Who can I talk to?

I feel like I’ve become part of an almost secret society - people who’ve suddenly lost their dearest partner, have got through the initial shock and disbelief, the funeral, the heartfelt good wishes and kindly words, the practicalities of bank details etc, and now find themselves in a state of limbo, going about everyday business and apparently coping but really struggling inside.

It’s not fair to burden my children, who have their own grieving to deal with, and are endlessly kind to me, and what can friends say who haven’t experienced it? Nothing can bring him back but I want him back. I miss my husband so much. I still feel after 7 months that my life isn’t real, it’s hard to make decisions, to concentrate, to feel that my future matters.

I probably seem quite normal to others but I’m not feeling remotely normal inside. Yet bereavement is such a common and, indeed, normal experience.

My died at 67 years of age. He’d had Parkinson’s for 12 years but his death was unexpected. We’d been together for 45 years and it feels like we grew up together from our late teens/early twenties. And I just keep thinking ‘how can he not be here any more’? It makes no sense.

I’m lucky to be supported by our children, who are nearby, and I have good friends, but it’s so hard now to keep plodding on.

Dear Alison . My husband died suddenly 3 months ago . He was 60 . We had been together since he was 19 and I was 16 . I am doing everything I’m supposed to do …we have a business , children , animals etc . I have supportive friends and my kids and my mum tell me I am doing well under the circumstances . But I feel totally lost without him . I cried loads this afternoon but when I was on my own because I don’t want to upset anyone because there’s nothing anyone can do to bring him back . I feel like I am going to have to reinvent myself if I am going to get through the rest of my life but I have no energy or motivation to do anything other than plod on . The future frightens me without him and seems pointless even though I know I can be supportive of my children and they will appreciate it but I feel like my own life is over . I need to try to work out how to stop feeling sorry for myself . I know I am lucky to have children that are grown up now and had their dad and that I am financially secure and in ok health but I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do next without him . I miss him so much . I have no answers for us . The only thing we can do is keep plodding and hope we get to cope with our new life better as time goes on . Sending you big hugs . Romy xxxx

Dear Romy - you express it exactly as I experience it too. It’s hard to make a new life that you certainly didn’t want but there is nothing else to be done. It’s difficult to know what to say to people when they say, as my very good friend did this evening after a music gig we went to, ‘you must miss him at times like these’ because what I want to say is ‘I can’t even begin to tell you how much, how often’ and that would be a bit of a downer after an enjoyable evening. It’s easier to say ‘yes, I do’ and leave it there.

I’ve worried a bit that I’m being pathetic and feeling sorry for myself but then thought that I’ve just got to let the emotions come, as and when. Like you, I am involved with my children and my days are busy. The tough bit is being alone at home. I started jotting down how I felt, to begin with on a daily basis, to try to make some sense of everything and it has helped.

I imagine that in time one gets more used to living with the loss but in these early days it’s completely reasonable to feel all at sea.

Thank you. It’s good to feel understood. xxx

Alison, you’re not being pathetic,
you’re being honest. But most people (The ones who haven’t been where we are) do not and cannot understand. So we keep it brief, or we lie and tell people we’re fine because it’s easier (and we don’t want to either bring the mood down or have a complete and public meltdown).

The best bits of advice I was given were:
Make new memories.
Practice gratitude (this one tends to come a bit later in the timeline but being grateful for the little things can help).
Exercise (endorphins… this one I’ve been a bit pants at lately).

Firehorse

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Also… Consider booking some sessions with a counsellor. You may need to try a couple before you find the right “fit”. But they don’t judge, you can tell them things you cannot tell your family or friends for fear of upsetting them or worrying them (or not wanting to sound like you’re not “fine” or not “coping”). We all need someone to talk to… nothing wrong with paying someone to listen.

Dear Firehorse. Thank you for your suggestions and understanding. The exercise part is taken care of to some extent by dog walking - I got a rescue dog about 3 months after my husband died and she’s been wonderfully companiable. (Dog walkers are also more liable than people in general to just say hello, which is nice.) You’re right about making memories, I’m sure, and it is happening - all part of building life again. Gratitude is an interesting one! For the time I had together with my dear man, yes, I can see that. I should also feel grateful for his sake that he didn’t have to go on being so very ill as he was in his last three weeks, and I am, of course. It’s just that he pops into my head as the person he was at various times of our life together rather than just at the end - though that memory comes to me too - and I’m filled with sadness.

In time, I suppose …

Alison x

Firehorse, one of my daughters has suggested counselling and I’m reluctant for reasons I can’t quite fathom. Maybe just sitting and crying the whole time in a session, maybe the feeling that it would tell me what I already know, which is why I searched for a site like this, to find people in the same general situation who can say ‘I’ve been there’ or ‘me too’. But you’ve set me thinking.

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Alison, sitting there crying - that may well happen, it did with me for the first two sessions. As with everything, it takes time to be able to open up to a stranger in person. But my experience of counselling was that it was more about putting my own thoughts in order (as you have to to communicate them to someone else). The difference between writing it down (here for instance) and talking to someone face to face is that a counsellor can guide the conversation towards what is worrying you most.

