The death of my husband was actually the easy part. It was everything that has followed that has been the most difficult and given me the most grief. And I'm still grieving because I am continuing to face these challenges. It is not that a year goes by and suddenly you're grief free. Maybe the gut-retching impact of the death has lessened but now there are new obstacles to face such as the constant fatigue of parenting on one's own, working, trying to maintain a home and vehicle, worrying about finances, cutting the grass, cooking dinners, shopping and dating again, to name a few. Underneath attending to all the daily chores of living is the emotional job of grieving about all the new losses (loss of income/financial stability, loss of a helpmate, loss of social status, loss of a sexual partner, loss of identity). And even another layer is the psychological need to navigate an unfamiliar, unplanned life with a different rule book - which you're still trying to comprehend. Lets throw some stress and anxiety into the mix too (the normal day-to-day stuff we all face and the stuff that has been added to your life because of the loss).
Another reality is that the living sometimes have to pickup and fix the mistakes or oversights of those who have died. My husband failed to leave a will which resulted in years of legal complications. There were family conflicts with his relatives which he should have been responsible for righting - but he got off easy, dying. I was left holding a bag of his messes that I was given no choice in but having to clean up. So there has also been resentment and anger toward my husband that just doesn't disappear because he has died.
In that first year after my husband's death I read everything I could lay my hands on about widowhood. I particularly wanted to read real stories of loss to reassure myself that these woman had survived (I also wanted to know that they had felt happy again too). There weren't many memoirs out there then - thank goodness more tales are being told now through blogging and the publishing of memoirs. But a criticism about grief books in general and even real life memoirs is that they tend to focus on the first year or two following the loss. As my journey continues I realize how much we need to keep focusing on the grief process beyond the initial loss.
What happens to those of us who have really faced some trying times and had to deal with numerous secondary grief losses? Where are the books, timetables and guidelines for this stage of the grief process?
Today I am grateful:
1. That I've been given the gift of another day to live!
2. That love is in my life (my cats, my friends, my sons).
3. For everything that has happened in my life because it means I have lived.
4. That I honored the love I had for my mother and that I stood by her side during her final days as a tribute to what she had meant to me.
5. For the wisdom and inspiration of others who have traveled through grief that somehow finds its way to me.