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What I've Learned


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I'd like to start a new topic. Not sure if anyone feels like joining. What have we learned from our grief? I'm talking about both positive and negative things.

For the new people here: I lost my husband to lung cancer in August 2010. He was a non-smoker. We were true soulmates and had been a couple for nearly 30 years, married 28 years. We have four sons - all in their twenties. No grandkids yet. We were looking forward to the time when we'd just be "US" - when the kids flew the nest. Now the kids have flown, but I'm all by myself, apart from the dog.

A year has passed. The grief is still with me, but not as excruciatingly painful as it was a year ago. I still cry, but not every day. I've become stronger - not because I wanted to, but because I had to. And I've learned a few things.

This is what I've learned so far:

1) You are never really prepared for grief and you can't truly understand it unless you've been there.

I've lost other people in my life: grandparents, a father, a brother, friends, an unborn child. But nothing could have prepared me for the devastation I felt when I lost my husband. I have finally come to understand the grief that other people have struggled with: A friend who lost her son, a cousin who lost his wife. I cringe at the memories of what I said to them, thinking I was offering comfort. But it's only now that I'm grieving myself that I can empathize with other bereaved people. I'm a psychologist - and this has been an education for me. I've learned how to speak with others in the similar situations.

2) It gets easier. The pain lessens.

When my grief was fresh and raw, other widows and widowers told me that the pain would ease up over time. I wasn't so sure. On this roller coaster journey I came to believe that I would be the exception. Nothing could ease this pain. It would be with me forever. But I was wrong. The grief is always there, like a backpack - sometimes heavy and uncomfortable, sometimes only noticeable, but the pain is fading. It may not have disappeared, but it is manageable. It comes and goes like the twinges in my sore joints. Sometimes, without warning, it hits me like a heavy migraine and I have to ride it out or find something quick to alleviate it.

3) Give yourself time.

Friends and family may expect your grief to be "over" within a certain time frame, often after 3-6 months, or at least a year. "Put the past behind you," they may say, "It's time to move on."

Ignore them. Move at your own pace.

4) You will learn how to take care of yourself if you have to.

A few tips:

Pay bills as they come if you have the money, and balance a budget. I admit I don't always take this advice. Often I end up spending too much, and I make mistakes (which is okay). But mostly I manage. If you owe money and can't pay an entire bill, pick up the phone and explain the problem. Often you'll be allowed to pay a little each month. Don't stuff bills in a drawer and expect them to disappear. I know from personal experience that this does not work.

Cooking and eating healthy food is good for you. My husband was the chef in the house - but now I've learned to make more than spaghetti and tacos. Not only that, but I've become a reasonably good cook. Your normal appetite will return. The challenge is to curb that appetite and appease it with healthy food.

Daily exercise will improve your mental health. Honest! I've been forced to take daily exercise because I have a dog. This his does not mean you have to get a dog, but do try to take a walk every day. The wind and rain alone will air out your mind and hopefully move your thoughts into a better place.

A battery operated drill is the most important tool in the house.

Don't bother telling the electrician or the plumber that you're a widow. They don't really feel sorry for you and they won't give you discounts.

5) This is the most important one: Take one day at a time.

I cannot emphasize this enough. It has been my mantra. If I think too far ahead, I panic. You can always make it through one more day. Then another, and another. Before you know it, you're living again.

Melina

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Hi Melina,

I absolutely say ditto to all you have shared. For those who are new I lost my beloved soul mate March of 2010. I, too, am a clinical social worker, psychotherapist, with 36 years+ of experience as a therapy behind me. Bill was a clinical psychologist and we had a clinic together for the 24 years of our marriage. Another 12 years with Bill and you have half my life with the kindest man I ever knew.

I can say ditto to all Melina has said and add:

1. It is 18 months and I find my grief to be one of waves and layers. The waves come in less frequently now. Some roll past me pretty easily...finding a mug can cause a small wave that washes up gently making me feel sadder than I feel all the time or it can be a tsunami...I never know what brings the waves of grief in. But the tsunamis are less frequent now. I don't wail every day but I did yesterday. The layers are various hidden layers of grief. Right now I am working on how traumatized I was during 4 years of care giving and then at Bill's death...I am dealing with the fall out from that now but seeing the trauma has lifted the guilt I carry for not being the perfect caregiver. Dealing with it has let me breathe a bit. Of course, being superwoman, I should not have been traumatized...after all I am a therapist who should know better and do better. Sure!!

