Category Archives: Grief

grieving

9 Ways to Help a Grieving Widow/Widower

Another post on grieving you ask?

Yes-it seems to be a subject that continually comes up in life. Grieving is a difficult process and something I feel I know a little about.

As you know if you’ve read my posts I’ve lost a husband and a boyfriend in the last 5 years. I don’t bring this up for pity, just understanding that sometimes I feel the need to write about this subject.

The need today is the fact that my brother has lost his wife. It happened unexpectedly just a couple of days ago. They were married almost 40 years ago, when I was 8. It’s brought up a lot grievingof feelings for me, but it’s not about me. It’s about him and all the other folks grieving from a recent loss.

I wish I could come up with something new and fresh to say about the pain we all have to deal with eventually, whether it’s a spouse your grieving for or some other important person in your life. It really sucks that we can’t control death.

Nothing is going to take the pain away for the remaining spouse, but there are actions we can take to let them know we care.

9 Ways to Help the Grieving:

  1. It can be uncomfortable figuring out what to say, but don’t let it stop you. You don’t really have to say anything except that you’re sorry, give them your number and a big heartfelt hug.
  2. Check-in occasionally. Don’t let them feel forgotten. Call and text from time to time. Along with letting them know you’re thinking of them, it also helps you gauge how they’re coping.
  3. Invite them out to lunch or dinner once in awhile. They may not accept your invitation, but it’s good to throw out the option in the hopes they’ll get out of the house and among other people.
  4. Let them talk. I talked (and sometimes still do) incessantly during my early bereavement. It probably drove people crazy, but for some of us, that helps work it all out in our mind.
  5. Don’t push the grieving to straighten up, get it together, or move on. Unless their actions or attitude seem harmful or long-lasting, let them work through it at their own pace. Everyone deals with things their own way.
  6. Encourage them. If they have a special interest or hobby, encourage them to keep up or start back with it. Or introduce them to a new hobby. If you admire them, this is a great time to tell them so. As long as you don’t hound them, positive reinforcement can be helpful.
  7. If you’ve never lost a spouse, don’t tell them you understand what they’re going through, because you really don’t.
  8. If you have experienced this type of loss, it doesn’t make their pain go away, but spending grievingtime with the grieving spouse will give them hope that they can get through it just like you did.
  9. In some cases the surviving spouse may not know how to pay the bills, use the lawnmower, etc. because they never had to do it before. Offer to teach them.

Conclusion

For me, knowing what to say is the hardest. And making sure I keep in touch can be a tough one too. Over time we tend to get caught up in our own lives and forget to contact others.

I can only do a few of these things for my brother because he lives 1200 miles away. But I’m with him in spirit and hurting so badly for him and his sons right now. It’s heartbreaking. I do intend to contact him every day until the funeral and then frequently after that. Maybe I can talk him in to coming to Kentucky for a week of hunting and fishing when he feels better.

Please don’t forget your grieving friends and family. When the funeral is over and they have to get back to life it’s tough and they need your support.

Stages of Grief-Depression & Acceptance

The last stages of the grieving process are depression and acceptance. Here are links to my depressionposts on denial, anger, and guilt. As always, these emotions are perfectly normal at this time, but if your depression is debilitating, please seek professional help.

Depression During the Grieving Process

You can expect to be depressed for a while. You may have trouble sleeping, lose your appetite, and feel lethargic and sad. Little things will probably send you over the edge at times. You may not feel like being around others, but this can be dangerous-don’t close yourself off. I tended to keep to myself too much and it only makes your sadness worse.

After awhile, these symptoms should lessen somewhat. You’ll still occasionally feel all of these things during the grieving process, but as long as you’re able to function except for the occasional day, you’re probably normal.

It’s hard to put a time frame on how long you’ll be depressed because everyone is different and it also depends on the relationship you had with the loved one. If, for example, it’s your partner, you’re probably going to be grieving for the lost plans for the future that you had with them, too. That’s what happened to me. But once you’re able to get past that (acceptance), you’ll find that eventually you can make new plans for your future.

I’m by no means an expert, but in my opinion, if your depression lasts for several months with no lessening, then you should see a doctor to make sure you haven’t fallen into a major depression. Here’s a link to an article that has more information on that.

Acceptance

As hard as it is to believe when you’re loss is new, one day you will reach acceptance of the acceptancesituation and find ways to begin to live life, hopefully on your own terms. You’ll always miss them, but you have to move on eventually.

I still think about my husband and my boyfriend every day, but for the most part, my thoughts aren’t sad. You’ll find that the dark times are less and less and when they do pay you a visit, it’s much easier to overcome and continue on with your day.

Eventually, you are going to start enjoying some of the things you used to enjoy and may even get excited over plans for your new life. If that’s the case, be happy, don’t let guilt get in your way. It’s okay to live your life. That’s what they would want.

Moving on doesn’t mean that you should forget your loved one; far from it. My boyfriend was 9 years older than me and in bad health. He knew that he’d die before me and he told me that he didn’t want me to sit at home and pine away for him. He wanted me to get out there and be happy. I’ve tried to honor that wish, and I guess you could say that I’m grateful to him for his “permission”.

