Image representing DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley pushing a shopping cart in a grocery store
What Not to Say


I am a bit of a hothead lately.

Well, at least compared to my previous self. I’ve always been a somewhat emotional person, but anger wasn’t something I often felt.

Sure, I’d get frustrated when Shawn did something like leave dirty dishes in the sink when he left for work. I can remember thinking how “angry” I was at him.

But I wasn’t really angry. I was irritated.

So all of this anger I’ve been feeling lately – well, that’s something that’s relatively new for me. I feel angry much more often than I ever did when Shawn was alive. To be fair, I’m not screaming at random people in the supermarket.

But I want to. I mean, I was getting some milk and eggs the other day and there was this guy in front of me bickering with his wife and I wanted to scream at him, “what the fuck is wrong with you?!”

(I promise I didn’t do that. But I wanted to.)

When Shawn died, my overarching emotion was sadness. I felt such deep sadness that he wasn’t around that there really wasn’t room for a lot of other emotions. Slowly, however, I started to feel other things. Insecurity. Guilt. Sometime even happiness.

And now, anger.

I know it’s completely irrational, but lately I’ve felt angry at Shawn for dying. For leaving me alone in this world. I have had moments when I felt like he left me on purpose.

“How could you do this to me?” I screamed at no one the other day.

I could be angry at God, I suppose, but I don’t believe in a God who intervenes on this earth. I definitely don’t believe in a God that decides that some people get cancer and others don’t.

Instead, I’m angry at people who probably don’t deserve it. For example, at Tommy’s birthday party, I was chatting with a fellow parent about turning 40. I was under the impression that he knew I was a widow (I mean, I live in DC but my school community is pretty small) and I was saying something about how turning 40 involved “a lot of complicated emotions.”

“I just didn’t imagine my life would be like this at age 40,” I said.

He looked thoughtfully at me, but a bit confused as well. “Well what did you imagine would be different?” he asked.

I raged internally. What did I imagine would be different? Was he actually serious?

“Well, for starters,” I said, “I didn’t imagine that my husband would be dead.” The anger in my voice was palpable enough that I saw Austin look over at me from across the room.

The man didn’t say anything. Of course he didn’t. How do you reply to that?

I could have been much more gracious. He was just trying to make conversation. He was there with his kid who he was trying to manage and he was not someone I knew well. Maybe he either genuinely didn’t know Shawn had died or maybe he had forgotten. Or maybe he knew and was trying to empathize with me. No matter what, it was clear that he didn’t deserve my anger.

But he got it.

Maybe this is why I feel like people are always so careful around me.

A few months ago, there was this meme going around my widow groups. It was a quote overlaid on this scary image of two people who looked like they were some sort of ghost/zombie hybrid. The photo freaked me out. But the words caught my eye:

I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief.

I thought about that meme in the hours after my interaction with this poor man at Tommy’s party.

My anger is certainly just another part of my grief. It’s a changed grief, to be sure. My grief is no longer the kind that’s easily recognizable when you see me across the playground and I’m chatting with my friends and holding my baby boy on my hip.

My grief is different now.

The grief that I sit with is not the kind that people easily understand. Tears make sense for a widow. Rudeness – even if it’s justified in my head – is less well tolerated.

But it’s who I am now. I am no longer a sugar-sweet happy wife who can let things bounce off my back with a laugh.

I’m a widow.

And sometimes that means that I am angry.


  • Greg

    Sometimes this helps: Write a letter-the more detailed and angry, the better-then, sit down (with beverage of choice) and light it on fire. Watch it burn, until it has all gone up in smoke.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, I love the idea of burning a written letter! Though then I couldn’t use it later in the blog…. 😉

  • Whitney

    I’ve snapped at two people at work this week and I said to my mom two nights ago “fuck you so hard, lady.” I am not apologetic for my anger even though my MIL says it’s “pointless” to be angry. What’s the point of any emotion? Why is sadness better than anger? And I’m annoyed that Pete died and I have to move, that’s a punk move, Pete. Maybe you snapping at that dad will make him think before speaking to someone else going through something difficult. Sometimes I feel like there’s power in being a widow. Not just a get out of jail free card, but a patch we get to wear that says IDGAF so I won’t placate your ignorance. Also, I stand by my outbursts- the people were jerks and deserved it. xoxo

    • Marjorie

      Yes, the amount that I used to care about other people’s perceptions of me has gone WAY down. I don’t want to be outwardly rude if I can help it, but if I’m blunt or just calling things how they are (yes, my husband is dead) I can’t hold back anymore. That’s part of being a widow, for sure.

