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Absent Grief

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Six weeks ago I lost my husband of 20 years.  I keep reading there is no right way to grieve, but I am ashamed, embarrassed, concerned that i don't seem to be grieving at all.  I loved him.  He deserves to be mourned.  What's wrong here?  It helps to know there is actually a type of grieving called "absent grief."  But I truly do want to feel the reality, the loss, no matter how bad it is.  I am a person who is considered to be fairly self-aware.  It seems I would have some inkling that I'm repressing my feelings, but I don't.  Is that what it is?  Repression?  Another person has written about the need for community ritual to mourn her mother.  I don't feel like that's my situation -- that I'm missing ritual.  

I thought in the beginning that my anti-depressant was keeping me from feeling. Two weeks after the death, I had my dosage decreased by one-half.  I'm not sure it's helping, but possibly.  I do realize that the opposite often occurs -- people ask to have their dosage increased rather than decreased.  


Thanks for any thoughts.  

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Hello and welcome!

If your husband died just six weeks ago, you've barely just begun what will be for you a journey that is unique to you alone. 

We know a lot about what is considered "normal" in grief, and you can read lots of articles and books and research on the topic. Still, it must be said that how grief is felt and experienced varies with the person who is feeling and experiencing it. It's as unique to you as your fingerprint. That's because so many individual factors are involved: how your person died; how attached you were to each other; how old you are now and how much life you've lived already; what support you have available to you; your own past experiences with significant loss; your particular personality traits, how resilient you are, and how you've coped with past losses and challenges; what you were taught about grief and expressing your thoughts and feelings as a child ~ these are just some of the factors that will affect how you mourn the loss of your husband.

I encourage you to let yourself think and feel whatever comes to you along the way, without worrying about or passing judgment on how you (or others) think you're "supposed" to think or feel. You will get through this loss the same way you've dealt with other significant challenges in your life ~ and we are here to offer whatever information, comfort, guidance and support you may want and need along the way. ❤️

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I totally relate. I lost my wife of 27 years in May 2020 from a myriad of health conditions that culminated in just a tragic, sad passing. Of course I was and still am devastated, but her life on earth was filled with chronic pain, mobility issues, hallucinations, even incontinence. It was so hard being her caregiver, and I felt horrible that I actually felt relief that her suffering was over. She knew she would not live a long life. She didn't want to be a burden. If I cried, it would have only been for myself, because she had a firm belief that she would go to Heaven. I don't want to lay religion on anybody, and maybe Heaven means an afterlife free of the burdens of life on earth. Whatever it is, Annette is in a better place now. I believe this in my soul. And if I'm wrong, and there is no afterlife and I can't see her when I pass, I won't know it. But the knowledgeable that someday we'll be together again is sometimes all I have to keep me going. I worried that I didn't love her because I couldn't allow myself a big bawl session. Ultimately, it just makes my throat hurt and makes me feel like crap- it doesn't help me. When Annette used to cry because of her pain, I used to hate it and I would discourage it because it was so hard to see. I told her it's just gonna leave you stuffed up and unable to breathe- and it did. 

I lost my father in law to COVID Sat. morning. Again, I can't cry. I imagine him and Annette reunited instead, having fun, engaging in one of their deep conversations. He was also very religious and I know that everything is good with him. 


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James, I am so sorry for this additional loss, I know it feels like you've lost more of her and that's hard.  It wasn't that way with my FIL, he was a horrible man that only George could love it seems, the man never gave him cause to though.  Just know tthat all of us here and thinking of you.

21 hours ago, nashreed said:

Whatever it is, Annette is in a better place now. I believe this in my soul

Keep your faith, sometimes it's about all we have. ;)

22 hours ago, DLK said:

I thought in the beginning that my anti-depressant was keeping me from feeling.

It's not unusual to feel numbness/shock in early loss.  I do want to say that even if you never shed a tear, it's not an indication that you don't miss him!  I have a friend who was married over 50 years, a good marriage, and she has yet to cry, she's not holding back, it just doesn't happen, I know she misses him and loves him still.  I tell her not to worry about it.  So long as a person doesn't purposely try NOT to let their grief out, I don't see cause to worry at this point.  Of course you love and miss him.  This is an ever evolving journey, you'll likely experience the whole gamut of feelings eventually.  You can talk to your doctor about your concerns and see what he/shee says.

I want to share an article I wrote of the things I've found helpful over the years, in the hopes something will be of help to you either now or on down the road.


There's no way to sum up how to go on in a simple easy answer, but I encourage you to read the other threads here, little by little you will learn how to make your way through this.  I do want to give you some pointers though, of some things I've learned on my journey.

  • Take one day at a time.  The Bible says each day has enough trouble of it's own, I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew.  It can be challenging enough just to tackle today.  I tell myself, I only have to get through today.  Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.  To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety.
  • Don't be afraid, grief may not end but it evolves.  The intensity lessens eventually.
  • Visit your doctor.  Tell them about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks.  They need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common in early grief.  If they're reoccurring, call a suicide hotline.  I felt that way early on, but then realized it wasn't that I wanted to die so much as I didn't want to go through what I'd have to face if I lived.  Back to taking a day at a time.  Suicide Hotline - Call 1-800-273-8255 or www.crisis textline.org or US and Canada: text 741741 UK: text 85258 | Ireland: text 50808
  • Give yourself permission to smile.  It is not our grief that binds us to them, but our love, and that continues still.
  • Try not to isolate too much.  
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief, and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself.  We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief, it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it!  Some people set aside time every day to grieve.  I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever.  That person that would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate, practice self-care.  You'll need it more than ever.
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, find a professional grief counselor that is.  We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc.  They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group.  If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through, it helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it". 
  • Be patient, give yourself time.  There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc.  They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it.  It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters.  
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time.  That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse.  Finally, they were up to stay.
  • Consider a pet.  Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely.  It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him.  Besides, they're known to relieve stress.  Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage.
  • Make yourself get out now and then.  You may not feel interest in anything, things that interested you before seem to feel flat now.  That's normal.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then.  Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first.  You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout, that's okay, you did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it.  If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot.
  • Keep coming here.  We've been through it and we're all going through this together.
  • Look for joy in every day.  It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T.  It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully.  You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it.  It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it.
  • Eventually consider volunteering.  It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win.

