Monday, September 10, 2018

In Grief: Coping with A Spouse's Deathbed Confession

[Reviewed and updated August 15, 2022]

The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones. They erode our strength, our self-esteem, our very foundation.  ~ Cheryl Hughes

A colleague writes: I have been searching the internet for information on a situation that one of my newly referred clients has and am not really finding what I think I need. This client is dealing with the deathbed confession of her spouse. He had been cheating on her for many years. I meet with her next week and just wanted to do some prep work prior to our meeting. Any suggestions?

My response: The situation you describe with your client is certainly a challenge, and I'm sure I'm saying things you already know. Once you have an opportunity to assess the quality of her relationship with her spouse, you'll have a much better idea of to what extent this deathbed confession complicates her grief and how you can proceed to support her. At the very least, I would expect this woman to be ambivalent in her feelings toward her husband, and she will need encouragement to sort through all of that, as she may move from love to confusion to disappointment to anger and even to hatred. You will be of immense value to help her confront, express and come to terms with all of what she may be feeling.

I have a page on my Grief Healing website called Death That Brings Relief ~ and for your situation I would specifically recommend the following resources:

Grieving A Difficult Relationship by Jacque Amweg

When New Information Affects Our Grief by Kenneth Doka

Since Nobody's Perfect, May We Speak Ill of The Dead? by GregAdams

Liberating Losses: When Death Brings Relief, Book by Jennifer Elison and Chris Mcgonigle

Heartbreak, Abandonment and Betrayal, Guided Imagery CD or MP3 by Belleruth Naparstek

I also found this article to be helpful in seeing things from the surviving spouse's viewpoint, even though the circumstances are a bit different: Should My Dying Brother Admit to His Wife That He Had An Affair?

And in these articles, a young widow describes how learning the truth about her husband after his death impacted her mourning and complicated her grief for years afterward: My Dead Husband, the Serial Adulterer and He's Dead, But He's No Saint.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here

© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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