For widows, shame drives our fear that we are not good enough. Shame isolates us, separating us from others and from our shared humanity. Shame is a profoundly debilitating emotion. No one wants to talk about it, but by its very nature shame makes us want to fold ourselves up and hide from the world.
Shame and guilt often go together. But, unlike guilt, the experience of shame is not necessarily tied to a specific behavior. Instead, it is often linked to who we believe we are, deep down.
It’s easy to understand how shame can turn into social anxiety or fear of social situations. Most of the time, our shame emanates from some imagined defect in ourselves and without our husbands to love us, we feel it even more.
If there is one lesson widows need to learn, it is that what they believe most shameful about themselves is often what makes them most human. Getting the facts can go a long way towards stopping you from measuring yourself by the narrow cultural images that surround you, especially in the media. When it comes to fighting shame, sticking with loyal friends is the most powerful force imaginable.
Widows need to replace silence and shame with pride and the ability to speak up on their own behalf.
Shame can also make you feel obligated to deny your fear and grief, to tuck it away rather than give voice to it. There is nothing shameful about recognizing how much we need each other. What is shameful is the myth that, “with the right can-do attitude, we can beat our way to health and happiness.”
Widows shouldn’t expect to turn their terrifying experiences and losses into a more positive future without first taking the time to grieve the loss of their loved one. Few of us are evolved enough to live fully, mindfully and peacefully while facing a crisis.
Widows maximize their energy when they stop comparing themselves to others. It isn’t easy, but we can take action steps to living a meaningful life without shame and guilt.