Type 3: The Critic

In the previous blog post, I talked about 2 of the 4 types of people that Grieving persons will encounter during their journey on the road to recovery.  You can find that article HERE.

This week, we’ll talk about one of the last two types of people you will meet as a person who is grieving:

3. The Critic

I didn’t know my husband was going to die. I went with him to the hospital pretty sure he’d come back out recovered. Even when he was in ICU, I thought he’d recover. He’d been pretty healthy, despite his disabilities, and the thought that this experience could be life-ending never occurred to me. When SHE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED (my sister in law) called, asked to speak to Sam, he was already irritable and wanted everyone to leave him alone. She couldn’t speak to Sam, since he was deaf and even with his CI he could not hear the phone well. He had a tube down his nose, IV’s and couldn’t eat or even drink water. If I put the phone near him, he would swat it away.

I told SWMNBN that Sam couldn’t speak to her and vice versa at that time and he would talk to her later. He died less than 48 hours later.

She called immediately after he died, complaining that I had announced it on Facebook before telling her personally. I feel no regret about the general announcement, since all my family was on Facebook, all if HIS friends were on Facebook, and having to tell everyone that Sam died, over and over again was something I was NOT willing to do.  It may have seemed impersonal to her, but to me, it was the path available offering, indeed allowing, the least amount of pain.

In subsequent calls, she asked for locks of his hair, fingerprints from his dead body, and many other things I didn’t want to deal with on her behalf.  There were things I HAD to deal with immediately as his widow and I felt inadequate to deal with those very necessary things.  Her requests were not necessary to anyone except her and I could not deal with other people’s needs at that time. I referred her to my brother to send all her requests. She was offended, even though she did get everything she requested.

When she got up to speak about Sam at the memorial, she shared a nasty story that did not reflect well on Sam at all, but showed a great deal about her bitterness and vitriol. She wouldn’t sign papers to allow the probate to move forward. She told me personally that she didn’t want me to benefit from having married her brother. She had spent more time taking care of him, she said, than I had. She said many things criticizing the way I handled her brother’s death, our marriage, and the aftermath, despite having a very slim, tenuous and spotty contact with Sam (they fought often and had long bouts of silence between them). For two years, probate was prolonged because she wouldn’t “let me benefit” from my marriage to her brother.

Eventually, I did apologize. I was sorry for the way I handled everything. Not for her sake, though. I seriously doubted it would have changed anything — least of all her. I was sorry that she had to deal with a sudden loss. I was not sorry that I couldn’t deal with her. That was simply a fact. I was sorry that she was stuck in that situation. I was also, sorry for myself, completely justified in my sorrow for my loss, that I had to deal with such a complete witch while I was mourning.

SWMNBN would have found some other way to take out her anger on me, I’m sure, because she couldn’t take it out on Sam. That she turned all her anger into criticism of me was how she handled grief (or didn’t handle it). She does have a list of things I should have done, that I did wrong, and that I shouldn’t have done, and almost all of them selfishly revolve around her (not Sam).

Critics are not necessarily malevolent. They do think they are justified because they “feel” that they know the way things should be, and they also think that in telling you, you should listen to that advice.

Sometimes critics are fellow travelers, widows/widowers who have advice on how you should do things, and when you don’t follow said advice, will tell you, often very directly, that you are less than wise–some of them using much nastier words. Some critics will not tell you directly at all what they think, but will find some way to get the word to you.

It’s hard to believe that they have any empathy for you, or that you should have any empathy for them.

They are control freaks and drama queens. This is how they deal with your pain, and quite often, their own. But they are fellow travelers. How you deal with them can affect, will probably affect, as it did me, the entire process of your grieving.

Most of the time, critic advice will only get through to you when you are reviewing what has transpired. You can agonize over their advice, take it seriously, or ignore it, but remember that on this path, you are still going to be the best person to know what process is needed for recovery. You will find enough things to regret in the days after your loss, you don’t need to add to it with entertaining critics. You may want to tell them you are unable to process their advice, but don’t expect it to help the conversation.

You may not ever be able to deal with critics as an aid in your own process. To be aware of them and the potential hazards of crossing them will help you avoid any pitfalls or any unnecessary distractions while you are traveling this path of grief. It is good to recognize them, in any case, because they will cause you unnecessary pain if you allow prolonged contact.

Stay clear of critics if you can. They are the most destructive of any sense of peace and serenity you may be able to put together in your journey of all 4 types of people you will meet.