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A Grieving John Edwards?

With the passing of Elizabeth Edwards last week, a part of me has little sympathy for John Edwards. After all he cheated on her when she needed him most. They were on the verge of divorce. He fathered a child with another woman. Hard to have sympathy for that, and yet…

Of all her close survivors, I expect John Edwards will have the hardest time of all. Yes the kids are without a mother, and they are so very young. Having already grieved a sibling with seeming grace, Cate will probably be a support and role model for the younger ones, and that will help.

The real difference, however, is that the kids probably aren’t carrying around a bag full of guilt, remorse and self loathing. Yes, I’m projecting a bit here, but I don’t think John Edwards is without feeling or so self centered, despite his behavior, that he feels justified in the damage he caused his wife, himself, and their marriage.

Maybe she forgave him in the end. For his sake and hers, I hope so. That he was there says something, but even if she did forgive him, John Edwards is going to grieve, and grieve hard.


It’s always the loss of the most difficult relationships that create the hardest bereavements. Being a snake of a husband made for an impossible marriage and will make for an equally difficult bereavement.

From all reports, they had a deep, deep bond. I suspect his dependence on her and his terror about losing her, actually led to the affair. So you combine the love, the bond and the betrayal, and you have the set up for a very messy grieving process.

He’s not just grieving the actual loss of Elizabeth. He’s grieving the loss of a marriage he can no longer redeem. He’s grieving his own behavior, and I expect he is struggling to forgive himself.

When we’re grieving, everything about the relationship gets tangled up in the grief. Yes, we grieve for what we had and lost, but that’s only part of the story.

We also grieve for the relationship we wanted and never had. We grieve for the relationship we had but didn’t want. We grieve out of anger and guilt. We grieve over what we said or didn’t say. We seek self forgiveness that somehow eludes us, and we seek the even more elusive forgiveness of the person who has died.

You and I have no way of knowing what transpired between John and Elizabeth during those last few days and months. We can hope that both found some measure of peace and forgiveness, but we’ll never know for sure, nor should we. Some things are meant to be private.

Susan FullerSusan Fuller

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