Recently I’ve had death on my mind. Thanks to one of our fellow bloggers here and her post about The Fantasy of an Untimely Death. After reading the post, I had to wonder what would the author’s life be like if her marriage had ended with her husband’s death instead of divorce. She suffered the loss of her spouse and marriage, but society’s attitude toward a woman who loses everything due to divorce is far different from a woman who loses a spouse to death.
Most of my clients are women whose husbands have left them for a younger woman or a better life. Just as a woman who loses a spouse to death, my clients had no control over the loss of their husbands and the lives they had built as a couple. Yet, society has granted the widow all the dignity of her position. There are funeral rituals, she can claim all her husband’s assets and is showered with sympathy and concern for her loss.
On the other hand, the divorcee and her loss are devalued by the legal system, society and, when you need them most, friends and family. The victim of an unwanted divorce doesn’t hold the same status as a widow because their ex spouse is still alive. The knowledge that a spouse is still alive is cold comfort when you have to live daily knowing he has chosen to live elsewhere. Not that I don’t sympathize with anyone who loses a spouse to death, but at least they know their spouse would have stayed if given the opportunity. They don’t have to live with the fact that their spouse is dead to them because he chose to be dead to them.
In reality, a widow and a woman who loses her spouse through divorce have a lot in common. The only thing they don’t have in common is how they are viewed by society. To lose a spouse through divorce is to experience death without dignity. It means the death of your friendship with someone you had chosen to be your life partner. It is the death of your future with your spouse. It is the probable death of any financial security you felt in your marriage. It is the death of the emotional security one feels in a marriage.
Divorce can be as traumatic as the death of a spouse…loss is loss. If you are going through an unwanted divorce, treat yourself kindly. You did not fail at marriage; you are suffering through the death of your marriage. If you know someone whose husband has left her, treat her with dignity. Show her the same sympathy and concern you would if her spouse had died. After all, she is living with the uncertainties of divorce and the skewed views of a society that feels she deserves less emotional and legal support.
Click the following for a directory of articles to help you keep a healthy mind and spirit through divorce.