Grief in General

Stop the Shame

Did you know that widows feel shame? 

Did you know that widowers feel shame?

I just realized this.

As I was driving to hospice bereavement last week it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Sometimes when I speak about Michelle, I feel shame.

And many times I do not speak about Michelle when I want to, because I feel shame.

Yes, even me. 

I know that is shocking to most of you.  After all, I write about Michelle all of the time on my personal page, and on my blog.

It’s true though.  Even me.  The outspoken widower from Illinois.

I feel shame.

And so many others do too.

When the realization of this hit me, I was taken aback. 

I realized that when I post about Michelle on my personal page, I sometimes cringe –  because I know that there are certain people that will see my post and will think things. 

He wants attention.

He still isn’t over her?

Why does he talk about her so much?

He’ll never find someone else if he keeps this up.

His posts make me sad.

I realized that the last time I posted something truly intense about how badly I miss Michelle on my blog page, I felt shame.

The truth is, I am not blaming these people.  Or their thoughts (as ignorant as they may be).

No, I am blaming myself.

And – I am blaming you – for your own shame, my fellow widows and widowers.

Only YOU have the power to Stop the Shame.

The ignorance of others cannot – and should not – prohibit us from loving our spouses.

The ignorance of others cannot – and should not – prohibit us from missing our spouses.

The ignorance of others cannot – and should not – prohibit us from speaking of our spouses.

The ignorance of others cannot – and should not – prohibit us from carrying their memory and love with us for the remainder of our days.

The ignorance of others cannot – and should not – prohibit us from grieving beyond the 365 day marker that has been deemed appropriate by those who know no such pain.

The ignorance of others cannot – and should not – prohibit us from grieving the way that we need to grieve, from living the way that we need to live and from loving the way that we need to love.

Let them think we do it for attention.

Let them snicker.

Let them roll their eyes.

They don’t know.

They have no idea.

Their ignorance shines a bright light on their character, or lack of it.

Let it.

The truth is, while we are a community of people that can generally understand each other – EVERY situation is unique, EVERY grief is different, EVERY pain stamped with its own custom print.

Judgment, even amongst each other, should be checked at the door.

Stop the Shame.

If you want to talk about your deceased spouse – talk about them.

If you don’t want to talk about deceased spouse – don’t talk about them.

If you want to try and date again – date again.

If you don’t want to try and date again – don’t date again.

Stop letting  others shame you into what you do, what you say and how you live.

Do what you feel is right.

Say what you want to say.

Live how you want to live.

Let me be clear, this is NOT a post enabling bad behavior.

No, I am not saying to drink yourself to sleep every night.

No, I am not saying to be mean or cruel to others simply because you are in pain.

No, I am not saying to quit your job and give up on life.

No, I am not saying to let the bitterness of your loss eat away at your soul.

I hope that each and every one of you can take your loss, take the immense pain from your loss and manifest it towards a positive.  Not right away obviously, but in due time.

What this is, is a post to tell you to: Stop the Shame

Stop letting the words, actions and opinions of others dictate how you grieve.

It is your grief!

They were your spouse! 

It was your future!

It is your life! 

Our loves were taken from us.

Through cancer, and heart disease.  Through suicide, and drug addiction.  Through war, and accidents.

Our lives were turned upside down.

Our futures were forever altered.

I am done feeling ashamed.

As much as I may type the words, I almost never say this out loud:




I want to go outside right now and I want to shout it.


Over and over again.

Because I have been holding it in for so long.

Out of shame.


I miss her in our youth.  The teenage romance that made a young man fall madly in love with his blonde beauty.  Those memories I will forever cherish.

I miss her in our past.  The reuniting of soul mates after nearly a decade apart. A fairytale romance I will never forget.

I miss her in our future. Fifty beautiful years together. Stolen from us in the most callous of ways.

I no longer care if people think I am weird.

I no longer care if people think my openness is embarrassing.

I no longer care what timetable people think a grieving heart should be subject to.

My shame is over.



I don’t care who judges me.  Anyone who judges is too small minded to matter.

I don’t care what they say. Anything they say is too irrelevant to be taken seriously.

I don’t care if the love I have for my wife makes all potential new love interests run away. Any woman who doesn’t understand a heart large enough for two, lacks the depth that I require.

So, to all of my fellow widows and widowers – and to anyone else who is grieving and sometimes feels the same way, today is the day:

Stop the Shame.

© Copyright 2017 John Polo

23 thoughts on “Stop the Shame

    1. This is awesome, I had a Therapist tell me that if certain friends feel uncomfortable with me talking about my son & husband, then I should respect their wishes??? Seriously I got rid of so called friends & therapist
      Thank you so much

  1. Thank you so much for your words that really touched me……I needed to hear this….people will always say things and until they have walked in our shoes….they have no right to judge……this is our pain…..our loss….the love of our life has been taken from us…thank you so much!

  2. I feel this exact way. Most people are uncomfortable with my grief but I dont care. I miss my husband. Thank you for your insightful and soul calming stories.

  3. Thanks for writing this John. It came for me at the right time. I get the feeling that people are expecting to be “over it” by now. But we will never truly be over it. We may heal over time, but we can never get over a loss like this.

