I thought everything was fine, until it wasn’t.

Shortly after my husband passed away nearly two years ago, I realized that envy from family members is a very real thing, and the depth of that envy is more than I could have imagined.

It is very painful to be the target of envy that turns to cruelty from someone we love.

We are often blindsided by it because it’s the last thing we would expect from a family member, especially the ones we have been good to over the years.

Many times, there will be no explanation for their behavior, and we wonder what we might have done to cause it. Other times, their cruelty will be way out of proportion to whatever we did to anger them, and they use it as a justification to “punish” you.

Either way, they have a point to prove with their behavior, whether we are aware of it or no

And the cruelty is the point.

An extreme reaction that doesn’t make sense and is all out of proportion to whatever “offense” we supposedly committed is a clue that envy is at work behind the scenes.

Once this happens, cruelty usually follows.

The word cruelty may sound harsh when it comes to family members, but when we look at the definition and the examples that follow, it makes sense.

Cruelty is defined as: the pleasure in inflicting pain or inaction towards another’s suffering when a clear remedy is readily available.

Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit.

When my husband died, my family did nothing to support me in my grief, which was shocking to me.

It’s almost as if they had been waiting all along for a reason to abandon me and took the first opportunity to do so when it presented itself.

I come from a large family. I am the youngest of sixteen children.

So, when my husband got sick with Covid-19 and passed away, I was convinced my family would be there with open arms whenever I came out of the fog during those early days of grief.

Boy was I wrong!

They did everything but support me.

For example, there was my oldest brother who audaciously called me “materialistic” because I told him it would have been nice if my family had thought to bring food, flowers, cards, and even money after my husband died.

You know, the normal things that people do out of the kindness of their hearts when a loved one passes.

All I got were meaningless platitudes of “Call me if you need anything.” – from pretty much everybody.

Then there were several nieces, who I’ve been close to for most of their lives, who blamed ME for their inability to show up for their aunt simply because I sent out a text asking the family to give me space while I grieve the loss of my husband.

Their lame excuse was that they took my words literally and proceeded to give me all the space I needed, and then some.

Never mind the fact that I had just lost the most important person in my life and what I needed from them was empathy, compassion, comfort, and love, not distance.

It’s been nearly two years since, and I have yet to hear from any of them.

Then there was my brother-in-law who got mad at me for telling him the truth about his lack of help and constant complaining during a family cabin trip that we took to honor the first anniversary of his brother’s death.

After this petty disagreement, we apologized to each other, and I thought everything was fine between us. It wasn’t until he stopped calling me altogether that I realized he still harbored resentment.

There was no explanation for his silence or why he stopped communicating. He just ended the relationship and moved on with his life.

Mind you, this has been my brother-in-law for nearly FOUR DECADES, so there is a lengthy history here that cannot be ignored.

Finally, to add insult to injury, his sister told a lie about me saying that I had recently hooked up with one of my husband’s best friends. This occurred after she and I had multiple conversations where she praised me for faithfully loving her brother and standing by his side for over 38 years.

It amazes me that she would tell a lie of this magnitude when she knows very well how much I love her brother and how committed we were to each other. Our loyalty to one another was unmatched.

Although I’ve never confronted her about her two-facedness, it still hurts to know that someone I’ve had a relationship with since we were teenagers could be so callous and cruel.

I highlight these examples of cruelty because people like this live such miserably low frequency lives, they are willing to do anything to bring you down to their level. This ranges from snide remarks and criticisms to flat out lying about you.

When a tragedy happens to you, they are secretly thrilled because all along they have been bitter at whatever good has happened in your life.

Your success has been a constant reminder of their failure.

So, to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of their own inferiority, they start unprovoked fights, tell lies about you, or go to the extreme of cutting you out of their life altogether.

I know this to be true from all the relatives who suddenly and mysteriously ended their relationship with me after Frank passed.

They simply dropped out of my life, adding pain on top of pain.

And let’s not forget that miserable people love company, too.

So much so, that being able to execute cruelty through word and deed and then share your misery with others makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel like you are one of them. Finally, something came along to knock you off the pedestal THEY put you on.

Rejoicing in the anguish of those who remind them of their own inadequacies is the point of all cruelty.

That and fear. People fear what they are not and what they wish they could be.

We usually think of people being envious of tangible things – like your money, your house, your looks, even your popularity.

Sometimes it’s things you would never think of, like your marriage.

It never dawned on me that family could be envious of the endearing and enduring love me and Frank had for each other.

That I had something they didn’t have, so that made me wrong.

That I had been blessed with someone so wonderful in my life since high school, and that it was some morbid victory in their minds that he was gone, and I didn’t have that anymore.

Sadly, I believe that is true.

Finding pleasure in other people’s pain is an unfortunate reality in the world, and it’s more common than you think.

And after 20 months of my beloved Frank being gone from this world, my tolerance level for phony relationships with people who will never be happy for me has slowly run its course.

If you are having similar issues with people in your life, I hope from hearing my story that it will be the same way for you, too.

You will always be disappointed and disillusioned with family members who secretly gloat about your misfortunes.

For them, it is the cruelty and the delight it brings.

The best thing you can do is stay away from them and think twice before you allow them into your life.

Let’s keep in touch! If anything resonated with you, please leave a comment below or find me on Instagram @tofrankwithlove


Mark your calendars!

Hope For Widows Foundation’s annual virtual Widows of Hope 5K event has returned on Friday, May 12 through Sunday, May 14, 2023. Anyone can join! Whether you are a widow, widower, or a friend/family member showing support or walking in the loss of another family member, everyone is welcome to participate. The proceeds will directly support widows through the annual financial Restoring Hope and Peace Grants, Sunshine Boxes program, and Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program.

Do you have or know a business that would like to sponsor? That’s an option too! To register and frequently asked questions- please go here: http://getmeregistered.com/WidowsofHope5K

Also, mark your calendars, on National Widows Day, May 3, 2023, the Restoring Hope and Peace Grant application process will open up. Please go here for criteria and details: https://hopeforwidows.org/grant/


Joyce was born and raised in Oklahoma and is the youngest of sixteen children. She has worked in the education and nonprofit industries for over 15 years. She holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Leadership.

In the summer of 1983, at the age of sixteen, Joyce met her husband and soulmate Frank and soon after started a family. They were married for over 38 wonderful and adventurous years.

Joyce is a mother to two adult sons, a grandmother to a feisty Leo granddaughter, and a transplant wife and widow after Frank passed away due to COVID-19 complications on August 25, 2021 after receiving a kidney transplant four years earlier. He died exactly one week before her birthday.

Joyce's writings on grief, love, loss, and the beautiful mess in between are an intimate look at life without her husband Frank and how his unexpected and untimely death showed her that nothing in this world lasts forever, even true love, and that life can change in one tragic instant.

You can read more of Joyce’s writings about her beloved Frank on Instagram @tofrankwithlove