2. I am looking for the new normal and the parts of me that are left here on this plane..still looking but have added watercolor lessons to my life. This weekend and next I am doing 2 three day workshops hoping it becomes the passion I am looking for to drive my life. I have learned I can live without joy but I can't live without meaning and I can't live with the torture of neurotic guilt. So besides the watercolor, my dog (who acted out big time after Bill died by ingesting a razor and going through surgery) is getting re-trained. Keeps us busy. I am empty so I have not seen clients since shortly before Bill died. When and if I do, I will probably get certified (as if I need to know more) as a grief counselor because I, like Melina, KNOW for sure that no one can understand the devastation of this loss unless they have been there. NO one.

3. I have learned that people I never expected to be there for me ARE there and some of those, like family, are not. I am learning to lower my expectations of everyone including me and am far more compassionate towards myself and others. I wish I could go back and work again with some of the clients I helped through their grief over close to 40 years. I was there because I have always been empathic but not the way I would be now even though I, too, have lost a LOT of people in my own life. Nothing, nothing, nothing---no loss---has ever approached this one in the depth and amount of pain I deal with.

4. Self care matters. I came into Bill's death totally stressed and exhausted from care giving. I did not know how tired I was and have been sick several times, fallen and broken bones and tore my shoulder, had a car accident and more. Still dealing with those things. Take care of yourself....exercise, food, meditation.

5. Denial is hell. As self aware as I am and have been, I was in denial of Bill's approaching death. I was devastated when he took his last breath in my arms on a March Saturday morning. I have never known such pain. My world changed forever. I changed forever and will never ever be the same. I cry at the drop of a pin now also. Pain is always present..sometimes in the background but present none the less. The silence in my house remains.

6. I did not believe anyone who said it would get better...I KNEW mine would not but it has....I also know Bill's death will always hurt...a LOT. The journey is different for everyone...respect your own.

There is oh so much more....but a day at a time, sometimes an hour is the key. Listen to your own heart....take your time...be in your pain...do not swallow it down or ignore it as it will come back to kick you if you don't honor it now.

Mary

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This is scary, and at the same time is enlightening. What both Mary and Melina are saying hits the nail on the head. I lost my wife on 3June11 to pancreatic cancer. Even though we received the diagnosis over a year ago, you are never prepared. There is no guideboook that tells you how things will be and how to deal with it. Everyone is the "creator of their own realily", but I always told myself during the past year, as well as everyday now, "I am alive and I will survive". The house, I mean home is now empty and quiet, but she is still here with me always.

I am seeing that the pain is easing off, but the grief will never go away. I am a believer in positivity, we must focus that way and take one day at a time. One has to have the positive focus in order to collectively deal with it and help others who share the common denominator. I have found the posts in this support group to have been very helpful in dealing with my grief. When my loss happened, I thought I was the only one this had ever happened to, but I realize I am not alone. As you all have mentioned, unless you actually experience a loss first hand, and especially being the primary caregiver, all others are DGI's. (Don't Get Its).. Best to you all.

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Melina

As Mary said, absolutely "ditto" to everything you said.

For new people:

I was in the hospital having had a total knee replacement, 1 1/2 hours from home, when my husband Mike died very unexpectedly from a massive coronary at the age of 62 on January 13, 2010. He and I had talked on the phone just hours before he died, and he was feeling fine. He had not had any problems with his heart at all. I had tried all the next day to call and let him know that I was going to be dismissed from the hospital on Thursday, but could not reach him. Not knowing that he was lying dead on our dining room floor, surrounded by our dogs. My daughter went to check on him, and found him. I found out he was dead when I called the house, and my daughter answered the phone, and had to tell me over the phone. My daughter and her husband came to the hospital, spent the night with me, and brought me home the next day. As I was unable to drive, or barely get around, my daughter took a leave of absence from her job and moved in with me for about 6 weeks. She has been, and continues to be a rock for me.

