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Moving On After the Death of a Loved One

Updated on September 10, 2012
Lisa HW profile image

"Lisa" , a "social sciences enthusiast" and Mom of three grown kids, writes from personal experience/exposure and/or past research

When we lose a loved one, in the beginning it isn't so much a matter of moving on, as it is of getting through the day. That period referred to as "the beginning", however, is a long one, and it doesn't end all at once. Its ending is more aptly described as "slowly fading". Even, too, as we cannot imagine moving on, we do; because each day comes and goes, and here we still are, going through the motions and getting through each of those days.

After losing my parents, several aunts and uncles, some close friends, a baby nephew, and my own unborn baby I had come to the realization that it takes five years before it feels as if we are really ourselves. My conclusion was confirmed, too, when, on the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001, Diane Sawyer interviewed the families of some of the victims. She said that it was noticeable that the fifth anniversary had seemed to bring change in the progress of the family members, when it came to their grief. She noted that upon interviewing them for that fifth anniversary program they were finally showing signs of looking forward to new futures, and that it seemed clear they had entered a new phase.

Saying that it takes a full five years to feel back to oneself isn't saying that we feel equally horrible at four and a half years as we do when only one year has passed. With each day that passes we move farther and farther away from that initial shock and grief, so we don't feel the same several months or two years later as we do in the beginning. It is a gradual fading, but what I found was that the grief remained painfully close to the surface far longer than I once imagined it would.

As one year passes we expect to feel a lot better than we may actually feel. What I discovered was that there is that numbness that occurs when loss is so terrible our minds can't bear it, and as the numbness wears off the thoughts that need processing emerge. I found that those painful thoughts were thoughts I could bear only in small doses before becoming overcome with grief again. What I discovered, though, was that as the grief flared up again the numbness would return. This was a process of dealing with the more difficult thoughts a little at a time in small doses, over the months that followed a death. As the first anniversary came, however, I was dismayed to discover that after a year of being numb so much of the time, the numbness would wear off; and then I would begin to feel all the grief, almost as if for the first time.

What always helped me was that "get-through-each-day" thinking that seemed to come naturally. I gave myself permission to not think about the grief or the person if at all possible. I told myself that the person I loved would understand if I had to wait for a while before thinking about him/her. I reminded myself that I had the rest of my life to think about this person, and that my main objective at the time was to get through each day.

We all have our usual daily activities we must do, and that helps. One thing I realized, too, is that grief seems to creep into our minds and push all the positive, nurturing, thoughts and memories we have to the back of our minds (or even into a "closet" along "the outer edges").

It's as if our minds are one, big, room full of sadness and grayness. The longer that "grayness" takes up most of the space in "the main part" of our mind, the more chance it has to "take hold" and seem to harden.

As the days and months pass, though, if we have even small moments of joy or at least positive thoughts, those small positive thoughts and "bits" of joy start to move into that "gray emptiness". Sometimes those positive moments may be as simple as laughing at a television show or enjoying a walk on beautiful day. They can come if we do something new or buy something that gives us pleasure or get out and have some good conversations and coffee with friends. They're small and seemingly minor, but they start to accumulate; and if they don't push all that grief into the background completely, they at least brighten the "gray". As time passes, if we make it a point to keep finding just those small joys in life the "grayness" no longer takes up our whole mind. If we're lucky, time also brings some big joys in life; and when they occur they have a way of rushing in and pushing the "gray" into the background a little farther.

When we are grieving it is unbearable a good part of the time, and barely bearable the rest of the time. When we're in acute grief we're in shock, and it isn't a time to even think about moving on. Moving on isn't something we can always just decide to do. Instead, moving on seems to kind of slip in, take us by the hand, and lead us away from the grief. That is, I guess, because "moving on" and "time" are pretty much the same thing.

My advice to anyone going through grief would be to take care of your own emotions. Give your mind a chance to rest from the grief and just think of neutral or pleasant things as often as possible. Being with someone can help, although we can all find ways to bring small joys into our days by ourselves. Sometimes something as seemingly silly as buying a pretty set of potholders can brighten a day. Cheerful music, enjoying a morning or evening walk, going out to have a coffee alone at an outdoor table, spending time with a child, having a pet - anything that helps keep our mind on more pleasant things is good. We may not be able to control what big joys come or when, but we can control whether or not we find some small ones.

I don't believe people should worry about things like whether or not they give away or pack away the deceased person's belongings in a hurry. For some, clearing out belongings is a way of trying to move on; but my opinion is that clearing away belongings can be more painful too early; and the presence of someone's belongings (as long as they aren't, say, out and in our way each day) doesn't stop us from moving on. I'm not sure feeling pressured to get rid of them helps us move on either. My approach has always been to make a reasonable effort to put away or pack away things that would be too ridiculous to leave around, but not be in a hurry to make permanent decisions or to get rid of every last item that had belonged to the deceased. I found that time, as always, was the thing that told me when I was ready to do that type of thing.

