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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Tidd

Why You Should Stop Asking Yourself What They Would Do

Updated: May 20

In the almost 17 years that I've been widowed, I've seen myself through a lot of phases.







Dating weird people


Something that I have in common with a lot of other people out there is the phase when I constantly asked myself, "What would he do?"

I was reminded of that stage today when my now-grown daughter asked me that question: "What would Dad want me to do?"

It caught me a little off guard because in all these years...she's never asked me that question. None of the kids have.

They might have thought of it before, but it's never been a topic of discussion for us.

Of course, the moment she asked me that question, it then snowballed into me asking myself, "What would he want me to tell her?"

I was able to catch myself, though, before I went too far down that rabbit hole because I'd been there before. And like Alice down the rabbit just leads to a lot of confusion.

There was a time when asking that question was useful. My husband didn't have a will and shunned any discussion about last wishes, so I was left to figure that out on my own. Asking, "Would he rather I buy the platinum casket or send his children to college?" was helpful at the time.

However, I reached a point where asking that question was not only unhelpful - it was paralyzing. Trying to live your life guessing what someone's wishes are when they're not here to clarify things can lead you to places you might not want to go.

Here's why asking that question might not be healthy.

They're not living this life

There comes a time when doing what they would have wanted doesn't make any sense. Your financial situation might be different now. Your inner circle might have changed since your loved one passed. Their favorite brand of mayonnaise might have been discontinued.

The bottom line is that things change and, unfortunately, our loved one's experiences have stopped in time. I can't know what my husband would have thought about my kids' phone usage because he died before they were teenagers and before Smartphones were invented. I don't know if he would have moved houses like I did because when he was still alive we liked the schools the kids were going to - and then things changed. There are a lot of things I don't know. So, I have to make decisions I think are right.

We've changed

I've yet to meet one person who has suffered a major loss and hasn't changed tremendously. I have said before that I don't even know if my husband would like me now. Asking myself what he would think might not make sense for the person I've become. Again, they haven't been here to grow and experience life with me. So, I have to do what I think is best.

Your guess might be wrong

Surely I'm not the only married person out there who has been surprised by their spouse when it comes to their wishes. In fact, there are entire books about how couples should not try to be mind readers and have healthy communication. Well, when one of them is dead, communication can be difficult.

In the best-case scenario - when both people are living - seeking approval (which is essentially what you're doing when you ask yourself that question) is a moving target. When the person you want the approval from is dead...there isn't even a target. Even if you get it exactly right, you'll never know. So, why do this to yourself?

What do you think?

You might be thinking there are holes in this argument. Or maybe you're not. See how I'm guessing and driving myself crazy?

There are moments when doing something we know our spouse would want us to do - be kind, go back to school, buy a Lamborghini - is healthy and helpful. It also helps us remember them and might even give us a sense of pride when we do something.

But for many day-to-day decisions, that question isn't helpful and is almost certain to leave you with some sense of guilt. As I said to my daughter today, "I don't know what he would have wanted. All we can do is work with what we have in front of us right now."

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