1. It does get easier as time goes by, Mike has been gone 19 months today. The grief is still there, always with me, and at times will overwhelm me, but I can be happy, I can laugh, I can find pleasure in things in life. I have moved on, but never, ever will I forget Mike. There are still times that I cannot believe that big wonderful force of a man is gone. He was just larger than life, not only physically, but in every way.

2. Whatever the new normal is, I guess I am living it. My life still centers around family and theater, as it did when Mike was alive. We were both involved with family and theater. Some of our best and longest friendships are from the theater group, and they are still my best friends. The only real major change in my life, is that Mike is not here to share it. I am the stage manager for the musical "Annie" being presented by our community theater this weekend. Last night as I sat there in the wings waiting to pull the curtain, I watched all those talented children and adults, and tears came into my eyes that Mike was missing this. Actually, he would have been on stage!! He was so talented, and is missed so much my many. I had a really great thing happen to me last weekend. The gentleman who plays Daddy Warbucks and I were talking backstage. He has only been doing theater with us this past 6 months. He ask how long I had been involved, I told him over 35 years. He said the first musical he saw on the Lyric stage was "Fiddler on the Roof", and he thought the man who played Tevia was the best he had ever seen, and that it inspired him to want to do theater. He had no idea that was my late husband, and I told him how much it meant to me to hear him say that, and why it meant so much. It was really a "gift" to me to hear him say what he did.

3. I am not doing so good on the eating well thing. I really still don't have a great deal of hunger. However, I am trying to eat as healthy as I can, and taking vitamins, etc. I have lost 20 pounds since Mike died. Which I probably needed to lose, however, I have never lost weight before without trying.

4. I have lost grandparents, parents, a sister, and a son, and all were horrible losses, especially my son at age 4 months. I grieve for him and think of him every day, he would be 39 this year. BUT, losing Mike struck me such a blow, that I still cannot believe it, my anchor was ripped away, and even today I still feel this terrible empty feeling in my middle. I knew that I loved him, but never knew that losing him would be so hard, and such a long road of grief. Of course I never dreamed that I would lose him, he was younger, and it just never occured to me.

5. The biggest thing, and Melina said this, is take one day at a time, don't try to look too far into the future, it will just overwhelm you. You can do a day at a time.

Life will never be what it was before, but one day at a time we are moving forward.

Mary (Queeniemary) in Arkansas

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Dear Friends,

I will add that sometimes it is necessary to live one minute--even one second at a time. There are days, even eight months in, where I exist minute to minute. They are fewer now than they were. But some days, it is what it is.

Sleep is also an important thing--regular sleep. Try to get to bed at the same time every night. Get up the same time every morning. Six to eight hours a night is important. But don't stay in bed. Trying to sleep too much is as bad as too little.

Establish routines. Make the bed every day. Do the dishes after every meal. Do laundry when the hamper is full. Don't beat up on yourself when you fail to keep your routines. That is going to happen. But get back to them when you notice you've slipped. Depression is easier to deal with when you don't add a pile of dirty dishes to the list.

Avoid alcohol and drugs--other than those your doctor prescribes. They will mask the problems, numb the pain--but both will still be there when the drugs wear off. And feel all the worse as a result of your running away from them.

Reader's Digest has one thing right: Laughter is the best medicine. Watch bad comedies--or good ones. Try to laugh at least once a day. And don't feel guilty about it. Your partner would want you to laugh, unless they were an ogre, in which case you would not be saddened by their loss to this degree. Anyone who was that good is, as my grandfather used to say, in heaven--and we should celebrate that fact. None of us really feel like doing it, but we should. So remember: Laughter is allowed--and you should engage in it when you can.

Tears are also permitted. Crying, even in public, is good for you. The tears will come when they come. Let them. If people do not understand, the sad news is that for 50 percent of them, they eventually will. And when they do they will follow your example. We are, many of us, the pioneers in this land of grief. I was the first in my group of friends to lose his wife. What I do--how I handle all of this--will become the pattern for how they deal with their own grief. And when they encounter that grief, as both Melina and Mary say above, I will be better equipped to help them through it.