With that said, I’m not really sure if the grieving process is ever truly over. You may always deal with some of these stages, but it won’t be as severe. And you CAN be happy again.

grieving process - acceptance

Check out these 7 tips to help get through your grief.

Stages of Grief-Guilt

Let’s talk about the third stage of grief-guilt. You can find my previous posts on the first two stages here and here.

Some may argue in what order the stages occur, but the order may be different for everyone.  The stages are not exact for everyone, but are a blueprint so that you know what may happen at some point while you’re grieving.

Some lump bargaining in with the guilt stage. I don’t recall bargaining for anything but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience this. You may try to make a bargain with God for your loved one’s life. It’s a totally understandable state of mind when grieving.

When we lose someone we tend to eventually blame ourselves-if only I’d done this or that, if guiltonly I’d noticed their health was deteriorating, if only I’d been kinder. This kind of thinking can make you come undone.

I don’t mean to sound callous, but the awful, hard truth is that you can’t bring them back and you weren’t responsible for their death. In most cases no one in particular is to blame.

With that said, I do understand guilt. It’s been 5 years since my husband’s death and 3 years since my boyfriend’s and I still occasionally feel guilty about some things. The difference is that now I can shake those guilt feelings off and not dwell on them.

Writing this post reminds me of an interview I saw a long time ago with Waylon Jennings, an iconic country singer. He was in Buddy Holly’s band and was great friends with him. The following video explains what happened the day of Holly’s death. Waylon was supposed to be on the plane but let Big Bopper have his seat. Buddy told Waylon that he hoped he froze on the bus and Waylon told him he hoped his plane crashed. It was all in fun, but as we know, the worst did happen.

What’s not in this video, and I cannot find it anywhere on the web, is what Waylon’s friend said to him years later. He asked Waylon if he would bring them back if he could. Of course he said he would. His friend told him that since he couldn’t bring them back, he couldn’t have been powerful enough to have killed them in the first place.

Think of the overpowering guilt that Waylon Jennings must have felt for the rest of his life. Don’t allow guilt to consume you. It’s a simple statement, but what Waylon’s friend told him has resonated with me for a long time now. It’s so true. We are not in charge of when someone passes away and we can’t bring them back.

Something else to ponder on: ask yourself if you purposely did anything to your loved one to hurt them. I’m sure the answer is NO. You wouldn’t have done that, so maybe you have nothing to feel guilty about. Maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.

When guilt rears it’s ugly head try not to give in to the belief that you’re responsible for your guiltloss. Your loved one would not want this for you. Things happen and sometimes it doesn’t matter what we do to, we can’t prevent it from happening.

Even though guilt is normal at this time, it’s an awfully heavy burden. It’s natural to want to assign blame when we’re hurting, but try to keep your focus on recovery and remind yourself of the above information. Click here for more articles on grieving from PsychCentral. I also have an article with tips to help get through your grief.

Stages of Grief-Anger is Okay

This is my second installment of articles about the stages of grief. This time I’ll talk a little about anger. You can find the first installment on denial here.

Anger is a potent emotion. The loss of angera loved one will probably cause you to feel anger at some point towards people and your situation. Again, this emotion is another normal stage in your grieving period, and you will get through it.

There may be anger towards the one who has passed away. You may experience a sense of abandonment, especially when you’re having a bad day.

I remember yelling at my husband for leaving me, when I was alone of course. One time I went to the cemetery and laid beside his grave and  yelled and cried because I was alone after 26 years and had no clue what to do. This phase didn’t last long.

If you are feeling this way, don’t feel guilty about your anger. It’s perfectly alright.

Your anger may be directed at the doctor, hospital, or EMT personnel. You may blame them for your loved one’s death, even when the fault doesn’t lie with them. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that in some cases the fault is with these folks, but usually it’s no one’s fault.

anger

Resentment towards God during this time can be common as well. You may think that you’re being punished for something. For others, God is their comfort and without Him they wouldn’t be able to get through this horrific time. If you are a believer, turn to God for strength and comfort.

And don’t forget your family members. They may not know what to say to make things better, but you need each other, so turn to them as well when you’re struggling with your emotions.

It’s possible that you will even get angry with yourself for not handling the issue the way you’ve seen others handle it, but death is not the same for every mourner. Don’t compare yourself to others; your situation is unique to you. We all must deal with tragedy in our own way.

There will be days when you’re mad at the world and not at  anyone or anything in particular. decoding angerYour anger may even be totally irrational. Don’t worry, you’re human, and this is going to happen. Just try not to lash out at your family or friends.

When you’re enraged try to work through your emotions rationally, take a deep breath, count to 10, or even scream for a few seconds (if you’re alone). Please know that you’re not crazy, you’re normal and this too shall pass. Try to remember that your loved one wouldn’t want you to be miserable-they would want you to try to be happy. Yes, this feels like a huge stretch at the beginning of your grief, but you will get there one day.

I have begun a Facebook page for widow/widower support. It’s early days, but I’m hoping it will be a help to those in need. Check it out here.

