Recently, I got to visit my oldest, dearest friend. We’ve been friends since elementary school. We’ve been through a lot together, but I never told her how difficult my husband had been to live with until our visit. It’s taken me three years to unpack things and feel able to talk about what I went through.
Some people who knew him used to call him a hard ass or say he was demanding. His friends called me a saint for putting up with him.
When I told my friend some of the things he’d done and said over the years, she said, “That’s abuse!”
Yeah. It sneaked up in our 20 years of marriage—emerging from sexist jokes into demanding behaviors until the abusiveness enveloped our family. It was easier to isolate myself and smile in public.
She then told me that now she understood how well I seemed to deal with his passing. “You were relieved. That makes so much sense.”
It is true. I was relieved. I no longer had to endure the constant fear of making mistakes while being set up for failure. I could breathe again. My initial relief was that he wasn’t suffering anymore—after all the hell he’d put me through, at that moment I still loved him. Perhaps I loved the man I always wanted him to be.
Every person’s grief will be different. I hope people will read this and not judge another person by the way they appear to grieve—or appear not to grieve.
My grief began when I found out his illness was terminal. No one saw me grieve. I cried all the time. I cried at work, before I went to sleep, in my closet, in my car… Grief of what we should’ve had grabbed me more often than my grief of being a single mom.
I was grateful he passed peacefully, after living a life that existed with so much hate in his heart. Also, he’d searched his soul and dropped so much of that hate away before he died. He went on mostly unburdened.
I had peace knowing he found his way. Granted, I was a little pissed that he took so long to figure out he’d been wrong—even still he went stubbornly still trying to control the way our daughter should live her adult life. Some things he just couldn’t let go of.
Did I feel guilt that I was also relieved that he was gone? Oh, heck yeah. Not long after he died, I had a realization that the guilt was useless. It wasn’t my fault that he got sick. I was not responsible for his illness or for his passing. I was now free to live my life without the relentless criticism and the constant threat of a destructive divorce if I left him.
I think his last gift to me was peace—a way to make up for all his past behavior, in a way.
That peace has stayed with me. Grief sometimes still shows up at odd times, but I can handle it. Relief gave me my life back.