How Do You Prepare Someone ....for the loss of their spouse?
The answer is easy.
Oh, you can tell them to get their finances in order, to say "I love you" a million times, to make sure their name is on everything from the mortgage to the utility bills, but how can you prepare their heart?
I recently "met" a woman who reads my blog. She wrote to me, telling me that she will soon become a widow, and she wants to prepare herself as best she can, even though she doubts that is possible.
I told her that it's not, but that I could help her with the day-to-day stuff that could help her physically. I also reached out to many of my widowed friends and asked for their opinions. I've been sending her e-mails for about a week now.
The last time that I forwarded her some good advice, I realized that my heart wanted to tell her more.
So much more.
It was spilling over with all of the things that she should expect, that she will feel, not feel, cope with .... and not be able to cope with.
So I wrote them all down. Well, I didn't write ALL of them down, but I did give her a list of 10.
I told her to take this list and file it away .... for now. And then one day .... on one of the inky, black days when death is so much more inviting than life .... to try to remember to pull it out and read it.
I don't know if she'll remember to do so .... I hope that I'll be able to remind her.
It's not enough, but it's a start.
Please feel free to add to it so that I can pass your thoughts on to her, too.
I thought of some things that I think you need to know after he dies, though you may forget them when the time comes.
#1. You are NOT crazy. You will feel like you are. You will feel like you are losing your mind ..... but you're not.
#2. You probably already know this but, grief is very, very physical. It makes you sick. You can't sleep, you can't eat (or some can't stop eating), you can't concentrate on ANYTHING, you can't remember many things that you're told, or that you've said. I know that there were many people in my house that first week, but I have no idea who they all were. I would also say things to the kids and then have NO memory of it if one of them brought it up. It got to be scary. Then I met other widows and knew it was the grief. It definitely affects your memory in a big way.
#3. You will not be able to call someone for help. Many will tell you to call them, but they shouldn't do that (you might want to tell all of them this NOW). They need to just show up. They need to just sit with you. You will not know what you want or what you don't want. But just having someone sit with you, even in complete silence, or while you watch a movie .... is huge.
#4. Get your hands on as many comedy DVD's as you can. The girls and I watched one Will & Grace dvd after another. I wanted something to take my mind away for a moment and I wanted it to be funny.
#5. You will look forward to being asleep. Not going to bed, because it will most likely be very difficult for you to fall asleep. I would stay up watching a movie or TV until I was ready to drop and only then would I go to bed. Once asleep, you're not grieving and it's a wonderful break. It sucks to wake up (for a while).
#6. It will take you a long time to stop thinking, "Oh, I need to call Hank and tell him .......". I just thought it a few months ago when I ran into an old friend. Jim was the only other person I know who knew her and I thought I needed to call him and tell him what's going on with that family. It's only a nano second, but it's enough to take your breath away and get swamped by a wave. But it does happen less and less with time.
#7. You will still FEEL married for quite a while. Your heart will still be married to him. I took my rings off after about 9 months .... when looking at them on my left hand made me feel phony, like I was pretending that I was something I'm not. That's when I knew it was time. You'll know, too. It may take years ... or only days, but that leads me to number 8.
#8. There are NO rules for grieving. No matter what you hear, read, feel, etc. No matter what friends or family say ..... you will grieve as hard as YOU need to grieve, for as long as YOU need to grieve. You cannot rush it, you can't get around it. You have to walk through it and it's mostly 1/2 step forward, 5 steps back. It's long. It's slow. And it's hard. But one day you will be able to look behind you and see how far you've come.
#9. Most of the world thinks that the one year mark is a magic date. They think that you're pretty much past/over it (or that you should be). But you aren't. You shouldn't. For me .... and for many, many people (I hate to tell you this but I HAVE to be honest with you) the second year is worse than the first. The first is filled with hazy, shock-filled days. Maybe not so much for someone who knew it was coming, but still .....
The second year brings feelings like, "I should be doing better by now. Why am I not?". People are no longer hanging around your house, or sending cards or just checking on you. They have (as well they should) gone on with their lives and their families ..... and their husbands. So it's harder. The second year also brings the firm knowledge that he is not coming back. This really is your life now and it totally sucks.
#10. And the most important ..... you WILL survive. You are not alone, even when you feel you are. There are too many of us out here, but we're here. And we want to be here for you. If we can do something good because of the crap that's been dealt us, then it's not a total waste. I never wanted to join this club .... no one does. But I have met the most amazing people in it, and so will you. You will find much support and love. It's one of the strangest and yet most beautiful things I've ever experienced. When you "meet" another widow, in person or even just over the "net", you will feel an instant bond. You will feel a strong connection and it will probably last until you die. You will "get" each other .... without even having to speak. You don't have to finish a sentence .... we know. And we listen. And never judge or think anything negative about you, your grief, your actions ..... whatever. We all know that there are no rules and we all understand, in our core, the things that "others" do not ..... the things that you hope "others" will never have to understand.
So that was my "List of 10". As I just re-read them my heart started hurting, as it usually does when I hear about a new widow. I hurt for "H" and for what lies ahead. I hurt for all of you who are reading this and so fresh on this road.
And I hurt because there's not a damn thing I/we can do to make it stop hurting for you. There are no magic words, no kissing of boo-boos, no prescription meds that will fix a heart once it's truly broken.
But there is hope.
Hope that you will get stronger.
Hope that you will smile more.
Hope that your children will be ok.
Hope that you will find when you meet others of us who have made it a little farther down the road.
Hope does not come right away.
But it will come. In your own time.
Everything .... will happen .... in YOUR own time.