Saturday, January 2, 2010

The GOW Sacrifice

Many GOWs wonder if, by tending to his own grief needs, W is ignoring or being insensitive to her GOW needs. As a former GOW myself, I can validate how loving a W sometimes feels like an either/or proposition: either his needs are being met while the GOW's are being put on the back burner, or the GOW's issues are getting the attention they deserve while the W temporarily halts his grief process. There just doesn't seem to be much "wiggle room" for compromise when it comes to such demanding and complicated emotional needs on both sides.

Thus, it might seem like you, as a GOW, are usually the one in your relationship making all the sacrifices in the name of being compassionate to W's grief, but there is a good reason for this: you cannot control a W's grief process. It is much stronger than you are. This is why I caution all GOWs against insisting on having things go their way. Communication and compromise are key to accomodating W's grief while, at the same time, getting your needs met, too. It IS possible, but it takes a LOT of strength, trust, and belief in each other. Unfortunately, grief needs are very selfish needs. But tending to grief needs, selfish or not, is necessary in order for the survivor to properly heal.

Grief is a HUGE job. Think of W as grief's employee: the boss (grief) gives W a HUGE pile of work to do, but no deadline. W feels overwhelmed, but knows he must do the work or lose his job and thus, his suvival. He begins the immense task when suddenly, he is tempted away from the job by a sexy new co-worker (you!) who offers him respite from the tiring work. He still plugs away slowly at the work, but by spending more of his work time with the co-worker, he becomes a slacker who starts pissing off the boss.

The boss finally has a chat with him, telling him he must get his head back in the game and go back to where he left off with more enthusiasm if he is to get it done properly. The boss reminds him that he cannot serve two masters, and that he (the boss/grief) is the only master who holds the key to W's survival.

Meantime, the co-worker is making more and more demands of him that are opposite than those of the boss's. She wants him to please HER, and to him, what she offers feels sooo much better than the work. So, he is torn and confused: he wants to do what feels good, but he knows he must get the job done and done well if he is to keep his job/survive. At this point, he believes what the boss said about serving two masters, and realizes that a choice has to be made. He has no idea how to please the boss and the co-worker at the same time. Thus, making a choice means someone will get hurt, and since his job/survival is more important than his co-worker (the selfishness of grief), he goes back to the part of his work where he left off, and hopes the co-worker will understand and be patient until he finishes.

But the co-worker does not like being put off, even temporarily, so she starts making even more demands of him in order to take control away from the boss. This irks the employee to the point where he starts rebelling against the co-worker. He stops going to lunch with her, calling her and sending e-mails to her on company time, and simply puts his nose the grindstone whether she likes it or not. He can't help it...the workload is enormous and it takes everything he's got to concentrate in order to get through it all.

The co-worker then has two choices: she can either kep things friendly and encourage him to do the work while she patiently awaits her pay-off...or...she can keep insisting on her agenda, driving him further away, and making him even more resentful, perhaps to the point where he tells her that he cannot possibly juggle the work and her at the same time, and she loses him altogether.

Life is about choices, and GOWs who act wisely and out of compassion know that their patience will indeed pay off in the end when her W's grief journey becomes more manageable. The rainbow at the end of the storm is a reward for persevering through the dark times, and this is especially true when you are Loving A Widower....




  1. Thank you, Julie! You have a wonderful way of explaining complicated relationships ~ in a way that makes perfect sense. What a terrific writer you are!

  2. Thanks, Julie! Happy New Year to you. I have read your wonderful book, "Past: Perfect! Present: Tense!" I always look for your articles on line, too. I've been dating a widower for 6+ years and everythng you say rings so true. I'm a very patient person and I love him completely, but it can be very hard at times... Nat

  3. hi, I am or soon not to be a WOW...My husband and I separated two months ago...and the main reason is because i have been a mean stepmother. I have very severe mood swings and when im in one of those moods, i would snapped at the kids and lost my cool.

    i am very regretful and know that i was wrong. i sought forgiveness from the kids and they have forgiven me...but my husband would not forgive me and does not want me to be part of his and his kids lives. he said that he promised the kids late mum that he would take good care of them...and therefore he would not allow anyone to treat them badly. i am in total despair ...i am committed to change my behavior and is seeking professional help on a weekly can i gain his trust and faith in me again....will he ever beleive me again?

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    It may take time for your husband to gain back his trust in you, but you are taking the correct steps by seeking professional help. In time, your behaviours will improve and bear witness to your husband that you are sincere about making a life change.

    God bless you on your journey.

  5. Julie, I too have read "Past: Perfect! Present: Tense!" and my life as a WOW has changed dramatically. I am a newlywed and after six months of marriage I thought I was losing my mind. I had no idea that being married to a widower would be so difficult. The book has changed my life and I'm now learning how to be a happily married WOW. Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. Thank you so much for article above. I have been a GOW for a yr & a half. I love him very much, but it has been very challenging. He has pulled many times for 2-3 weeks at a time. I haven't seen him in a couple of mo. He called me for a date twice the first month, then each time canceled at the last min. I was pretty upset the last time & let him know it.(I had always been patient & understanding)He told me to not wait on him, to find someone was ready. I also have your book.