Being Widowed Painful

At least it is today as I remember my husband on our wedding anniversary.

The calendar rolled over to today’s date, May 19, and my mind flashed to where I was thirty-six years ago. I can’t believe as I celebrate this day, I do so as a widow.

A starry-eyed new college graduate, today was the day I walked down the aisle and said those momentous words, “I do,” to the love of my life. Today I became Brad’s wife.

It’s been almost five years since cancer took his life. Grief still surprises me.

Meeting Brad

During a college summer break, the two of us met at a resort town where we both worked; he as a short-order cook and me as a waitress.

I still remember how his cobalt-blue eyes flashed brightly through the kitchen’s small cook’s window as he grabbed my chicken-scratched food orders. Then I’d hear the sound of his booming voice as he turned to face the room’s dark interior and barked the orders to his crew. If I delayed picking up the finished dish from where it sat cooling under the infrared lights, he’d let me know — along with the rest of the restaurant’s guests.

Two years later, we married and began a great adventure together. We had our fair share of good times and also of lean years.

Is Being Divorce Harder than Being Widowed?

This week, as I listened to a continuing education course on chronic pain management, the educator said he thought getting over a divorce was harder than suffering the loss of a partner.
He went on to explain that when widowed there’s a comfort in knowing that your spouse is gone. This person is no longer present to wreak havoc or to interfere with one’s life. There’s no one to battle over the raising of the kids.

“Not so easy when it comes to divorce,” he said.

My whole body recoiled in response.

As a psychologist, I’ve been involved with my fair share of nasty divorces. I recall the challenges that came with supporting clients who were dealing with difficult spouses. Sure, the speaker had a point.

But easier? There’s where I’m afraid I have to disagree.

As a veteran of both, widowhood has its unique pain. Quite honestly? I’d take getting divorced any day over being widowed.

I lost my co-captain

Brad and I made a great team. Often it was the two of us against the world. He had my back, just as I had his.

We traveled across the United States twice, each time to start a new life. I knew I could count on him to face whatever was thrown at us head-on. I trusted him implicitly with our resources, his time, and, most importantly, with my heart.

A few years before his death, we opened a rental business. Our prior years as a couple had taught us how to depend on one another’s strengths, how to lean into one another. When things inevitably went wrong, he’d call me in a tizzy, knowing I’d help him see reason. He’d do the same for me.

I lost my best friend

His mom marveled at our similiarites. We liked the same foods, leisure activities, books, movies, and TV shows. We camped, took walks, and worked out together. He was my best friend.

And when he died, I lost someone irreplaceable.

I still catch myself thinking of something he’d find funny and wishing I could share it with him. I miss the feel of his arms around me, how he’d comfort me when I was scared or sad. Or, how we’d lounge in bed most Saturday mornings and chat, catching each other up on the week. Those would be the moments when we’d discuss an issue with one of the kids. He’d often offer a different perspective — something I couldn’t see.

We lost a family member

With Brad’s death, I lost an instrumental member of the family — my partner, my extended family’s brother-in-law and son-in-law, and my children’s father. My sons may find other male mentors. But, they will never enjoy that special kind of father-son bond with a person who will cheer them up or chew them out. The head-of-the-family chair sits empty at our table.
Brad’s absence has left a gaping hole in all of our lives. No one else will be able to fill his spot. We are carrying on without him, but with a limp.

Divorce isn’t more painful

No, I’m sorry to disagree with the continuing education professor, but he’s wrong. Divorce is not a more painful loss. It’s just different.

David Kessler, author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, said in an Unlocking Us podcast,

“Each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed.”

None of us will escape the sting of death. All of us will experience loss, just in different ways.
Today, I’m missing my dear friend and husband, Brad.

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Dr. Kerry McAvoy is a psychologist, writer, author, and analyzer of life. She’s published three devotionals and has a memoir, which explores deceit and betrayal, is due out next year.

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1 thought on “Being Widowed is More Painful than Being Divorced”

  1. I told my wife, while we were still dating, that for biblical reasons, in don’t believe in divorce. That if she really would be happier without me, then I would go be her an alibi letter and my suicide.

    30 years and two children later….she had _demanded_ a divorce! A year of “divorce,” “hope & counseling,” “divorce,” “hope & counseling,” “divorce! She never followed through on her multiple offers to work on our relationship…. undermined all three attempts to schedule counseling. Told me so many conflicting stories of when she did and did not love me….if ever/never???

    Then she moved out and after our life-long “momma’s boy” surprised the heck out of me by calling his mom’behavior immoral, and asking to stay with me… I was stuck with the opportunities and duties of providing as much “normal” as I could without the love of my life!

    Ten months of trudging along, living in a mausoleum. A beautiful house on the hill, furnished and decorated at every turn as my wife wanted to “feather her nest.”. For ten months, every bite at the table facing her monogramed napkin holder, shitting alongside her massive monogram on the show curtain. Sleeping in a bed that was a wedding gift from her parents. Walking over Oriental rugs that back then I couldn’t really afford, but happily got for her. At every angle, in every room, tormented by images of Charleston, and everything that used to be a loving life???

    So….the final insult: she got a court to steal my half of the house from our 17 year old son! I had nothing to give him for Christmas. He had worked on home improvement projects here. And over the years and a half of divorce drama, he stayed. Loyal. Helpful. Encouraging. Neither she nor the Court were Willing to even hear from nor provide a guardian-ad-litem to our son!?!?!?

    So much for justice. So much for love. So much for service to others.

    And yet I still love her, who I thought she was. I want nothing but the best for her. And so, I left town, and without the trauma of family finding or seeing me….I am mid-fast to the end. VSED and DNR. Hoping to live up to my wedding vows, and as the Lord said “what greater love than this…”

    I hope she finds being a widow happier than seeing through the pain of this divorce drama.

    Reply

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