Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving Myself a Long Overdue Hug

According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the death of a spouse is the most stressful change a person has to endure. Back in the 1960s, these psychiatrists ranked various life events and assigned them numeral correlations. The death of a spouse comes in at a whopping 100! Getting married is ranked 50. Taking out a small mortgage is 17 and so on. The main point behind this scale is that the higher score someone has, the more likely that they will be facing significant stress which can lead to serious illness, anxiety, depression and anger. To see the scale go to Wikipedia and then just search under Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

I am not surprised about the highest ranking being assigned to losing a spouse. After all, I've been there and I know what this is like. The stress just doesn't go away, say like having your computer break and then having to either get it fixed or chuck it and buy a new one. It is not a short-term life change that can be quickly dealt with. Rather, a spouse's death is so multi-dimensional and the changes that result continue for years. Talk about long-term stress!

I find it surprising that despite what these guys determined way back 40 years ago, that the world continues to overlook and dismiss the complexities related to losing one's spouse - especially, those of us who are younger and/or with children. I'm not sure why there continue to be so many sterotypes about grief and loss, such as people need to get over their grief and move on within a year period. Or the myth that you can get over grief in the first place. I also continue to struggle with how underserved this group is. Here we have had research into grief and loss that even shows that the brain undergoes chemical changes when grieving - reasons we are absentminded or forgetful, unable to concentrate. All the books and studies by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross on death and dying. While I don't totally agree with the stages of grief she developed, she brought into the forefront sociological and psychological data into what grieving really involves.

In a way it was good to see in black and white confirm what I have been living and know to be true in my heart - that the death of my spouse was the most significant life changing event I could endure save something happening to one of my children. Knowing this I need to be kinder and more gentle to myself. I need to step back and see the entire picture for what it is and what it has been. It has been a nightmare - having my soul exist in unending darkness within a world that continues to brightly shine. Maybe that sounds overdramatic but it is what I have endured. All the times I was so hard on myself for not grieving fast enough or being strong enough or making decisions that I shouldn't have made. Boy do I need to give myself a break!

I just had the silliest imagry of myself having a hand long enough to reach behind me and pet myself like I pet my cats. Giving myself a small measure of kindness and comfort. Then I had the image of part of myself breaking away from my body and giving myself a big long hug. Yes, it is sad that the world doesn't seem to understand how significant the loss of a spouse is. But I don't need the world's understanding to provide that recognition to myself. In the end that is what counts the most anyway. I get it - I know it - and from now on I am going to make more of an effort to show myself compassion and empathy I should have long ago.


  1. It's hard.
    Unfortunately for any of us who have experienced significant losses in our life. The world barely acknowledges that fact. As the song goes "the world doesn't stop for my broken heart" is so true. But that doesn't lessen the internal sorrow inside, the devastation of personal loss, the emptiness, the darkness. You do deserve compassion for all you've endured since your husband's death.

  2. How I used to hate and curse at that blasted bright and vibrant sun that kept right on rising! It was nice to read your words of compassion and I am glad you sent them.

  3. You are just a beautiful human,deserving of hugs & love.Six weeka ago I lost my love of 56 years. I talk to him, I cry, I hurt, I grieve my own way. There is no one around me that understands the depth of lonliness, saddness and pain that's ours when our very soul is shattered.I think I will be reunited with him some day & that is comfort for now, I will hold on to that thought.

  4. Marbur - I cannot even imagine what you are going through having lost a partner of 56 years. Please know that my words cannot adequately provide you with comfort. All I can say is that I know some part of what you are feeling and going through and I will be thinking of you and praying for you with all my heart.