Here are a few things I would like to share with you. Death is something that reaches out and touches us, whether we want it to or not. When it is someone in our immediate family; in particular a spouse, child, lover, etc. We generally aren’t prepared.
- When you lose someone, don’t do anything.
- Impulse is not your friend
- Losing someone is painful enough, don’t add regret to the mix.
- We don’t all grieve the same way.
Don’t DO anything.
The first thing that happened after the initial shock of my husband’s death; I went into hibernation mode. I was very fortunate to have family and friends who supported me during this time. I took two weeks and hide away from the world. Literally. I laid in the spare bedroom of my parents home, under a blanket and refused to come out.
This was probably the best thing for me to do. The next thing I did was force myself to go outside and eventually I decided I had to return home. This is where, instead of waiting, I became impulsive.
Cleaning can be therapeutic - unless you are grieving.
I went into automatic pilot. I decided that I needed to launder all of his clothes. I washed everything. EVERYTHING. Then I separated out what was good to give away and what was to be thrown out. I really was in some time dimensional warp. I didn’t think about the results of my actions. That came later. I cleared out everything but his shoes. It wasn’t until later that I realized my mistake.
A few days passed before I had a breakdown. I was staring at his shoes, the couple of pairs I had kept and begun wondering what he was going to wear when he came back.
Grief doesn’t make sense. Your mind doesn’t make sense. The way you process things don’t make sense. I knew that he wasn’t coming back. I had a ton of physical proof. Yet, my mind kept thinking, “Oh my God, I gave away his clothing now he has nothing to wear but his shoes when he walks through the door.”
You don’t realize how much scent matters.
We all have our own personal smell. It is this scent you get used to; this smell that is associated with only them. When you do what I did, wash it, give it away, you lose that scent. A scent that is more important than you realize in the early days of grieving.
I became obsessed with finding just one thing that carried his scent. I went hunting through the house to find anything that would remind me of it. I finally did. It was in our bed. The smell was in his pillow and his side of the bed. I would lay there and just put my nose in those places. I would curl up in the fetal position and just long to feel him, while inhaling what was left of his smell. I refused to wash the sheets. (Yes, I know, again grief is a powerful thing and you don’t make sense. Don’t try.)
Impulsive decisions have consequences.
I took his name off our bank account too soon. So many people do this. We aren’t taught how we should handle things in these type of situations. We aren’t told what to do and what not to do.
One of the biggest issues I note we have when it comes to death is not discussing it. No one wants to talk about what will happen when they die. Or when someone they love might die. Mostly because we don’t want to think about dying. Trust me, I get it.
Having gone through it though, I can’t stress it enough, there are things that do need to be discussed. We did talk about burial vs. cremation. I knew his preference when it came to this. We did talk about certain other things throughout the years. I was fortunate in this but it was only because I forced the conversation at times.
The truth is the only reason I did was that my father died unexpectedly a few years prior and I had tried to find out what was going to happen by talking to my step-mother. To this day I have no idea what actually was done; as she stopped talking to me before things were finalized. I don’t know if it was money or the reason. (That is a different story.)
When my grandmother died, she had what she called a ‘death drawer’. In it were all the items that we would need to take care of. It had everything in it. The funeral information, her credit cards with phone numbers and accounts, her life insurance policies, etc. She made sure we would have a no brainer when it came to taking care of things. I helped my mother make all those phone calls.
Yet, when it came to my husband, no one told me not to take his name off the bank account. It is the very LAST thing you should do. I did it because as a society we are trained to worry about someone stealing their identity, etc. Yet, when you remove an account holder, if there is any money coming in, you can’t cash the check as they are no longer a part of the account.
If there are any types of refunds, social security, etc. it takes a while for the “last payment” to process. When they aren’t on the account then you can’t do anything with the money and you lose it. Trust me. It all helps. Especially if they didn’t have life insurance (like in our case.)
Oddly enough I was able to share this information with someone who had lost their spouse not too long after I had. It was beneficial information that helped. I just passed along the knowledge that I knew was beneficial.
Regret is a fine line we walk.
Like everything in our life, I made mistakes in handling the situation. His death was unexpected and life-altering. I wasn’t prepared. I regretted washing everything and getting rid of it so quickly. When it came to everything else, his phone, for example. I didn’t turn it off right away. I have held on to a lot of things. I find myself thinking about what I could have done differently. I find myself fighting to not regret my decisions as they have been made and are now in the past. There is nothing I can do to change things.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t fight with myself at times. I still do. I miss him. I would change the world if I could.
Grief is a funny thing and no two people handle it the same way.
I have some friends who lost their son. They still grieve his loss after almost twelve years. However, they do it in totally different ways. They have told me that if they didn’t understand each other it could have been a reason to separate. She needed to go to therapy and get counseling. Still, she struggles with it on a daily basis and the difficulty at times to function. He is using laughter and being funny to get through it.
They could be angry with each other. Her for him not ‘showing’ his grief. Him for her still ‘hanging on’ so much. The truth is neither person is wrong.
We had a memorial for my husband a month after he passed. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want it. I wasn’t ready to let go or say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to share my pain with others. I wasn’t ready to let the world see my heartache. Yet, I did it because I knew his family and friends needed it to let go. They needed the opportunity to say their good-byes so they could move on, even if I wasn’t ready to move on. I did it for them.
I knew I would eventually have my own way of letting go and trying to move on. It was too soon for me but not soon enough for them. I had to recognize that I wasn’t the only one in pain from his loss. I wasn’t the only one who had been affected. Grief can blind us to that fact.
You focus your energy on everything else but facing the truth. You keep your hands busy, your mind busy, you keep in perpetual motion so you just don’t have to “think” about it. You can’t outrun it though. At night, when you are so exhausted that you think you are going to fall into bed and just be pulled into blissful darkness; your mind keeps you awake. Everything you have been running from rushes up at you, tackling you and the tears flow, the pain pulls you down. Then you are exhausted and you fall into a desperate sleep in hopes that your dreams will bring them back to you.