 because of brain cancer; I have a hard time sleeping through the night which makes it difficult for me to work and function the next day. I am not suicidal but I have lost all joy in life; nothing seems to matter. I feel everything in life is vanity & futile and striving after the wind because in due time we will die.
Also lack of sleep is affecting my overall health and well being; any suggestions or recommendations?
My wife of 58 years died about a year and a half ago. She had been in long term care for over ten years with me paying for it. I am fortunate that I was able to do so. That being said, life goes on. I still have my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren but, my life has forever changed. I have been alone for years now (with her in long term care) and now I would like to get my life back. I am tired of being alone. Do you ever get over losing you spouse-heck no and why would you. That is what made you what you are- it defines what you are today. But just like your children, you love all of them and each one differently because they are individuals. Why could you not love someone else. You are not replacing someone but adding to life and how could that be bad. You are not betraying someone but, if your marriage was good like mine was, why would you not want to continue what was so wonderful . My wife taught me that having some to love was the most wonderful thing in the world. You are not betraying anyone but rather celebrating life.
I lost my husband Charlie on 2 July 2022 after a heart attack and 10 days in a coma in ICU. We would have celebrated our 17th anniversary on 29 October but it wasn’t meant to be. I am grateful for the years we had together. It is so hard, yes because no one told you this was going to happen and that all family and friends will disappear and leave you with all of it to deal with. The house, the bills all of it. My husband told me he was going to make sure I was taken care of and I believed him and found out I shouldn’t have. I am left without his pension and no life insurance to take care of the bills. I am doing the best I can but it is oh so hard to stay positive, Most days I am ok but about 1x a week I just want to sleep or read a book, I know God has a plan for me “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 I joined a grief support group and through that group I found a church that is very welcoming to me. I am moving forward…one step at a time.
We met in college and we were together for 49 years..I’m so lost without him..it’s now going on 18 months..why is it harder now to accept and deal with??
I came across your blog and read it as I sit here at my father in law’s house, in a twin bed and in a room I’m now supposed to sleep in and share with my niece. The room my husband and I always stayed in has been taken by a 28 year old nephew and his child. This would never have happened if my husband was alive, but I’m now the single widow and apparently there’s no respect for their elder, 61 year old aunt. I was ambushed about the situation when I got here late last night. So now I’m in the position of dealing with it somehow, or leaving to either go home or find a hotel and I know I will be talked about if I choose anything other than just dealing with it. I don’t sleep well to begin with and just got off of a sleeping aid and struggling through sleep with all the change and stress. I knew this issue was going to come up because my niece and nephew’s mother (my husband’s sister), passed away last year too and the kids sold the house. I have been staying at my in laws house for 30 years, and now, without my husband, everything has changed. My husband was the leader of his siblings and about to take over the family trust when his Dad passed. My husband ran most of the business. Now everything has been parceled out and the next thing to go will probably be my group health care which was provided through the family company. What do I do now? Spend money and go to a hotel? Struggle through this and act like nothing is bothering me? I love my niece but she is 25 and I have never shared a room with her. My father in law cares to a certain point for me, but I’m not in the family trust, that all goes now to the grandchildren, including my kids. Your right, your husband’s death is just the top of the devastation. Why do we take our husband’s last name and become “one” only to have it all ripped away?
Not sure if this will be helpful as my pain is much too fresh. My husband and I have been together for 7 wonderful years dont get me wrong we are human and had our arguments. We moved to NC from California for his retirement as he felt force to retire because his hip pain was bothering him too much. We had been to Kaiser Permanente several times and they could not see his problem. When we moved to NC we saw a orthopedic surgeon that spotted a growth in his pelvis bone. He was diagnosed with Chondrosarcoma cancer July 17, 2022, which was told to us that it was known to be a slow growing cancer made arrangement for what my husband wanted which was a titanium hip and pelvis replacement with the removal of the tumor. As we waited for this to be made for him which took 4 to 6 weeks we had no idea what was to come. HIs cancer became aggressive and grew to the point the doctors said there was nothing they could do. the week he was suppose to have his surgery which now turned into radiation treatments his cancer had increased to the point that they sent us home on hospice and my beautiful loving husband died October 12, 2022 at home. I saw his progression as he died before me. I sit here now looking at what was to be our happy retirement days that are now nightmares. We married in March 22, 2022 but because I have not been married for a year I may not qualify to receive his pension benefits and Social Security may have the same rule. I am broken, devastated and feel as though my life has been ripped apart. I lost the man I wake up to, sleep with, touch. I miss him so and thinking he is not here with me is difficult. I feel this sense of doom in my stomach and anxiety. I don’t know what to do.
