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Loss of a spouse from death vs infidelity

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InnerLight posted 7/19/2014 00:10 AM

My sister is 49 and her husband has just passed away at the age of 58. She is relatively young to be a widow. It is very sad, tragic, and I feel for her. Greatly.

I am not comparing her pain with mine when I lost my husband to OW. How you can you really compare pain with pain. It all hurts terribly. I guess what I am comparing is the social support.

Her loss of her dear husband makes me realize how challenging it is to grieve the loss without the support of a community. Infidelity is like a death, a loss, and yet there is this terrible blanket of shame and embarrassment that prevents you from printing the loss in a newspaper, or making announcements on facebook, of gathering a team of supporters to meet and talk about how they can help you in the months to come. All things my sister has done.

At the least it is not an accepted social custom to surround the betrayed spouse with meals and flowers and cards the way I see my sister surrounded with such graciousness. I know she is heartbroken regardless. So in the end what difference does it make. Pain is pain. I do not begrudge my sister an ounce of the support she has received. I just know I did not share my situation with my clients, or too many friends, and it has taken me years to say that my husband left me without feeling like I was pathetic somehow.

It would have been easier for me if my X had died. But it would not have been easier for his family members to suffer the loss too.

It's such a strange thing to think about.

I am truly sorry for my sister's loss. Her husband was a true man, a true husband. The kind that was loving and generous and always cheering her on in her work and her hobbies. The kind that overcame grumpy tendencies to become a deeply loving spouse.

Sad in AZ posted 7/19/2014 00:53 AM

I know this feeling all too well. The X was very seriously injured when we were 31. He actually died twice. If he had really died, people would have brought me casseroles, but because he cheated and left for the OW, all I got were the divorce papers.

[This message edited by Sad in AZ at 12:53 AM, July 19th (Saturday)]

Harriet posted 7/19/2014 01:02 AM

I agree with you 100%. "Can you imagine losing your husband like that?" Well, yes, and I would have preferred it that way.

I wouldn't have gone through the humiliation, the false hope that devistated me for the 100th time that it was dashed, his indifference at my tears, witnessing his excitement at moving his furniture out, the photos of him with her, my kids spending their time with him and OW, the hoovering, the casual and clueless comments from ex and well-meaning others, the stab of pain whenever someone makes a joke about bitter ex-wives or "no wonder her husband left her" type comments, being afraid to tell anyone about my pain because I should be over it and move on - after all, he did!

But you can't say that, can you?

wannabenormal posted 7/19/2014 01:18 AM

I'm sorry for your sister's loss.

My own sister just said this tonight - that is ALMOST would've been better if her XWH had just passed.

Not because she wants him dead but because people would be more understanding. Because she wouldn't have to deal with his rambling bullshit parenting plans. Because her daughter could accept why he's not there when he isn't. Because she wouldn't be seen as a 'bad' wife because who leaves someone whose good? Kwim?!

I know it's not right, and like I said - she doesn't wish him death, but she did say she felt like it'd be easier.

It's not that strange to think about. A marriage ending suddenly due to infidelity can feel like death to the betrayed spouse. I don't mean in any way that it's the same, but it can feel like it. I was married and happy yesterday - now I'm not.

But it's not the same - the WS sometimes moves on with OP and everyone is expected to accept that and act like BS never existed. We're all supposed to cheer - yay, you're happy! It's just weird to me.

Nature_Girl posted 7/19/2014 01:53 AM

I've thought about this subject because there is a family at my kids' school in which the husband/father died young (in his 40's). So there's the mom w/ two kids, and yes, she has the community supporting her through the initial shock of it all. But I've talked to her and she says she also feels a social stigma of being a young widow. Other widows are decades older than her, so she feels like she has no one to talk to that can understand what she's going through.

