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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

Gilbert died five months ago, and I'm beginning to realize that the Old Melissa died with him. Now I have to invent the New Melissa or allow her to surface; I'm not sure how it works.

It's so odd to suddenly not have a routine. I don't have to wear ear buds if I want to listen to music in bed late at night. The dog doesn't mind if it's noisy at 2:00 am. I can eat dinner at three in the afternoon or midnight and nobody cares. I don't have to cook for anybody but myself.

My dinner can be anything from homemade nutritious soup to a can of frosting. It depends on how sad and tired I am.

I go out to the mailbox at 4:00 in the afternoon and I'm still in my pajamas, but I watch video tutorials on makeup for older women and try to make myself look not so pale. I wonder if Botox might make me look less like I've suffered a terrible loss and more like my old self, then I realize I'd have to get dressed to go get Botox.

I have big plans. I'm going to work in the garden, take the dogs on brisk walks, visit friends, volunteer, travel, take classes. I just can't make myself take the first step, although I did register for Camp Widow in San Diego.

A friend told me to cut myself some slack, my loss was still new. It doesn't feel new. I feel as if I've been a widow forever. On the other hand, I still can't really believe Gilbert is never coming back.

In retrospect, I see that I have come a long way in these five months. I don't sob and vomit all day anymore. I make it a point to talk to someone every day so I don't get too isolated.

I just don't know what to do now. I suppose I'll find something meaningful to do with my time. It's just a matter of gathering strength and focus and not letting despair win.

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Comment by MidnightBear (Tony) on Tuesday

It is funny that you have mentioned routine and I just complained about routine coming back a bit after 5 months only to find I am missing half of the routine's members.  I work and have only missed 8 days since my wife died that weren't either a vacation or a holiday, so I jumped right back into part of my routine as soon as possible.  I have found some things obviously had to change, and it is rough.  But distance doesn't always define length, meaning while you may feel you have come far, you are still in the early period of this journey.  I had some of that same feeling after my first couple months I thought I had come a long way. I had traveled alone, I had managed to pack my suitcase for two trips without help and only forgot a couple things.  But just the other day I sort of crashed again and had to come back to reality that I have a lot of work still to do.  I had signed on the dotted line to finalize ordering my wife's headstone and my brain just froze after that.  Didn't sleep well for 2 days.  It is funny what will suddenly creep up on you. 

All that said, you have come to the right place to talk about it, many others, including myself, can relate to what you wrote.  I went to Camp in Tampa, and it was very enjoyable if not entirely odd :D.  I found that the experience was good, although it may have been a bit soon as my widowed brain forgot to actually take information down from people.  

I will say, avoid the Botox until you are in a better place mentally to make such a decision.  I hear time and time again, don't make major decisions for the first year if you can avoid it.  Some things can't be avoided.  I have tried mostly to follow this but obviously some things I refused to let go like the headstone which is a long term decision but I did it anyway.  While you are still processing you may make choices you wouldn't normally make. 

Comment by ElsieK on April 10, 2018 at 10:02pm

Melissa. I resonate with your feelings of losing your old self. 6 months since I lost my husband, and I just feel like I'm not bouncing back as quickly as I would liked.. Have dealt with a few setbacks over the years, and have always had the positive will to overcome in the end. I still hold a little bit of positive hope, but this battle is certainly proving to be a difficult one. I actually felt that I was coping better earlier in the piece. I'm guessing I'm going through that stage of thinking...' ok...jokes over now...where are you?'..(to husband), and realising seeing him again is just not going to happen. My days seem to be a mix of extreme highs, followed by very deep lows, usually triggered by one of those surprise memory episodes, brought on by a familiar object or activity, that you used to share. I am forcing my self to get back into my old interests, one of them being hiking and walking. I can't recommend that enough. The peace within once out and about doing this is well worth it. I find taking small steps at a time the best way to go, so even if you set yourself the goal of taking your dog for a walk each day, the sense of accomplishment form doing this is amazing. Wishing you all the best, and hopefully better days soon.

Comment by SweetMelissa2007 on April 10, 2018 at 7:47am

Try to arrive at camp early to give yourself some time to regroup just in case grief over rules your desires. Regardless of the closeness of a venture, I arrived hyper or confused or drained of energy - sometimes I tried to cancel out at the last moment. I could be annoying to myself - a real party pooper arguing w/me, myself & I ...

It will be a good experience as well as one of learning & sharing ...

I once lived near Lake Jolla - solitary walks as well as w/new friends on the beach or around Pacific Beach were calming ...

Have fun!

Comment by Rainy (Misty) on April 6, 2018 at 11:49am

Melissa you literally wrote a day in MY life!  Right down to the frosting.  For real!  I'm glad you signed up to go to Camp Widow.  I went to Tampa and it was a unique experience.   I was comfortable from the beginning to end.  For once in 4months I didn't feel incomplete, the odd man out or like I was a walking faker.  

