Back in the winter of 2009, about 4 months after Chuck had passed away, I’d decided that I was ready for a bereavement group. I set up an interview and when I arrived the facilitator asked me to tell my story. I immediately found myself weeping uncontrollably. My husband had been treated for his cancer at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City, and this was my first trip back to the facility since my husband had been discharged and put on hospice care at home. I automatically had flashbacks of that time leading up to his death. I hadn’t anticipated that this ordinary interview would be so jarring, but it was. The facilitator handed me tissues, I cried and cried as I wiped away the constant flow of tears. When I was done and deemed ready for a group, I left feeling drained as I walked out onto the street.The late winter air had turned a bit cooler and very windy.
I walked across to Park Ave. and hailed a cab. As I was riding up Park Ave., I decided to close my eyes, which were still bleary behind my huge black sunglasses. Because of the sudden shift in temperature I rolled the window up and left maybe 1/2 inch open for a little air. I was immersed in my sad thoughts when suddenly, a bunch of pink cherry blossoms flew into the window and landed on my lap. I was so startled, and I let out a small scream. At that point, the cab driver eyed me through the rearview mirror curiously. The little blossoms floated in for about 30 seconds and fell onto my lap. I knew, in that moment, that that was Chuck sending me a sign of comfort and reassurance. I wept silently all the rest of the way home. Another time I was in my elevator with a woman whose son had been taught by my husband. She was talking about Mr.Loftin and recalling memories of times she herself had spent with him in his classroom and on class trips. As she got off at her floor, the overhead lights in the elevator began blinking, kind of like a Morse Code. I was startled and about to call the woman to witness what was taking place, but I couldn’t recall her name (widow brain). The doors shut and the lights blinked until I reached my floor, then when I got off they stopped.I would continue to have many of these occurrences and, initially, right after Chuck had passed, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me that they might be signals from my husband. However, when I became aware that these events appeared intentional and not random, I began to pay attention.
One night, I had risen and gone out into my dining room to sit at my table and watch TV; it was around 4:00 o’clock in the morning. At that time, I used to have a beautiful fan above my dining room table. It was controlled by remote that I kept on the wall in a remote holder. That morning, it was a freezing in the dead of winter and just about a few weeks after Chuck had passed. As I sat watching TV, I suddenly began to feel cold. When I looked up the fan was whirring above my head. I was astonished and quickly retrieved the remote to shut the fan off. I shared this experience with a friend and she suggested that I talked to Chuck and tell him that I appreciated “ hearing from him” but that I’d prefer if the signs came in the daytime and that they did not make me feel uncomfortable. At that point I was willing to do anything and soon after having “spoken” to my husband the signs became less frequent and were confined to the day. Eventually the frequency of them diminished greatly and I took this to mean that Chuck’s spirit did not want to hamper my recovery, because, after all, he was no longer here and I still had a life to continue on this earthly plane.
One of the gentlemen in my bereavement group called these occurrences supernatural experiences. He felt that this was a great way to describe unusual occurrences that happen after a loved one has passed away and that the name did not necessarily have to be attached to any kind of religious experience. Some folks have them and are reluctant to talk about them, while many never have them or do not make the connection that a sudden unusual occurrence might be a signal from their lost loved one. Still others have them and will talk about them freely if they have a receptive listener or audience. Many, however, dismiss the whole notion of spirit and spiritual connections or signs from the dead and all of these responses are just fine.I’ve learned to just meet people where they’re at.
I do believe that after we lose his spouse, we can still connect with them although they are no longer here with us. We might even get answers that come in the form of dreams, random thoughts, discovery of surprise treasures around the home, or through nature or any experience that brings peace, surprise, comfort or makes one feel that their loved one is near.The same gentleman from my bereavement group spoke about how he would go to bed at night and feel the covers being pulled up on him when he was falling off to sleep.He soon found that when he shared his experience with his daughter,she told him that she too had been having the same experience when she fell off to sleep. They concluded that it was their wife/mother who was tucking them in as they slept.
It is hard to figure out what’s real and what’s not or what to make of these “experiences”. Some might call them little miracles while others might call them weird. I’m sure that when people have these experiences it’s not easy for them to share only to face ridicule from friends and family. I believe it’s a good idea to record each sign so that after a while you can look back on what you’ve seen and heard and possibly find answers or just comfort in what you have witnessed. I did find each experience a little scary and unsettling. For example, there was the time right after Chuck had passed away that every time I passed my elevator it opened and closed on my floor over and over when I walked by in the hallway. There was also the discovery of a Mother’s Day card, never sent to me, signed by Chuck the day before the first Mother’s Day. Over time I became more used to these signs and I believed it was Chuck letting me know he was keeping watch and that I would one day be OK.
Which brings me to the pink flower petals found on the rug under my air conditioner in my bedroom this year. It was a day or two before Chuck’s birthday and there on the rug lay a beautiful bright pink flower petal. The window was closed and there weren’t any flowers in my bedroom. It wasn’t a silk petal but a real pink flower petal. Later that day, I came across another just like the other on the floor of my balcony. I took them and saved them adding them to my now faded cherry blossom petals that had found their way through a teeny opening flown into my lap so many years before.
I believe, with certainty that these were all signs from Chuck. In the beginning they were to bring comfort to me, but as time went on and the signs became less frequent, I realized that Chuck was sending me a signal that he wanted me to move on with my life. I believe that the sudden gift of the flower petals was his way of giving me a thumbs up on my progress. He wanted me to go on with my life, and I have and he is satisfied.
Many people who lose a spouse will have signs from their loved ones, and many more are eager to share stories with the receptive listener. Some chalk these experiences up to wishful thinking, active imaginations, etc. But still others relate stories of loved ones appearing on a beach, or by their side, or of a dog appearing to guide one through a tough neighborhood and then disappearing. Sometimes people can smell the scent of a loved one, they hear their loved one called their name, they see someone on the street that looks like the deceased person and they feel these are all signs of reassurance. However the messages come and the signs are manifested, if we do not notice them, we miss the opportunity to connect with our lost loved ones once more.
I would suggest, particularly to those who have become fresh widows, that you try to be open to indications that your spouse is sending you signs of love. For he or she as they struggle to acclimate to their new plane, want you to know that you are still loved, that you will grieve and soon recover, and that you must continue on with your new life knowing that the love you once had is still with you and that is where it will always remain.
To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5