Death and Grief

Debunking the Myth of Feeling Better After One Year

They say you will feel better after you make it through the first year without your deceased spouse or significant other.

They say you will feel better after you make it through all the firsts.  I rely heavily on this logic.  It is one of my strategies for surviving – making it through the first year for each holiday and anniversary and “magically” feeling much better.

So, I am greatly surprised to find that year two is harder than year one.  The insulation and fog that the shock provided during the incredibly painful year one has lifted.  I am finding that year two is a year to “feel” the raw pain.

It is an intentional process, moving forward.  Each day begins with the ever-present grief.  It takes huge resolve and effort to keep moving throughout the day.  There is no other option.  Accept the grief with the knowledge that is a part of the process.

I find when I am out in the world, life improves.  My beautiful home is still such a profoundly sad place to be with so many memories. B is everywhere I look.  He is in the pictures that he hung, the furniture that he moved, my bed…The old memories are killing me.  I need new memories.

Set goals and destinations for yourself each day.  Gradually, over time, you will begin to realize that you are creating new memories.  You will find more moments of joy.

Wishing you days filled with moments of joy and peace,

Michele

Hope for Those who Joined the Club No One Chooses to Belong to.

We are the widowed. To my Sisters and Brothers in this journey – We are a Sorority and Fraternity – We have paid the highest dues to belong and this group. This is a life-long membership to a club we didn’t intend to belong to.

“I desperately wanted to find me” – I knew who I was before the accident: I was the girl who challenged the boy’s baseball team – to play the girls high school softball team – I really believed we could win. We were crushed, of course, BUT I didn’t back down from challenges.

I was a really good mom and wife. That is all I ever wanted to be. I loved my family, neighbors, and friends. I hosted great dinner parties and pool parties for family and friends. I coached boys’ soccer and little league baseball.

In one instant, in time, I lost myself. I lost my friends (who wants to be around someone who is so sad – And, in my pain, I isolated), I lost my desire to cook or host wonderful parties for family and friends. I went from being a leader in my personal and family life to focusing on how to find my way out – and to help the “others” find their way in this new life.

It has taken years to find “me.” I am back (in a different way) – I remember who I was, what I love and who I want to be.

From my heart, I want you to know that you can find your way out – And you can find your way back. I promise it’s possible. It’s painful but, possible.

I found “me” recently. I’ve come back slowly. I remember my dreams and goals. I love my sons more than life itself. I loved my old life and I want to live like that again…in a slightly different way (because things have changed).

I hope that you will find encouragement in finding and accepting this “new life” – the one that we didn’t choose.

We, those who’ve lost loved ones to death – are part of a Sorority and a Fraternity. There is now an eternal “bond” between us – one like the tight bonds found in professional sports teams, sororities, and fraternities – we will share this bond forever. We recognize each other and “know” the depths of pain and loss that the others cannot begin to imagine.

I realize that we are a Sisterhood and a Brotherhood with a bond that we paid an extremely heavy dues to belong to – which is why we need to support, encourage, love and protect each other.

I am so grateful to my new sorority sisters and fraternal brothers, my old friends and my family – for the support and love that you have provided – believing in me.

Sending love (because love heals – and I know that we can never have too much love).

Michele

Has Your Clothes Size Changed?

It is common for those grieving to experience a change in clothing size.  Stress does that.  There is typically an increase or decrease in clothing size.  The stress can cause some people to eat, and others have no appetite.  One widow suggested that a good gift for a dear friend or family member who is going through great loss, is a new outfit that fits the “new” body size.

The #1 Stressor

You Must do Whatever it Takes to Survive

The message is important.  You must do whatever it takes to survive (because the grief can kill you).

I have a friend whose 21-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident.

When I called him to tell him my husband was killed, his first words were, “You must do whatever it takes to survive.”

I realized he knew.  He died two and a half weeks after that phone call. Stage IV throat cancer – he didn’t even smoke.  His wife told me that she believed the stress from the death of their daughter killed him.

I knew it did.

The stress chart ranks life’s most devastating events and their impacts on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing. It assigns a numerical point value to each life stressor.  While the stress scale scores 100 points for the loss of a spouse, placing it spouse as the #1 stressor and making this one of life’s most devastating events, I cannot help but think that the death of a child ranks as high in stress.  See endnote 45

You May Need a Grief Therapist

You may need a grief therapist in addition to your regular therapist – preferably one who has experienced the loss of a spouse to death and continue to use the services of your regular therapist.

Building new Memories

We were meant to build new memories (because the old ones can be too painful) and we need to feel the support and love of a community.

