I found these Strategies for Surviving Loss on the Web. I can’t remember where, but, it seemed to apply to my life to some degree. Approximately 2 years after my husband passed away, I wrote some comments under the strategies showing where I was in relationship to pulling off this new life of mine. I wish I had found this sooner and written my feelings at each demarc period, although I can safely say, that first year, I am sure I would have flunked each and every strategy. I was such a complete mess. I have updated my progress for this year, and hope to continue to do so as the years go on.
Caring for You
After you have planned the funeral, worked through estate legalities, comforted other family members, and explained to countless individuals that your loved one has died, you can become emotional and physically exhausted. This exhaustion can actually threaten your health. You are not eating, exercising, and usually not sleeping as well as you did before. It may be necessary to visit the doctor to look at ways to safeguard your health. The events following the death of a loved one can be very taxing. For the sake of other loved ones, please look after your health.
I don’t know Walt; I don’t think I’ve fully mastered this yet.
Caring for myself has proven to be extremely difficult since you passed away, I seem to be sick more, ache more, and I might add; in places I didn’t even know existed! I’ve been to more Doctor’s appointments in the past two years than both of us combined when you were here to watch over me.
I eat over the sink. I eat very unhealthy foods. The last piece of fruit that I had in the house turned into a raisin all by itself.
I’d have to give myself an Incomplete for this stage Walt. Still got lots of work to do. I guess I should empty all that ice cream outta the fridge huh?
2005 Update: A year after writing the above, I am happy to report that I have graduated from eating over the sink to now eating my dinner in front of the computer in my office. I still find the occasional piece of fruit that has turned itself into a raisin, and the veggies that turn to mush. Keeping the fruits and veggies contained in plastic bags prevents me from worrying about getting that yucky stuff on the linoleum as I carry it to the garbage can. Oh, and I need to mention this Walt…I now buy those cucumbers that come all sealed up in plastic, you know the ones…sealed in their own disposable containers…it’s very convenient to dispose of old veggies that I never got around to using!
Learning to Love Yourself
Most individuals are consumed with guilt after the death of a loved one. Although this is very normal it can also be destructive. Many of us think of a dozen ways we could have loved more or prevented the death of our loved one. The reality is that we are just human beings that try their best to deal with the complexities of life. We are not perfect, we do not have the power to foresee the future or prevent the death of our loved one. A strategy that works in helping you learn to forgive and love yourself is to find a picture of yourself as a child. Look at that precious child and learn how to love him or her again. Reassure the child in yourself that you will protect and cherish him or her from now on. Offer no unrealistic expectations and lots of unconditional love. Keep that picture with you and remind yourself daily that you are that child.
I’ve written this to you before Walt, and it still holds true.
Grieving is normal – in an abnormal world. And, the ”key” (if there is a key) to understanding and going through it, is forgiveness. I had to learn to forgive – you, who had left me, and most importantly, I had to learn to forgive me. That part proved to be the hardest for me, as I felt ”responsible” (why didn’t I know you had that hidden disease? Why couldn’t I save you?). So, everyday for what seemed an eternity, I’d start everyday telling myself, “I forgive you”. Then, I”d tell myself (and don”t you laugh!) that I loved me and that it was okay to hurt, however hurting wasn”t something I wanted in my life anymore. It wasn”t easy, but I kept at it. I prayed to God that He would keep me focused and to give me “a hope and a future”.
As I read those words again Walt, I’d say that I’m almost there. I still have shaky legs some days, but my confidence is coming back. I have to tell you it was so much easier when you were here standing by my side.
2005 Update: Those words, and the full letter that I wrote to you back in 2003, still make me cry. Life is getting much more manageable, and I have carved a niche for myself, knowing that you would be so proud of all that I have accomplished.
Remember you are not alone
Grief can be a very, very lonely experience. Even though others may be grieving, our grief is unique and somewhat isolating because of it. The bereaved are often concerned of being judged by others on the duration, the intensity, and extent of the grief. “Surely those who cried at the funeral must have loved him more. Why can”t I cry?” The reality is that grief is such an intense shock to our system we are often surprised by our response. However, when you are ready to share your feelings with others that have lost a loved one you will be surprised by how many individuals have those same feelings. If you think you are alone visit our forum, attend a support group, or simply open up to your friends, family, a counselor, or a minister. You may be surprised that you are not so different or isolated.
I’ll tell you Walt; grief can be a very, very lonely experience. The reality is; my grief over losing you was such an intense shock to my system that I have had a hard time discussing it with others. Who could possibly understand the depth of my grief, they didn’t know you, and they didn’t know us. However, I am starting to share my feelings with my new friends who have also lost a loved one. It surprises me sometimes when we have the exact same feelings. It surprises me that I have found in them true friendship. Friendship in knowing that no matter what, my friends are there for me, even when I won’t share my feelings with them. They have this uncanny way of knowing how much I hurt and how much I need them.
I think I can safely say that I have conquered this stage Walt. I am blessed to have found some of the finest friends a person could ask for.
2005 Update: Hallelujah! I haven’t managed to mess up these friendships that I hold so dear. The blessing of having these individuals in my life carries me through this hell on earth. I am eternally grateful for each and every one of them.\r\n \r\nKeep clear records
This strategy is more practical than the others but very important. The biggest lesson learned after my spouse”s death was that no one, no one, gets it right the first time. The conversations with insurance companies, creditors, government officials, and funeral home employees had to be repeated often. This was very unnerving especially when they asked whom I had talked to the first time. It took several months but I finally caught on to creating a log of whom I talked to, the date, and what the conversation included. Suddenly I did not have to repeat myself as often and problems were resolved quicker.
I don’t think we need to go here Walt…I haven’t balanced the checkbook since you’ve been gone. Put the checkmark on “LOSER”. I truly believe I have finally lost my mind.
2005 Update: It took me three years, three full years, to finally balance that checkbook Walt. I can’t believe that I never bounced a check in those three years. I’m starting to get back to normal, or as I’ve heard…my new normal.
~ Anna B
© 2004, 2005, 2011