divorce vs. death

This post got me thinking about death and divorce.  A widow feels insulted that divorced friends are comparing her loss to theirs.  It seems wrong to the widow. The divorcee often leaves the relationship voluntarily.  Their former spouse is still alive, able to live his/her life, be a parent to their children. How can the losses be on the same magnitude?

Well, I feel I can comment on the issue, since in the last 5 years I lost the two most important people in my life.  My first husband to drug abuse and my mother to lymphoma.  The difference is, my ex is still alive (I think). My divorce was a death to me in every other way. The person I married was replaced by someone else entirely- someone with whom I could not continue living with any degree of physical or emotional safety.  The divorce was merely a symptom. He was lost to me, and to himself.

The experiences were similar. A lifelong agnostic, I fervently prayed for a cure for both my mother and my husband.  But there was nothing I could do in either case to save them.  I was helpless, and I lost them both in the end.

I sometimes wished during the firestorm of the last months of that marriage that my ex were dead. This might sound like blasphemy to a surviving spouse.  But I felt at least if he were dead, I could have grieved the loss of our relationship with remembering happy memories, rather than the arguments, the lies and the pain. But later, I felt differently, and today I’m grateful that he is alive, and hope that he is happy and at peace.

One divorce may be tidy and amicable while another leaves the family shattered. One death may devastate while another comes as a relief. Every loss is unique, yet the fact that we, as humans, are here on earth, united in our suffering and trying to find our way in the world can bring us together.  But only if we let it.

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11 thoughts on “divorce vs. death

  1. Martha Goudey

    Well said. I’ve been through two divorces, and although devastating, they are alive and well and flourishing in their marriages and their lives. That is a good thing. My experience with mom’s death knocked me sideways…and I had more than a decade to prepare for her death. But there were also those times I wanted her to die so I could get to the business of real grief, rather than endless anticipated grief. I didn’t know what I was saying.

    Reply
  2. mishedup

    Very well said.
    I am 6 years out, 6 years without my husband. I appreciate the fact that all of our suffering can bring us together, it can. There are similarities. MY experience is that in the comparing lies the pain. There is just no piont in comparing divorce and death of a spouse, just as there is no point in comparing the death of a parent to a spouse, or a spouse to a child…all are different, unique experiences of grief to the person grieving. I completely understand the idea of grieving the loss of a marriage, but I can never understand the idea of wishing or thinking that it would be easier if that person was dead. That was my point, and I see you got it.
    And know that I even understand the idea that you might wish your spouse dead…because hatred and fear can be overwhelming and make us people we are not. My point is just don’t SAY that to a widowed person.

    I am so sorry about the loss of your mother, and thank you for linking my post.
    (Maybe one less person I’ll have to school, or slap right? 😉 )

    Reply
    1. bornbyariver Post author

      Thanks, and I agree with you. The phrase “I understand what you are going through” can be treacherous in many situations.

      I am so sorry for your loss. I have told my mom’s husband many times that I think his loss is more altering than mine, as his daily life was fundamentally changed. My mother and I were closer than I can describe, but I still have my daily life intact as before her death, and can lose myself in the rhythms of going to work, feeding the dog, etc. On the surface, everything is the same. Surviving spouses can’t find comfort there– everything changes.

      Reply
  3. Green Thumb Mama

    I agree. I think that loss is relative. We can’t discount another person’s pain because it’s different that ours or that of others. I have a loss in my life that I feel is just as painful as a death. Do I compare my pain to others who have experienced an actual child dying? No. It’s big for my life and I work through it. Do I brag that I know what they are going through? No. We all need to wear coats of compassion for the suffering of others.

    Reply
  4. finally_write

    You’ve really hit the nail on the head. For me, my divorce is still not put to rest, as I struggle to forgive and let go of this one who had similar struggles as yours. His physical abuse was to himself, not me, but I felt the pain of it nonetheless. I wish him peace as well. And I work on not beating myself up for choosing to leave.

    Reply
    1. bornbyariver Post author

      my experience in that relationship changed me forever. I’ve gone on to a happy marriage with a sober man, but shedding things from my first marriage is a bit like an onion pill- you discard a certain aspect to find something else buried a bit deeper. I’m sorry that you have to know what I’m talking about… I think loving an addict is one of the most painful roads anyone can walk.

      Reply
      1. finally_write

        I couldn’t agree more nor understand more. It’s a form of brainwashing that stays with you a long time… I just hope it’s not forever because I know I should be far happier than I am right now in the arms of my new, normal and quite wonderful love. Allowing oneself to be happy is part of the challenge of and after leaving the addictive one… the onion pill keeps repeating. 😦

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