Everything in this post and in this strand applies whether you are male or female. Gentlemen, the real test of manhood is not whether or not you can tough it out in public. Ladies, the real test of womanhood is not how many tears you shed in public. Both the test and the lesson are about compassion. Buddha says, "Life is suffering." Too many people only quote that line of Buddha's, thinking it is all Buddhism is about. They do not conceive that suffering is not the message but the method. We all suffer here. But it is our compassion that makes that suffering a burden we can bear. Share your burden. There are many hands here to lessen its weight. But also share your joys--even what seem to you your smallest accomplishments--for it is through those joys we gain the strength to ease our pain and that of others.

Peace,

Harry

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Dear Ones ~ This is such an important thread, and I think it deserves a wider audience. With your permission, I'd like to construct an article for our Grief Healing blog, incorporating some of the tips you've all shared here. Is that all right with all of you?

To give you an idea of the content of the post I propose for my blog, I'm attaching a draft for your review. (Note that, to protect your privacy, I've deleted any identifying details.)

I won't post the article on the blog until you tell me it's okay with you . . .

The Wisdom of Experience.doc

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Oh boy, as a new member, having just lost the most magnificent human being in the world (I know each of us who care enough about our missing Spouse to be here will feel exactly the same about their own best friend and partner) on June 4th of this year, I'm astounded by the truly great suggestions for living as we all go forward on our own journey. I see my own situation in all that you each say. As a former Marine, having gone through all the boot camp/combat training/special training, etc, then spending more than a year in Korea at a young 20ish, I had at one time thought I could handle just about anything that came my way. Well, this is a different experience, one that I wouldn't wish on anyone. As you all say, the people who try desperately to help because they truly care so much, actually can't (until they go through it, and we hope they won't for a long, long time) understand what this is. You've all given me some pointers that I need, being rather new at this. I go to the cemetery as much as I can, I talk to my Wife, Wanda, several times a day and night, and I feel like I'll explode at times. As I've said in a couple of posts, I have as strong a support system (outisde this group) as a person could have, with family, friends, my Wife's Sisters and her friends from 25 year employment, etc, Church people who stop by and call, neighbors, the whole works. Yet, I needed more, someone who actually does know what this emptiness feels like. So, thanks to all of you, I believe with all the help listed above, then the advice and caring from people who know who are in the same situation, I will make it. And, I do believe that I will at some point in the future, not my call as to time, rejoin my beloved Wife who I miss so much more than I ever thought possible. THANKS TO ALL!!!

Earl C

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What I've learned:

• It's okay to be alone

• It's okay to ask for or accept help

• Life has it's different phases, of which this is one

• I am strong and a survivor

• I've learned to stand up for myself

• Others may not understand but they mean well

• It'll all come out okay in the end

• It takes much, much time to process grief and heal

• It can take a long time to learn who my new identity is

• I am still learning what my "new normal" is

• I'm learning to live in the present

• George is not gone but lives inside of me

• I can draw comfort and encouragement from George

• That in the end, I still miss him

Marty, I don't see any problem with your posting that, it's content is very good!

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I am learning it takes "guts" to take the first step to anything...and surprised to find I have more than I thought I did. Have always been head strong and determined til struck down by grief. Turned me into a pile of self doubt and fear. Finding the fight is still in me...just harder to get out...Can't stop trying...one step at a time...Carol

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Things I am still learning,... and I am a slow learner

1) Be kind to yourself... Many of you have given that advise. We are so hard on ourselves with our own high expectations, regrets and guilt, etc. It is okay and don't be too hard on yourself.

2) Ask for help. Most people will respond favorably when we tell them we need help, be that emotional support, some maintenance thing that our spouse did and we do not know how, or in my case I just asked a friend for his hedge trimmers and I trimmed bushes etc. because the trimmers my husband had is way too heavy for me to use. Yes... it felt good to get out and do something physical. But also support groups, counseling and even seeing your physican for some help if needed.I had to do that early in this journey to get some much needed sleep.

