Guilt and anger are recognized characteristics of the grief journey – Guilt over what could have been done or should have been done; guilt over things left unsaid or things that were better left unsaid; guilt over those fleeting moments where a smile might form around the corners of your mouth; guilt for some unknown reason. Anger over the circumstances surrounding your loss; anger about what your spouse should have done to take better care of himself/herself; anger over what you should have done to take better care of your spouse; anger about why any of this had to happen; anger about every secondary loss you suffer that overshadows the initial loss over a period of time.
How do we get past any of these emotions? The human spirit cannot survive, let alone thrive, under the constant onslaught of these harmful and destructive emotions. Human nature requires a resolution of sorts to every conflict. Forgiveness might be the key to this resolution; forgiveness of oneself, the forgiveness of one’s spouse; forgiveness for things that were said; forgiveness for things that were left unsaid; forgiveness for hurts inflicted over the years of marriage; forgiveness for failures on both sides as you traversed life together. In marriage, we have the opportunity to confront our failings and that of our spouse. We have the opportunity to engage in discourse and dialogue, frustrate each other, encourage each other, laugh with each other, and cry with each other. Then one day, all you are left with is your thoughts. Your head and heart are bursting with unresolved conflict; monologue arguments about why you have to go through this grief; however, nobody is listening. At least, nobody you can be brutally open and honest with. A healthy dialogue with your spouse is not an option — monologues, as frustrating as they are, come with a certain advantage. You control the narrative! You can make a conscious decision to forgive or be resentful.
Forgiving oneself and forgiving one’s spouse every single time an unresolved conflict arises in your mind or heart is the only way to bring reconciliation. Over and over again, as often as doubt and self-talk begin to overpower you, you will have to make a conscious decision to confront your worst thoughts. You will have to make a resolution to forgive yourself and your spouse. Forgiveness does not mean conceding victor or denying wrongdoing, real or perceived. Forgiveness means breaking free of the hold anger, and guilt have over you. Forgiveness grants you victory over your circumstances. Forgiveness frees you to love and be loved – love the life you had (even as you grieve the loss), love the memory of the person you loved through every challenge, love the promise of a future (whether single or with another).
Proverbs 17:9 – Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends
Colossians 3:13 – Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you
Following the passing of her husband Franz, Cynthia Mascarenhas founded Walk With A Widow, a non-profit organization whose primary focus is healing the hearts of widows by giving love and hope to widows around the world. As one would expect, much of the material crafted for widows can also be of help to widowers.
Cynthia’s insightful articles will appear periodically here on WSN-MO. You can contact Cynthia at her website, www.walkwithawidow.com