I’m pretty fortunate, I have an amazing family and just the absolute best friends,old and new. Having just celebrated a birthday,(thinking about the numbers is mind-boggling – so let it suffice to say – I’m somewhere between 40 something and infinity…),I decided to spend part of the morning in self reflection.Since my husband passed,this has become my new tradition.I’m someone who self reflects on a regular basis as I talk with God and meditate daily, but on my birthday I go deep as I continue to live consciously. I reflect on my past, think about my future and I connect with my joy. I also use the day to pamper myself, do something for my body as well as my mind and spirit.
It’s been a long journey from January 24, 2009 to now.The day my husband left this earth was the day that my life would be changed forever. I honestly never expected to have all the wonderful experiences that I have had,yes wonderful,even as I grieved,during the course of these six years. I couldn’t have done it alone and owe much to the loving care and attention I received from my friends and family.Some people prefer to be treated the same as before their loss: I,on the other hand ,needed care,consideration and gentleness,which most freely gave.
I have since realized that when one door closes,another opens. This is a time worn adage that has rang really true for me. I have not taken this journey with all the same people who were in my life pre-Chuck. Some have fallen away and others have reappeared in their stead.All have been able to cushion my grief,making it bearable,while giving me encouragement and hope.
Unfortunately there have been a few who were not able to hang in there with me. Some never even bothered to check to see how I was faring.In the beginning of my loss I didn’t notice, but as time went on and the veil of grief began to fade I began to wonder what happened to this one,what happened to that one. I’m not sure why, but it ended up that aside from my most steadfast friends, there were a handful who never called and never checked to find out how I was doing.Why does that matter? It matters because when someone experiences loss they need to have interactions with people who are familiar to them.It helps to talk to the sister-in-law who was once close to a couple, the husband now deceased. It helps to talk to the best friend of your lost loved one, because it helps those who are left to continue a familiar bond and connection with persons close to the both of you.It’s like therapy for those who are left,because it gives those who are grieving a sense of comfort and sanity as everything else in their world begins to fall apart. I have no idea why people fall away.Maybe it’s too painful for them to be around those who are left,maybe they feel they don’t know what to say,or maybe,just maybe they feel as if “it” will be happen to them if they stay too close. Haven’t you heard, death is contagious! When the smoke clears and one settles into a grieving routine you will wonder why so-and-so didn’t call or what happened to____________.
When one is grieving, it’s a comfort to hear from everyone who was once close.Hearing from those who were also close to the spouse,or the child etc.,creates an opportunity to have conversations about the lost loved one,to clear the head and the heart,to cry together and not feel as if the topic is verboten.The gift of remaining present is better than flowers, or any material symbol of sympathy. My brother-in-law would talk about Chuck as if he were still alive,and in the beginning ,when death is new and fresh,it was exactly what I needed,what we both needed as we tried to make sense of what had just occurred in our lives. As I look back on this interaction,it was so vital to my healing.We would wonder about this and wonder about that.My brother in law didn’t abandon me in those early days, as he remained there for me and me for him in a way that only the closest people to Chuck could have been.We leaned on each other for support in those early days,when we needed each other the most- him having lost a brother and me my beloved spouse.
Chuck had a very dear friend in Michigan, and he calls and keeps up with me still, never forgetting me on the holidays,and he has since become my friend, my family.Our relationship has been therapeutic and healing to me as I stay connected to someone so admired and loved by my husband Chuck.There have been others,friends of Chuck,who have checked in and I really do appreciate it because I love to hear the memories they recall, or the fact that they remember me, even now, as I step through new open doors. I cannot fully explain why having contact with those who have been a part of one’s life matters,but I do know that when some fall-away, and they will,it is important for the bereaved to not dwell in hurt and anger ,because as you grieve ,your path will be redirected and others will join you as you go forth into a new direction.
Of course we must “help God out”, and try to remember that community is vital to one’s mental health, wellness and recovery from grief.I was very fortunate as I had people who appeared, seemingly out of the blue, people who took the place of those who had “fallen away”. I was invited to everything, and included in so many wonderful events and these activities helped to take my mind off of the burden of grief that I was bearing. I felt included and not excluded.I didn’t feel as if now I’m the widow and I must be ignored. Sometimes people are afraid to include the new widow in their group because they see that person as a threat. I never felt that way,and as I experienced small victories in my grief recovery,my friends cheered me on.And when I experienced a low, I was comforted in my sadness. New doors were opened so that I could breathe the fresh air of life and new beginnings. This was what I would need as I awoke and began to rebuild my life again. I found I no longer mourned the loss of communication from those I expected to stay close,but conversely I learned the lesson of how to be a friend in need because those who disappointed became my teachers.
When you are mourning there may be some who disappear. In your grief you do not want to add those losses to your sadness. Just know,that for whatever reason, they could not stay, they could not comfort, they couldn’t hang in there with you during your long haul.But hey, no need to add those necessary losses to the pain you are already feeling.
Rest assured, along the way, others will appear,when you least expect it out,of the blue. They will get to know you where you are now,without being influenced by your story or your past. They will see you as you are and who you are becoming. They will hold out a hand and walk with you toward new adventures.Remember ,you want to explore and expand your life as you seek higher learning.All this,if you allow it,will lead you gently into your brave new world.
Author’s Note: My intention is always to empower the grieving and inform those who wish to assist by talking about the truth of the things that matter.
Chuck and I played scrabble often while he was ill.He had a keen mind ,and he sometimes let me win.
Purchase your guide to grief and recovery : Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available at http://www.braveinanewworld.com or at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all other e-booksellers.