When my husband passed away in 2009, I was so sad and devastated I could barely breathe. As I tried to adjust to my new life without him it was touch and go for me everyday. The chaotic emotional aftermath of his loss became my new world, my new normal, and consumed my life at that time. I could feel myself experiencing severe anxiety and sometimes felt off balanced. Thus, the day to day struggle to breathe and remain present took every bit of strength I had in me.
A few months after he died I went for an eye exam and it was discovered that I had cataracts. The shock that I got from hearing that news made me feel even more alone, vulnerable and hopeless. “How could I have cataracts? That was what old people got”, I mused. Then a brutal reality set in that I was no longer young and that I actually qualified for many senior citizen benefits. Who knew?In the world that Chuck and I lived in together we seemed immune to the signs of aging. “I wondered,”Like, what is that?
“Also, to top it off, my right knee, which had been a problem for me over the years, really began to give me a lot of pain. After a visit to my MD and after a slew of X-rays I was told that I would eventually need a knee replacement. This operation would eventually take place two years later. When that time arrived, I was fortunate to have had great friends and family around to support me. Someone, out of the blue, even offered to accompany me to the surgery as they understood I would be missing the presence and assurance of my husband. This person offered to be a stand in of sorts so that I wouldn’t feel afraid or alone. At that moment in time that meant everything to me.
I say all of this to say that each new disconcerting health issue that popped up, filled me with anxiety and also drew my attention to the fact that Chuck was no longer present. Hence, I began to miss him more and on another level felt myself begin to slip away, as I confronted the fact that I was falling apart and facing my own mortality. Death, at that time, seemed a welcome respite from all the bad news I’d been receiving health wise in those early years. Death would at least allow me to be with my husband again, I theorized, back then.
At some point,however, I did decide that I wanted to live and not die and that I had to face each ensuing bad news head on, bravely and resolutely. As I did, and as I realized that neither diagnosis was going to lead me to certain death, I gained the courage to face each and every new challenge as best as I could, sensing Chuck’s spirit was with me, placing the right people in my path to assist and comfort me, even if for a brief moment in time. I was never disappointed and always grateful as my life continued to change.
Several people would contact me to let me know of folks who’d had replacements, and they all assured me that I’d be better off than before. When it came time for the surgery I was fortified and ready to get it done, and I never regretted that decision, as I was able to walk better than ever. Five years after I’d been diagnosed with a cataract and it was time for that surgery, little did I know that this girl, who has worn glasses since she was five years old, would be able to see clearer than ever before.
Which brings me to today, the NOW, the very moment we’re in. One day it’ll be known as in the Time of Coronavirus, but now, for many of us, it’s a state of being locked down & shut in for an indeterminate amount of time. We’re washing our hands, spraying everything we touch with antibacterial solutions, wearing masks and pondering our futures a lot.
How long will our world be this way? Who can tell? It’s like Groundhog Day, everyday. We have to adhere to guidelines and wait it out. We can look at countries that have gone through what we’re going through a little before us here in the US, and as we watch their experiences, trial and error, trying to recover, moving forward into their “new normal”, we are also learning that new symptoms and challenges of this virus arise daily. It’s all so much to take in, and can affect all of us in ways that are unsettling. However, for those who have lost a spouse, maybe two years ago, four years ago, last year, last month, 10 years ago, 10 days ago, this must be the very last thing you could ever imagine being a part of. The added loss of freedom of mobility and independence, close contact with loved ones, and the fear of contracting an invisible disease is compounded by the fact that you’re experiencing all of this without your husband or wife by your side. There’s also the fact that you might feel more anxious, nervous, frightened and unsteady. Plus you’re social distancing at a time when you really could use a hug. When a spouse dies one is often becomes confused and out of sorts. The events of today, with the disease spreading around the globe, afflicting thousands upon thousands of people, makes those who are grieving feel more insecure and unsteady, shaking one’s very foundation. Please remember that although we’re going through the worst, having lost our spouses, compounded by this unprecedented event, history shows that if we follow guidelines and use common sense we will survive these uncertain times.
What Should We be Doing During this Forced Confinement ?
I believe it’s an opportunity for us to focus on our lives without our partner and think about how we’re going to lead and create a new life going forward. We must remember that this life never promised that we would be exempt from adversity. We must continue to focus on grieving, but plan for the future as this pandemic will usher us into a new normal.Those who have been grieving for a while are already used to this new normal. As we live our life on pause we can take this opportunity, one which we will probably never have again, to reassess our lives.We can focus on adjusting to life without our spouse, and we can have conversations with ourselves, as well as with our departed loved ones, creating a new relationship with them and with ourselves. We should assess every aspect of our lives and move in a direction that feeds our souls and helps us to feel for others as well as ourselves. This practice will bring forth answers from our spirit that will guide us into our next chapter. This next phase of our lives should be more fulfilling, authentic and full of empathy for others. You may also find your grief compounded by new losses from this disease. Take this time to grieve those lost souls, and try to get a handle on the fear and anxiety, which is normal, because this is a scary time. To say that it is not would be disingenuous.
The familiar rotation of the stars and planets continue and the sun and the moon remain in their familiar place in the heavens. Know also the seasons are still changing and all of the familiar yearly seasonal signs are still occurring, which assures us that all is not lost. The earth hasn’t exploded, and as we care for it going forward, it should continue to be a reliable source of comfort as we wrestle with and make peace with our new normal, post pandemic. Although this has proven to be overwhelming and challenging, we will learn from both of these events, the loss of our spouse and this pandemic. We will learn great lessons which will inform our lives as we step into our new normal along with the whole wide world. With each passing day we will see that we have survived, that we have gained a new strength and awareness, that our hope to be able to pull through is continuing to unfold.We will feel a new confidence with the knowledge that we are brave and will survive it all.
Be present with your feelings, don’t judge them or hold them in contempt, but let them come and go as they are a part of who you are, a part of how you feel life. You must now know that anything you do in your daily life has a ripple effect across the world. We are all connected and maybe this knowledge will help us to do better, be better, live better. Rest assured in the knowledge that you will not die, but live stronger than before having come through these anxious times walking by faith and by sight.