I’m an intuitive life coach, a spiritual healer, and a personal growth and self mastery junkie. I’m also a widow. I spend a lot of time with other coaches, and I’m often asked the question…”Have you grieved the loss of your husband?” I never know how to answer this question. Yes I have experienced a lot of grief. I believe that it will never completely go away. But have I “properly” grieved? WTF does that even mean???
I know that there are 5 stages of grief, and I know that there is no set time frame or even a set order for these stages. I know you can go back and forth between stages . So let’s look at the stages (from webmd.com) to see if I can answer the question.
Denial: When you first learn of a loss, it’s normal to think, “This isn’t happening.” You may feel shocked or numb. This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion. It’s a defense mechanism.
I think I was in denial way before my husband died, so it’s safe to say I spent a lot of time in this stage. My husband was an alcoholic. I spent years in denial about this. I used to say he didn’t have a drinking problem, he had a stopping problem. I stayed positive and never gave up on the hope and belief that he would one day decide to quit drinking and he would be fine. I guess you could call that denial. The same day my husband died, our only daughter informed me she was addicted to heroin and needed help. Shocked and numb is a pretty good way to describe how I felt. My husband and best friend of 32 years was suddenly gone, and I was left to figure out how to deal with that and help our daughter. I’m pretty sure “This isn’t happening” went through my head a few times… or a few hundred times. The shocked and numb part actually has another name. Widow’s Fog. Basically, your brain freaks out and you can’t recall, process emotion, think rationally, make decisions, understand. It can go on for a long time. I wasn’t able to do simple tasks like grocery shopping. I was in the fog for several months. Many days I didn’t get out of my pajamas. My fog finally lifted after about a year. You can read more about widow’s fog at http://thewidowsfoundation.nl/understanding-widow-fog-part-i/. I think I can put a check mark next to this stage.
Anger: As reality sets in, you’re faced with the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings later turn into anger. You might direct it toward other people, a higher power, or life in general. To be angry with a loved one who died and left you alone is natural, too.
I’ve tried to block this part out, but I was definitely very angry. I took my anger out on my mom and my sister. My sister didn’t even speak to me for a long time because of the way I treated her. She was there for me whenever I reached out to her, but she kept her distance and I don’t blame her at all. I’ve cursed my husband and my daughter several times in anger…. I just don’t like to dwell on that emotion so I sometimes forget just how angry I’ve gotten. I still get angry. This is one that I keep coming back to. I don’t dwell on it though, and I don’t lash out at other people over it any more. I think I can check this phase off as well.
Bargaining: During this stage, you dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are “If only…” and “What if…” You may also try to strike a deal with a higher power.
Of course I had thoughts of what I could’ve done to prevent both my husband’s death and my daughter’s addiction. I know I’ve asked God several times to let Scott visit me in my dreams, or for me to be able to talk to him. I didn’t dwell on this one though. I am a firm believer that everything happens in divine order and everything is a gift. I don’t like the way this gift was wrapped or what it looked like after it was opened, but I’m learning to find the beauty in the gift. I am comfortable checking this phase off.
Depression: Sadness sets in as you begin to understand the loss and its effect on your life. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely.
This one comes and goes. I still experience all of these signs, but I am able to bring myself out of them pretty easily. I have an amazing support system and a lot of people that I can (and do) talk to when I’m feeling depressed. I’ve also got my writing, which I’ve found is a very helpful tool for working through depression. In fact, I started this blog after throwing myself a little pity party tonight, and I feel much better already.
Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, you accept the reality of your loss. It can’t be changed. Although you still feel sad, you’re able to start moving forward with your life.
I not only accept my new reality, I am also able to see that my new life is amazing, and I am finally finding out who I am. This is the beauty in the gift. I do still feel sad, but I am definitely moving forward with my life. I think that I have my answer. Yes, I have grieved my loss. I still grieve my loss from time to time, but it doesn’t overwhelm or consume me. I accept it for what it is.
I’m going to forward this to the people that have most recently asked me this question. Two of them are trained in Grief Counseling, so I’m looking forward to their input. Stay tuned….