Monday, September 14, 2009

What has helped me ... and what didn't

My dogs
Participating on Grief Healing Forum
Crying and screaming if I want to
Eating and sleeping when I can
Not being alone for the first month
Having support when dealing with death certificate, bank, undertaker etc.
The large congregation at the funeral and the respect they showed at the wake
Sympathy cards
Discovering that I wasn't going insane and that all that I felt was normal and natural
Learning to embrace the pain instead of fighting it
Vocalizing what I am going through
Becoming analytical

Someone taking Cliff's paperwork and sorting out his tax
Accepting help
Not doing anything I'm not ready for
Not making any major decisions for the first 6 months
Learning to be patient with myself
Learning what triggers the blackest days
Accepting that sometimes nothing triggers the darkest days - they just are
Identifying my support network
Planning things to look forward to
Writing the Eulogy myself
Knowing that I was with him (and strong for him) when he died
Not comparing my journey to anyone else's
Understanding that people don't mean to hurt you when they say stupid things
Being graced with empathy
His scent on laundry
Realizing that even though he is gone, it doesn't mean his love has too
Having his clothes made into a comfort quilt
Wearing my locket (which holds ashes and a lock of hair)
Being surrounded by familiar things
Recognizing that red wine sends me into a downward spiral, and fast (so I stick to vodka and coke)
Raising funds for widows less fortunate than myself
Planning to dispose his ashes in fireworks
Writing precious (and more personal) memories in a Moleskine notepad
Talking about him and laughing at memories with others
Knowing who I can visit or phone at any time of the day without having to give them notice My faith that reassures me that I will be with him again one day
Recognizing my own fears, thoughts and emotions when reading other people's blogs or posts on the Forum
Making him proud of me
Working on my feelings of guilt
Accepting that I wasn't capable of doing tasks as easily - lack of focus, loss of vocabulary, loss of confidence
Accepting that some people are not really friends and moving on
Understanding that grief is not a linear process, that my grief is not identical to anyone else's and everyone's timescale differs
Having a reliable car and sat-nav
Letting myself grieve every day
Talking to him lots
Working out my monthly budget and arranging for all my bills to be paid monthly via my bank account
Connecting with other widow/ers

Not being treated as though I have leprosy because people don't know what to say

Laughing with me ... or laughing at me (when my reactions or thoughts are the result of widow-brain

Conversely, some things did NOT help me, and some examples follow (apologies for the caustic attitude and harsh language, but all of this had a very bad effect on me and I am still smarting from it):

1. Comparing your mother, father, brother, uncle, dog, friend, colleague or anybody other than a spouse to me losing my spouse. (On the other hand, if you have suffered the unimaginable (to me) loss of a child ... I will readily admit losing a child has to be even more devastating.) I feel qualified and able to make this statement, having lost both my parents. That was dreadful, without any doubt. However, in comparison to this ... it was chicken feed.

Please don't go there. It makes me want to scream. It makes me want to pick up his samurai sword so I can chop your head off so you can't say it to me again.

It's offensive, ok. Until you have walked in my shoes, you can't know. Instead of insisting on identifying with what I am going through. Don't. Please just be grateful that you can't. And go and give your spouse a hug and tell them you love them.

But don't ever tell me you know how I feel because you have lost your father. You don't.

2. Please don't ask me if I'm feeling better now. I didn't have the flu. I may appear to be "better" but believe me, the pain does not dissipate over time. Time only allows me to adjust to this horror ... and cope. The pain remains

3. People letting me down. The only thing that gives me any semblance of normalcy or stability is planning something and executing it. If the plan goes awry ... my brave new world seems even more unsteady.

4. People "helping me", when in reality, they were helping themselves, literally. Agreeing to dog-sit and stuff going missing. They think I don't know. Not only that, they left the house in a disgusting state. These days, the dogs go to boarding kennels if I go away overnight. The worst episode was when my Rolex went missing, and to add insult to injury they have not even offered an apology. These days I only talk to them if I want a favour. And I have no intent of returning any favour. Cold? Calculating? Yes. But I have to protect my mind. And being calculating is nowhere near as bad as their behaviour or attitude. Don't mistake kindness as a weakness. And never assume that because I'm vulnerable that you can walk all over me. I don't have enough energy to influence Cliff's friends' reactions indefinitely. Bad luck.

5. Being told that it's ok to get married again. Right now the mere thought makes me want to puke. Please don't go there. It makes my ears ring. It makes me feel sick. It is unthinkable to me. I am still married to Cliff.

6. Cliff's daughter taking her grief out on me when I was at my lowest.

7. Being told, "It could be worse. At least you're young. Everything happens for a reason. He's in a better place. You've got to move on. Time heals everything," or any other inane glib statements. Because I will be thinking, "Do impart your wisdom and tell me what could be worse than losing my love, my heart and my world. Why is it good I'm young ... are you expecting me to run to the nearest nightclub to seek out his replacement. Please do tell me what this reason is. How do you know he's in a better place .... why couldn't I go with him. I'll remember your advice when you are broken. Time heals jack shit."

8. Please don't say, "you know where I am". Yes I do. We both know this. What's your point? It always feels dismissive, it always feels as though you are saying it to make yourself feel better.