3) Don't try to avoid the tunnel of darkness. Unfornately, to get through the grief you have to go through the darkness to see the light. Avoidance by many things does not make it go away. Sitting alone and crying is a must to a healthy recovery. (so I'm told... I am learning)

4) Time and patience. That is a hard one as we want the pain to be short lived and go away now. God will give us the strength to endure. Back to #1... be kind to yourself and don't expect too much too fast.

5) You are not alone. Even when it seems like we all have our loved ones with us in spirit, this board is always here 24/7 for help and companionship. Use it if necessary, it helps.

6) Contribute somewhere or to someone. If that is work, volunteering, helping someone in need, etc. It will make you feel better to be productive. I am vounteering part time and am exhausted when I get home but am glad that I am getting out.

Hope this helps someone. As I said, I am still learning.

Becky

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Thanks to all for all this feedback and input. Wow....Thank you.

Marty, you can post anything you want that I wrote. It would be great to post a link to the final piece so we can all put it on our refrigerator doors. :)

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Learning is a part of this experience we're all sharing. What this site has taught me is that no matter how tough I thought I was, and no matter how well I can take care of myself, and my Wife when she needed me, no one is ever ready for or can predict how hard this is going to be. Every day is a new life almost. We, my marvelous Wife and I, learned during the time we were grieving over losing a 48-year old Son that what it takes is exactly what I'm practicing right now....breathe in and breathe out, that's truly all we have each day. Don't make any long-range plans and don't figure that having enough people around you is going to make the pain lessen, not even a bit. Everywhere I look, I see the signs of my wonderful best friend. We formed a partnership, and it is truly up to me, not anyone else, to keep that partnership alive and well. If I don't take care of myself (especially someone with an active disease such as Crohn's), then my grief will be expanded even more. I have to be in good health and work on being in better spirit in order to make the coping possible. I will say that the truth is that I never expected that I might need to join forces with a group such as this because i'm 'my own person' and I can make things happen by myself, and on top of that I have a great support system. I've learned all that is not nearly enough, we need each other. I've figured out that if I personally can make even one person have a better day by my words to them, then I'll have better days from my experience with people in the same situation I'm in. My fantastic life's partner would never have anticipated that I would be a joiner, she would have guessed I'd try to tough it out, but I'd bet she underestimated how much I would miss her, how much I'd give just to have her sitting in her chair again and me bringing her something to eat or helping her in any way. I'd give the next ten years of my life just for one more day with her. But, the biggest factor in going through all of this is that if we each live our lives as we are meant to, if we each give our very best to each day, we will in the future be rejoining our mate for all of eternity, and that's worth working hard for!! Thanks to each of you and love and prayers for your health, physical and mental.

Earl C

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Melina,

Thank you for starting this thread... as today I am at a total loss right now and needed to read this.

I thought I was doing well emotionally but as the pressure builds day by day I can feel the inside of me sliding inside out. To those who don't know... my husband died on this last May 27th and my mom on May 19th.

What I have learned in these short months?

1. The stages of grief... denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance are all being thrown at me at once and I am traveling in and out of each stage and not finishing one but going right into the next stage and back to the first again for more. I've tried my best to keep all of them at bay just getting through the cancer journey this past year. Now my head is spinning due to my mom's death first then my husband's. I know better than to stay in depression so I go back to anger because it more comfortable there.

2. My problem... this week it carried over into my job. I snapped at my boss which is not professional and way out of character for me. It will only get worse as I see it by all of your lists that my grief can last well into a year. With the pressure of holiday deadlines coming this fall at our newspaper it's the last thing I need added on to my plate right now.

3. I do recognize this will be a problem and although I hated admitting defeat I made the call to our local hospice/hospital counseling services yesterday/Friday. They will call me back on Monday. I am not good with groups but I see that each day for me is getting worse and not better. I thought I was handling my grief but it doesn't look like it. It seems I'm finally crashing with all the added stress of finances and a home that's made for 2 and not paid for on my shoulders, so reaching out for advice will be the best decision for now. I'm not good at asking for help, I have always needed to feel independent but now finding the best way to live for me will help settle my heart in the long run and not worry about what everyone around me thinks about what I am doing or not doing.

