It’s been 9 weeks since my wife died and I thouhgt it might be helpful for people on here to know what has helped to process the loss and grief for me so far. I realise that the process and circumstances are vastly differing for each of us and so I realise that none of this may be of assistance to anyone, but I feel as if I have to at least try to help and if even one of these things helps someone to process and rebuild then I’ll be happy
I began with the small things and tried to build a routine. Showering, changing clothes, brushing teeth.
I made sure I ate at least one healthy meal a day, for me it was porridge. I didn’t worry about what else I was eating as long as I had my porridge.
I gave up drinking. Which was a surprise as its was a constant companion for both me and my wife. It just wasn’t the same without her so seemed rather pointless, all it was doing was giving me a hangover which in this situation is the last thing anyone needs.
I made myself excercise. I began with a half hour walk around where I live, now I’m out for 3-4 hours each day. Just walking. It gets the endorphins going and interrupts the feedback loops of emotion. The first time I laughed out loud at the idiocy of birds was a revelation, I laughed then realised I could still laugh. Walking for me is a chance to engage with thee randomness of reality and where that can take your thoughts. I found this also gave me a space to reflect and to think about my wife and our times together. It’s not been easy but it’s proving to be, on balance, a positive experience.
Watch some youtube on the science of grief, both psychological and biological. I found these helped to give me an understanding of what was going on when the emotion wave rolled in. It didn’t make it easier but it at least gave me reassurance and made things a little less terrifying.
Don’t rely on others, be it friends or family, to have any idea about how to help you. I really did have to tell them what I needed. It might not be comfortable and people might disappoint you but I’ve realised that no one person can replace the intimacy I had with my wife, thats just not possible nor when I thought about it was it wanted. I found instead that accepting any and all offers of help and social engagement with the understanding that I might cancel was the best way to go. Sometimes I had to force myself out the door, sometimes it was a bad experience, sometimes it was lifting. I just keep trying things and seeing what works for me. I also found that identifying who could help with different aspects of this situation was really beneficial. For instance one friend is good with listening to my emotional despair, whilst another is good for going out and socialising with, another is good for always complaing about their life and so giving me respite from mine.
Again on friends and family, I try to forgive them for not knowing what to do, for having lives to get on with, for having little time for you. I’ve tried not to dwell on the disappointment I’ve felt from some peoples actions or lack there of. Before my wife died I was guilty of being them, I acted as they acted towards the bereaved. As we all know it’s not till you’re here that you have any understanding of the nightmare to be faced. I forgive them as I forgive myself for once being that person. As much as we wish it not to life goes on, the world turns. For me I’ve seen what happens to people who cant forgive and it’s a path I don’t want to follow down into bitternes and hate.
If you can, get away for a while. I’ve found that getting out of my house for a time has helped no end. I’m lucky in that I have friends that could offer the use of their flat but even going on a day trip helps. Again it gave me time to relect but without all the triggers of being in our home.
Try to engage with activities that face to the future, I know it’s hard to think of the future but the future is inevitable. I restarted my driving lessons, it was difficult to be in such an intimate space with someone else, the first time out I worried I would break down at the wheel but now I look forward to it. I found it really difficult to move away from this moment of loss, it felt like I was leaving my wife behind but now I hear her cheering me on.
One of the most beneficial things for me has been to reflect on my wifes life. She had an enormous amount of struggle and was dealt a pretty shitty hand at times but she always got back up and was very future facing. She believed in moving herself forward, learning new skills, seeing new places, tasting new food. I try to think what she would have done in situations, some times I do that, sometimes I do what I want. It’s my way of carrying her along with me, I guess to try and see what she would have seen in a situation. I talk to her all the time and get some surprising answers.
All of the above is in no way a guarantee but for me I’m in a different place than I was a few weeks ago. I still breakdown daily, question my actions, relive the trauma of her last breath, but I can see a movement in the right direction. It’s been really, really difficult to get here, there’s been a lot of tears and anguish, self doubt and despair. In all the research that I’ve done, all the shit I’ve experienced since she died and in everything that’s become apparent about existence since then, I’ve come to realise, as with much in life, I have to put in the effort, do things I didn’t want to, experience pain I’d never imagined to exist. and with each little accomplishment I give myself praise as its one more thing that I’m doing that I wasn’t doing last week, yesterday, an hour ago. I remember to give myself space for failure, change of mind, I can always try again. Am I ‘better’, absolutely not. The person I was died with my wife, but the person my wife fell in love with is still there. There’s no way my wife would have wanted me to be anything else other than happy, she lived with terminal cancer for 9 months and she could still find joy and laughter. I know trying to rebuild my life is the only way I could honour what we had together, so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and hoping that it works and listening for her cheering me on.