Q: Why are holidays so hard?
A: Holidays are reminders of family occasions and have, often painful, associations to events and people. They evoke memories, feelings and nostalgia for what was. It is helpful to do things in a different way at holiday time and to make plans to be with family or friends rather than being alone.
Q: My husband and I had a troubled relationship. Why am I still grieving so much?
A: Even in a difficult relationship, people grieve. We often grieve the loss of a relationship that didn’t have resolution. Any chance to redeem the relationship is gone, and that is another type of loss. We have many feelings about lost opportunities, regrets and what might have been. It is normal to be sad, even if the relationship was a troubled one.
Q: I’m frightened of being alone. How do I deal with that as I grieve?
A: There are two aspects to this question. First, there is a difference between being “lonely” and “alone”. Most people have trouble tolerating their own “aloneness” in the bereavement experience. And so, they attend one activity after another just to “keep busy.” Rest assured that, after a while, it becomes easier to be alone and to tolerate being in the house by yourself. On of the indications of healing is when you can do this again.
The other aspect relates to one’s aging process. As we are aware of our own aging, it is normal to be concerned about who will take care of us as we get older. We don’t want to be overly dependent on our adult children. This issue particularly comes up when you are ill and most acutely aware of your “aloneness.” The buddy-system is a good idea. As you make friends in a bereavement support group and bond, call each other during the week and socialize. Just be aware that this is normal concern.
Q: Do you think it helps to keep a journal?
A: There is a saying that “paper is more patient and … I don’t intend to show this cardboard covered notebook to anyone.” (Anne Frank)
Often, when we record our feelings on paper, they make more sense. Some of us are able to cry and express our grief, while others are more private. A personal journal is a good place to explore, in quiet moments, feelings we are struggling with. Many people find relief and calmness after writing, just pouring out their hearts and then being able to walk away for awhile. Sometimes, putting thoughts and questions on paper allows you to open your heart in a way that hasn’t been expressed out loud. Allow yourself to write, without judgment, whatever you’re feeling. It is a useful, healing tool.
Q: Why are some people able to form a close relationship with another soon after their loss while others have such a problem with dating?
A: Most people do want to connect again—some for friendship, other for companionship, and still others for love. Some people cannot tolerate being alone. Everyone, however, is different in their readiness and desires. Some may lack the opportunity. But, as a general rule, when we are frantic and needy, we make bad choices in our search to stop our pain.
As you begin to heal, you are not only more emotionally available to yourself, but you become available to others again. Also, the stage of your life is relevant to how you might go about searching for another relationship. Regardless of age, people often meet others in bereavement support groups because that common bond of grief offers a “comfort zone” with others in the same position. Sometimes these relationships begin with friendship and move on to love.
Q: If you lose more than one person within six months or a year, can the grief overlap and how do you separate your feeling so that you can go through the process in the most beneficial way?
A: When there are several losses in a brief time span, because the losses overlap the grieving may be confusing. It is not always clear who you are grieving for at any given time. In a way, it doesn’t matter. The psyche when overwhelmed can shut down and that is not, necessarily, a bad thing.
We use our defenses to protect ourselves. We can’t always separate out our feelings. There are also different kinds of losses which may overlap, such as the loss of someone we love and the loss of status, home, job, or several relatives dying within a year. Regardless, the emphasis needs to be on healing and your feelings. When loses overlap, wondering which stage of grief you are in may be less relevant as the focus is on developing strategies to love life again. Healing slowly day by day, discussing the various losses with those you love … crying, calling friends … striving with humor to be yourself and acknowledging a very difficult time in your life is the best strategy.
Q: How am I supposed to feel when I have something to share and my spouse is not there? There is no one next to me in bed to wake up with and the emptiness comes over me physically as well as emotionally.
A: We experience loneliness on several levels. There is the loss of the physical presence of your spouse. You miss being hugged and touched. There is also the emotional bond of sharing, the desire to share thoughts and feelings with someone you are close to and feel emotionally connected to. Part of the sadness of grieving is recognizing that the one you most want to share with is gone.
Gradually you will be able to tolerate your own “aloneness” and will be able to reach out for companionship and friendship.
Q: After my husband passed away, I became very fearful of being ill and having no one to take care of me. How can I deal with that fear?
A: It is scary and anxiety-provoking because it reminds you that you are now alone and potentially dependent on others. Besides missing the support of your spouse, you may question your ability to take adequate care of yourself. Often, there is resistance to being dependent on friends and family. When you are in need of support, love, caring and attention, it is a painful reminder of the fragility of life and it is important that you work through those feelings and accept help.