Losing my husband at the young age of 51 was horrible. It was unexpectedly tragic and life altering but somehow I survived those early days. I needed support. The friends that stepped up and the small steps I took on my own to get to where I am now helped me grow so much. I could not do it alone.
When my dad died, my kids were 4 and 7. We had spent 4 years living back home with my parents while Mike went to law school. The bond I had with my dad was special. He regarded me as the strong, sensible one. He believed in me, guided me and loved me unconditionally. When he died, after being sick for a year, I was devastated. I recall having fits of tears and anguish. I couldn’t believe that he was gone.
When my mom started dating, after waiting an appropriate amount of time, I was still upset that my dad was gone. It was awful and while we all grew to love and appreciate her new husband, he could never fill my dad’s shoes and we all learned to live with that.
When my mom died last month, I was there during her final days on earth. We did not think that mom was as sick as she was. She kept insisting that she was fine. I wish we had had a better handle on her medical situation, it just happened so fast and is still unsettling to think about. As with most passing of our loved ones, there remains some guilt about what we could have done differently. Guilt is often something we have to deal with on our own.
In the meantime, we plan some type of service or memorial and invite people who knew and loved them to come offer condolences. Often we celebrate their life by sharing stories, some laughs, some tears and maybe a few too may alcoholic beverages.
Some people are evidently more sad than we are at times and this can be disconcerting when you are trying to hold it together for a few hours, but we all grieve our own way.
After an appropriate amount of ceremony and engagement has been executed, then the ever popular and often empty, yet endearing, statement is shared: call if you need anything.
We grievers nod and smile. How thoughtful. Of course we will.
And why shouldn’t we…
Honestly, good friends and family would love to help but they really are not sure what they could do and what would be considered interfering.
So, to my newly grieved friends, here are some suggestions to ask for help:
- Ask someone to join a class with you: Writing class at the library, Yoga, Bridge or another adult education class through the community. This helps commit the 2 of you to one time a week to get out and do some random activity no matter what, because you signed up for it.
- Ask someone to walk with you to help you get out of the house and some fresh air. Neighbors are great for this. Plan a time and start small; 20 minutes around the block. You can get more creative but remember the routine is what is important right now and knowing that Mondays at 7:00 am you meet and walk will help.
- Ask for help adopting a pet or plan a play date for your pet. If you are sad, chances are, your fur baby is sad too. Best to plan play date or walk around a dog friendly area. Maybe a dog park or visit a friend’s house for “socialization’. Pets can really help during loss and can be a way to interact with others as well.
- Ask for some time off from work. Not as easy with all jobs, but if you get FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) from your job consider taking some time to process your loss. Life will never be the same. If it’s your spouse there is a ton of paperwork and other stuff that needs some attention. You can only handle so much during this time so if possible, take some time to figure it out, and some time for yourself.
- Ask friends to join you on a girl friends weekend away. I have benefitted so much from my getaways with the gals. We talk and laugh and laugh and laugh some more. Such good therapy. Sometimes we see a show or eat out or do yoga or go dancing or get a tattoo. It is meant to be fun and it should be. I always feel good after a weekend with the girls.
- Ask work friends for help. My colleagues have been nothing but supportive and wonderful. I learned that being a team player is really awesome. All I had to do was ask and these women who I teach with went above and beyond to give help when I needed it. That may be one of the biggest lessons I have learned. I always thought I had to do it all myself, but we are often better as a unit, especially when it matters.
- Join a bereavement group. These are offered through Hospice and Catholic organizations in my area but I am sure if you google ‘Bereavement Groups” you will get information about meetings near your home. Again, this is a set time each week and the same group of people to meet with. You can listen or express your thoughts and feelings about your situation.
- Ask someone to join you to visit a psychic medium. Those of us who have lost someone are often curious about this and so are most other people. I have had only positive experiences seeing a psychic medium in a big group or even in small one on one settings. Friends who were interested came and supported me when I was hopeful in finding out more, but this is not for everyone.
9. Plan to meet a friend or talk to a family member who knew your loved one. It is good to connect and share stories. Tell funny stories. Hash out all those frustrations about their death. Or just feel free to mention their name in passing. Life does go on, but sometimes we need to hear their name and be told how much we were loved.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and make the most of your connections with people. This is the time in your life when you need it most.