It’s critical to have a plan and a destination even something as simple as dinner tonight.

When I look back at the months immediately after becoming a widowed woman, I can see there were these short moments of joy and new memories.  I can look back now and see that I was creating new memories even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time.

Repelling People is ‘Normal’ for Widows

Have you lost any friend or family connections?
Did you know that it is common to lose friend and family support base after becoming widowed?
This happens for many reasons: On average, 75% of widow’s support base is lost following the death of a spouse. This means that some widowed people lose more of their friend and family support base and some lose less.

Some of the reasons: (According to online surveys within our private community)

  • Those grieving often isolate,
  • Couples’ friends may move on,
  • Spouses’ family may move on, and
  • People are afraid of “catching” it.

Widows trip to Antiqua, Guatemala 2016

Creating a new tribe!

There is simply nothing like meeting others who have walked the path.

Creating a new tribe (peer support) is an important part of moving through the grief process. When you meet someone who has lost a spouse or significant other to death, there is a deep understanding for the immense feelings and layers of loss that accompany such a loss and there is an instant connection; a realization that they are not alone, and they are now part of a sorority that they did not choose to belong to.

Each woman traveled to Central America, to join the group, on her own!  On top of feeling empowered and courageous for making the journey, the magic happened when the women met each other and instantly, they formed lifelong friendships, supporting and encouraging each other.  These amazing women created fabulous new memories, learned that they were not alone and learned about strategies to work through the grief.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Did you know that a sudden bereavement can cause PTSD?

For me, life became a vicious cycle.  Getting through every day was so painful and I found I could not wait until nighttime arrived.  When the goal of reaching nighttime arrived, I found I couldn’t sleep.  My heart raced and the fight-or-flight kicked in.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

A condition that can develop following experiencing or witnessing a stressful event. A sudden bereavement is definitely a stressful event. PTSD Can happen immediately or it can occur after years.  Those with PTSD can experience things like unwelcome dreams and memories, and high anxiety.

Grief vs. happiness

Can you experience happiness during the grieving process?

Yes, I have absolutely felt happiness while grieving.  I have learned that moments of joy help be move forward in my grief journey.

Dating a Widow or Widower

You may want to read a book on dating a widow.

The good news is that a widow or widower can expand their hearts to love more than one great person in a lifetime. If you always remember this, it will help. She will want to talk about her husband and son, at times, and you will need to be able to listen and allow her to speak of them. Ted

The Widow Title

One Sunday, I drove to Church and sat with my dear friend Jess. After the service, she introduced me to a member of the congregation by saying, “Bill, I would like you to meet Morgan Rossi. She is Brody’s widow.”
And, with this new description for who I was, I was immediately taken back to the raw pain remembering that I am a widow.
Can I tell you that this is not a word I want to be associated with?

Widow’s Fog

Have you heard of the Widow’s Fog?

On Sunday, as I walk out of church, with my dear and safe friend Jess, I find Paul and his daughter waiting for me in the parking lot.  This beautiful little girl has colored a picture for me.  Paul has flowers for me.  I realize that this beautiful little girl would benefit from having a mom.  But how can I help them when I cannot help myself or my kids?

I think about the opportunity to be a mom and do great good for a beautiful little girl who wants her Daddy to be happy and really wants a mom.  Only, there is a great numbness and sadness that I cannot find my way out of.

The point is that God sent someone to save the man and he missed the opportunities.

I am missing a whole lot of great opportunities during a flood while I am praying for God to help me.  This is probably one of them. 

Difficulties Sleeping

Are You Sleeping?

I have had a hard time sleeping. It is common for sleep to be disturbed by the death of a close family member or significant other.

You must sleep well in order to function during the day.  One widower friend advised me that he takes melatonin for sleep at night.  This could be a tool that works for you too.  Always make sure that you check with your medical professional to ensure that you are taking appropriate medications.

Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation may be helpful in calming the mind before sleeping.  I really like this session Yoga Nidra – 5809 YOGA.  I use the 51 minute practice.  It is the equivalent of 3 hours of deep restful sleep.

