It is a sad reality that after losing a spouse, many widowed are the victims of accusation, criticism and actual blame. Whether it comes from the outside (relatives, friends, acquaintances, etc.) or is instead self-imposed, there is a lot of unnecessary pain being inflicted on the widowed; the very people who are in desperate need of support, rather than spite.
If you are one of these faultless victims and regardless of from where or with whom the criticism or blame is originating, let's stop for a moment and ask:
Exactly why and how is it any fault of yours that your spouse passed away?
**A widow and suicide survivor blames herself for her husband's death because she did not see any "warning signs" ahead of time; even though the warning signs of suicidal ideation are not always evident. A widower willingly accepts responsibility for his beloved wife's death because he survived a horrific fire and his wife was not as fortunate. A wife and caregiver to her terminally ill husband is absolutely certain that she did not care for him to the best of her ability (this is generally code for "did not cure the illness itself"). Still another widowed is overcome with guilt for the heart attack that took her husband because she thinks that she did not perform CPR "long enough" prior to medical aid arriving. And what of the millions of spouses and partners who had to make the heartbreaking decision to end mechanical life-support for their spouses when all medical possibility and any hope for recovery had come to an end? Can you imagine the self-imposed blame with which they must wrestle?
There are then the outside influences by which many more widowed are affected. While certainly entitled to grieve and mourn, there are numerous relatives, supposed friends and acquaintances who may also choose to cruelly strike out at a widowed spouse.
...and I have to ask:
Why do so many rush to blame, judge or otherwise criticize the widowed? As it is, the widowed have been left to pick up the pieces of a life destroyed by spousal death. Widowed are trying to make emotional, legal and financial transitions; generally while simultaneously running a household, returning to the workplace and trying to help their grieving children... and all the while, in the midst of overwhelming grief themselves. Given these tragic circumstances, why are so many widowed then criticized, scrutinized, judged and excoriated about everything from how they rendered care to an ill spouse, to the way they choose to grieve the death afterward, to the way children are being raised -- and so much more.
As much as this very perplexing question demands an answer, the greater curiosity has to be the widowed's reactions to such treatment. Why are so many widowed willing to blithely accept the blame for a set of circumstances over which they had no ability to control? Why are you -- the widowed, the loving partner, the one who lived the ups and downs; celebrations and challenges and triumphs and tragedies with your beloved -- willing to be held accountable (in theory) for your spouse's death... even by you?
Your spouse's death resulted in a tremendous amount of grief and anguish; for you, for your children and for everyone else who knew and loved them as well. Unfortunately, grief and anguish sometimes manifests itself in very destructive and angry ways -- and much of the time, that anger may be directed at, to and perhaps even by you. If you are one of the millions who are either feeling or have ever felt guilt, blame or responsibility for your spouse's death, please pay close attention to the following wonderful news:
It is not your fault
The widowed are incredibly strong, fantastic people who have overcome a horrendous set of circumstances, regardless of what those circumstances may be. If you are being victimized by the "Blame Game", it is once again time to find that source of strength inside of you. Do not let anyone -- including you -criticize, deride or lay blame for your spouse's death (or the path that resulted in their death) squarely at your feet. Instead of either accepting or inflicting any ill-placed blame, how about instead congratulating yourself on being a wonderful spouse who was there until the very end; a spouse who was married, "till death did you part" and is now taking positive steps to move forward in a healthy and productive way.
Choose not to accept blame where no reason for blame exists. Choose to free yourself from anyone who is trying to take advantage of the vulnerable state called grief by appointing you the designated scapegoat. Choose instead to continue moving forward to a place of peace because no one... absolutely no one -- has any business or right laying any kind of blame, fault, condemnation or accountability on or with you. You need to go to bed each night resting in the knowledge that:
You have done and are doing your very best
...and the very best of you is all that you can ever expect of yourself.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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**Examples excerpted from actual letters. Names and other identifiers have been removed out of respect for the families and for privacy protection.