Not even me. We're both single moms to kids, but our situations are miles apart. And I'll be brutally honest, I envy her the surviving spouse Social Security checks she gets. Furthermore, I envy the fact that she does not have to deal with an alienating, abusive man who is out to get her and is sexually deviant. Unless she picks someone really, really bad as a partner, her kids are "safe", shall we say, and not at risk.

Lostly posted 7/19/2014 02:36 AM

I've been through both. Death is worse. No comparison.

SBB posted 7/19/2014 05:14 AM

I used to jokingly say that divorce would be better than losing the love of your life. I will get over this divorce - I'm largely past losing the guy I thought I married. Had he been that guy and died young I think I would have mourned him for the rest of my life.

As it stands if he died tomorrow I would be sad for my girls and I would mourn for them. I would not mourn him myself.

I don't think you can compare the two but if forced to I would say the major upside to divorce vs death is with divorce you can smile/laugh/move on/enjoy life without feeling guilty.

What I don't understand is why these great husbands are being taken too soon (I am aware I am making a HUGE assumption). I kinda wish the cheating, lying guys were taken too soon. And quickly.

I used to work with a woman who had been married for 30 years and her husband died suddenly of an aneurism (they were both 50 when he died). It was terrible. Even in the depths if my grief I didn't feel even a fraction of the grief I saw written all over her face.

It has been 4 years now and I caught up with her recently. That grief is still fresh. She still wakes up and forgets he is gone. She still reaches out to him in the night. She still sleeps with one of his shirts and hugs his old pillow just to breathe him in.

She smiles and laughs but she misses her husband, her best friend, her partner, the father and grandfather to her kids/grandkids, her lover, the love of her life - her love. She misses him desperately. We sat and drank wine and cried happy tears together remembering him. He was such a wonderful man. I walked away sad that I didn't have that and angry that it was taken from her.

Do I wish the sad clown had died? I can't answer that so I guess that's a no. I sure do wish I had dodged that bullet altogether.

cmego posted 7/19/2014 07:01 AM

I dated a man who was a widower, and we had this exact discussion.

He had support groups, camps for his kids to attend, people constantly checking on him.

We had both lost something, lost a marriage, and neither marriages were very good (his ex died from a drug overdose), but he was allowed to publicly mourn his grief and I was not.

He said, "Well, I didn't want my marriage to end!" and I replied, "Neither did I. But you can post to FaceBook about it and all the people swarm to support you. I am left to grieve alone."

He could turn to his memories to help, I could not.

It is a different form of grief. Divorce is still...stigmatized at some level. We are supposed to be happy that we got rid of the scum bag. Death, no matter how terrible the marriage was, means that you overlook the bad memories and just focus on the can turn them into saints because they aren't here to prove otherwise.

It was a very different experience. We were both grieving a loss of a marriage, but in different ways.

WhereIsHome posted 7/19/2014 07:18 AM

When my first daughter was stillborn it was really terrible and traumatic. In that tragedy though, I felt at least I still had my base, rock, and home. A place to come home at night and rest my head feeling things were safe. I was naive in this thinking though because my ww never healed from the loss of our daughter and her destructive behavior the last 6 years possibly was a result of this loss. In terms of infidelity, I have found it harder to deal with because your home base is obliterated and there is so much uncertainty. I also feel it is the death of a family. I know this would be easier without dd. Hardest day as a parent was holding first lifeless dd. I am thinking telling my second dd that mom and dad are no longer going to live together will be up there as another tough moment in life. Life is tough sometimes you just gotta keep on going and know there are still good people and good things to make everything worth it.

cayc posted 7/19/2014 07:27 AM

I've been through both. Death is worse. No comparison.

Huh, just goes to show you how we're all different. I've been through both and finding out that 10 years of my life was a lie, spending a year getting tested for HIV, finding out that everyone knew but me and I was the dumb fucking idiot sitting at home trying to be a good wife, knowing that I'll never have children and never recover financially has been WAY worse on my psyche than death.