Developing an "I'm the star of this show" attitude can help guide us through grief. Once someone is gone, in the beginning they are "the star of the show". After the funeral or memorial service, though, we become "the star of our own show". The focus - at least for the immediate future - needs to be on us and on getting through the most difficult period. Sleeping when we can helps our minds rest. Eating well if possible helps us give our body what it needs to help our mind deal with things. Getting our daily work done, even if we're just going through the motions, help keep our mind occupied; but if there's a day when you just don't feel up to getting some things done, giving yourself permission to just rest or find one of those small joys is important.

Reminding yourself that your loved one would want you to do what it takes to get through the grief can help. So can realizing that if you don't think about them for a while it doesn't mean you'll forget them, aren't grieving, or didn't love them.

When we lose a loved one we never get over it completely, but we get to a point where we are back to feeling like ourselves (even if we still have that little part of our mind that remains a little gray). When we first lose someone it is an unbearable shock that's hard to believe. Once the shock wears off the grief swoops in and over us and can sometimes make it feel as if we can't even breathe. Grief is a monster that we can't kill or tame all at once. It is a monster that, when met over time with moments of a neutral, pleasant, or joyous nature, will start to shrink and retreat, leaving behind only a small footprint. We need to accept that that footprint will always be there, but as the weeks and months go by the grief does die down a little at a time.

What we may be surprised to discover, though, is that far sooner than we would have thought we do laugh again. We have those moments when we feel pretty much like "the real us". There is no doubt that we continue to battle our thoughts and fight off either tears or the overwhelming horror that come with tears we can't fight off. Still, it is surprising how soon so much of our days is spent feeling reasonably normal. I suppose what happens is that even while we are consumed by, and in the grips of, that overpowering, huge, monster that is grief; time's force continues to pull it away from us; and the resilience of a heart that has loved so much eventually prevails.

Sometimes others will worry that we're not "moving on", and they can even make us feel as if we should stop talking about the loved one if we talk about him a little too much, or get rid of his belongings faster than we have, or simply start a new life sooner than we appear to be. My advice to the grieving would be to stay strong and stay true to yourself. Deal with your grief that way you need to, and don't feel pressured by others who would deal with it differently.

Difficult as it is to believe when we have just lost someone, we all just keep moving on, whether or not we want to, and whether or not we appear to be. If you ask how to get through your days, rather than ask how to move on, time will move you on, and your heart will will tell you when to take another step.


I sincerely appreciate all the heartfelt comments and contributions that readers so often share with other readers. So often, it can help someone just to know he's not alone in what he's going through, or gone through. I wrote this Hub in response to an online question. Whether or not it even partially accomplishes my aim to offer something even just the smallest bit helpful to someone grieving, I don't know. That was the aim, though.

These days, with over 300 Hubs and over 1000 other pieces of writing on other writing sites (and with all that writing being a "spare-time thing" for me), I'm not able to personally respond to comments on some Hubs (like this one) that have comments that call for a carefully thought out response, rather than a quick "thanks for reading".

With most of the things I write in my spare time, it's about the writing. With a few of those things I've written, it's more about trying to reach out to people, "person to person", in some attempt to somehow offer something that might be helpful or useful to them in a difficult time.

The people who are interested in reading something on this subject are people who deserve a better, more well thought-out, response than a quickie, "thanks for reading". Comments from readers remain welcome and deeply appreciated (on behalf of anyone who may benefit from reading them). I do regret that I'm no longer able to personally respond to each comment.

This won't be anything everyone would want to do, but if you have a story/situation you'd like to share with others, as a way of letting them know they're not alone and perhaps having an ongoing discussion with others in similar circumstances, maybe the following bereavement forum would be something you find useful/helpful: (forum)

Reply to coasttocoast

Before I make observations or offer thoughts, it's important for me to say (again) that I'm not an expert and only someone with personal experiences/observations.  Before I venture to offer thoughts that came to me, as I read your post; I'd just like to say first that I know I may "know nothing", and if anything I say (guess about) here doesn't apply, I hope you know I'm only "throwing out things that struck me" as I read.  So, such as they are...

You're right that my mother, sister, and brother and I weren't distanced after my father died.  When my father died, it wasn't just us to found it such a shocking "kick in the head", it was people like my aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, etc.  My father came across as reasonably youthful and very healthy.  He was adored by so many people because he was good to so many people, and I have to say I've never seen a bunch of people so, so, shocked (to the point where people were just kind of silent a lot of the time) after someone (who wasn't their own husband or father) died.

Anyway, both then and after some other big losses in life, what I discovered was that I (and just about everyone else in my family) have done is to pull inward.  I don't know how many people pull inward in times of horrible, horrible, loss; but people close to me (and I) all tend to do that.  I assume many (maybe most) do.  In a time of terrible grief, that, I think, is when people tend to go into that "I'm the star of this show" (at least when it comes to their own personal, processing, of the grief), and they become very focused on themselves and on how they, themselves, are getting through each hour, day, year, etc.  I'm not saying people completely forget about those who share the  loss, or forget about other people or things in their life; but somewhere underneath, there's always kind of that focus on themself.  I think, maybe, that's part of how grief works and gets processed.

