How is it possible that when a spouse dies...guilt invades our bodies like a disease for which there is no cure?
Damned if we do and damned if we don't...it seems like we're cursed to feel guilty about countless things...many of which were completely beyond our control.
Take me for example. My husband was in a motorcycle accident on his way to work. He didn't die at the scene...he was actually pretty much okay. He died 3 days later after suffering a stroke and brain swelling.
And months later I traced his death back to the moment I "allowed" him to buy the motorcycle 10 years earlier.
Of course, if I wasn't feeling guilty about letting him buy the motorcycle, I was feeling guilty about the many reckless things he wanted to do that I wouldn't "okay." I felt like...if his life was going to be so short...why didn't I just let him do what he wanted to do?
This is probably when you decide I have some sort of multiple personality issue.
Yeah...well. Name one widow who doesn't.
That's what I thought.
I felt guilty in the hospital multiple times for multiple things. I felt guilty when I left him for a few hours so that my in-laws could have some time alone with him. Then I felt guilty about not giving them enough time alone with him. I felt guilty about how upset everyone was (ummm...hello???) and that it was some how my fault.
I felt guilty when I couldn't make it all better.
My reaction to my husband's death is yet another area I seemed destined to feel guilty about, mainly because I think the way I am doesn't fall into someone's picture of a "widow." As you all know, I tend to have a pretty warped sense of humor about the whole thing (which is something that many of us acquire) but I know it came from my need to make everyone more comfortable around me.
But when it comes to "comfort" and "widow"...those two don't usually coexist in the same sentence.
I can tell my husband's story without shedding a tear. I can give speeches, talk to other widows, and tell strangers about what happened...and I'm totally okay.
"Hello, Guilt. I'm right over here!"
I've spent so long with Guilt as a companion...it's like we're living in sin. (Yet another thing to feel guilty about.)
Of course, you know that if I talked about it and openly started weeping in the baking aisle of Wal-Mart, I'd feel guilty about that too. Because it would make someone else feel uncomfortable.
Ugh. I'm ready to let it all go. Guilt about the past is getting me no where. And guilt about others reacting to my past is something I can't possibly control. So why feel guilty about it?
Are there things I would have done differently? Sure. Would they have changed the outcome I'm living with? Who the hell knows?
All I know is that I've done the best with what I've had to work with. And if you could see the inside of my head...you'd know that that's pretty damn good.
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© Catherine Tidd 2011