(((hugs))) Praying for you today.

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Come here any time you want, cry, vent, update, or just reach out, we're here.

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  • 2 weeks later...


I came into this forum because I desperately needed to know that other people felt the way I have.  There is SO MUCH complicated emotion, I had no idea!  My husband of 46 years, died in early April after being sick off and on for over 25 years.  It was mostly off and we lived a rich life together.    For decades though, I had the nagging dread of an episode of illness and that familiar feeling of having  no idea what it would look like, or when or how our lives would be impacted.  That helpless feeling of apprehension was our constant companion.

He began to get much sicker last November and then even worse this past February. During his last weeks, he could barely walk and I could only leave for a very short time and at the end, he needed constant care which I provided.  I was sure he would rally but we would be heading into a situation where he would be in a wheelchair and nursing would be required and he would be more miserable and more wretched than he'd ever been and I just didn't know how we would handle that.  Thankfully he was only in the hospital for 4 days before he died. 

The most immediate emotion was relief.  And then there was the feeling of freedom and some guilt for that feeling.  And then I was overtaken by a sort of mania.  It was mild by most standards, but I had WAY too much energy and couldn't sleep without some sedative for several weeks.  During that time, I did feel sad and had a few episodes of what felt like normal grief, but that was not the norm. I was flying around planning his memorial, cleaning house, doing yard work and any other activity that would distract me.

Eventually though, the manic feelings died down and I felt so heavy and exhausted, I could barely move.  And THEN, the sadness came.  And also so many strange emotions and experiences: feeling surreal, forgetting what I was doing while I was doing it, jealousy of anyone who was part of a couple, irritability.  A few days ago, I was invited to play golf with some friends.  As i went outside to hit some balls before playing (we hadn't been able to play golf for several years) I felt SUCH a shock that it was like someone hit me in the head and I was dizzy with the realization that HE WAS GONE.   SO GONE!  It was shattering.

What I've realized is that we all grieve differently and with a vast array of experiences and emotions.  And being able to read about other's experiences has been really comforting.  I'm not crazy.  And I know I have a long road ahead, but sharing helps everyone understand and navigate their own circumstances just a little bit better. 

i know I need to talk about this a LOT more than most people are comfortable with so I'm joining an in person support group.  And thank you for "listening, " and for sharing.


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So Sorry, I got so caught up in telling my story that I forgot that the point was that just because you haven't felt the supposedly "normal" sadness yet, doesn't mean that you won't, OR that if you don't it's not normal.  We are all unique beings and we go through events at different speeds and in different ways. That's what I needed to see and wanted to share. 

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Thank you for this.  It is extremely helpful.  The mania you described -- I was almost embarrassed that people saw that in me.  But with the help of posts like yours, I've come to accept that I will grieve the way I'll grieve.  It's mine, it's private, it will happen the way it happens.  Right? Right.  

Thank you!

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16 hours ago, EMAL said:

The most immediate emotion was relief.  And then there was the feeling of freedom and some guilt for that feeling.

Common to feel and nothing to feel guilty about but we both know feelings aren't fact based and we feel what we feel, we learn to give ourselves permission for our feelings, even if/while at odds with each other, all of them valid!

16 hours ago, EMAL said:

What I've realized is that we all grieve differently and with a vast array of experiences and emotions.

Yep!  Definitely.

15 hours ago, DLK said:

I've come to accept that I will grieve the way I'll grieve.


The manic may be a way of keeping busy so as not to think too deeply, it's very hard doing time in early grief.  I'm so thankful I was still working, even though it was hard to focus and do my job.  It has to be terribly hard being retired/alone when this hits.


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  • 1 month later...

DLK, had your husband been ill before? Sometimes we start grieving when the diagnosis and prognosis is realized. At any rate, this is one situation where it becomes, "Your grief, your rules."

My last years with my husband were not great - he was an alcoholic, was at that point unable to hold a job. I still loved him, but had plans to leave. I decided against it when he told me he was terminally ill. It's been 11 years. I probably think of him (in our happier years) several times a week. I mourn his death, and the alcohol that ruined his life years before he passed. I have a new love, but not one who remembers me when I was 20-something. 

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My husband was ill, but not terminal -- so far as we knew.  I often said, "If you die before me, what do you think I should....."  I think we sort of figured in a general way that he would die before I did.  But we didn't get specific and really face it.

I often think about what I wish I /we had done differently in our marriage.  I was fine with it while it was going on.  I think I just repressed what I wish could be different.  Sometimes I think I am mourning what could have been, but not able to mourn what actually was.  And yet --  it was fine; we were fine; life was good together; we were pleased with it.  I just didn't let myself think further until he died.  And now I have anger and regrets, and sadness too.  Sad for what he was not able to do that he still wanted to do.  

Anyway, some of what you wrote made me think about this, so thank you.  


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