Fighting Bitterness after the Loss of a Spouse

After the loss of a spouse, you face so many emotional challenges. For me, one of the most difficult was fighting the bitterness I felt after my husband suddenly died.

After the shock wore off, and I plummeted into a deep depression, I found myself in the anger stage. I would obsess over questions like, “Why did my husband have to die?” “Why did this happen to me?”

Sid’s death planted some seeds of bitterness that began to sprout. I started to resent other people’s happiness as I only focused on what I didn’t have anymore. I felt so cheated by the untimely death of my husband. It just wasn’t fair.

Then one day I saw myself in the mirror—although not literally. I worked with a woman who had been widowed a decade before me. She was a hateful, unhappy person who lashed out at everyone around her. All she could talk about was how her life had been ruined by her husband’s death.

I vowed to somehow get past the bitterness I felt. I couldn’t imagine ending up like the woman I worked with—hating everyone and everything. Of course, it was unfair that our husbands had died. But you cannot let grief fester until it becomes something ugly that defines the rest of your life.

I also took to heart words from my grief counselor. She once told me that Sid would be very disappointed if I never found a way to live a happy, productive life without him.

Fighting bitterness is very individual. But at some point after you lose your spouse, you have to do more than just exist—you have to live again. Life is too short to spend whatever time you have left being miserable and making everyone else around you miserable, too.

It wasn’t easy, but I began to try to direct my thoughts to everything I did have. For one thing, I focused on my wonderful memories. Sid may have left me too early—but the time I had with him was great. I also had a loving family and supportive friends.

Another thing I did was to try to find new interests and new reasons to be enthusiastic about my life. As my counselor said, plan A was gone. I had to find another plan for my life.

It was an uphill battle, but I slowly began to realize that life could be good again. Fighting bitterness was tough but I had to be tougher. I wanted Sid to be proud of me.

It is so important to win the battles we encounter in our war against grief—even if it is a vicious opponent like bitterness.

 

Melinda Richarz Lyons

More Articles Written by Melinda Richarz

Melinda Richarz Lyons earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of North Texas and has been a free lance writer for over forty years. Her articles have appeared in many publications, including "Nashville Parent," "Cats Magazine," "Reminisce," "True West," "Frontier Times," "Kids, Etc.," "Cincinnati Family Magazine," "The Tennessean,"The Fort Worth Star-Telegram," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love," and "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers." Ms. Lyons is also a published songwriter, and was the 2004 co-recipient of the Academy of Western Artists Will Rogers Award for Best Song of the Year. She is the author of several books, including "WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty," "Murder at the Oaklands Mansion," and "Crossing the Minefield," the story of her journey from grief to recovery. She has four step children and nine grandchildren and currently lives in Tyler, Texas with her husband Tom.

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  • Melinda, thanks for sharing your “Fighting Bitterness” post. I can identify with how that sudden loss often tumbles us into a deep depression. I had a similar experience after my fifty-four year old husband died unexpectedly. I was angry and felt so cheated. That anger and bitterness can be very destructive. Like you, with the support of others and trudging through that uphill battle, I focused on the positive memories and discovered meaning in life again. Now, thirteen years later, I’m living a productive, happy life just what my loving husband would have wanted.

  • Sue says:

    My daughter died on the 1st of March this year. I will never get over it. And I’m so bitter. I hate everyone and everything. I cant go out I cant watch telly. I cant eat. I can’t sleep. I dont get dressed. I just cry. I know my beautiful daughter would never of wanted me to be like this. She was so kind and caring. But I miss her so much. I hurt so much. I’m empty and lost.

  • Gary B says:

    I understand what you were going through. I recently lost my wife of 37 years marriage(44 of love) to a sudden dreadful unfair battle with stage 4 lung/brain cancer. We did not see it coming thinking all along her pain was due to her bad back. But she was diagnosed in June-gone August. We had just moved into our beautiful dream home in March! I had retired at 64 and she was on long term disability due to her back. At worst I saw a wife who would need a cane as years would move on. No- we got screwed and she only had 2 months of “good retired” life. She was only 62- we had the world at our feet -we were counting on our 40th and 50th anniversaries already and even saying hey maybe 60? She was near our daughter and grandchildren- we worked so hard all of life to get to this point. Ahhh to the good life and then God pulled the plug on us! I cant any longer look at older couples without resentment- I break down in tears when I see them in cars together- some-yes with canes and I just go “why-why why”? Why her God she was an absolute angel! How dare my life come crashing down like this and now I am all alone in a house- not a home- its empty and I refuse to stock up on the furniture we were in the plans to get- why bother? I live in a married neighborhood- yes I resent that now- I should be in a cabin in the woods near nobody! I resent the house we loved so much- We have an inground pool-her dream- finally we got it! – nobody went in it all summer- I resent it! I hate looking at it- I hate where I live now..a place I used to love. Im sorry but its only been 2 months and I see no change coming over me. I know I will have to at some point but for now I am a spiteful- jealous-envious bitter man because so many have what I was to have and it just hurts too much. She would have loved her life here and now I am all alone- daughter and grandchildren aside- its not the same without her even for them. I get it. I always would say life was not fair and now it just plain sucks. I want to go as soon as possible myself- waking up in the morning is the worst. I just want to go to bed and not get up- both me and the world would be better for it. We lived the last year before in a dream land talking about our retirement and early at that- what plans. Now with the dream shattered I am supposed to cope and move on? It took 44 years to achieve the dream- I dont have time nor patience nor youthful ability to start it all over again! I am 64 going on 84 after only 5 months!

  • Diane P. says:

    Gary B – I really identify with your words. My husband of over 53 years died suddenly on August 9, 2018 as the result of an accident. I am so very lost. Like you and your wife, we still had many dreams. He was my everything. I keep hoping that God will take me to Heaven soon, even though my Christian upbringing says that the date of my death was determined by God before I was ever born, just as it was for my husband. I have children and grandchildren too, like you, but I still want Jimmie. I don’t expect to ever feel joy or hope again. What I expect is the same day after day of sadly getting up, trying to be a good person, and trying to figure out God’s will for me. I can’t imagine that if my suffering is to help other people, how that can be. I don’t seem to even be able to help myself, much less others. The pain is just about unbearable. It doesn’t help when others tell me to stay busy and that time will help heal. I’d love to hear how you’re doing now, Gary B.