My high school boyfriend committed suicide. It was devastating. I felt bad that I couldn't save him. I miss him to this day and still think fondly of him. There are times when I see something and I get upset that he deprived himself of this experience/sight/view/etc. But with all of that, it never not once, then or now, entered my mind that I'm less of a woman because of what he did. With my xWH, I fell apart under the weight of "what did I do wrong" and I'm still feeling like stale leftover moldy bread two years later.

suckstobeme posted 7/19/2014 08:02 AM

I've had this conversation with my mom since my father died and left her a widow at only 57. When he died, which was not exactly sudden, but it was very quick from the time of his diagnosis, we were all heartbroken. It's been 15 years and I still think of him and miss him every day. How I wish he could have been here to help me through this storm.

While we are heartbroken and my mother had to give up all sorts of hopes and dreams she had placed on their marriage, she wasn't left with the humiliation, self doubt, self hatred, and confusion that I experienced when exWH left. My dad didn't mean to hurt her. My exWH seemed to love punishing me, lying to me, cheating, and flaunting his new found happiness in my face while I was reduced to almost nothing. It was if he never wanted to look at me again. I'm pretty sure my dad would have given anything just to spend one more day with his family. My mother and I both had to rebuild our lives, but she got to do it without the all the baggage. She didn't have hope that he would come back. Her memories were not all tainted and she didn't have to question what her life was when he was here.

With my dad, I figured out early on that I couldn't ask why - it's a question that simply doesn't have an answer. With my ex, I couldn't stop questioning the why and had a really hard time accepting that there was a why, but that the one person on earth who knew the answer would never have the nerve to tell me. The why is out there but I will never get to see it.

I agree that both scenarios leave us with a very different kind of grief. I can't which is worse - they are both horrible. In my experience, I can say that the big difference between death and infidelity is the serious, life lasting damage that my exWH inflicted on my soul.

sparkysable posted 7/19/2014 08:15 AM

There was a leader in my DivorcCare group. She was both a Betrayed Spouse, and a Widowed Spouse. I believe her first husband cheated on her, and then her second husband died.

She told us, that the pain of the cheating and the affair was BY FAR worse than the pain of her husband dying. No question, by far, and she was adamant about it.

I believe it.

The worst part is everyone telling you to get over it and move on. Nobody says that when your spouse dies.

[This message edited by sparkysable at 8:17 AM, July 19th (Saturday)]

Kajem posted 7/19/2014 10:23 AM

I have a friend who's been through both. When her H died ( (suddenly in a car accident) she felt secure. Secure in the knowledge that he loved her, secure in her community, and somewhat secure financially.

When she was betrayed, she was stripped of everything that represented security to her. the self doubt of wondering if your life was a lie, the financial, and the lack of support and security.

I think being betrayed is much more work involved to move on. It seems being a widow gives you a buffer before people start to push you to move on.

Crescita posted 7/19/2014 13:09 PM

Shortly after d-day I remember thinking death would have been easier, or a one night stand, or just an EA, etc...

Then I would read stories here about people who went through that thing I thought would have been easier, and I would realize it isn't. It's just different.

I've found people celebrate me moving on and finding someone new. I'm sure they would have if I'd been widowed, but it would have taken longer.

People have expectations for widowers to keep on mourning until everyone else is good and ready. All the bad is also supposed to be left on the cutting room floor. Just because someone dies, it doesn't mean they were perfect.

I knew someone who found out her late husband cheated as she was going through his belongings, she spent the next year hearing about what a fantastic man he was, it was incredibly difficult for her to process. The sympathy and casseroles were torture.

As terrible as it all was, I'm making peace with everything, and moving forward. I think that is the best you can hope for no matter what circumstances lead to the end of the relationship.

k94ever posted 7/19/2014 13:45 PM

I've also done both.

In a way, FWS's cheating prepared me for dealing with his death. By that I mean I KNOW I can handle just about anything.

