Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Widow's Walk: What I Learned While Grieving For My Husband

Last week a friend of mine lost her husband in an accident. While I had time to prepare, she didn't. She said good-bye to him before he left for work and he was gone less than an hour later. My first thoughts were on praying for her and her daughters. 

Death changes your life. Your version of a normal day will never be what it was. After a few days, family and friends return to their normal, but the spouse and children are left struggling. What is normal now?

On Saturday I had lunch with a woman who lost her husband several years ago. We got on the subject of things that helped us in the days, weeks, and months after such a devastating loss. Here are some of the things we talked about that we found that helped us. 

Some say it takes a year and a day. Grief does not have a schedule.

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They do not follow any order. You can experience them all in a short period of time. Grief is messy and unpredictable.

Find a few movies that make you laugh or give you comfort and watch them when you need to. Mine were Bruce Almighty and The Lake House.

Give yourself permission to take the day off from everyone and everything. Stay in your pajamas and watch gameshows. Cry. Wail. Plant flowers. Anything that you want to. It is your day, but the next day – resume your normal schedule.

Find a hobby or something to do. I liked to work puzzles. It kept me busy and kept my mind off of things. Beware of busyness though, it can only mask your emotions for a short time.

Some restaurants and places will be difficult, but one day they will be special again.

Keep a journal.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. So many will offer by saying “Just let me know what you need.” Dinner. A movie. A trip to the mall. Allow people the opportunity to help.

Don’t feel bad about wanting time alone. You have a lot to process.

When you want to cry, but you’re afraid you’ll fall apart and never pull yourself back together,  set a timer for five minutes. Allow yourself those five minutes to wail. You’ll find that you’re probably done after four minutes (at least for that moment). There is something about allowing yourself a few minutes of letting your emotions out.

Walk. Workout. Try a class. Do something physical. Some who lose a spouse, gain weight while others lose. Having a physical outlet will help you at least feel better physically and it will also help with some of the stress.

Know that around six months, there will be a moment that really knocks you for a loop. Give yourself a little down time. 

If you have children, spend time with your kids, they lost him too. Take a trip. Do something fun. And it is always great to try something new rather than a favorite of the one you've lost. One day those things will you give you comfort, but usually not at first.

Turn resentfulness into thankfulness. This doesn’t happen over night, but I found that when I focused on the good times we shared, I could be thankful and accept things better.

Also know that it is the little things that will get you. I caught myself crying over dryer sheets and Toaster Streudel. You don't know what will get you.

There are some wonderful grief support groups. Give one a try, it might help. It helps to be with others who have also suffered such a loss.

On anniversaries and special days, send a balloon up to heaven. You can include a note if you choose.

There is no wrong or right answer. You have to do what is best for you and it will take some time to figure it out.

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