Thursday, June 10, 2010

Victim Rebuttal

Throughout my widowhood I have heard this constant refrain: "Stop complaining, get a grip, don't be a victim, refuse to be a victim of your circumstances..." That word "victim." Why are people so quick to jump and assume I think of myself as one? Yes, there are times I gripe and feel sorry for myself. But then I stew awhile, drink a glass of wine, go to bed, wake up and face the next day. How is my complaining about my life as a widowed mom any worse than a married mom complaining about her life? It is human nature for all of us to complain at times. Why do the poor widows get slammed and told to buck up and deal with it? No one ever spoke to me in this way when I was still married. Why do people feel they can criticize me for what I have and haven't done and then still have the nerve to tell me to stop playing the victim?

The widowed are victims! Why is it so hard for people to accept that. Here is the definition of a victim: "a person cheated, fooled, or damaged whether by someone else or by some impersonal force." Now the few widows I've come to know (mostly through blogging) have all been pretty normal, decent people living average lives. No one was out having affairs or robbing banks. Just trying to live full lives with their spouses and children. And then through no fault of their own (damn unfortunate circumstances), these good people suffered the calamity of life when their spouses died. According to that definition, seems like it fits for being a victim. People cheated and damaged by an impersonal force.

I relate the details of my life through this blog not to play the victim but to give a depiction of how a normal formally middle-class mom is living her new life as a widow. Sympathy rather than condemnation would of course be preferred. This rendition of my life is not some pity party fest. Sometimes when I look back and read about my life I do feel compassion for how I'm living and what I've lived through. It is the same sense of sympathy I'd feel for a victim of a natural disaster who has lost everything and picked up stakes moving to a new area, forced to restart their life. These folks are victims and so are widows. Victim is not a bad word. It is a description.

Yes, I believe someone can proudly hold up their head and say, "I'm a victim of some hard circumstances but that doesn't mean I'm giving up." I think you can be strong and a victim at the same time. Why do people want to take our past away from us? Widowhood and victimization go hand in hand. By telling us not to be victims, what does that end up doing to us? What is the message? That we're somehow responsible for our lives. That we brought this hardship upon us.

How we move on with our lives as widows is in our control. But what brought us to our knees was not. Admitting that I feel sad, depressed, lonely and scared doesn't mean I am submitting to a victim mentality. Saying I feel I was dealt a raw hand and I'm angry and envious of others better off than I am doesn't make me a victim either. I am a victim of widowhood - it is my reality. And I don't want to have to apologize or make excuses to others about it. Nor do I have to hide my grief or other feelings.

As a widow I've felt attacked from all directions - I shouldn't grieve so much or so long. I should or shouldn't have parented the way I did. I made the wrong decisions and that is what led me to where I am. I need to be stronger and get myself off the floor. I should be more grateful for all that I do have in my life, blah, blah, blah. And I've been accused of playing the victim. I think most widows out here are doing the best we can with the resources we have available to us. Maybe the solution should be less focused on pointing fingers and labeling and more focused on acknowledging what is being accomplished is lieu of what isn't. Criticizing me for being a victim doesn't change my circumstances or reality. Nor does it provide motivation. But it does make me feel more of a failure for not being able to overcome my adversity fast or good enough. I am a victim. Don't make me feel bad and guilty about that too.

Anyway, when did it become such a crime to be considered a victim in our society? And when did it become acceptable for people to point their fingers and tell people to stop being victims? Widowhood has put me on the defensive where I feel I am constantly under a microscope being judged for my thoughts, feelings and behavior. There is something very disconcerting about this. And whatever I end up saying or doing doesn't seem to make much difference to others, especially those pointing fingers. What is interesting about all this is that I think my life would still be where it is now regardless of how I'd viewed myself - victim or survivor. And the thing is, I think that is how I do view myself. As a combination of both.


  1. You go girl!!!! I am right there with you!!!! I think you are one of the strongest, most honest widows out there. You tell it like it is and sometimes it's just plain ugly. Sometimes it's not a "Hallmark" movie where everything turns out peachy-keen. This is life, real-life, and keep sharing about it. You are not a failure! You are an amazing person and great mom!

  2. I very much feel like a victim of being widowed. It's funny that when your spouse dies you are also considered a survivor. It's a very strange way to describe the widowed, as if we have already survived their death. I guess we have survived being victimized by deaths unwelcomed call.

    Good post.

  3. I can't for the life of me see how people can treat widows in such a mean, condescending way with all the platitudes. Obviously "they" have not traveled down that road and know not how they would react. It's different for every one and yet...quite the same. You are doing the best you can for such a life change as you've gone through.

  4. Beth - Thanks for the heads-up. I just wish that we weren't put down for our honesty. People only want to hear about the "Hallmark" moments.

    Dan - Thanks for your feedback and sharing that you have also felt as though you are a survivor of being victimized by your spouse's too-early death.

    Judy - I love that word "platitudes." People are so quick to spout them out but then fail to consider the steps needed to "get that job" or "stop being a victim." You can't just snap your fingers and change your life!