Monday, September 28, 2020

In Grief: Widower Looking for Coping Skills

To feel alone is to be alone.  
~ Jonathan Safran Foer

A reader writes:
 My wife passed away in hospice this past month. Since then I went home and had scant support from outside sources, to some degree by choice, and I've done everything mostly alone. Hospice people have called and sent literature, and I just couldn't accept my wife's death enough to respond. I was her caregiver and basically her nurse for years, without alot of outside help, it was all left up to us.

I know she would have died much sooner if we both hadn't fought the powers that be to get her the treatment she needed and keep her out of the nursing homes. I wasn't going to do much with hospice. I was and am seeking counsling on my own though, which should start in the next few weeks. I just happened to look up "grief" on the computer and yours is the first website I looked at. 

I'm still filled with grief, so many unresolved issues to do with my wife. We were so much in love, we spent every possible minute together. I was with her holding her in my arms when she took her last breath.

This is my first one-to-one time that I've reached out. I need coping skills. Can you help me?

My response: I'm so very sorry to learn of the death of your beloved wife, and I can only imagine how empty and lonely your life must seem without her physical presence here with you. Please accept my heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy, and know that I am thinking of you.

Since this happened barely one month ago, it is not surprising to me that you're "still filled with grief" and searching for ways to cope with and manage it. At this very early point in your grief journey, I would expect that some days you would find it difficult even to get out of bed in the morning. Grief is like that ~ it can sap every ounce of energy you have and can knock you flat. It can also leave you feeling very isolated and alone.

From what you have said to me in your message, I get the impression that you are a very independent person who prefers to "go it alone" as much as possible. I would expect that for much of your life, that independent spirit has served you very well, and it is that spirit that will get you through this current crisis as well. I do want to encourage you, however, to become aware of and to take advantage of some the many grief resources that are available to you. Since your wife was on a hospice service, I assume you already know that such an organization offers bereavement services at no charge to family members. Such services usually include educational materials, newsletters, telephone contact, ongoing grief support groups and individual bereavement counseling. In addition, there are many websites out there offering information, comfort and support to those in mourning. I know you've already found my own Grief Healing website, and I hope you've spent some time exploring all the pages there. At the top of this blog, click on the Grief Bibliography tab (or check out the Grief and Bereavement section at your local library or bookstore) and take a look at the vast variety of books that have been written on this important subject. Click on the Marty’s Articles tab to find links to dozens of readings listed by topic. Such writings will give you an idea of what normal grief looks like (so you'll know better what to expect in the weeks and months ahead, and you’ll feel less “crazy” and alone) and they will give you hope that although others have suffered the most devastating losses, they've all found different ways to make it through ~ and you will find your own way, too.

I don't know what, if any, support you have from family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, but the sad fact is that oftentimes others are done listening to us long before we are finished with our need to talk about our losses. So I also suggest that you consider the on-line support you'll find through our Grief Healing Discussion Groups. There you will find the ease of being able to communicate with others on your own computer, in the privacy and comfort of your own home, at times that are convenient for you ~ as well as the safety and security that a user name and password of your own choosing will afford you. This service is available to you at no cost, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Grieving is hard work, but I want you to know that you do not have to bear this burden all by yourself. You've already reached out by writing to me, and I hope you will continue to reach out to others. No one can take your pain away at this sad and difficult time, but we certainly can be here for you and offer you our support as you move along on your own grief journey. You are not alone and you are not lost. You are responding in a normal way to the death of the person you loved most in this world. You are experiencing sheer, raw grief. This is what it feels like. Grief is hard ~ it is the hardest work you will ever do. Please don't try to do it all by yourself.

Afterword: I want to say thank you for responding to my message. You are so right about people not wanting to listen. My family in another state were kinda supportive to a degree and then they just shied away, all from afar anyway of course. I have never by choice been a loner or independent, but my wife and I made a wonderful team, and as she started to get sick all of our family and freinds just distanced themselves or went away. So it became just her and I. She started to get sick 7 years ago, we fought the illness, the doctors, the nursing homes, and the struggle to just be able to keep our home and food. Now its just me and yes I am very lonley. I am a very loyal person and to be alone is just unbearble and I am having trouble doing simple things. I always had her to turn to, to help me through anything. I feel just like half of my person is missing. I would like to think you're right about getting through this. I will do my best to follow your suggestions. Thank you again.

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.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

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