03/18/2013 08:00 am ET Updated May 18, 2013

It's No Day At The "Fair": The Unfairness of Widowhood And What to Do About It

In reading the many beautiful letters that we receive every month, it is difficult to determine one lament that we see more than any others. However, if I had to narrow the field and pick one of the most common refrains that I see over and over, it would undoubtedly be:

"It Is NOT fair."

"It" of course refers to the loss of a beloved spouse. Regardless of the age of the people involved or the circumstances surrounding the loss; no matter the length of time you were together or any other factors, at one time or another, most widowed will understandably echo the sentiment:

"It Is NOT fair."

To which I respond in my head:

"You are SO right!"

(And for the record, when people would pull the "Life's not fair" observation out of their well-worn treasure trove of clichés to share with me immediately post-widowhood, I had to work very hard to overcome a extremely strong desire to hit them in the face with a flower pot... kind of like a Bugs Bunny / Elmer Fudd smackdown).

Generally speaking, a, "Life's not fair" response is marginally appropriate when trying to quickly explain the injustices of life to a teenager. In this case -- not so much.

I have admittedly spent a fair amount of time chanting "It is not fair" as it pertains to other various situations and usually with a generous amount of disgust. For example, it appears to have become part of our daily fabric to see people with absolutely no discernible talent or any kind of desire to contribute positively to the world around them, earning millions of dollars for doing absolutely nothing except behaving like complete jackasses on (and off) national television. If you are reading this, you likely remember a time when if you got drunk in public, disrespected law enforcement and showed no respect for or toward your parents, there were, shall we say, consequences to be wrought and suffered. The same behavior now is apparently classed as entertainment, worthy of television and endorsement deals.


A few years ago, I was approached by a major national magazine to conduct an interview. We rely heavily on the media to help us reach those in need of help and I was delighted to receive this request. The under-a-tight-deadline journalist asked that I speak with her the following day by phone and first answer a series of questions via email -- a very common and reasonable request but a time-consuming request as well. After canceling my plans for the evening, answering the emailed questions and rearranging my schedule for the following day to accommodate the telephone interview, I never heard from the journalist. No email acknowledgment, no courtesy phone call. Nothing.

Disconsolately, I turned on the television to see yet another "reality couple" who have done absolutely nothing to contribute to society in any way, being interviewed on a major national television show to talk about nothing other than their vacuous existence. There are any number of bloggers whose sole reason for existing is to spew hatred about others who have never done anything to them personally -- and these same bloggers are heralded and feted as pop culture "icons." Convicted felons win multi-million dollar lotteries and professional athletes are given second (or third or twentieth) chances after their zillionth failed drug test or the commission of crimes too heinous to imagine. Disgraced politicians, corrupt financiers, even outright criminals are granted multiple platforms for their varying levels of garbage.

Meanwhile, millions upon millions of decent, wonderful, hard-working, huge-hearted, oft-contributing people have lost their jobs, their homes, their bank accounts, their retirement funds... and yes, their treasured loved ones.



But among the worst of unfairness has to be what you have endured -- that of losing a spouse.

The incredible people who make up the widowed community come from all over the world and from all walks of life. They are very young chronologically... and not. They are women and men. They are straight and they are gay. They were technically married and they are those who had loved ones stolen from them before they reached the altar. They come from every possible career background imaginable. Many have children and many do not. They are every nationality, ethnicity, religious faith and from every conceivable financial background and means. All are fantastic people, with huge hearts for their families, their communities and for one another in the widowed community.

Yet, many struggle every single day -- to recover emotionally and financially from devastating loss, to continue running a household, to earn a living, to help children along their own healing journeys and with a future that once bright, seems now so uncertain.


Where is the fairness for you?

The fact is that:

It really isn't fair.

It is perfectly OK to feel -- and even convey -- that "It isn't fair", without fear of recrimination or judgment and without being met with some idiot cliché to the effect of, "Well, no one said life is fair." You already know that. You do not need the stupidly obvious pointed out to you. However, just because we know that life isn't fair does not mean that you should be deprived of expressing the sentiment, nor should you feel guilty for your feelings.

It is unfair. It is unfair that you lost your beloved and it is unfair that you are dealing with the myriad challenges that you have already faced and that you may face in the future. It is important for you to understand and it is OK to acknowledge that life has truly dealt you one of its cruelest blows. That said, I also categorize the "It's Not Fair" of widowhood with the "Why Me?" of widowhood, in that unfortunately, it is a statement for which there is little in the way of satisfactory response or explanation.

After "It's Not Fair" and "Why Me?", all we are really left with is that one burning question that every single one of us has had to face and have been left alone to answer:

What Now?

Although it may be tempting to do otherwise, do not choose to dwell on the unfairness of your widowhood. The unfairness is a given, however dwelling on the unfairness will not take you in the healing direction that you wish to travel. You must choose instead to concentrate on what you are going to do from this moment forward -- to ease your pain, to get healthy in body, mind and spirit and to start (or continue) your healing journey in positive ways.

While others around you may wax philosophically about life's fairness or lack thereof, I can all but guarantee you that no one in the widowed community will ever look at you and say, "Life is not fair." What we will do instead is look at you with an understanding smile and ask, "What can we do to help you begin or continue moving forward?" And we will be here to help you do just that.

Sound fair?

Carole's latest book, Happily Even After..., has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit

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