Sunday, March 6, 2011

Found Guilty by a Jury of One. Me.

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' 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'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'd know that that's pretty damn good.

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© Catherine Tidd 2011


  1. Julie Richards DiBeneMarch 6, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    First off,Thank You once again for sharing I absolutely love your writing! I think that the way that our society views death and grieving in this country does not help us Widster's with our journey at all. We beat ourselves up bad enough about things that we shoulda,coulda,woulda done. Then we have "They & Them" concerning themselves with how we spend our $,who we spend our time with,what we are doing with our time,ect.Then there's the,I saw you smiling and heard you laughing how could you be so happy when (insert spouses name)is gone? Then of course being the human's that we are, no matter how much time has past, you listen to these idiots long enough to second guess ALL the decisions that you have made up to this point and the vicious circle begins again. After having past my year Sadiversary and with the last two months leading up to that the WORST I decided enough was enough. I cannot keep beating myself up about things that for one, had no control over.For two, are now in the past so what diff does it make now? Or three did the best I could with what I was dealt. So even though I still have those fleeting guilty moments about things, I refuse to allow them to linger. It just isn't very healthy or deserving for us to do that to ourselves.Sending you all Big Bear Hugs

  2. Julie...thank you so much for your note! And you're right...we deserve to treat ourselves better than that.

  3. Yes, thanks for the post. Most of the time I'm recovered from my guilt, but it still sneaks in -- maybe right now because my Sadiversary (love that, Julie) is approaching. How sad that we beat ourselves up and then beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up. We are blooming where we are planted and doing the best we can. Hugs to all.

  4. love that last line!!!

  5. Oh yeah. That all sounds so familiar...Every time I think I've licked guilt, it comes back to haunt me. It's like a whack-a-mole. At least it's not as intense as it was in the early days.

  6. OMG, I was coming to the same realization, I feel guilty for my kids "poor kids they lost their father, what can I do to ease their pain" My poor BIL, he lost a brother, my poor MIL she lost a son. I am so understanding towards all of them, for their suffering and I will bend over backwards to accommodate them, forgive them for anything they do. Yet I don't feel I get the same thing from them, instead it feels like I am being judged. Maybe that is guilt making me feel that way. Yes guilt is my BF and I think I am ready to sever that relationship. I have started questioning my companion guilt, asking why should I feel guilty because I survived and he didn't, why should I feel bad, for 4 years I was by my husbands side, I did everything I could to help him beat this thing and he didn't, is it because I feel like I failed? I don't know but I think I need to get over guilt and get on with my life. This year on my hubby's birthday, I went out for dinner with my boyfriend as his birthday is around the same day. I felt it was time for me to stop having the ceremonies around my husband, it has been 3 years since he passed, I need to move forward. I am making an effort to push guilt to the back of the bus, eventually I think guilt will have to get off at the next stop.