Stages of Grief-Denial is Normal

This is the first in a series of articles I’m writing on the stages of grief. I wish I could offer an easy way to get through the grieving process. There’s no magic potion, but I hope I can be of help with advice and understanding.

*Update 7/9/2016: Here’s where you can find my posts on the other stages of grief-anger, guilt, depression & acceptance.stages of grief

While some models consider there to be 5 stages of grief, others say 7. As I see it, there are 5 stages of grief, denial being the first of these. The other stages are anger, guilt/bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I’m not an expert but I have gone through the death of a partner twice and these are the stages in which I struggled.

Denial is the universal, absolute stage that everyone goes through. No one goes through every stage the same way. Some may be in denial for a month or two while others may get past it quickly; there’s no time limit. As long as you don’t lose grip on reality denial is perfectly normal. It guards and assists you in this first phase of your new life.

Denial presents itself in different ways. You may reject the idea that your loved one is gone; someone got their information wrong. You may think that any moment they will walk through the door and everything will have been a huge mistake. Sometimes we have to see our departed to be certain, and even then it can be too hard to accept.

As you’re making arrangements and attending the visitation and funeral, you may be on auto pilot. You know they’re gone and you’re heartbroken, but the whole thing still hasn’t sunk in yet. This is another form of denial. You’re not refusing to believe what has happened but you won’t let yourself reflect on your situation too much, either. You’re just getting through what has to be done. This is the mind’s way of protection, keeping you from dealing with too much shock at once.

As life goes on, you still may not allow yourself to think about what’s happened. It may take a while to get to the point where you can do so and allow yourself to deal with the raw grief. That kind of grief is powerful and scary. Denial allows you to get through the initial shock and still keep yourself together, giving you time to absorb what has happened and reach acceptance.

This first stage of grief is normal, and in my opinion, necessary. It temporarily protects you from the terrible truth, allowing you to muddle through until you’re emotionally strong enough to deal with what has happened.

Those close to you may not know what to say or do during this time, but don’t deal with your grief alone. Even though this stage is normal, as always, please seek professional help if your loss is too powerful to deal with on your own.  There are also support groups and websites with loads of information on grief. Although this journey is your own, it is helpful to know that the emotions you’re experiencing are normal and others are going through similar situations.

For more information visit grief.com or another of the many websites dealing with this issue.

7 Tips to Help Get Through Your Grief

Losing a loved one is an awful ordeal. There are quite a few stages of grief and the grieving process varies with each person. And I know everyone hates to hear it, but time is the biggest healer. Over time, you may not miss your loved one any less, but the raw grief will lessen. It will become easier to live your life without them.

I’ve compiled a short list of strategies to use in your daily life to help you get through thisgrief difficult time.  Some are strategies I used and others I should have used, looking back on my own grief. I lost my husband in 2011 and a boyfriend in 2013 and I still struggle with depression at times, but for the most part I’ve moved on and am trying to enjoy life again. I did make mistakes along the way with family and friends and I kept to myself too much. But we learn from experience and I hope what I learned will be a help to you:

  1. See a therapist. There’s no shame in seeking emotional help. Therapy is beneficial in sorting out your feelings and facing your loved one’s death head-on. Talking with a professional is a good choice as they aren’t involved in the situation emotionally and can give sound advice.
  2. Find a support group. Supportive family and friends is wonderful and necessary, but you should also seek a group of people who have gone through the same thing. To socialize with people in a similar situation and listen to their stories will show you that you are not alone. You will see other members grow and find happiness and this will inspire you. I have a fledgling support group on Facebook for widows/widowers, if you’d like to join.
  3. Don’t distance yourself from your loved ones. It’s hard to face each day when you’re grieving, but you need others around you and they need you too. It’s all too easy to close yourself off from the world. Be careful and don’t spend too much time alone like I did.
  4. Control what you can. Take care of things that can be managed and it will give you a sense of control over your life. Keep your chores up, your bills paid, etc. You’re already too overwhelmed for words so it’s best to keep any added stress at bay.
  5. Keep a routine. The world as you know it has utterly changed; a sense of normalcy in as many areas as possible is important. Grief is exhausting, so go to bed and get up in the morning at the same time each day and try not to sleep all day (guilty). If you take medication, especially an anti-depressant, keep it by your bed with a glass of water so you can take it first thing in the morning. Then get up and go about a routine of showering, eating breakfast, whatever you would normally do. This falls in line with controlling what you can.
  6. Learn to live as a single person if you’ve lost a spouse or partner. Don’t hinge your happiness on having a mate. Love yourself and eventually learn to enjoy being on your own, so that one day when or if you’re ready to date, you’ll be strong and independent. Use this time in your life as an opportunity to get to know yourself.
  7. Find a creative outlet-writing, crafting, designing, whatever will make you feel good about yourself. You may even find something that will turn a profit, providing you extra income and a sense of accomplishment. If you sell your items, online or at craft fairs, it will open up a whole new avenue for socializing.

The loss of a loved one is devastating. There is no quick fix for grief, but over a period of time,grief which is different for everyone, life will get easier. My wish is that these tips will help you along the road to recovery, even in a small way.

So you’ve got nothing to lose; go ahead and try a few things from the list. And always remember that you’re not alone!