Firehorse (Marianne btw)

Definitely giving it some thought, Marianne. Thanks. x

The average age profile in my village is high, and in consequence of that, I suppose, there are lots of widowed people. I count 16 (me included) within a radius of 200 yards, and I bet that I have forgotten one or two.
We men are outnumbered two to one in this count.
It seemed self-evident to me in the immediate aftermath of my wife’s death, 50 days ago now, whilst the condolences were flooding in, that the people with the most useful and practical advice and comments would surely be those that had been through the experience themselves.
I haven’t spoken to all of them, but to most. It’s a small, friendly village and everybody knew my wife who is a lovely,
outgoing person.
Unsurprisingly my expectation has been correct.
There is a wide swathe of experience of loss in this group of people.
A counsellor wouldn’t know me, and wouldn’t know my wife. I suppose that there’s a fair chance that she/he wouldn’t have been through the loss experience but had merely “done the course.”

So what could a counsellor bring to the table in my case ?

A rhetorical question, that.

“Nothing” is the answer, I fancy.

A counsellor is a facilitator or enabler and their training is directed at helping a person to find the answers from within themselves. Generally speaking the counsellor wouldn’t have answers as such but would probably have some of the questions… often ones that we try to avoid. I think there is a great role for neighbours and friends with experience and I’ve found it easier to talk to such people. In effect they are probably more like mentors. A counsellor wouldn’t need to have any actual experience of grief but maybe would be more empathic if they did which presumably could alter the experience. It’s important that the counsellor doesn’t project their own views. Often there’s just a need to help people clarify their thinking and maybe to decide some action steps.

Reading the last few posts is like listening to myself. Peter died 13 weeks ago and I seem to be getting worse despite all my best efforts and support from family and friends. There is absolutely no way anyone can understand the depth amd impact of grief unless they have lost a deeply loved partner. This week I have been to the theatre twice with good friends, done 3 days of interesting and challenging voluntary work. Nevertheless I have cried endlessly when on my own. After going to my car on each occasion the lone.iness has hit me and I have driven home to my empty home in tears, and stayed that way for the rest of the day/evening. I have found I prefer to be with people who can share the experience because I know they understand. How can I explain to people the extent of my lethargy and why my normally well maintained home is going to pot. My bedroom is so untidy yet I feel safe and happier in there, it is my sanctuary.Sorry for themoan but I am feeling truly sorry for myself.f, as I am for all of us in this position.

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Toria, it took me months to properly clean and sort out my bedroom, the confusion in my head mirrored in the untidiness of my house. Complete inertia. I also find that after saying goodbye to family and friends after enjoyable times in their company the grief hits me before I’ve even consciously thought about it. After 7 months it tends to be a feeling of pain rather than tears each time, which is progress, I suppose.

Edwin, 50 days is such a short time and it’s such a good and positive thing that you’re finding some support in your community, that people who knew your wife can share their memories with you and have an understanding of what you’re going through. I want to talk about my husband but find that, other than with my daughters, people seem to avoid mentioning his name, presumably to avoid upsetting me.

I think that you’re right, in general. Counselling can’t heal on its own but could help in clarifying one’s thoughts.

Dear Toria . My husband died 13 weeks ago too and like you have been out and about with family and friends but as soon as I come home or am left in the house on my own or it’s bedtime or first thing in the morning I go to pieces . And start to cry . It’s like one step forward two steps back . It’s such a horrible feeling because it doesn’t matter how much you wish things were different this is how it is now and I hate it . X

How accurate what you say is.We can, and do, wish endlessly that things were different but they never will be. That is so so hard to accept and last week I took at least 50 steps back which upset me so much because I had kidded myself I was making progress.I even got cross with a well meaning friend who told me daily cod liver oil would make me feel better!! I asked if it would bring Peter back, which was unkind of me but sometimes part of my grief is anger at the cruel deal we have been dealt .Anyway. like you I will plod on as best I can. Love Toria

Dear Firehorse, I wonder how you found your counsellor - did you go through your GP? My husband died very unexpectedly at the beginning of April aged 58. We went to see our GP as he was feeling pretty awful and as soon as we walked in she said how ill he looked. Long story short, she sent us to the local hospital where we spent the next 8 hours before being sent home with antibiotics. 48 hours later he was in an ambulance being rushed to another hospital, 3 days after that he was on life support and he was finally taken of the machines and died 13 days later. I was so shocked and stunned by what had happened I went to see my GP a couple of days later and she told me to contact the first hospital to ask for an explanation for their actions. The hospital has admitted that there were numerous failures with regard to Allan’s care and that the outcome was ‘catastrophic’ - their words. I had a meeting with various members of the hospital staff, including the consultant who sent us home with tablets. He told me that Allan’s was an “avoidable” death. I can’t find the words to say what an impact that has had on me - I didn’t know I was capable of feeling such rage and it is all consuming and frightening. I try to be ‘normal’ for my children when they call or visit but it is getting more difficult as I find that it doesn’t take much to make me lose my temper.
Sorry, I’m rambling.

OMG!! I am feeling really angry just reading what you have written Juvic , How the heck you are coping after being told that it was an avoidable death I don’t know . I don’t know what to say other than I feel really angry for you that you are having to try to cope with that information . Sending you big hugs . Romy xxxxx

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I don’t blame you losing your cool Toria . People sometimes say the most stupid things and if we are not tolerant and lose our cool they sometimes make out there is something wrong with us and blame it on grief ! Hope you are having a better week this week than last . I just feel numb at the moment . Better than being irritable or sad marginally . The choice of emotions available to us recently bereaved is endless … unfortunately. Sending you big hugs . Romy xxxx