As hurt and angry as the man has made me, it won’t really serve any purpose for him to die.
Some things about life can never be avoided. One among the list of inevitable experiences we will all have is death. So, if you’re divorced, the one you once imagined growing old with will eventually die, sometimes before you do. How will you react when your ex passes?
Death has been on my mind a lot lately. My stepdad recently passed away, and my ex has been recovering from serious surgery. During one of our visitation exchanges, I looked at his pale, gaunt figure and realized that perhaps I should address the proper reaction for me to have when he finally dies. I recently saw a post on social media inviting followers to respond with an emoticon representing their reaction to their ex-spouse’s death.
Most of the replies were celebratory and included messages like “good riddance” or “it’s about time!” A few respondents, however, shared sad faces and explained that their ex was a big part of their life, the other parent of their child, or still someone they loved; so, they would mourn their ex’s loss.
Within the context of joking, I completely get the balloons, champagne bottles, and happy faces! I, too, am not either of my exes’ biggest fans. I don’t consider them friends, I don’t like them, and I have many sad and painful memories attached to our time together. I will admit to muttering curses such as “I wish you were dead” under my breath, and my sick fascination with reading accident reports from the area where my ex lives, just in case something might’ve happened to him.
But, do I really want my ex dead?
On the one hand, we will all finally meet our maker, so if it’s his time, it’s not for me to say. It’s not as though I have any control over his fate. I won’t step in front of a bus to spare him, but I don’t actively insert pins in a voodoo doll of his likeness or beg a higher power to take him out. He has his life, and I have mine. His life still influences mine more than I would like; but, that situation will fade as my kids become older.
As hurt and angry as the man has made me, it won’t really serve any purpose for him to die. His demise wouldn’t wipe clean the slate of everything that occurred between us, change who he is, or drastically improve the quality of my life. I also can’t lose sight of the fact that he is a human being; perhaps not my favorite, but I still shouldn’t wish for anyone’s death!
How should any of us react to the death of our former spouse? The answer to this question is different for each person based on their relationship. I understand that some of our exes continue to torment us well past the break-up of our relationship or caused us extreme hardship by way of physical, sexual, financial, and mental abuse throughout our marriage. These exes brought a piece of hell to earth, and life probably will seem safer, more peaceful, and brighter when they are gone!
A woman I knew from my childhood used to tell me about how her ex abused alcohol and was extremely physically violent during their marriage. The final straw for her was when he pulled a gun on her in front of their children. He died of a drug overdose when the kids were in their late teens. When I heard about his passing, I was surprised that she never thought twice about attending his funeral! I couldn’t imagine going out of my way to pay tribute to the monster from my past or rubbing shoulders with his family.
She explained that despite the terror and heartbreak he subjected her and their children to, he would always hold a special place in her heart as her first love and the father to her children. She attended his funeral to support her children as they mourned their dad, and shed tears for the memories of the good times they shared.
I have tried, many times, to place myself in her shoes.
I imagine walking into a crowded funeral home full of my ex’s friends and family- people he lied about me to and his center of support. I can only imagine it would be the most incredibly awkward and uncomfortable experience! The woman I described had her own personal reasons for attending her ex’s funeral; but, remember, she also went for her children. I try, then, to imagine what it would feel like to attend his funeral, but this time from the perspective of the mother of his children and to support them in their grief.
I think I could make myself walk into the lion’s den for the sake of my children and to offer them comfort; otherwise, I think I have already cried my tears and mourned my loss through our divorce. Perhaps I will feel differently when his death is more than a vision I play out in my mind.
Divorce has a way of disrupting so many life events and processes. Even death is not immune from the strange and dark touch of divorce. At one time in our life, the person lying in the coffin was our greatest source of happiness and our favorite person. Their loss would have crushed our entire world. Then, a divorce happened, and the destruction of joy and future dreams happened prematurely, like a death of its own. We mourn the loss of our spouse even though they still live and breathe and go on living without us.
Some of us will cry tears of sorrow while others may dance on the grave of our ex when they die. I am still wrapping my head around this strange set of circumstances and what my place is when death comes calling. In most ways, I feel that my ex and I severed all connections and interest to one another, except for the tie of our children, through divorce. I don’t think I would want an ex at my funeral, so I imagine I would be unwanted at theirs, as well.
Despite the obvious bad experiences that prompted or defined our divorce, there may still be a benefit to some closure with our former love, or parts of our self that desire to lay feelings from the past to rest. How do you think you will react when your ex passes? Will you attend the funeral, or will it be just like any other day?