Soooooo.... not happy to read this journey may take longer than I would like but happy to know that all of you are here and willing to listen. You are walking in my shoes and as far as I am concerned your opinions are more important than my family's are right now. They do not know the ache in my chest is due to my heart lying in pieces on the floor front of me all without hope, peace and light.

Thank you,

Deb

redesign08.blogspot.com

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Dear Deb,

The loss of spouse and mom at the same time is so big for anyone to carry. I am so sorry. I am glad you will get in a group...given the right leader it will be supportive and helpful. I know you are spinning as you come out of the shockfog. I know it is horrific. I also have learned it WILL get easier down the road. In the meantime, let us hold your hand as you walk this path. We GET it. Peace, Mary

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Mary,

Thanks...

It's been a long weekend and it's only Saturday... the more I think about what's happening to me not processing grief the more I'm thinking I've been so focused with my husband that I really haven't given any time to my mom. My relationship with her was not perfect but I also had time over the years to address a few of these issues with her. She knew I loved her but that doesn't mean I was done talking about them if you know what I mean. Anyway... it will be a long road to haul and her only daughter and her first born she did know I loved her so I guess that's what's really important.

I just need to start giving time and space to her in my head... it's just so much to deal with when my husband is big as life and never far away.

As always thanks for listening.

Deb

redesign08.blogspot.com

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More stuff I've learned:

1) Laughter and tv

I agree with Harry - I've learned that laughter helps. Unfortunately it's hard to come by when you're grieving. But as he mentioned, watching comedies, even bad ones, can help alleviate the pain. They may not make you laugh, but in some weird way they do sort of make life feel more normal. And Sci-fi somehow helps by moving me, temporarily, out of this world.

I turn to tv series and movies when I don't want to think too much. If I think too much while feeling bad, I inevitably dig down into the grief and guilt.

This may sound weird - but after my husband's death I spent evenings watching Star Trek Next Generation - and ended up watching all seven seasons. In a strange way, they helped me calm down, at least until I had to turn the tv off and go to bed. It was, however, disturbing to have dreams about Jean-Luc Picard.

2) Advice

Other people may offer advice on everything from grief support groups to selling your home and moving. I felt completely vulnerable after my husband died. We had, I thought, a very equal marriage. But I realized that I depended on him for a lot of things. He dealt with bills and money, with the house and with the car. He also was a better cook than I was, and usually made dinner. I'm starting to wonder what I actually did apart from go to work, do the laundry and do my share of taking care of kids.

But back to the advice: I've had many, many people advise me to sell the house. We were forced to move just after we got the diagnosis. At that time we were optimistic about his prognosis. To clear our financial situation, we sold a house we loved and moved to another house - one we were planning to fix up together.

Now I'm left alone with this project. It's a fairly big house and there's a lot to do. I know it would make sense to sell it. I have only one income - and we had bought this place with the idea of two incomes. But I just can't bring myself to move yet. I've learned to tell people - very nicely - to stop offering advice (in other words, shut up). Of course - here I am offering advice. Just ignore me if you like.

Everyone tells me to join a grief support group. I tried, and I hated it. I hated going there, I hated having to sit through it. It awoke all sorts of terrible feelings in me - especially guilt. I prefer the online group. Here I can come and go, comment if I like, say something if I want to.

If it's a good group, well-suited, then fine. But I've learned that grief support groups are not for everyone.

A good grief counselor, however, is worth his or her weight in gold.

3) Find something to keep you busy when you have the energy. Sometimes keeping busy will give you more energy. I have to work for a living, so I'm busy enough there. But often I find that if I have some sort of inane project - painting a door, sewing a quilt (which I never seem to finish), planting things in the garden - it helps me focus on something other than grief for a while. Plus I like to look at what I've done afterwards and feel I've accomplished something. Now I'm faced with the task of painting the house, which may prove a bigger project that I can handle. But I'm going to try.

4) Don't be afraid to ask your doctor for help.

My grief transformed to depression. I have that tendency. My doctor gave me antidepressants, which did help. They didn't take away my grief, but they helped me manage my life at a time when everything seemed to be falling apart. Not everyone can sail through grief without stranding on the rocks. Sometimes you need help to keep moving.