  4. I did fall in love with a man after my husband was gone awhile..I was still grieving..he seemed kind..but in the end..he acted like it was wrong for me to talk about my husband..he was not loving me really..though he would say he did. .I felt like he wanted me to work wmaking only !10 an hour at my skill level..I was a full time stay at home Mom..he had some great qualities. .but..he seemed ok without me..And he didn’t want to work consistently to keep his house and land..even though he was college educated and an Occupatiinal Therapist. .he hurt my feelings too often..finally I had a meltdown and we broke up..we tried again because I still loved him so much but. .evetything had to be his way..he’s a spoiled Mamas boy and worked but couldnt emo deal..
    He wasnt Manly and Strong enough..I think he was just being a selfish jerk..or he had a mood disorder like I do..and was not capable of caring for me..I left again after only 2 weekends together..I didn’t feel treasured or special and seem to just want a good time but not to deeply love s woman really. .
    My test is this..if the man knows God and or Jesus..and wants to get to know me..not just take advantage of a widows needs unfulfilled and tempt and seduce me..then I will love the man and see his qualities and think he must love me too..No..he was just having fun..
    If there is no real cigar jerks!
    Finally I am celibate and unashamed to be myself. .a woman helping others and loving them..
    No more pearls before swine!

  5. Should I share this on my Facebook page?Do you think it will make a difference to the people who can’t understand my pain.I certainly didn’t know this kind of pain existed until I lost my love of 48 yrs.I’m not really looking for an answer,just saying.Take care all

  6. I shared it and I don’t care if every one of em get mad! Thanks for posting this when you did Sir! I needed this… Thanks and God Bless!

  7. I miss my brother who lived with my husband and I in his last few years. Today it is a if it was yesterday but will be six yrs soon. My pop we lost just last year the price we pay to love others

  8. John,

    I am also a widower that lost my wife to cancer. It has been just about six years. I have remarried but I still miss her dearly. That is nothing against the woman that I am no married too. Sometimes we are made to feel that if we find love after losing a spouse that we should no longer miss the spouse that we lost. I find it amazing how people like to put their expectations on us when they have not walked our path. Be blessed brother.

  9. Painful, but I needed to read this. It’s not easy sharing space in a man’s heart with another woman. I want the raw truth and I got it. My guy still has photos up after almost six years and I told him I will never ask him to put them away. Love doesn’t stop when the heart quits beating. As long as I have equal space in his heart, I don’t mind sharing him with her. Honestly, most people think I am too accepting, but I’m sticking with what I believe is right and I have peace about it. I hope its okay that I share being that I’m not a widower (widow), but I love one.


  10. John
    I have read this post multiple times hoping at some point I will own it. My wife died at the age of 51 from a sudden heart attack just 5 months ago. A majority of my references to her in conversation have been fun and happy memories, but I already find myself trying to filter the use of her name in conversation thinking it makes others uncomfortable. I appreciate your straightforward and honest opinions on these issues. Thanks!

  11. Thank you so much for writing this. Yesterday, August 14, was 7 years that my husband passed, leaving me, 53 and our two sons, 19 and 17 at the time. I MISS HIM and I will for the rest of my life no matter if someone else ever comes into my life. So thank you, thank you, thank you so much!!

  12. I can’t stop feeling shame over the fact that I am not “better.” I know some people dont get it but im not concerned with them. Im concerned with me. Im ashamed of being so weak. Its 10 months. It may as well be yesterday. On the surface i may appear better. I can get out of the house. But that is someone else in my body. I just go through the motions.

    1. Michael, please, please, please do not feel that way. I was SO bitter while she was sick. The entire 2 1/2 years, I was so bitter. Bitterness is a normal part of the grieving process. It takes time, and sometimes work, to find your ‘better’. Please do not feel weak. I am 18 months out and I still have awful days. 10 months in, I was a hot mess.

  13. Thank you. I wish I had read this two years ago. That’s when I lost my husband. I know what it is to feel shame too. Now I am with a wonderful man who knew my husband and is comfortable with my talking about him. But I feel shame for that sometimes. I can sense when people look at me that way or when another widow says she could never be with anyone else. It hurts. I love my husband and will always miss him. But I am doing what I want and what he would have wanted. I’m living my life. You’re right. They don’t understand.

  14. Dear John Polo, I loved your article and just shared it on my Facebook page with a preface, finally expressing how a woman cut through my heart like a knife when she told me to not mention that I was a widow. Not to share stories about my beloved husband of 25 years (he died of cancer at age 48). She just negated 25 years of our history. It’s through my storytelling that my spouse’s legacy lives on forever. My mate died in 2009. I’ve read some of your work from Michelle Miller’s posts. I will see if I can friend request you so I can see your posts on a regular basis. Keep writing. You are very inspiring. With warm regards, Wendy Landers-Lee

  15. People that say we want attention, we’re feeling sorry for ourselves , etc. have probably not lost a spouse so how do they know how we feel? Loosing my husband was the deepest pain I have ever felt or gone through besides loosing my mom and sister. I guess you do feel a certain amount of shame when people say things like that. They just don’t understand the pain that won’t go away.

  16. I feel that part of the healing process, we should all be able to share our emotions. I thank God everyday for having a great group of supportive friends and family. I can feel confident and comfortable in sharing ALL the things. I was not fortunate enough to have widows groups early on in my grief. I have shared my journey through Kevin’s (my husband) illness and through death on my personal page. These people have watched my life at its worst, through tears, love, the pain of my journey, the joys, they have been there through it all cheering me on. When they see me in real life they tell me that they love following me and my stories on fb. No shame here! I MISS MY HUSBAND!!!!

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