Question from Chris: I lost my husband, Fred, on 1/5/09 after 35 years and 35 days of marriage. I am still, almost 3 months later, so devastated. We have 3 sons and I have a job. So I can stay busy. But the nights and weekends are hell. I take care of my 80-year-old father who is on dialysis (my husband and I did this together for the past 8 years). I would tell my husband we will have time together after my father goes. Now I will be left alone with no one to comfort and console me. I thought I would be married until I died. This is the most horrible existence. Who am I now? I think God?s plan sucks and my plan was better. I can see no possible reason for my husband?s leaving me here alone and all I do is cry and rage.
Gloria Lintermans, author of The Healing Power of Grief, responds: I am so sorry, Chris, to learn of the loss of our husband. Be assured that your feelings of sadness and rage are normal. There are many feelings in common that people go through in the stages of grief; as well as an often overlap of these stages. The stages include shock, denial, anger, depression, and transition, integration and adjustment. While it is an important time to grieve and heal, it is also a time of re-learning how to once again embrace life. You have taken an important, positive step in writing to share your feelings.
In the early months, you may have been cushioned with numbness and/or overwhelmed with insurance, paperwork, forms, busywork and obligations of things to take care of. Now that three months have passed and the veil of early shock lifted, more feelings emerge, such as sadness, anger, emptiness, exasperation and frustration. You may be thinking, “Is this what my life is going to be like? How will I recover?” You wonder how to seek recovery, to return to normalcy, while at the same time, feeling that the world will never be “normal” again. Yet, allowing yourself the belief that you can survive this loss and heal will help to bring hope and courage, and give you something to hold on to. Actively seek beliefs that support your healing and recovery. Please consider the following:
Joining a bereavement support group. By its very structure, a bereavement group offers ongoing support and a sort of marker, one that allows you to appreciate your own ups and downs, as well as your progress. Sure, you’ll cry in front of people you don’t know, but they’ll cry as well. And eventually, you’ll cry less and laugh more as you cherish the emotional safety this group provides. You’ll also feel good about helping other group members, which in turn helps you to begin to feel powerful and whole again. Find support groups through your local hospital, hospice, or religious organization.
Honor your feelings. Recognize who among family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers are emotionally safe right now and base your expectations on that information. Trust your ability to sense with whom you can be vulnerable, and with whom you cannot. Share your feelings with those who welcome your thoughts and get as much support as you can. Trust yourself to know when to take care of emotionally charged tasks. For example, don’t throw out or give away your husband’s clothes until you are ready — no matter what well-meaning family or friends might suggest.
Exercise. God/Mother Nature/The Universe blessed us with endorphins. Our body?s own feel-good high; it?s natural and it?s free. Allow this brain chemical to neutralize stress hormones to help you feel better. All your endorphins need is a little stimulation (experience tells me that it takes only a half hour of brisk walking to kick into gear.) Exercise need not be brutal, just regular.
It might help to listen to some of the Open to Hope Foundation’s archived radio shows. You can browse them at http://thegriefblog.com/grief-grieving-death-of-a-child/ or go to http://thegriefblog.com/ and click on the blue tab “Archived Shows.”. Or you can simply click the link below. It takes a little time for it to download. I recommend in particular:
February 12, 2009
Going on After the Death of a Husband
1st Guest: Elaine Williams
2nd Guest: Helga Hayse
April 17, 2008 (This is the first half of the show – 30 minutes)
Healing After the Death of a Husband
Guest: Tammy Stoner
March 27, 2008
Too Young to Be a Widow
Most important, healing takes as long as it takes for you to travel this journey. You won’t do it “wrong.” Don’t be disappointed in yourself, whatever your timetable or back and forth movement toward healing. Grief takes more energy than you would ever have imagined. You will do it the way that you need to heal. Trust your progress and your journey. Trust that you, too, will heal. Trust that you will find life and light again.
My loving thoughts and heart go with you on your most difficult journey.
Gloria Lintermans, widow/Open to Hope contributing writer
Co-Author: THE HEALING POWER OF GRIEF: The Journey Through Loss to Life and Laughter