Please don't let me discourage anyone who just recently lost someone. When I was new to grief, I felt overwhelmed and crushed by people who told me that the second year was worse than the first. How could anything be worse than this, I thought.

I'm only just starting the second year, but even so, I don't think this is true. It will be different, I'm sure. Some things will be easier - some things more challenging.

Melina

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I would add: (Marty, happy to include anything you consider of value)

1. No matter how devasted you feel on any given day or at any given hour, you WILL feel better

2. You need the meltdowns to exhaust you and to somehow give you renewed strength to start again the next day

3. You have to do things the first time, as hard as they are, for there ever to be a 'better' second time eg going to family occasions alone, restarting shared interests, returning to hobbies

4. What changes over time is that you learn to build a new relationship that has your loved one in it

5. Feeling more able to cope DOES NOT mean you are moving away from the memories or love you shared

6. You will never be able to predict the triggers that will upset you

7. The anticipation of an upcoming event, anniversary or holiday will nearly always be worse than the actual occasion

8. People who have not been through grief don't understand how all-pervasive it is - so treat them with some understanding the first time; explain to them the second time and then just stay away if they still don't get it.

9. In the early days always have an escape route planned - take your own car; go with a sympathetic friend who will leave when you are ready; indicate on arrival that you can only stay an hour

10. Listen to the little voice inside your head. If it's telling you "no, or I'm not sure" then it's usually correct.

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SuzieQ,

All of what you wrote feels familiar to me. Thanks for posting. I did notice that I felt a lot worse the week before the anniversary of my husband's death than I did on the actual day.

I suppose the second year may be somewhat easier in that we don't have to do all those "firsts".

Melina

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Melina

I have also found that anticipation of an event is usually worse than the event itself. I so dreaded Jan. 13, 2011, the first anniversary of Mike's death. I cleared my calendar, spent the day alone, and somehow found a peace that day that was very unexpected. I just spent the day thinking about him, and looking at pictures. But somehow the day was not nearly as bad for me, as was the anticipation of the day.

I dread his birthday this next Friday. Last year it was pretty bad for me. I am having a lot of SUG moments this week, I think, in anticipation of his birthday. I am so hopeful the day will be peaceful.

Stay busy One of the things I have learned in this journey is not to sit around and dwell on my sadness and loss. That just pulls me down. I try to stay involved in some activities as much as possible. Busy is the key for me. I don't think we need to neglect times of reflection and quiet times, but when I am busy I am less likely to dwell on this empty feeling in my gut. I volunteer with local arts council and theater group. I go to lunch with friends, or call and invite people over for a pot luck. I read a lot.....takes me to another place. Don't seem to get inspired to do much house cleaning, however, my least favorite activity.

Spend time with people who "Get IT" Whether a formal support group, or a friend who is on the same journey, or this site, it helps so much to be able to just bare your feelings. It is too hard to do this with people who have not been on this same journey. They try, but they just don't "get it". My friends Dana and Tom, who both lost spouses in the year before Mike died, have become my support group. We three get together at least once a month, sometimes more. We can talk about how we are feeling, and talk about our spouses in a way I cannot talk to my other friends. This does not mean that you ignore other friends, you just don't feel as comfortable laying your feeling out there for them. It makes many of them uncomfortable as well. Not so with Dana and Tom.....we can say anything to each other. I NEED to be able to talk about Mike, and what my feelings are, I can do that with them. I credit them and this group with much of my positive progress in this grief journey.

Take care of yourself Many others have said this, but is so very true. The better you feel physically, the better you will be able to cope with the grief. In the first few months after Mike died, I was on pain meds for knee replacement, I was going to therapy, I did not want to eat, was not hungry. I was just in a fog. My daughter MADE me eat, took me to therapy, just moved right in with me and stayed with me for a couple of months. Finally, I realized that getting enough sleep, and trying to eat was very necessary. I still don't have much appetite, but try to make make myself eat at least one decent meal a day. Sleep and decent food are a very necessary thing to help us on this journey.

I know I am probably just repeating what others have said, but these three things have been key for me to be able to move forward during these past 19 months.

Mary (Queeniemary) in Arkansas

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