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My Ex Husband Died 3 Months Ago At 48

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My grief has no place to hide its self. The pain soaks thru me like a cold winters rain at times. I feel anger, guilt, sadness, hurt...just plain pain. There is really no one to tell. My own mother said "Pam, you did divorce him". Did she think that would make me feel better? Watching my sons bear this pain is almost more than I can take. I hurt for them. I would do anything to take this pain from them. I know I cant. I know we will all have to pass thru this at our own speed. They are men...22 & 23, but they are still my boys...my little boys.

He was my husband since I was a little girl myself. At 17 we married. We had a son a year later, and another one 22 months later. After 21 years of mostly hell, I walked away. I was so tired of watching him kill himself. You see...he had type 2 diabetes. Completely controllable with diet and exercise. He chose to die...not just to die, but to suffer before he died. Why didnt he love us enough? Why didnt he love himself enough? I have remarried...but I still grieve this man...this father...this husband...

My guilt engulfs me....

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The feelings you describe so vividly are all part of a normal reaction to loss, and as you’ve already discovered, the fact that you were divorced from this man at the time of his death does not diminish those feelings in any way.

I don't know all the circumstances of your divorce or whether you and your ex-husband had resolved the death of your marriage, but I can assure you that the reactions you’re having now (anger, guilt, sadness, hurt, “just plain pain”) are not at all unusual when an ex-spouse dies.

Your role in this situation is ambiguous at best. You are no longer married to this man, but he is still the father of your children and your relationship with him is still significant, if only for that reason alone. Because you have no legal access to this man’s medical information, you may not feel fully informed about the nature and circumstances of his death. I don’t know if you attended his funeral, but even if you did, you may have felt left out or very out of place. As you have observed, in a situation such as this, others (including your own mother) don’t know what to say or how to respond, they may not be very helpful or supportive, and they may say some very insensitive things to you. Since you cannot publicly mourn this death without explaining your divorce, you may be reluctant to seek spiritual support. If you're employed outside your home, certainly your employer will not give you time off from work to process this, which only adds to your sense of disenfranchisement, as if you have no "right" or reason to grieve this loss.

How your sons react to the death of their dad will depend on their ages, coping styles, relationship with the non-custodial parent before and after the divorce, and their response to the divorce itself. They are in a difficult position too: if they mourn the death of their dad, they may feel disloyal to you – and if they do not mourn, they may feel guilty for not feeling or expressing their loss. If your sons are harboring any negative feelings about the divorce, you may be the target of those feelings, too.

I say all of this to you in an effort to help you recognize that a real loss in fact has occurred here, and it is normal for you to be reacting with real grief. Certainly not every ex-spouse will experience the same reactions; there are many variables that will shape anyone's response to loss. Nevertheless, since typically ex-spouses have such limited social, familial and spiritual support, you may find it very helpful to vent your feelings in the supportive and nonjudgmental environment that a grief support group or a few sessions with a bereavement counselor would provide. I certainly understand your concern for your sons, but keep in mind that the best way you can help your boys with their grief is for you to take care of your own grief too. So I hope you will consider contacting your local library, hospice, mortuary, church or synagogue to see what bereavement support services are available in your community – for you as well as for your sons. You are not alone; there is good help "out there" just waiting for you to find it.

Because I think it will be of interest to you as well as to anyone else who reads this message, I’m also attaching (in Word format) an informative and relevant article by Ken Doka entitled, “Grief: Coping with Hidden Sorrow.”

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T


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Unlike most divorced couples, my X husband and I still maintained somewhat of a relationship. I always tried to help him, because of his health problems. I did most of this for my boys. Besides, he was their father, no matter what happened between us. I am the one who paid for his expenses after he died, and my family put the memorial service together. All of this, because he had been a part of our lives for 23 years. He still maintained some contact with my family. I guess I am luckier than most in that I was able to attend the memorial, and mourn publicly, and I feel this was very healthy for my sons. My husband is the wonderful man who felt so out of place at this service. He has been just awesome thru all of this.

Since my X husband had never remarried, we were...still...his only family basically. His elderly mother lives in another state and did not attend this service. My sons later took his ashes to her.

I just never thought it would be this hard. I thank you so much for the information, and advice that you shared with me, and I will seek help if I think that all of this goes on too long! Thanks again!

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