  • Melissa

    Amen, sister. To everything you said here. Angry at my husband for dying, angry at stupid things people say, angry at people who go through life oblivious to what they have and are not appreciative of it. I saw our dentist about two months after my husband died. Everyone in the office knew about it (the hygienist and I talked about it at length during my appointment.) When the dentist came in to check me, he said “Well, anything new or exciting?” I wanted to say “Apart from my husband dying, not really.” But I didn’t. I just squeaked out the “Not really” part. That was then. I think now I would, like you, pipe up and say what I’m thinking, niceties be damned. Thank you for posting this.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, I totally give ridiculous answers to people all the time when they ask “how are you?”

      “Well, I’m great, except for my dead husband.”

      I swear, I never used to be so ridiculous. But now I am!

  • Melanie

    Yep. Anger. That anger that only we understand. I can’t tell you how many tree trunks I probably ruined throwing rocks at them in the woods behind my house. Poor trees. The first time I said out loud that I was angry at my husband for dying filled me with guilt, but then, weirdly enough, I felt relief. Over time for me, that anger towards others boiled down to impatience, especially when THEY were “angry” about what I considered stupid things because I, after all, had been through so much more than they had ever been. Or so I thought until I realized that they could have been through worse things although what’s worse than your spouse dying? I don’t know their stories. At least I have a home, a car, a career, and a healthy immediate family. I have become “mouthier” because I have to stand up for myself, but in other ways I’ve become gentler because things that used to really annoy me just aren’t worth the rise in blood pressure any longer and I don’t react to them anymore. But it has taken almost 5 years to get there and I’ll always be a work in progress.

    You are in a fragile state and will be for a while. One day at a time; one moment at a time. You have a right to be angry. It will soften. I never thought it would, but it does. I think you eventually come to a kind of calm, observant, introspective wisdom that grows from your grief with the anger settlling down into something less ferocious. Keep writing. These raw entries are so honest and soul-baring, and you aren’t alone. Hugging you….

    • Marjorie

      I love love love what you wrote here:

      I have become “mouthier” because I have to stand up for myself, but in other ways I’ve become gentler because things that used to really annoy me just aren’t worth the rise in blood pressure any longer and I don’t react to them anymore.

      Mouthier and gentler. Yes, that’s widowhood.

  • Kate

    Marjorie, thank you for sharing this. It is a part of the grieving process that I feel is most misunderstood and often suppressed by those grieving. I also feel a lot of anger at times at my husband for leaving me to handle this life alone. I feel isolated and just really tired from picking up the pieces every single day of a life that I don’t want and didn’t ask for. The love for my child is what keeps me going. I have lashed out at family members and friends and I have hurt people when my intense grief and sadness turns to anger. My biggest fear is becoming bitter end having it ruin my life. Like you, I married young and I built my life with my husband. I now feel like I am back to being in my early 20’s starting over, but not with the curious and adventurous mind and spirit, but with decades more life experiences and responsibilities. My circle of friends no longer fits and I feel lonely and displaced. Why did this happen to is, to me? There isn’t a reason. Sometimes shit happens and this time it happened to me. And it is okay to be angry at that. I truly think, it is part of healing and final acceptance of our new life

    • Marjorie

      I have such a wonderful group of loving, supportive friends AND sometimes I still feel lonely and displaced. I think it’s just part of the process of being widowed and trying to find a new way to interact with the world. But like you, I do not want to become bitter. I still want to live and find joy in this world!

    • David

      Wow, I feel exactly the same way when you say, ” I feel isolated and just really tired from picking up the pieces every single day of a life that I don’t want and didn’t ask for.” I had my entire life laid out and was happy with what I had. Then my husband died, and I was left with the scraps of a life, and a new shit life that I either had to endure or kill myself and not.
      My mind also revolts on things I feel like I should have to do, like fixing my car. It was damaged when I slid out on the snow because CDOT hadn’t plowed like they were supposed to, and I had to fight my brain through 4 different places to get it fixed, with my brain all the while saying, “Greg is supposed to do this, not me!”

      With all my anger, I too fear becoming bitter. I especially identified with “decades more life experiences and responsibilities”. I’m an entirely different person than when I married 8 years ago, and now I look at having to start all over again with finding a husband (I’m 35), and think, ‘Why do I have to go through all this effort. I’ve already done this work.’

