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This site is run by widowed people, for widowed people

Widowed Village connects peers with each other for friendship and sharing. The moderators, administrators, and others involved in running this site are not professionals.

Please don't interpret anything you read here as medical, legal, or otherwise expert advice. Don't disregard any expert's advice or take any action as a result of what you read here.

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

I have just finished a five-week "intensive outpatient program"-- the only option I had other than an inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. I have learned a tremendous amount about myself and my grief over the past five weeks. I know now that during the first five or six months after Kevin's death, when I thought I was working through the grieving process, I was really in shock, numb, and just surviving. There was so much to do--legally, financially, pragmatically. I got stuff done. But I don't have clear memories of that time, so I know that I wasn't really processing what was going on. The winter passed, then the spring and the summer. I thought I was doing okay until the school year started (I'm a principal) and reality set in. I was malnourished, because I had not been eating much for months. I was sleep deprived, because I haven't slept more than two hours in a row for months and months. I was exhausted. I was a mess. The reality of my pain became obvious to me only when my physical body began to shut down.

I have had a lot of time--hours and hours of group and individual therapy-- to examine what was happening to me. I learned that I really didn't want or need advice from other people, even well-meaning help. I was angry at all the people who said they would "help" but never took the next step. I was bitter that all my previous friends seemed to disappear after Kevin's death. I felt so, so alone. I wondered if I died if anyone would even notice. I unraveled all the layers of emotions and thoughts that were bottled inside me, and I learned that what I really wanted, what I desperately needed, was some acknowledgement of my suffering. I needed empathy.

I learned that I have to find ways to get this need met. It won't just happen, because most people (at least those in my world) don't know that I need that. Comments about how "strong" I am simply made me mad, because I knew that I really wasn't strong at all. I wanted someone to say it was okay to feel weak right now, and to encourage me to take the time I needed to get stronger. No pressure, just support. Empathy.

Over the past week or so, I have been practicing asking for this. I have disclosed my pain to family and close friends-- they seemed surprised that I had allowed myself to sink so low. But more importantly, my efforts to reach out to others has, in fact, brought me closer to others. And, surprise, they have been amazingly supportive. I am hopeful that now I can begin to move through the grief in a healthier way. And maybe, someday, I will learn how to be happy living in a world where all I have now are memories of my wonderful thirty year marriage to my very best friend.

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Comment by Tod on October 25, 2013 at 9:02pm

Your words ring true, for all of us.Having been widowed twice, empathy is what we seek,and our gift to others.Be kind to yourself, and live the life your best friend would have wished for you. Hugs

Comment by Brodtx on October 21, 2013 at 8:31pm
I'm on a verge of a panic attack. My husband died 6 weeks ago. I read your entry about how you thought you were going through the grief process. I wonder if I'm going through it. I'm crying and focusing on my breathing. It feels incredibly painful. I miss him so much. I watch video clips of him. Some in healthier times and others when he was close to dying. I want to grieve appropriately. I don't want to myself getting psychologically worse because I didn't process my loss. I know he is gone. I'm feeling the loss. I don't think I'm in denial or shock. The pain feels real. I'm not asleep and I've taken an anti anxiety med to calm me down. I've been working for several weeks already. I try to relax and socialize. I don't want to get stuck in the pain. Can you do all this and still be in shock and denial?
Comment by AEDforever (Ali) on October 21, 2013 at 5:58pm

Susan, good for you for getting some help.  Everything you said rings true for me...except I actually committed myself to a psych ward so I wouldn't off myself.  Everybody here understands...so if you don't find the empathy you need "out there"..which I certainly didn't - you will definitely get it here, I know I have.

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