Jim was gone and I felt like someone had shot a hole through my life. I knew about the 5 stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. That’s not how I felt at all. None of these seemed to apply now. I must have gone through those stages during the last year while I was anticipating his death. It seemed that learning to deal with the grief from the loss of my mate of almost 50 years was going to be really hard.
So what did I feel now? I felt an immense sense of guilt. And emptiness. I had failed in finding and getting Jim into a clinical trial that might have saved his live, and worse, I had not honored his last wish to keep him alive at all costs.
Logically, I knew that I hadn’t had much control over keeping him alive, but this little voice in my head kept saying “he’s so disappointed in you.” It didn’t make sense to anyone else but it sure made sense to me; I had failed.
Because I had devoted so much time to researching treatment and taking care of Jim, I really had nothing to do now. That’s not really true, I had plenty to do learning how to take over Jim’s responsibilities! I didn’t even know which bank held our mortgage. Hard to imagine that now. So there was that, but I really felt lost, like my life no longer had a direction, a compass. It’s been 4 years now and this is my little bit of advice:
Realize that recovery from a loss will take time
Appreciate every baby step that you accomplish. I found it helpful to find something to be grateful for each day.
Take care of yourself
This is the last thing I felt like doing and I had to force myself. As a matter of fact, I probably would have starved if I hadn’t had a wonderful neighbor watching out for me. So force yourself to sleep, exercise (at least get outside and walk a little) and eat.
Learn something new
This is what helped me the most. I started to turn my basement into a finished room. It was the next thing on the list my husband and I had intended to do, so I just decided to learn how to do it. And I did!
I also joined a hand bell choir. In addition to learning something, it made me actually leave the house.
I bought a bicycle which I am still afraid to ride. I’ll get to it!
I also wanted to write this blog, but it took me 4 years to get to it.
All of these things took me way out of my comfort zone and kept my brain distracted somewhat. Speaking of that…
Make a list every day
This is absolutely essential! Grief can cause a mental fog that makes it impossible to concentrate. So at a time when you need to summon all the strength you can muster, you feel mentally exhausted. The thoughts in my head were so jumbled that I could never have gotten through a day without a list.
First thing on the list everyday was make the bed. (I really loved the inspirational “Make your bed” speech by Admiral William McRaven.) I had so many extra things to do now including putting accounts in my name and cancelling others, etc. that it would have been extremely easy to forget what I was doing. Or what year it was!
Do something frivolous that makes you happy
I got eyelash extensions! Talk about frivolous! I also revamped my sad wardrobe. Both of those things still make me smile. Smiling keeps the negative thoughts at bay.
This is something I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND
I had surgery. It was minor, but it required me to be in a cast, and then the dreaded boot, for weeks. I really thought that, after all I had been through, this would be easy. It wasn’t. The fact that I was alone hit me very hard at this time and caused a major depression. Be very careful to take things slowly for at least a year after a major loss.
These are a few of the things that worked for me
Everyone is different. Hopefully, something I have written will help someone else. Please let me know.