Is there anything we experience in life that brings us back to how human and vulnerable we are than grief? No matter what we’ve accomplished, or how well educated or intelligent we think we are, the loss of someone we care about hits us all in the same place. How we handle our grief is critical to the course of the remainder of our lives.
Having lost five people who were close to me over the last eight years, all to long illnesses, I’ve experienced grief in many ways. Still, I have no idea how I will handle the next one, or the one after that. Each loss is different and personal. If I ever need professional help, I will seek it. I’ll know I need it because the sadness will effect how I function in my daily life to the extent that it will keep me from moving forward. I would know, in the pit of my stomach, that I needed help. That this time I couldn’t do it on my own.
When my husband passed away in March of 2010, I had been confined to our home for about three and a half years. I’ve spoken about how I got through that confinement, with the help of some wonderful people that came to relieve me periodically, but I assure you, it was a confinement. The things I did to keep my head on straight are the subjects of my other blog posts. Sadness and a kind of disorientation about my life during that first year without him was predominant. That is what I want to discuss today.
About two weeks or so after my husband passed, I knew I should call his doctors and let them know. There were regular appointments scheduled and we would not be keeping them, that created urgency. They were hard calls to make. Some of these doctors he/we had been seeing for many years and it would be a sad call. One of the doctors was a psychiatrist. We saw him because of severe sleeplessness, originally. We were both very comfortable with him and were happy to see him regularly, especially as symptoms multiplied.
Maybe about a month or two before my husband passed, I called this psychiatrist and asked if I should come to see him on my own. Did he think it would be beneficial to me? He said he couldn’t see me as a patient unless he had my husband’s written permission. That was out, it would only make my husband feel bad and uneasy about my needs, he had enough to deal with of his own. I trusted this doctor and did not even consider seeing anyone else.
When I made the call to let him know about my husband’s passing, I asked him if he thought I should come and see him now, to make sure I was “OK.” He said he thought I would be fine, that I was very strong and could get through this. But, if I got to a point where I thought I needed to talk to someone, to please call. He gave me some advice that I often recall, it really helped. That’s what I want to share today.
He said there would be many firsts; the first birthdays without each other, first anniversary alone, first holidays when his chair at the table would be empty, etc. But, that I would get past it and go on just fine. I feel sad right now just thinking of those firsts. He was right, they were the hardest. Over three years later, I still miss him, especially on those days, but it’s not nearly as painful.
About two weeks before the first anniversary of his passing, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t want to feel sad anymore. I didn’t want to think about the loss of him anymore and the hard parts of the illness. I didn’t want to keep reviewing his suffering and what I might have done differently. I wanted to start thinking about all the good times we had together. I made up my mind that day that I would only think about the happy times and all the fun we had over those twenty-eight years.
I know I needed a year of sadness. That was the main part of my grieving. That year gave me the strength to wake up one day and decide to be happy from that point on. About a month after that, I made some major decisions that changed my life entirely. It felt great.
There are still some firsts, like the first time I went back to our favorite restaurant without him, where we had our first date (whew, that was hard!). Why shouldn’t it be hard? You don’t want to forget, you just want to go on living well. You’re remembering the good times.
I hope you live well and I wish you lovely memories.
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