I would like to start this post by saying that I have to believe that people make various comments with nothing but the most sincere intentions.
With all the aspects that are involved with the adjustments we make to the loss of our spouse and the huge amputation of a part of our life, one the things that I found difficult to deal with was the “advice” and comments that people felt so compelled to say to me. These started almost immediately after my husband’s passing. I was still in the room with him after he had passed, numb and in shock, trying to absorb what had just happened, when a women I didn’t know told me that I was now a “widow”! That thought hadn’t even occurred to me yet!
Everyone is trying to say something that might help you. They feel so lost as to what to say to someone that has just had a loss. Society has conditioned us to say certain things that are deemed to be “acceptable” to comfort those in grief. Quite often the comments are not comforting and you want to say so, but it’s just not worth it, and when in grief, we have enough going on to also deal with this ignorance. I remember meeting a couple who were friends of ours, the husband had worked for my husband at one time, and we were meeting for lunch. This was the first they had seen me alone and it was only about 10 days after my husband’s passing. After the greetings and the “I am so sorry for your loss” comments, the husband asks me if I had given any thought yet to what I was going to do the “that” house!!! Really!!! It wasn’t any business of his and the implication was that I, as a woman, now alone, that I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to maintain a house and the property with it without “A Man”!!! I just took a deep breath and very nicely stated that yes I had thought about it and I was going to Live in the house because that is my home. I also got comments from family and friends for about 3 years stating, “That’s an awfully big house for one person” and “Are going to ever sell that house?” There seems to be an obsession with a widow staying in the same house!
I also had people ask me why I hadn’t changed my name back to my maiden name since I wasn’t legally married anymore. Once again, none of their business. I know of some women who have chosen to do this, but this is a very personal and individual decision. It just another example of the ignorance surrounding this kind of grief.
My reason for sharing all of this is to let anyone who is reading this know that you are not alone when you receive these inane comments from people. They can be very hurtful and insensitive, but I don’t believe they are said with malice. They and society are just ignorant to what this type of grief is all about. I am finding that these types of comments are coming less and less. Address them as best you can and keep in mind to guard your own feelings and whether responding in a negative, attacking way will really help You in the long run.
These comments will come from people that you may think would be able to show more compassion to you. Not long ago I had a family member bluntly tell me that she really thought that I wasn’t going to do well after this loss. When I ask her why she would make such a statement to me, her reply was, “Well you were so devastated by it”! Hello…..I lost my husband, the love of my life!! I thanked her for passing judgement on me and making that assumption! I have proved her wrong on this over and over again. She was someone who I totally thought would have nothing but compassion for me. Don’t be surprised by who and what people say to you. It happens and unfortunately is part of this whole process. You will and can evolve and survive this aspect of this journey too!
When I started down this path three and a half years ago, I had no idea how much work this process requires. In the beginning it was an hour by hour effort. There were moments when I thought I couldn’t make it another hour. The shock and emotional pain was so intense and would hit in agonizing waves. The wave would retreat, but I was left feeling drained. Over time the waves would come a bit less frequent and with a bit less intensity, but they still came. Anyone who hasn’t experienced this type of grief would not understand that there are moments when just putting one foot in front of the other to move was agonizing and more effort than I felt I had. Somehow and someway I managed to keep “moving forward”.
Moving through this type of grief really is “Work”! I had constant support from a few very close friends, but ultimately I was the only one who could get myself through this and get to where I am today. Recently I had a teacher who referred to child birth as an analogy to a point she was making. I think this analogy can also be used to describe the process through grief. We can have those around who support us, but ultimately only we can do the work to get ourselves through this. In child birth the same is true. There are doctors, nurses, technology and other support people with us, but only we can push that child out, not all those other people!
This was a slow and agonizing process at times and there were moments when I thought I should be moving forward faster. The bottom line is, there is No Timeline for how you move through grief and you will never get a certificate of completion for it. It’s done on your own time and at your own pace and only you can do it. Do not be discouraged or think you are not doing correctly. There is no right or wrong way. The key is to keep moving forward at whatever pace works for you. Remember, when you wake up in the morning and you get both feet on the floor and stand up, you have taken another step forward!!!
In many ways it seems surreal that three and a half years have gone by since my husband’s passing! Yes, I am now counting in years and not months. My journey has come a long way in three and half years. The loneliness still prevails many days, but I feel as though I am piecing a new life together for myself. I have two dogs and a cat who have been by my side through this journey and last week I was reminded that time has passed and they are getting older. My oldest dog was diagnosed with diabetes and gave me quite a scare. That nauseating emotional pain came flooding back through me when I was rushing her into the veterinarians. She was sick and had gone into Ketosis and this all happened very quickly. I am happy to say she is fine now and will be on insulin for the rest of her life, but that can be managed.
The return of the emotional pain brought my thoughts back to the months after my husband’s passing and how brutal and ugly those days were. I spent many hours in agonizing crying pain, so out of control that I would hyperventilate. My two dogs would surround me in an effort to help and protect me, while I was breathing into a paper bag to try to regain control of my breathing. Only a few close friends knew and saw the depth of this grief. It’s not something that you even want many to see and it takes a very special and unique individual to walk along side someone at this level of grief. I don’t think my family had any idea what I was going through.
I have survived this life amputation for this long, so I know I can and will continue to survive. My life is very different now in many ways, but I continue to try to focus my attention on my Gratitudes. So to anyone who might read this and is new to walking this path, I have survived, and although you think you won’t, you too will work your way through this!