This is one of the most common things I have seen my fellow widow(er)s complain about. Every widow(er) I know – which is sadly a lot at this point – hates this. And I’m going to explain why we don’t like this. I promise you, we are not unreasonable. Well, at least not this time.
Before those of who have been divorced get upset and think I’m being invalidating, I’m not. I will openly acknowledge that divorce is painful and there’s a grief component to divorce. But it is not comparable to widowhood, sorry.
When a couple gets divorced, that means something wasn’t working. So sometimes you have to go your separate ways, it’s the healthy thing to do. Sometimes it’s painful reasons such as a betrayal. But at the end of the day, you experienced a breakup. And breakups are hard, but it’s not the same as losing your person. I was very happy, building a life with Matthew, and he was ripped away from me by leukemia that we didn’t even know he had. There were no bad feelings between us, we were in a happy and fulfilling relationship. And now I never get to see him, hear him, or hug him again; there is no hope for a future. There’s no potential rekindling, there’s no more interaction. He is completely void of this physical world. I had no time to prepare for this in any way, shape, or form (which I will admit is sometimes true for those who are divorced as well). But at the end of the day, my person is dead and yours is not. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but it’s the truth and sometimes the truth is uncomfortable.
I understand the desire to draw the comparison. You’re trying to show that you understand what I am going through, or at least you’re doing your best to try to relate. The desire is to sympathize or empathize, I think, but the result ends up being sort of invalidating to the widow’s experience. And here’s a snippet of advice to help you: widows would feel better if you acknowledged that you don’t understand what it’s like. Because if you aren’t a widow yourself, there is no way to understand what this kind of loss is like. Sympathy isn’t always drawing comparisons. Sometimes all we need is validation. An acknowledgement that this is shitty and that most people don’t understand. I don’t expect people to understand or know what it could possibly be like to go through this experience. Just like people don’t expect me to understand what it’s like to be a parent. I do not have children, so I have no idea what parenthood actually looks like. And that’s perfectly okay. I can acknowledge it is a tough, but rewarding part of life that I know nothing about from personal experience. See how easy that is?
Please, I beg of you. Stop comparing your divorce to my widowhood. It makes me want to turn my skin inside out.