Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I decided to start the New Year by admitting the truth to myself and to others suffering at the hand of brutal spouses – I am gloriously happy being unwed!
You see, I spent the better part of my life (56 years) with the meanest, cruelest and most vicious excuse of a human being. Many people attempted to make peace, even while knowing how bad things were at home. They felt it was worth it for me to stay because of our eight children – who suffered from my husband as well.
I wrote to you over thirty years ago and you tried to convince me to leave him. You even found me some place to stay (with my five children at that time), but I was too afraid to leave. I thought he would kill us all if I left.
I regret to this day that I didn’t take your advice. By staying, I damaged my children’s futures. Three of my daughters married men very similar to their father and four of my sons are now divorced because of how they treated their wives. I have fourteen grandchildren I do not see anymore because their mothers want to forget they ever married into this family. One son has not married, as he is afraid he might repeat the negative behaviors he witnessed in our home.
For fifty-six years I prayed that the Malach HaMaves would take my life. Every Rosh Hashanah I davened that Hashem should have rachmanos on me and take him back. We experienced so many years of not having food because he would not give me money to buy groceries. Were it not for my charitable friends who invited my children over after school and fed them nourishing meals, I don’t know how they would have survived.
These women knew what I was going through, but had no way of helping me without angering their own husbands, who were friends with my husband. They would give me the clothing and shoes their children outgrew, sometimes even slipping in items with the tag still on so the child receiving it would feel good.
The only time the boys got “new” suits was for their bar mitzvos – the girls never got anything.
This Rosh Hashanah, Mrs. Bluth, my tefillos were finally heard. In the middle of the tefillah of U’nesaneh tokef, as if by a miracle, he suffered a massive heart attack. Hatzolah members worked on him longer then they should have, to no avail.
The shock I was in was mistaken by all in the shul as grief, but, honestly, grief was very far from how I felt. I just couldn’t process that I was finally free.
At the levaya, my children and I sat stone-faced and rigid, just going through the expected motions, but I don’t think sadness or remorse was even a distant thought. We made it through the short shiva, and now we are all gathered at my home for Sukkos, so that we can be together and talk through our emotions. I have been putting up a great front for the world, holding myself back from appearing cold, callous and unwidow-like. My children were the same.
And now, we are so full of feelings of elation. Now I am free to help my daughters seek their own freedom, help my sons fight to see their children and help us all get the professional counseling we need to mend and heal from a lifetime of torment and dysfunction.
I am writing today to say thank you for speaking to me each week through your column. I found something in your words each week that enabled me to exist until the next one. I encourage everyone to seek counseling not from people who think they “know and understand what you are going through,” but from sincere, caring people such Mrs. Bluth who genuinely appreciate the horror and can offer concrete and logical advice.
For me the torment has ended, yet, I know that for many it has not. I will pick up the shattered pieces of what is left of my family and put it back together in the best way possible. I look forward to writing you again with good news.
Thank you for being there.
19 in a 76 year old body
I have made it my life’s work to never judge another for what he or she chooses to endure. I will, however, convey the sentiments of “Hamokom yinachem,” because it is important to recognize that although right now you feel little or no remorse at your husband’s passing, something remotely resembling sorrow will at some point set in.
I rejoice with you at your freedom from such a horrendous life, and I commend you for planning to seek counseling for your entire family – everyone in your house is broken and in need of repair.
What I find a bit unnerving is the part of your letter wherein you state that you prayed for your husband’s demise. Although I understand your reasoning, there were other options you could have considered. Fear is a terrible, paralytic reaction to taking action and it cost you and your children many unnecessary years of misery. (I say this in the hopes of saving another woman from staying in such a horrific situation).
Don’t feel guilty at being happy. Right now, it is dreamlike, just take things slow and be wise about the choices you make in the coming weeks and months. Emotional releases are not always what you think they will be. Somewhere in the future, you may feel guilty for having mentally danced on your departed husband’s grave or for wishing him all kinds of disease and pain. Know that Hashem did not do your bidding – it all took place they way He wanted it to.
I with you and your family a life of healing, peace, good health and togetherness so that you may see joy and happiness enter your household for the rest of your days.