Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The I's Have It: Has Widowhood Made Me Selfish?

I had no idea that when I became a widow, I would become more selfish.  And believe me when I say that I’m not writing this as a statement about widows in general...there is a very good chance that this just applies to me.

I’ve been having a bad case of selfishness lately and it’s really bothering me.  I don’t remember being this way before I was widowed.  But then again...maybe I was.

I’ve been dating someone for awhile and it’s about as serious as my little widowed brain can handle at this point.  We see each other as much as possible and in my work and my personal life, he has become one of my greatest champions.  If I have a problem or joy, he’s usually the first person I tell.  I have complete confidence that when something is bothering me, all I have to do is talk through it with him and I will reach the right conclusion.  What’s even better is that when my kids are on me constantly and I feel like I just can’t take it anymore...he defends me and asks gently that they give me a break.

I know.  He’s polishing off his halo as we speak.

But this last week we hit a speed bump.  A medical speed bump.  And it’s just about made me want to throw my car into reverse and go in the opposite direction.

He’s been having hip pain, due to a fall at work.  He fell awhile back but the pain has been increasing, so this week he went to the doctor who ordered an MRI.

And there was something on it.

Now, my husband didn’t die of an illness.  He was in an accident so I’m not sitting here having flashbacks to something I’ve been through before.

What I’m having are flash-forwards and worrying 6 months ahead to something that is probably not going to happen.  And all of these thoughts are completely about me.  My head is filled with, “What am I going to do??” instead of my mouth saying, “It’s okay.  I’m sure everything will be all right.”  All I can think about is how something, even surgery to correct the problem or remove a cyst, might affect me.

Instead of focusing on what might lie ahead for him...even if it’s something minor...I can’t stop thinking, “I can’t go sit at the hospital.  I just can’t do it.”

Me.  My.  I.

I know that I’m feeling this way because of my previous experience.  If I hadn’t gone through the unbearable pain of losing someone before, I would have no problem sitting in a room, patiently waiting for someone to come out of surgery.  If my husband had come home, years ago, with the same problems that my boyfriend is experiencing now...I probably would have just said, “Well, all right!  Let’s get in there and fix this!”

Instead, all I can think about are hospital smells and sounds and I want to bury myself under the covers and pretend like it’s not happening at all.

I’ve been trying to keep this mental belly-flop to myself as much as possible.  I screwed up is it that whatever is going on is happening to him...and yet he’s reassuring me?  I feel so terrible every time he gives me a hug and says, “It’s going to be fine.”

I mean...shouldn’t I be saying that to him?  What’s wrong with me??? 

Believe me, I’m well aware of how much time and energy I have wasted in my life, worrying like I do.  There seemed to be a brief moment in my life, after my husband died, where I just felt like life was a crapshoot and I didn’t worry about anything.    But now it seems like I’m constantly “borrowing trouble.”  It’s hard to not picture the bottom dropping out of your life.  Especially when it’s happened before.

But honestly...this whole way of thinking and my apparent inability to support this person...any person...because of what’s happened to me is just unacceptable.  I’m so angry with myself.  Even when my dad had knee surgery, my mom was telling me, “You don’t have to come down the hospital!  We’ll be fine!” because she was worried about me.  Really??  The man had just gotten over a major infection and had to have his knee replaced again...and they’re worried about me???

I don’t want to be that person.

The other day I thought, “Maybe I’m not ready to be in a relationship.  If I can’t take the bad with the good, I probably shouldn’t be here.”

Well.  That’s great.  Then I guess I should stop interacting with all of my friends and family and resign myself to a life of complete and utter solitude.  ‘Cause you never know when something might happen.  And I just can’t take it and, therefore, am unable to be there for anyone else.

Is this what widowhood has taught me?  To actually have less compassion for other people?  I could be wrong, but if there was a lesson here in all of this...I’m pretty sure that’s not it.

Life’s too short to live in a state of “I.” 

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© Catherine Tidd 2011


  1. omg thank you for saying all this! I've felt this since my husband died 14 years ago. I thought there was something wrong with me! :-)

    I wish I had solid answers for us, too.


  2. I think this selfishness goes further than just hospitals and illness for me. And I know its not good or realistic. I have been thinking I have been ripped off of so much that I deserve this or that and why should I have to go through figuring out how to make money or how I will pay for college. There should just be help for me BECAUSE... :(

  3. it is not selfishness , it is self preservation. losing someone is a lot of pain and none of us want to relive it.. here is the deal , you have to take the good with the bad and you have to try not to worry . you know why , because worry begets worry , and stress begets stress. the act of focusing on someone or something else asctually heals you to take your mind of you and that gets you in the living population again and furthermore ,that brings JOY... real JOY!!!

  4. I know how u feel...I don't really think its "selfish." We just can't help it...when life has already turned us upside down, we're constantly on the lookout for anything terrible that might happen. It's "fear" that we "fear."
    My son is having an appendectomy done soon, to reverse a procedure he had done when he was a little boy (he's 20 now). He has to stay in the hospital overnight and its a very commmon surgery; but I am so scared...and also scared to be in a hospital again, cos thats where I had to say goodbye to my husband after his accident. I actually hate hospitals now and am afraid I will have a panic attack when Brett's surgery is going on. No widowchick, you are not selfish; we have learned from experience to distrust and fear for anybody in our life that something might happen to. Sometimes I feel like I "we" have to have so much courage...even more than the average person....we just have to hold our heads up high and be strong...stronger than others that may not get it becos their life experience has been different.
    I'll be thinking of you (hugs to you)

  5. Catherine - when Matt was ill, he was the only thing that held me and the entire family together. He was the strong one, despite all the side effects of his treatment. We leant on him because he was strong enough to take it.

    I don't think it's selfish - I think it's a normal reaction. His fight instinct has kicked in - yours is just a little slow on the uptake.


  6. Hey there - I know I am more self-centered than I was before. I call it self-centered fear. My grief counselor thinks I am being hard on myself, but I just like to call things as I see them. I try not to be hard on myself - doesn't help, and while I'm certain it is a normal reaction to what we've been through, it is not a state I want to be in forever either. I just figure there is hope if I can see it for what it is - thanks so much Catherine - you seem to hit the nail on the head a lot for me. Lilbrat

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  8. Wow, I know exactly how you feel. And everyone else is right, we're widows and we can't help it. I love how you said, "It’s hard to not picture the bottom dropping out of your life. Especially when it’s happened before. That is such a stark reality. Thank you for putting words to our feelings. pastorleanna

  9. I want to thank you all so much for your comments. I know many times you say that what I write makes you feel less alone. But the response I get does the same for me. My reaction to all of this this last week has been unsettling for me. I thank you all so much for letting me know that you sometimes feel it too.

  10. Thank you for saying it! I do feel selfish, with my time, my emotions. I don't really care that I am either. That's probably bad, but again, I don't care. It's actually been very freeing to say No, when I've always been the one to say Yes. I've found all the people around me to be selfish too. They ran out on us the minute my husband died! So, I take care of me and my kids and don't care that I'm selfish!