A friend at work asked me if I'd be willing for her to give my contact details to one of her friends, because her husband died unexpectedly (of a heart attack) three weeks ago.
He was Cliff's age.
They'd only been married for three weeks.
He died one week after their honeymoon.
They had five years of happiness together.
Not long enough. It never is though, is it? Even if you have 60 years, it would never be long enough. Because it's irrelevant actually. It just is. Never long enough. Whatever.
She also asked for advice about what she should and should not say, and what was helpful.
I found answering those questions fairly easy ... some examples of what I shared with her were:
... don't say: "you know where I am", "at least he went quickly", "he's in a better place" etc
... do say: "let's go for a walk this Sunday. I'll pick you up at 12"
... do say: "I'm going to do your shopping for you for the next 6 months. Write me a list every Thursday and I'll do it on the Friday."
... do: take her round nutritional balanced meals that she can zap in the microwave
... do: keep her company on Friday nights
But when she asked me how I felt in those initial weeks, I really struggled. I started to tell her ...
... immense fear, shock, like being three years old and getting lost in the supermarket ... remember that feeling, that fear upon discovering that you are separated from your mother and you can't find her? The adrenaline surging through your veins, your heart banging away in your chest? That lasted a minute, maybe two ... until your mother was reunited with you. Well, when your spouse dies, that feeling, that fear, shock, adrenaline, heart banging so hard that your ears ring with the stress of it ... lasts at least for a whole month.
In my case, I got Diabetes Type II because of the stress that my body went through in the early days after Cliff died.
I then added that when I stood up, I had to hold something for balance, because my world felt so out of equilibrium ... I had experienced the ultimate truth, that nothing in this world is certain or secure or what I thought it was ... and I remember standing for a while, thinking about which foot to put forward first before I could walk. I'd get kind of get stuck there for a while sometimes, concentrating furiously. Sometimes I'd just sit back down again for a while. Seriously.
That I only ate what was put in front of me.
Then I had to tell her that I generally didn't think about those first days, because it upset me too much to do so.
I fought to maintain my composure and went back into business mode.
I'm more than happy to meet the new widow, to listen to her ramble incessantly as I did, to hear her pain. To hear all about him. To share what did and didn't help me, but only when she needs to hear it. Drip-feed. That I can do.
But please don't ask me what the first month or two were like. I can't go there, because if I do, I REALLY ACTUALLY go there. My body reacts as it did then ... I feel the surge of adrenalin, the tears come quickly and uncontrollably, my heart thuds loudly in my chest and my ears, and the immense fear encompasses me. The blackness smothers me.