      • Marjorie

        Oh, I was just talking to a friend about this exact thing a few days ago – how I worry about becoming bitter. I don’t have any answer to this, but I at least can say this: I feel ya.

  • Kate

    I understand. I get angry that we are no longer someone’s priority in life. I have always had difficulties standing up for myself, but boy did I learn quick. I have learned to put my son and myself first because nobody else will.

  • Bonnie

    I understand that anger. I understand because I , too, am a widow. Those who are not widows or widowers don’t really get this. I’m glad they don’t because it means they still have their spouse. I have had the anger over this last year(year two of being a widow). I got into a huge argument with a family member because of my anger. I’m happy to say the anger has subsided. I’m just in a lonely state right now. The stages of grief suck but basically grief sucks. Time helps. It truly does. Take care.

    • Marjorie

      I seem to fluctuate between anger and loneliness – not a good set of emotions! But sometimes I can see the light…..and yes, time does help.

  • JW

    I’m a 35 year old with a two year old daughter watching my 30 year old wife die slowly from end stage renal failure.

    Its terrifying contemplating what’s going to happen, how life will be or how I will be once she’s gone.

    Life’s been so strained for so long. My wife has type 1 diabetes and I nearly lost both her and our daughter late in the pregnancy. Our wee girl was born with multiple heart defects and required multiple surgeries. But we got through all of that.

    Then we found out about a year ago that the wifes renal function had significantly degraded to total renal failure. She can’t make it into a transplant list until she’s healthy enough. To make matters worse her immune system is shot. She can’t catch a break, so much as a crack in dry skin will abcess and become infected, resulting in more time in hospital and less chance of a window of health to get a shot at a transplant.

    We’ve realistically lost all hope she’ll ever be well enough for long enough to get on a list, let alone stay on it enough to be on it when a donor organ becomes available. In our country circumstances count for nothing, it’s all about how long you’ve been on the list.

    Now I look at the love of my life withering away week by week, slowly dying before my eyes and there’s nothing we can do except frustratingly wait for the times she can be at home to spend some time.

    Then I look at the sweet little girl next to me and my heart just drops and spins. Will she remember her mother? Will she be heartbroken as she grows up? Am I strong enough to do just as well raising her once I’m alone?

    I hadn’t thought to even look for someone else so young blogging about it online and it brings some degree of comfort to be able to read about someone else’s experience. I’ve only begun to read but it’s good to know there’s something to lean on out there.

    • Marjorie

      First of all – I’m so sorry. It doesn’t make anything easier, but dealing with the worst thing life can throw at you…..well, just know that there are others out there who understand. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do to ease your pain, but I know this – there can be great beauty in those last times together, even if they are horrible. And your baby girl will be okay, that I promise. There are days when I’m not sure I’ll be okay, but I KNOW my kids will be. They remain resilient – and they keep pieces of both of their parents in them, no matter if those parents are alive or gone. Sending hugs.

      • JW

        Thanks Marjorie. I watched something over the last couple days. Ricky Gervais actually. It made me realise I’m not really truely emotionally connecting with what’s happening, which is never healthy. It’s because I’d given up hope. Without hope, what do we really have? It’s the one thing we can’t afford to give up on.

  • Andrew

    I’m angry. Angry my wife has lost her life, angry that I have lost most of our friends, angry at myself for failing my family. It will soon be a year since her passing and the anxiety is building as to what will I feel on the day.

    I am fighting back – I am trying to be a better parent to a young child, trying to judge less and be open to more, trying to appreciate the little things like a nice day or laughter. It’s a long, lonely road especially when you are holding the hand of someone so young who lost so much.

    Thank you for your blog.

    • Marjorie

      The weeks leading up to the one-year anniversary of my husband’s death were the worst. It felt like a relief to get through that day, and I bet it will for you too. And yes, I think it’s a tough journey, but one that does eventually get easier as the time goes on. Stay strong. Sending hugs.

      • Elaine Elash

        I lost my husband at age 75. He wasn’t feeling well after playing tennis and he went for a shower and change his clothes and took a nap. I ran to the grocery store for about a half hour and when I came home he ahad passed away. I was totally devastated but what hurts the most was my only child did not come to my house but rather have me come to her and this was two weeks after my husband had died ; her husband and his father had put together a will. Leaving everything to my grandson. It’s a generation skipping will.

