Saturday, February 23, 2013

Am I better off without him?

"Goodness.  I didn't divorce him!  How can you even ask me that?"

But I do ask that.

Am I better off without him?

This whole idea came up when I looked through old files in my art studio yesterday.  I hate to admit it, but some of these files are nearly twenty years old. There are snippets of articles and notes.

I found a note my late husband wrote to me on March 26, 1996.

Dear ____,   What we did last night was devastating, and I'm still angry.  Yet I see you and our union as a blessed gift from a loving God.  I am sad that we hurt each other from our woundedness.  Love, ___

I guess the argument he's referring to was a doozy.  We had rough times in our marriage, especially a six year spell from 1991 to 1997.  Often, during this time, I seriously contemplated this question "Would I be better off without him?"  I stayed on the fence a long time, and some would say circumstances merited my departure.  Then, in 1997, I jumped off that fence toward him, toward us.   Not that circumstances were a lot better.  But, like the pearl which forms around an intrusive grain of sand, we faced what was hurting us and held on together.  We learned.  We grew.  We shed entrenched beliefs that were really harming us.  We had five very very good years beyond 1997.  And when his terminal disease hit in 2002, I unleashed every tool and effort to add months to his life, as did he.  Together we added 36 long months, each a hard won pearl in our strand. 

Am I better off without him?  I'm better off without the pain and daily struggle when times were tough.   Now that my grief is spent and I'm tickled to be alive, I'm better off without the pain and daily struggle his death left me.   And the pearl necklace we created?  It is in my past, in my heart.   Every once in a while I see evidence of it, like this note, which I'll hang on to.

Am I better off without him?  I am better off because of him. 

And, I am better off today because of the help I've received, and because of the choices I make.  Well, not all the choices.  But enough good choices mixed with these have added up.  I am better off than when I first lost him. 

A new strand of pearls is emerging now.  I have to remember that making pearls isn't fun, but it is worthwhile.  Turns out the strand won't be all pearls.  It has diamonds here now, sparkling in today's light.

Am I better off without him?  Difficult question.  I am blessed to have diamonds in my life at present.  I hope I will have more diamonds in that thing called the 'future', but the future has no guarantee.  In any case, I know I can make pearls from grains of sand, and try to do so every day.  If that most terrible grain of sand called death intrudes upon me once again I'll ask for help.  How would we make it through life without each other?

Do you see the day when you will be better off without your late husband?


  1. I found one of those ancient letters to my spouse recently, too. And I was so shocked that I ever felt the way I wrote so long ago, much less that the letter was kept all these years.

    I will never be better off without my husband...better off without the grief that goes with his loss. But that grief is slowly healing and all that will be left is the joy, growth and lessons I learned from being in a loving relationship so long.

    I love your analogy of making pearls. Well said!

  2. Thanks, Jean. When this question popped into my head, I was mightily offended. How could I even ask? I figure it popped into my head for a helpful reason, so I explored it.

    Like you, I'm better off because of him, and - dare I say it? because of grief. Grief has its own irritating yet noble presence, and produces additional pearls.

  3. When the question popped in my head, I was offended as well. I kept ignoring it and avoiding it...but it kept coming back. I finally gave it an answer to see if then it might just leave me alone.

    Am I better off without him? This is what I said: "well how can I compare myself to a self that I can't know...I don't know where I would be if he was here today. So stop asking me that. If you want to know if I'm better today, the answer is yes. If you want to know if I'm better because of him, the answer is yes. If you want to know if I'm better because of grief, the answer is yes. If you want to know if I'm better because he died, the answer is yes. If you want to know if I'm better because he lived, the answer is yes. I'm better for all of my experiences. Don't scare me with one question because I'm many questions.

    After that, the question never came up again. I won. :)

  4. Hi Gabby. Good to hear from you. I agree that all experiences, good and bad, teach. And we develop our character as we choose our response to them. I realized by asking this question that I don't want to go back in time to who I was. I'm more capable and kind and vibrant now. I fit into the world differently, and I'm creating a life that feels every bit as complete as mine did with him; it's simply different.

    Maybe we all get better with age?

  5. So glad you told of your Blog GowitheFlo. I like how you reply back.
    The door thing I can relate to I feel so scared of what the next door will bring but I have found that after I open it( of which I always have to do) then I feel proud of my self for passing threw even if I mess it up. Not fine.

  6. I'm so glad you've written and I'm sorry - I just saw your comment to respond to.

    Yes! Feel proud for passing through each door. It isn't easy, by a long shot. I keep thinking it's got to pay off, and you know, it really does. We have adventurous spirits. We're really challenged by widowhood, and it takes everything we've got to keep going. I hope you stay in touch.