Yes....there are support groups to help the newly widowed get through the initial grief. But after a year society expects you to be over everything and living your happily ever after. And nobody wants to listen to you talk about your dead spouse when you really need to talk about them.

Here on SI we all know it takes years to deal with the pain of betrayal. My experience with society is they expect you to have dealt with the death of your spouse in a years time.

Bottom line is neither of these experiences are easy to deal with.


InnerLight posted 7/19/2014 14:28 PM

No doubt neither is easy and societies support for processing any type of grief is limited.

In my attempts to heal I reached out to join a local grief group or work with the facilitating therapist experienced in grief counseling but was told that it was only for the bereaved, not for divorcees. I have found it pretty hard to find a container to process thru grief related to infidelity and divorce. So thank you SI. This is the best place I've found.

SoHappyNow posted 7/19/2014 15:44 PM

I think that dealing with the shock and pain of his physical affair in 2005, and then his emotional affair with his ex wife in 2007, actually HELPED me process his impending death from stage 4 lung cancer. We learned he had stage 4 cancer in late 2010 and he died January 2013. I think I recovered from his death much more easily than I have recovered from his infidelity. That could just be me......I have always been very resilient.

Less than 2 months after he died I noticed growing feelings of love for my current husband. One of our friends had told me that he always thought that there were latent feelings between my current hubby and I, even when we were just friends. And believe you me, we were never alone and never even thought about doing anything inappropriate!! We were both too focused upon giving my late husband the most comfortable, dignified and joyful dying process that we could!

I still feel sad at times for my late husband's early death at 61. But it doesn't stop me from enjoying the love I now have.

gettinout posted 7/20/2014 07:23 AM

Divorce: intense pain,shocking,marriage over,person you loved is gone.This is a death
BUT the then phone rings and they are calling to pick up the kids.
This is the difference to me.
Everything you belived in died and it has to be mourned.
Death:intense pain,shocking you are alone,the marriage is over,person you love is gone.This is death
The phone never rings again and you miss instead of dreading it..
My two best friends both lost their husbands at an early age while I was going through my divorce. We were having drinks and talking..They both had wonderful marriages. I apologized to both and asked,if I was the only one there who wished their husband was dead...seems easier to have him dead then have to deal with him and his new OW wife and baby....
Now had it been a good husband,I think deah would have been more difficult

[This message edited by gettinout at 9:50 AM, July 20th (Sunday)]

BrokenSpirit50 posted 7/20/2014 19:49 PM

I know in my perspective I felt it would have been easier to cope with my XWH dying. When someone dies in most cases they didn't leave you on purpose, they go out loving you and you usually have the support of friends and family.

When they leave you for the AP they are the ones that stick the knife in our hearts and watch as we bleed out. Our lives as we knew it die, and the one we thought had our backs cause us to experience the extreme pain and grief which can continue on as they flaunt their new lives with the new AP.

I was lucky to find a grief group that accepted any type of loss. One thing from that group I learned was regardless of the loss we experienced the same stages of grief. However, the ones who lost loved ones didn't have to suffer the deception, embarrassment and seemed to have more support from friends and family.

Lostly posted 7/20/2014 20:49 PM

Gettingout has hit the nail on the head for me. In my opinion death is infinitely worse because of its finality. My WS destroyed my soul. He was emotionally abusive. Like all of you I received little or no support through my divorce. I lived 19 years of married life slowly being destroyed by the person who was supposed to be my biggest advocate. It was a living hell.

I lost my mother when I was 15. Perhaps its not the same. But here's the thing. As dreadful as my xWS is, he is a living breathing individual that still has the choice to change. On any given day he can wake up and decide 'my story is not going to end this way'. He has options. Death in its finality is option less.

The general feeling I get from the comments are of frustration and sorrow that we are left with little or no support when dealing with infidelity and its aftermath due to the stigmatization surrounding it. Perhaps as a society we need become better at supporting those going through this, because ultimately nobody should be left to grieve alone.

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