10 Contradictory and Bull-shitty Scraps of Advice Given to Widows

Friendly disclaimer: I drop the f-bomb once in this article, so please don’t read this post aloud with your toddler nearby. They hear everything and then report it to the grocery clerk or babysitter or mother-in-law.

Woman with sunglasses

If I had known that being a widow meant relentless judgment and societal pressure from the living ignorant, then I would have made a deal with the devil to be the first to go in our marriage. It’s already hard enough to accept complete loss of control of my life and its direction the minute my husband died, but that hardship coupled with the general lack of understanding from other people is just too much. I’m left directionless and alone as I try to forge a new life for myself because I can no longer trust the advice from others. Maybe one has to be bereaved to understand what I’m talking about, but I’m inclined to believe that at some point everyone has been on the unfortunate receiving end of unsolicited and misguided advice.

I’ve heard just about everything since Sanders’ sudden death two years ago, and then I lived through public exploitation on reality TV, which launched me into an unimaginable realm of criticism. People’s feathers get ruffled at the discomforting topic of death, so it seems they rush to form an opinion as a means of projecting what they’d do if they had to experience one of the worst events in a person’s life. The problem is that they have no idea what it’s been like for me because everyone’s experience with loss is different. So, if they fall under the 50% of married people who have to survive their spouse (that is, if they can manage to keep their trap shut long enough to make it to “death do us part”), chances are they will be just as fucking lost as I have been.

One thing to point out is that you’re about halfway through this article and the people who confuse self-righteous apathy for advice also don’t read the entirety of blog posts, so they’ve already gone on their blissful [ignorant] way. So, kudos to you, reader, because you’ve just passed this quick test of compassion, and it’s likely that you’re mindful of what you say to others. But clearly I’ve piqued your curiosity, and you just have to know what bullshit remarks people have said to me, so let’s proceed to the juicy part.

10 Contradictory and Bull-shitty Scraps of Advice Thrust onto Widows:

  1. You need to move back home to your family so they can take care of you.
  2. No, no! You shouldn’t go anywhere; someone who just lost a loved one can’t make major life decisions in the first year.
  1. You need to grow up and get over it. [Me, “But Grandpa, he died nine days ago.”]
  2. If you loved him, you would cry more [… in public… so I can watch your demise].
  1. Don’t worry; you’re pretty enough to find another husband soon.
  2. How dare you date again! Your husband hasn’t even turned cold! [Point of fact: advanced rigor mortis is established within hours, not a year and a half.]
  1. Talking about your husband is just your way of getting all the attention.
  2. If you actually posted pictures of your husband on Instagram, then maybe more people would believe that he even existed.
  1. [Man says to woman] I’m so sorry for your loss; you must be so heartbroken and vulnerable.
  2. [Then he proceeds to make sexual advances on her.

I know, right?! People are despicable and rude and apathetic. If they had any idea the hopelessness I’ve felt, the ruminating fears of my lack of direction in life, the nights I cried myself to sleep and then woke up to keep crying as I got ready for work, all the heavy eye makeup as a way to cover the puffiness from sobbing, and the self-destructive things I’ve done because I didn’t value my life enough without him. If they had any idea, then maybe they wouldn’t… oh, who am I kidding? Their thoughtlessness will still charge out of their holes so they can feel the relief like post-Chipotle diarrhea.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t share with you the good in this world. The strangers who contacted me to express their sympathy and even their empathy as they disclosed their losses and hardships. The people who loved Sanderson too and have continued to honor his memory and respect his surviving wife (um, that would be me). And those who dropped everything the minute they learned Sanderson died and came to help me work through the darkest days of my life. I owe those people a debt of gratitude because their love and kindness bolstered me up when I felt torn down. It’s because of the compassion I’ve received that I’m even capable of sharing my life’s story with you. I’ve realized that sometimes it takes believing in people to catalyze them into reaching their potential, and it’s those who believed in my resilience and abilities who have helped bring me to this place of wholeness today.

When you believe in someone, you don’t tell him or her how to live because you respect this person’s autonomy and ingenuity at life. People fail to heed the advice from the most well-respected counselors or leaders. They don’t even listen to God’s commandments half the time, so why would we think that human advice would be an exception? No one wants to be told what to do (especially that toddler your not reading this article to). What ends up happening as a result of advice giving is the recipient feels controlled or tied down. It brings irony to the antiquated expression that marriage is the great ball and chain, like in the old days when prisoners were held captive by an iron anklet strapped to an impossibly heavy ball. I say irony because Sanderson did nothing but help me feel free in this world, he believed in me, but the moment he died was when I felt strapped down to the unwanted assertion of others. Fortunately, I’ve learned how to Shawshank Redemption from this prison of unwanted advice, and my hope is to help other widows escape too.

Ball and chain wedding

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