Friday, June 25, 2010

apples and oranges

Although apples and oranges are both fruit, they taste, smell and feel different. They are both round. They are both sweet. But one is crispy and succulent and the other is juicy and zesty. Some similarities but you would never mistake one for the other.
When attempting to understand another person's circumstance we often seek out seemingly similar situations that have occurred in our lives or the lives of those close to us in an effort to empathise and comprehend the feelings of others. These attempts are most often an effort to offer solace and comraderie to the speaker of said issues.
As with most people, I have had this occur so very many times....and these kindly meant comparisons have increased in abundance exponentially since Jeff died.
I have had people liken the loss of my husband to the loss of their cat, the death of their grandfather when they were three and most often, a divorce in their family.
As a child of divorce and as a generally empathetic person, I can certainly see some very pronounced similarities. But I would never go so far as to say that I fully understand how a divorced person feels.....or that someone who has experienced the break-up of a family from divorce completely 'gets' the loss of a spouse to death.
I have to admit that at times, this comparison gets my hackles up. I feel angered at the thought that my loss is at all.....chosen.
I realize that often people do not want to get divorced. I can see that no one sets out when getting married with the idea that they will also get divorced....and that in someways, we should be more prepared for the death of our other half (because death always does eventually happen) than the separation of spouses.
But in Jeff and my situation -death, no one CHOSE to leave the other. It was, essentially out of our hands.
There was no lead up. No warning. Yes, Jeff wasn't feeling well for a couple of weeks before his death. But neither of us suspected that his lack of zest would result in the loss of his life.
Yes, like a divorced single parent, I do my parenting alone. But I do it alone everyday. There is no one else to consult (which at times I am sure is a real blessing) and no one else to send the kids to on a regular basis...or even an irregular basis. The kids have me to watch their extracurricular activities. Just me. There is no one else to cheer them on (or to glare at me from across the field). There is no one else who loves them as much as only a parent can (although I am aware that in some unfortunate situations, even an alive parent does not provide this unconditional love for the little ones either).
Fortunately, I never have to see the love of my life with some other woman's hand in his. I know he died loving me. I do think that having someone I love tell me that they no longer cared for me would tear my heart into tiny smithereens. When I see Jeff's expressions staring back at me from my little one's faces, it is a joyous moment - he still exists in them....and I am sure that at times this must be a difficult experience when you dislike or have been hurt by the other parent of your child intensely.
Although in divorce, you watch your marriage 'die', you do not watch as someone you love dies. Yes, metaphorically it is very similar. In 'real life', it is grossly different. Different pain, different sadnesses....different phobias.
As with many divorcees, I am lonely often. Bone-achingly lonely. I still wish that our lives had turned out differently. I worry for my children and wonder how this loss will affect their lives in the coming years.
But I have the luxury of loving my dead husband. And you have the luxury of hating your live one.

**I do so hope that this entry does not offend anyone or their feelings regarding death and divorce. I have been musing over it for quite sometime and just felt it pour out....**


The Jagow Family said...

Well said!! Hope you are all settling into your new home, without any major hiccups. :)

Pete, Alison and Charlie said...

You write so eloquently, and I always finish reading your posts nodding in agreement. Over the past 13 years, I've lost a grandparent, a parent, a fiancé and a son - each bereavement hard, but each so very different. I guess people try to draw on whatever experiences they have to try to empathise, but I've had to bite my tongue and really restrain myself from poking people in the eye when they've said they understand exactly how I feel because their uncle/cat/second cousin died. Hope you are all settling into your new home! x

Anonymous said...

That was so well written Jackie. Unfortunately I'm going through the separation/divorce stages myself now and I never would have compared it to the death of a spouse. You're IS very different. I'm sorry people have thrown out that comparisson to you.

I hope you are feeling settled in your new place :o)

Ciao Bella,
Kathryn in Berlin

Anonymous said...


You said it well . . . . it's tough to do, since there is pain in divorce for sure, and 'some' similarities - but it is by no means the same and it bothers me, too, when people tell me they know 'exactly' how I feel.

(I actually had someone still married, but who's husband works a lot, tell me she knows how I feel because she feels like a single parent a lot . . . ARGH!)

Love to you Jackie!
p.s. I'm getting the store set up and need to chat with you about selling some of your dresses!!!

The Tomlin Family said...

Your words express the thoughts I cannot express in the right way. It is different and I totally agree with you. Very well put.

Anonymous said...

You're right, it's not the same. My parents are divorced, and my father died a few years after that. Totally different events, although they were both difficult.

jessica said...

Yes, I, too, could not believe what was coming out of folks' mouths when they began, "I know how you're feeling...". And years before my husband's unexpected death, I was divorced. These two events do NOT compare, people! Not, not, NOT even close to the emotions surrounding these dissimilar situations. It made me angry, too, and I finally lashed out at one or two folks who made those inane comments. Thanks for writing about an issue that most of us widows (and widowers, I am sure) face.