Monday, April 30, 2018

In Grief: How Long Will This Pain Go On?

[Reviewed and updated February 12, 2024]

Although there is no magical cure for the pain of losing a person you love, forming a bond with others who know your struggle may make the path a little bit less lonely. ~ Karen Johnson

A reader writes: I recently lost my precious angel wife after 40 years of marriage. I visited your Grief Healing site and the discussion groups. It seems that everywhere I go including the discussion groups I'm hearing those who are grieving over a loved one saying pretty much the same thing, "It still hurts almost as bad after x number of years," and it doesn't seem to matter what number you replace the x with. I am feeling like there's no tomorrow right now or at least I don't care if there is one.
Every day I must face the reality that she is not coming back and I find myself wanting to go where she is more and more as each day passes. I haven't considered suicide and I know that is what the previous statement sounds like. I just find myself wanting to hurry up and get away from the misery I am in here so it is as if life no longer has any meaning. I know there is no "quick fix" for grief but do you have a bag of "magic tricks" stashed away somewhere with one piece of advice that might help me find the path I used to follow?

My Response: I'm so very sorry that your dear wife ~ your precious angel ~ has died; please accept my heartfelt condolences. I understand your concerns based on what you have read in our forums, that the pain you are feeling now will go on and on, and that you will feel as bad as you do now forevermore. I cannot say whether that will be true for you, because grief is a totally unique experience for each and every one of us. Certainly it helps to read and listen to the accounts of others who have traveled a similar path, but as you have observed, sometimes we hear things that make us feel worse instead of better. What I can tell you is this: you will never "get over" the devastating loss of your angel wife, your soul mate, and you will never stop missing her physical presence in your life ~ but the intensity of the pain and sorrow you are feeling now will diminish over time, and you will not always feel as bad as you are feeling now. Grief is a process that takes place over time, and there is no specific time frame for it. There is also no right or wrong way to "do" it, either ~ there is only your way, which you will discover as you move along, at your own pace.

You say that you find yourself wanting to go wherever your dear wife is now, but you hasten to add that you have not considered suicide. Please know that thoughts of suicide are not at all uncommon at this point in your grief journey. What most mourners mean when they express such thoughts is not that they want their own lives to end, but rather that they want the excruciating pain of loss to end ~ and that is certainly understandable. It is also normal for you to be feeling as if life has no meaning for you anymore. After all, the life that you had planned and the one that you were living for the last 40 years is gone! Life as you knew it is forever changed! Is it any wonder that you are left with the feeling that life has no meaning for you now?

You ask if I have a bag of magic tricks, and how I wish I could say, "Yes, of course I do!" But you and I both know that is not the case. Since you've asked for my advice, however, I will tell you what I think.

I think that grief is a normal, natural response to losing someone dearly loved. I think that the more we know about grief, the better prepared we are to deal with it, and the better we are able to manage our own reactions to it. I also think it helps to be around other people who have suffered a similar loss (the loss of a mate), because they understand what you are going through. Grief can leave us feeling very crazy, confused, isolated, and alone. Unfortunately, family members and friends tend to be done with our grief way before we are finished with our need to talk about it ~ but this is not a problem when you are among others who've also lost a spouse.

Where can you find such companionship? In our online Discussion Groups site, as well as in an "in person" grief support group in your own community. (Check your local library, mortuary, hospice, hospital, place of worship, etc. for listings of whatever grief support services are offered in your community.)

Read all you can find about grief and how to manage it ~ you'll find all sorts of articles and book lists on my Grief Healing website. Go to my Site Map ~ Links page and look at all the resources listed there. (See especially Death of a Spouse, Partner or Significant Other. Take some time to explore some of the articles, books and sites by clicking on each of those links.)

Read this article in particular: Helping Yourself Heal When Your Spouse Dies  by Alan Wolfelt

And two books I would recommend highly to you are these:

The Tender Scar: Life After the Death of a Spouse

Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing

You asked for one piece of advice that might help, and I suppose it would be this: Do not try to do this all by yourself. It isn't healthy and it isn't necessary. You took an important first step by writing to me. Please know that you are not alone on this journey. I am holding you in my heart, and sending wishes for peace and healing. 

Afterword: Dear Marty, thank you for your kind words and most especially your taking the time to say them. Ironically I have had a link to your website on my own website for many years but this is the first time I have had to take my own advice and visit your site for my own benefit.

My wife and I started a pet casket website several years ago and felt that grief counseling would be a necessary part of such a business. We chose to link to your site because of all the grief counseling services we visited, yours seemed to be the most informative and you handled the subject of grief for both pets and people with the most compassion.

Right now I am going through what I have seen thousands of customers go through, and that in and of itself helps me understand my own situation to a degree. I know that I will survive this with the help of God and those like yourself who take the time out of their busy schedules to be there for me, and I know the process isn't going to be easy. I loved my wife with all my heart and she is the only love I have ever experienced since we were married at 17, and she was my first and my one and only for 40 years.

Again, thank you for taking time out from your weekend to reply to my email. I have already read some of the information you recommended and will read the rest as time permits.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here


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