Grief is NOT Linear

The universe steps in and provides a connection to a widower who delivers a much-needed message.
Life has seismic ups and downs especially through the grief process.
I am meeting a friend for dinner.
There is a sense of relief and gratitude as I leave my home. It feels like a new beginning because I am going to a place I haven’t been before. Have you ever felt that way – like going somewhere where nobody knows you and starting a new life?
The painful and yet beautiful memories make it hard to be home. Every piece of our dream home holds memories that come crashing down on me every day. The pain, darkness and processing make me feel like I am going crazy at times. I cannot even imagine how I will get through this deep pit that is filled with pain. I still wish he would just walk through the door and come home to end the nightmare.
I arrive an hour early. I find an open stool at the bar and work on editing a chapter from my book. I order a glass of Pinot Noir. I realize the wine is affecting me and an I order a small sandwich from the appetizer menu.
While waiting for my order, I need to use to the restroom but, do not want to risk losing my stool; so, I tap the gentleman sitting next to me on the shoulder. He is wearing a business suit. He has been in conversation with the two gentlemen sitting next to him.
He turns to look at me.
“Would you please save my seat, while I use the restroom?”
He is agreeable, “Yes, I will.” He places his suit coat over my stool.
“Thank you, I appreciate it.”
When I return, my open-faced Mini Philly Cheese Steak sandwich has arrived. It looks delicious!
The good news is that I am hungry. My appetite is back so, this is progress.
The gentleman notices my return, “That looks good!”
“You are welcome to try some of it.” I offer.
“No thank you, he responds, we are waiting for a table for a work dinner”.
“Oh, where do you work?”
“I work for an international supplier of On-Demand software and E-commerce services to the insurance industry. We had a meeting today and I am taking my team to dinner.”
“Where do you work” he asks?
“I am currently writing a book. My husband was killed in an accident last year” I state matter-of-factly.
He responds with empathy “I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my wife to breast cancer seven years ago.”
“I am sorry.”
“May I ask what kind of an accident it was?”
There is understanding in his eyes. I tell him about the beautiful day in May, full of promise, the desire to talk about having a baby that night, and the celebration that was to occur that night – to celebrate my last night in class. I share that all the plans that we had, ended so abruptly, in an instant.
He is a good listener. He knows that “we” (newly widowed) need to continue telling our story.
He asks, “Which day, in May, did your husband die?”
Intuitively, I know that his wife died on the same day as my husband. To ensure the information is accurate, I ask him the date of the loss of his wife before I answer. This will serve as “check” to ensure that my instincts are correct and that his answer is valid, I counter with “what day did your wife die?”
“May 10th.” He replies.
I shake my head in affirmation. “My husband died May 10th.
It is abundantly clear there is a purpose for this meeting.
He offers his hand and introduces himself “I am Saul.”
“I am Morgan. It is nice to meet you.”
While I am grateful for the meeting, the discussion triggers the pervasive sadness. I ask him, “Are you feeling better – how long does it take to feel better?” I am desperate to feel better.
With his hands forming peaks and valleys, he speaks encouraging words, “there are peaks and valleys with the pain but, over time, (his right hand is higher, demonstrating a peak and his left hand is lower, representing a valley – then, he gradually levels his hands) the peaks and valleys will even out, and you’ll feel better.”
It is clear to both of us that Saul and I were supposed to meet.
He reaches into his portfolio and says “I am going to give you my business card. I have a girlfriend (his way of letting me know he is not hitting on me). I just want you to know that you can contact me any time.”
He fumbles in the portfolio unable to locate a card. He stands up and announces that he is heading to his car to retrieve a business card. He reappears with the card, in hand, and offers it to me. To make sure I store this important message in my memory he re-states, “you are free to contact me any time.”
He knows the grief battle is real and that I am fighting for my life.

Grief is Not Linear Takeaways:

There is not a straightforward path that you can take to get through grief.

Saul’s peaks and valleys analogy confirms the grief process is illogical and inconsistent.

Life is a series of seismic ups and downs.  Grief is like that. Peaks and valleys are normal.  The emotional high peaks are followed by deep valleys that will even out over time.

You can feel joy while simultaneously feeling grief. 

Think about attending your daughter’s wedding without your spouse.  You can experience a beautiful event, filled with love and joy while feeling sadness for the absent deceased spouse who “should have been there.”

Relationship Choices

There are such things as ‘toxic’ people and they come in many forms including those who are envious, manipulative, and twisted. according to Forbes
Toxic people must be avoided. A study from Notre Dame University found that toxic roommates were associated with their mates’ negative thinking and depression.
Toxic People are Never Worth Your Time or Energy. Choose Your Life Partner Wisely. This is a decision that can impact you for life.

Love & Relationships

Relationship safety
People tell you who they are. Listen to them and believe them.
This is good advice for one way to validate your concerns for safety.
At the time, I had asked my psychologist whether I was blowing things out of proportion, believing my husband would kill me.
She asked me, “Do you fear any other men in your life?”
This becomes my “aha” moment. “No,” I responded. “I do not have a fear of any other men killing me, only my ex-husband.”

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