I understand some of what you’re feeling. My husband was ill and we married in the ICU and he passed 26 days later April 24, 2022…
Thank you for sharing… I could relate to all the points you mentioned. My grief of losing him will never go away.
My husband died March 2022, three months ago. He had been operated on for his bowel cancer but his pancreatic cancer was not treated at that time. It was overlooked. My daughter also died January 2022 with clot on the lungs, she was 47 years. I have been told I am strong but its my way of trying to cope. My husband passed away at home. My son worked at home and stayed with us for a month until my husband passed away. On my own I wouldnt have been able to cope. There was carers 3 times a day but we didnt want them. I had been used to helping my husband myself, it was what we both wanted. At the end it was tough he couldnt eat, drink, walk or talk and I cannot forget this He was my solemate and I miss him terribly We had been married been for 50 years and he was 78 when he died. Life will be pretty quiet without him and find it hard to go out shopping by myself. I do go out with my sister in law and my sister and my son. I dont want to live on my own but what chose do I have.
my dearest, darling, beloved husband died on 30 August 2022 after a 4 year battle with osephegal cancer. He endured so much treatment and so many things went wrong to which he kept bouncing back. However the cancer spread to lymph nodes in the last few weeks and he could not eat or swallow. He was so weak and tired. He was incredibly stoic throughout everything and never complained, that was my department. He died in our bed with me and our son by his side who had come home to be with us due to covid but he will be moving back out again soon. I have his funeral this week to get through. We were married 32 years and I feel part of me is lost, we did everything together, we were the greatest love story every, he was so kind and generous, fun and fearless and I cannot see a future without him. What am i to do now. I cry every minute of the day. I am the saddest person in the world.
My husband died on the 17th December 2022, I’ll for 3 days, thought he had flu, he had bacterial meningitis, I cannot stop blaming myself why did I not get an ambulance on the first day he took I’ll. We were married 51 years, he was the love of my life. I cannot see a future. It goes through my mind, was he frighten, did he suffer. He had gone for his haircut just 3 days before he died, Why??
As I am writing this right now I am crying and still angry, I lost my husband, best friend and life partner on November 26, 2021, I didn’t have a plan B without him. I know I will go on but I don’t know when and how. Our wedding anniversary is in three weeks and we were turning 65 in June together< I was going to propose to him all over again and redo our vows and now he is gone. What now!
Kasandra this breaks my heart. My husband has pancreatic cancer and I just cant bare the thought of him passing away. I dont have a plan B, my life was with him.
I found out a week ago, purely by chance online, that my ex-husband and father of my three now grown-up children had died. The news was devastating. Even more shockingly, he had died over four years ago. No attempt had been made to contact us. We had been denied the opportunity to attend his cremation service or to say our final goodbyes.
He was still legally married to his second wife at the time of his death. She was also unaware of his passing.
My ex-husband had deserted, disowned and disinherited his children. He also took his own life.
It’s impossible to know how to grieve for this man.
I love the way you write. This is such an eye opener. Everything you explained couldn’t have been put better. May god bless you always !💕
I have journaled all my adult married life so when my husband died I journaled all about that. I am trying to find a blog site where I can share my thoughts, not tips.
This post is brilliant and oddly, heartwarming. I’m new to the W-club and appreciate your blog. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing your light and wisdom with the world. It doesn’t surprise me that you are using your experience with unspeakable grief and loss to help others through their own, but it is still extraordinary to witness. Keeping you and Mason in prayer and sending my love!
Thank you so much for this