        I was horrified, the last thing I was thinking about was my will. My daughter also told me not to cry in front of my grandson because it would upset him. So I was forced to cry in the shower. She had purchased tickets to come for Christmas and canceled the tickets because I had an angry conversation with her about all this behavior of hers

        Also I caught Covid on the airplane ride to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. And I was by myself alone in the house for 10 days. During that period of time, I went thru the worst hell I I have ever experienced and I directly blame my daughter

        She canceled all the Christmas reservations and didn’t show up. I was suicidal totally hurt and I didn’t want to leave her one dime as far as the inheritance goes . When she tried to call for Christmas I didn’t answer the phone. I have not had her try and call Me since then.

        • M Brimley

          It’s so hard. I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your husband and the really hard things in your family. It’s so challenging, on top of already crushing grief.

          I have found that, given time, things often get easier with family and friends. I hope that’s true for you, too.

    • David

      I lost my husband May 2018, and I’m struggling with the exact same problems you pointed out. I have a teenage son, and I’m constantly fighting to be a better parent, try to judge him less, and be open to things not going as I want them to. But I often fail in this endeavor. I’m just going to be the parent I can be, and not try to “do my best” or force myself to act a certain way when it just exhausts me.

      • Marjorie

        Oh, I fail A LOT. I think it’s part of grief, really. Just try and go easy on yourself. Parenting alone is NOT easy.

  • David

    What are we supposed to do with that anger?

    I’m full of anger right now: at my husband for dying and leaving me alone, for having to build a new life from scraps, for the continual financial worry, with my having to pursue my third choice career so that I can get a job asap, with being judged as inferior because my training / experience isn’t the traditional for my third choice career, at my son for not putting in effort at school when I’m putting everything into keeping our family going, at continually failing to succeed in securing a career, because no one will give me a chance. The list goes on.

    I keep going and keep trying no matter how I feel, because that’s what my husband taught me to do. But my anger grows because I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, but I’ve spent almost two years continually failing with none of my efforts rewarded with the success I’ve earned.

    I don’t want to grow bitter, but I don’t know how to get rid of all of this anger.

    • Marjorie

      My only solution has been to find an outlet – for me it’s been writing and running. Those two things help me let some of the other things go. But I still have many moments of anger. I think we just do the best we can, ya know?

  • Frances

    I came across your article by accident, thank goodness.
    I have been a widow for 4 years and am rather a laid back person. I am now dating a man and find that this anger is coming out of nowhere. He is so different than my husband, but a wonderful man. How does one handle this?
    Thanks Frances

    • M Brimley

      I assume that you mean you’re feeling angry? I actually have some ideas about this, and I’m going to try and answer them in an upcoming post. But suffice to say, I think it’s VERY NORMAL. And I also think that it’s something you can discuss with your partner, at least a little bit, as a way to help cope. More to come from me soon….

  • Court

    I lost my uncle feb 2020 and my aunt has been terrible ever since. Being rude and angry all the time, but I’m always trying to be patient even though it’s hard. I’m glad I ran across this blog because at least I know the anger is normal and will hopefully get better. If anyone has any advice for me it will gladly be appreciated.

    • M Brimley

      Yes, I think anger is often a real part of grief. I do think you can encourage your aunt to seek out therapy, and that you can create healthy boundaries with her if it’s needed.

  • Cynthia

    Read the article and the other posts. I am angry. It isn’t a stage then on to the next emotion on the list. It comes and goes in waves. I get angry at God. I get angry with myself. I get angry with my husband. My husband died suddenly in the hospital. He was to have a simple heart proceedure that is done all the time with great results. The proceedure was done. The doctor came out and told me it went very well. He was in recovery and would be going home the next day. Then he died. They resuscitated him then spent 7 hours trying to keep him alive. He died. The fog has faded. I am seeing clearler. I am mad. I didn’t want this. I hate being alone. I hate the full complete responsiblity of taking care of all of life myself. I am not a plumber, a carpenter, etc. My mind keeps telling me everyone dies, it is part of life, and it is normal. I don’t care. I am mad. I am tired of this. I want it to stop. I want our life back. I want to have friends. I want to laugh, I want to be with him, and so forth.

    • M Brimley

      Oh, I get this. It’s so hard. I know the feeling of being so overwhelmed and grief stricken that it can seem totally impossible. I don’t have much else to say except that your feelings are totally vital. And – I promise – things do ease a bit as time passes. I’ll be holding you in my heart.