Thursday, October 14, 2021

Grief for a Loss That Isn't "Yours"


Recently, I got a shocking message from my friend since grade school that her husband was leaving her.  It came somewhat out of left field and during a life change that you wouldn't commit to unless you were solid in your relationship.  We gave her time and she eventually called us to give more details.  There were tears shed by all and we gave her all of the support we could while making sure to listen and not just give her all of the "you should's" that she was already getting from all sides.  I'd be lying if I said we weren't expecting it but I would've said maybe in the first few years of marriage, certainly not when you're tipping toward twenty.  He decided after they made a major life change, did everything necessary to move to another state and got set up in a temporary apartment while waiting to move that he was leaving her.  It came out of left field, no he would not do counseling and she no longer had a say...or a place to live.  She's staying with family but still, nothing like having the rug yanked out from under you when your spouse is too chicken shit to say "hey, I'm not happy.  We need to talk and figure things out."  Whatever that means to either of them.  I am heartbroken for her.  I am devastated at how she must feel like she can't trust anything because I know that feeling of not being able to trust your own judgment.  I want to be there for her but also know she needs to sort through it on her own.  Plenty of people have already given her a zillion pieces of nasty advice and we'll say the soon-to-be ex got a verbal beat down by his father in law that was MUCH deserved but apparently upset him.  (Pardon me while I do NOT feel sorry for that.)  

What I did not expect to feel was anger at him for reasons other than what he put her through.  I am angry that even while he got to be a little less than fun to be around,  we still considered him a friend.  We have good memories with him and he made us laugh.  My feet are resting on the floor he installed.  He is a major horror fan and the Mr and I have had so many things recently that we've said or thought "oh, send that to Joe" and then we remember and mutter "asshole."  It's the worst kind of loss for her obviously but it's also a loss for everyone who knew them as a couple too.  So many people are angry at him and I know it isn't just because of how wrong he did her but because they trusted him and let him into their hearts and also feel betrayed to a degree.  I think people feel selfish when they admit that they too feel a loss when someone is no longer in their lives through extenuating circumstances whether divorce, disease or death that isn't a first degree person.  (Spouse, parent/child, sibling, etc)  The Mr lost his 'work mom' a few months ago but I'd only met her once or twice in person.  I found myself crying on and off for over a week or two.  She was a good person, was like a mom figure to look after him in his previous job and we had a 'Mr sending messages back and forth to each other on occasion' relationship.  It surprised me how much loss I felt with her passing.  I felt stupid sometimes for bursting into tears when I thought of her.  Same with my aunt and uncle divorcing a few weeks after my grandma's funeral.  Actually, her funeral was the last time I saw him and then suddenly, after 40 years, he was no longer part of the family.  Because we're not in that familial grapevine, it came out of left field for me.  Again, after that long and given how much help he was in caregiving with Grandma, there was no reason for me to suspect he was on the way out.  He was a good man, one of the more pleasant people to gab with when he decided to talk to others and we all made the comment we would've rather dropped the aunt than him.  (I know, rude but she can be a bit much sometimes.)  He's been around for as long as I can remember, now he's gone and that's that.  You can tell she gets annoyed when he's brought up because she sees the rest of us light up and ask how he is.  He loved some of the food I made for the holidays and I always want to make him an extra one and send home leftovers with my cousin who usually sees him that night or the next day.  

It's not easy to lose people regardless of circumstances but it can be especially jarring when it comes out of nowhere.  Acknowledging that someone else's most intense loss also affects you too isn't trying to put the spotlight on you, it's saying "that person meant something to me."  Even if you weren't close with them, even if you didn't see them all of the time, it's still a grieving that happens and you should talk to someone who has the same feelings by being in the same boat or 'your person' who you know can empathize with your feelings.  I know plenty of people who make others losses about them and that's not what this is.  I came across his picture of all of us in better times and so many emotions flooded me.  I wish he had been the person he promised to be to her.  I wish when the offer for help was given many times over in the past that he would've taken people up on it.  I wish he'd been human enough to pull the plug on "years" of unhappiness before they sold the house she built with pride long before he ever came along.   Wishing doesn't make it come true.  I can only hope something better is waiting for her and she can pick up the pieces.  

Remember should you find yourself feeling the same way after what is viewed as 'someone else's tragedy', that it doesn't make you selfish, it makes you human.  It means you cared and there will be a little part of you that grieves what was...even if you want to bitch slap the person.


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  1. It is hard because I wouldn't want the primary friend in this situation to think I'm not on their side but you do need a chance to kind of grieve in a way too. But there is absolutely nothing wrong, in my opinion, with feeling the way you feel and it really is understandable to go through those emotions in this kind of situation.

  2. Sounds like he did her dirty and that sucks! I've felt what you are feeling. I mourned the person I thought they were if that makes sense.
    I also had it flipped the other way. My cousin ditched his wife for a younger model after 20 years and 4 kids. I saw the ex at their kid's wedding and we talked quite awhile. I hugged her and told her I missed her and caught her up on my family. I got a ton of stink eye from the family and was even questioned about it. I told them I didn't need to explain myself. I also kept in touch with my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law in the 28 years since I divorced their brother. Sadly only 1 of those 4 siblings is still alive.
    Have a great day!

  3. My husband’s brother has done this type of thing to two previous wives. One had been with him for over 20 years, the second had sold everything and moved states with her young daughter to marry him. So he was “our person” and the wives were sister in laws. The first wife, we never reached out to her at the time she was dumped/left and I regret it to this day. Last xmas I sent her a card and said I had been thinking of her for years and felt very bad, I did not hear back from her. The second wife, I stayed in (email) contact until she got on her feet again. I never talked about HIM, but I was encouraging toward her. My husband is still in distant contact with him, but I hope that we do not see him in person again. My opinion of him is beyond low.

    My mother’s family stayed in contact with my father after my mother divorced him, including inviting him to weddings as my cousins married. He also attended funerals. I know in some families this is okay, it was not okay with me or my mother. It was inappropriate beyond words. I would not have minded if they had stayed in email/phone contact, but inviting him to things meant I did not go. And he is a jerk and untrustworthy and has done some terrible things, so their continued contact was ridiculous.

  4. I understand what your friend is going through. Almost six years ago my then husband and I made a huge life change and bought a much newer and expensive home. Shortly after this move, my husband decided he was going to file for divorce, he wouldn't go to counseling, and he wouldn't consider working through our problems. I really needed good friends, and unfortunately, I didn't have the support you sound like you will provide to your friend. It is completely okay to grieve for your friend! You are mourning the loss of a couple that were your friends.


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