Comment by Melissa on April 6, 2018 at 11:00am

Thank you so much Rainy, Maria Louisa, bayoured, and SweetMelissa. Everything you've written here has been so comforting and helpful. Knowing you all are around is a blessing.

SweetMelissa, it's so funny that you mentioned the time limit thing when socializing. I'm good for three hours to the minute. Then, I'm just done. Exhaustion hits and I feel like an overstimulated toddler who needs a nap!

bayoured, I do that, too. I have a couple of good days and think, "I've got this!" The next day I notice the floor needs to be mopped and I'm overwhelmed and go back to bed and cry. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel; we'll get there.

Maria Louisa, Yes. To everything you wrote. Thank you.

Rainy, I'm sorry you you know the feelings, but it makes me feel better knowing I'm not alone.

Love and blessings to you all.

Comment by SweetMelissa2007 on April 6, 2018 at 9:57am

Transition is not comfortable - its a far departure from who you were. However, the good news is you get to try out many things as well those you planned. We widowed develop over the course of time w/little or no effort. My mind always seemed to be coming up w/ideas - some were not so good, it was then a matter of choosing which direction to foĺlow was best for me. The energy to do all these activities comes slowly with time. -Just be careful if & when the wild hair of abandonment hits, it causes many to run out to do something, anything, usually not so good - its a troublemaker in disguise ... 

At 5 months out, this is a major as well as overwhelming transition time of grief processing. Your mind will give you unexpected readiness prompts here & there - try to take advantage of them to get the big stuff done. If you think you'd like to try socializing - what was helpful for me was to keep in mind the length of time I was able to be in public before quickly retreating to homebase. Leaving a 1/2 hour before Cinderella Liberty chimed prevented anxiety attacks as well as a hasty departure that everyone seems to notice ...

Blessings ...

Comment by bayoured on April 6, 2018 at 6:29am

I believe all of us feel the same as you do. It will be 5 months for me on the 9th of April. I have other factors other than grief to deal with as many widowed people do. I will have a better day when I feel I can start to live again and then bam right back to square one. Widowed Village has helped me a lot. By listening to the ones that have gone farther down the path I feel there must be some hope. I am just trying to make it from this day to the next. I don't know what the future holds for me but I pray that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. 

Comment by Maria Louisa on April 6, 2018 at 4:46am

It is great that you wrote this. I can relate to a lot of what you said. It is good that you make a point of talking to someone every day. I think that is why some women take a part-time job at a place like Macy's or something - just to see people. It has been almost 5.5 years for me, and I am now engaged to an old friend of the family. It all shifted suddenly for me about 6 months ago. But I remember the things you talk about. I took a part-time job at a mom and pop type of rural market/cafe. It helped me a lot to be seeing people that way. Otherwise, I was trying to think up things to do with people.  I just met a widow on an airplane the other day. She was age 81 and was widowed at 59 - but she had a nice social connection with her group at church. They went out for breakfast on Sundays but also on Friday mornings. They also went to a movie night. Those kinds of events can really help. Maybe there is a book group you can join? Anything like that. Also, you can look up and see if there is a ladies walking group nearby. Anything like that can help. It is GREAT that you signed up for Camp Widow. That will probably be a turning point.

You mention that  - I suppose I'll find something meaningful to do with my time.

That is good. There may be some kind of volunteer r service group that is meaningful to you and will also be a source of connection. That is something we all need. A lot of retirees find some sort of volunteer work to join in - even when they still have a mate. 

I had to really cut back on how much of the garden I wanted to work on. My husband used to be the driving force on the veggie garden. I ended up letting that part go...But I gradually improved a patio area with roses along the edge.  

Can of frosting... omg - we have all done crazy stuff like that. As things improved I became an excellent short order cook - crepes, waffles, omelets, etc. It is all I could muster when cooking for one. My grandkids would come over and that helped... so I would make chocolate waffles for them...

Chin up, my dear. Your post shows a lot of promise that you are ready to stick your toe back into the water of life... For the longest time, I just wanted to be with my beloved. It took a while to care, but as long as we are "here" I think we need to try to care. It is not the same, of course. Before I simply cared about life, I didn't have to try... Even so, the effort saves us. Prayer also helped me, or any sort of spiritual connection. I also wrote in my journal  - I only wrote blessing in my journal - I didn't write about the pain. I was amazed that I had anything to write...But the journal are there. as a living testimony.

Start by taking the dogs out for nice walks. As you help them, they will help you.  

Massive Hugs,

Maria Louisa

Comment by Rainy (Misty) on April 5, 2018 at 5:29pm

Jerry's been gone almost four months and I feel exactly like you!  

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