Alot of people try to empathize and show their support when you are a widow. One of the easiest ways for others to relate is through divorce. While this seems harmless, the feeling of someone trying to compare the death of your loved one to their divorce can feel insulting. People will do this, try to think of it as their best intentions: people are trying their best to relate to you the best they know how. Unless someone has lost their significant other they just can’t.
An analogy that a friend told me was divorce is similar to breaking your arm while being a widow(er) is having an arm amputated. Loss and emotional trauma happen in both situations. While the break might seem minor compared to the amputation, they both have a major impact on life. I’d like to break down differences and things you can expect to have people compare and potentially give you a chance to think about how you could respond to these incidents. Keep in mind that each divorcees and widow(er)s experience is different.
Many divorces end in conflict. Many deaths happen unexpectedly. This difference leaves a different psychological effect. I’m not saying every widow had a happy marriage, but it was ended by death not by a contract. Widows had no negotiations regarding possessions and children. They were left to take care of everything. Regardless, both end up hurt, in pain, and have a feeling of loss. While divorcees might relate to a feeling of loss, it is different because there is still the potential for a rekindling of a relationship with someone who is alive. It is not a contest for who feels pain the most, but there is loss and pain for everyone involved in both situations. Be kind; you know what loss feels like to an extreme level, but that doesn’t give you the right to discount others loss.
Children are affected by both divorce and death. Differences may seem obvious, but some are not. In both situations the child went from dual partnership to single parenthood. While divorced parents may have to pay alimony, split the time with their ex, and live in a specific state due to court decree, widows often feel they have to be both parents. They might feel responsible for finding a suitable “new parent” to help take care of the kids and have a role model. They are now the sole parent and have all child raising decisions. This can be overwhelming and difficult. Also the child might remind the parent of the deceased; thus the relationship can end up more connected to fear of losing the child as well.
There is no chance of touching the deceased again. They are gone. Their physical presence in the world no longer exists. Both Widows and divorcees go through a sense of grief. Everyone responds differently. Some lose weight, others gain weight, some physically stop functioning. Both can suffer from depression and stress. Both take a significant toll on the body.
Getting back out there
Divorcees might be excited to get back out there and start dating, though that is not always the case. Widows usually are a little more cautious. Feelings of guilt and cheating on the deceased are not uncommon. Dating can be very uncomfortable and awkward. However, both haven’t dated in a long time, will struggle, and be awkward for the first little bit. Validate and support each other.
The main point is yes, they are different, but it is unnecessary to need to one up the other. Support and validate each other. Everyone has gone through pain it is not a contest. Just be aware that people will try to compare. When this happens try to understand where they are coming from and have an open minded conversation about each others experience.