[Editor: Today’s column was written by a widow. This is Part 1. We will publish Part 2 tomorrow]
It is very difficult to come up with appropriate words of consolation and support to soften the pain felt after the loss of a loved one. Most of what well-meaning people often express is usually received as just empty words. Often the bereaved just wants to die to rejoin their beloved.
It was a cold and cloudy day in January a few years ago when my husband went to take a nap. It was the last nap he would ever take. He never woke up. For him it was just the way he wanted to go. For me, it was the beginning of the worst time in my life.
Trying to describe the sensations and thoughts that I experienced after my beloved left so unexpectedly is like trying to explain the unknowable. The passing of my husband was the most awkward sensation that I ever felt: it was like the feeling of not having my right arm attached to my body. For months I felt a vacuum on that side of my body.
There is a reason that we often refer to the most significant person in our life as “the other half.” After so many years of close togetherness, there is such an intense exchange of energy, a way of anticipating your partner’s needs and desires, sharing your joys and sorrows that is so intimate and so private. When that person passes suddenly and without warning, it creates a void so deep and profound that it defies description and understanding. It is truly the “darkest night of the soul.” The more aware we are of our emotions, the deeper our loss is felt.
Now I found myself alone. Regardless of how many people were around me, I questioned how deep the connection I had really was with those people. I could not escape the feeling of being all alone and lost. With whom could I possibly share my thoughts, my emotions and daily experiences? Who could really understand what I was experiencing? Who would know what was on my mind before I spoke it? Who would take care of me and look after me the way he did? Who would give me advice, support and comfort me when I needed it? Who would be there to just listen?
My nights were long and scary. My best friends and the joy in my life besides my spouse were my three dogs. They loved me unconditionally. I only had one left now to console me. The other two were up in years, and had passed away before my husband’s death; one of those only within one month before my husband’s passing.
For a month after the second dog passed, my husband was there, and together we shared the pain of losing two of our babies. My attachment to my last remaining doggie grew more and more. It was the only living thing I had at home, the only thing I could really relate to was my last doggie. She and I would crawl into bed at night and I would try to catch a few hours of sleep. And so it was for the several months, until she also passed away five months later.
And now what? What shall I do? Where am I going from here? Who can I trust with all the issues associated with my husband’s passing? In addition to my grief, I was overwhelmed by all the lawyers, accountants, family, and all the other innumerable duties that had suddenly fallen upon me. Not having any experience in these matters was scary in itself. I questioned myself continuously, “am I doing the right things?” What are the right decisions I should be making? It was all so cloudy to me. I felt like I was in such a fog.
[AfterTalk will publish Part 2 of a widow’s “Thoughts Surrounding the Loss of a Loved One” tomorrow.]