When people pull inward it isn't even always obvious that's what they're doing, because they keep living life, talking to other people, going through holidays as a family, etc. etc.  Again, though, way underneath, there's the unbearably painful part of grief that a lot of people don't/can't talk about just because it's way too much, because they may not want to make loved ones feel worse by talking about how much pain they're in, or because they just can't be that candid about their inner-most thoughts/feelings.

So, it's kind of like families go on and keep living.  Everyone knows that everyone else is dealing with losing the loved one.  Much of the time nobody can, or will, really talk about those inner-most thoughts.  What can be misleading is that people talk about a certain amount, so it looks as if they're being pretty open and honest about what they're dealing with - but there's that line a lot of people in deepest grief cannot cross when it comes to verbalizing what's going on inside.

As a mother of grown kids, there are a few things I've learned about how mothers tend to operate.  It wasn't until I was a mother, myself, that I even had a clue about mothers think; and it wasn't until I had grown (or nearly grown) kids myself, that I even had a clue about yet more ways mothers tend to think/operate.  One of those things I've discovered is that, no matter how grief-stricken I've ever been, I tend to try to keep acknowledging to my kids as "low key" as possible.  I'm the mother.  I'm the adult.  No matter how old they've become, I have this thing that I will always be the mother and need to be strong because I am.  (I'm not saying I think I need to mother my grown kids.  I don't.  Emotionally, though, I know that if it looks like I'm falling apart (I mean in a "long-term" way.  I'm not referring to crying as "falling apart".  I mean appearing to become "overall unhinged in grief, within the general context of life".), it will make my kids feel just that much less "comfortable" (for lack of a better word).

When my mother died there were all kinds of grandchildren and other young family members around, and I knew they were kind of nervous and "spooked" (for lack of a more appropriate word); and I knew they were kind of watching me to see what I was doing.  I felt as if I had to show them that I would not fall apart.  I felt it would make them feel just that much more secure, and I felt that, particularly in such a time of grief for them; I didn't have the luxury of not being strong for the young people who still needed someone older and wiser to be strong for them.

Where all this is going is this:

1.  When families pull inward (and, again, I think grief makes most people do that to one extent or another), family members are  obviously not growing closer.  They're growing more distant.  The longer people remain "inward", the more distance can develop.  The more distance that develops, the more likely misunderstandings, miscommunication, and misinterpretations of one thing or another are to happen.  That makes yet more distance.

2.  The other point to the above "background" is that I think most of the times, most mothers aren't going to ever be able to be truly, truly, honest about how much they're suffering emotionally.  It's built into good mothers to want to remain strong,  come across as someone who is capable of having coping abilities, someone who wants to be a good example when it comes to coping skills, come across as someone who knows how to adjust and adapt and make a new plan, and someone sons and daughters don't need to worry about (because, after all, no well adjusted, loving, mother wants her children to be worried about her).  As a daughter, no matter how old I was (six or thirty-five), I recall how unsettling it always was to see my mother in grief or having health problems or just seeming vulnerable or fragile at one time or another.  It wasn't that my mother was "the type" to burden us.  She was strong and tough, right up to the end; and she chose to "remain the parent" right to the end too.  Still, over the course of a lifetime, people run into those times when they see their mother suffering or struggling with something.  No matter how much my mother stayed strong, there was no way she could stop me from feeling unsettled if I thought she was going through something.  Anyway, the point is, I remembered how it felt to be a grown daughter; and that's why, as a mother, I've put in a big effort to come across to my kids as someone who is super strong, super positive (at least if at all possible), and not someone they need to feel unsettled about (or for).

It's not that I keep some worry or sadness I'm going through from my kids.  It's just that I won't talk about in a way that isn't calm (even non-chalant).  So, I'm the type who'll say something, like "I'm dealing with something awful right now."  What I won't do is try to drive home the point exactly how awful I do feel.  It's particularly challenging when my kids are going through the same loss I am.  In fact, what I've seen with them is that they know I'm dealing with something awful; so they won't feel very free to really talk about HOW bad they're feeling either (because they don't want to add to my sadness). 

The point to all this (other than trying to share how mothers of grown kids can think) is that if your mother described your father as her soul mate, there's a really good chance she's going through things she can't/won't even try to express.  I had a family member who lost her toddler, and she said she and her husband found the grief so unbearable; the only thing they could imagine trying to do to ease it was to have another child and have a joy that was at least somewhat "of a similar level" to their loss.  She said she had trouble explaining to people that she wasn't trying to replace her baby at all.  She knew there was no way she could do that.  She and her husband were just so, so, unbearably unhappy; they wanted to find some source of joy in life - if just to have something other than sadness in their minds and hearts.

I wouldn't be surprised if your mother's decision to find someone to date came from that kind of thinking.  Saying something like, "I'm ready to move on," is, if you think about, a way for her to try to explain why she wanted to go out with someone; but maybe what's underneath such a simple, easy-to-understand, explanation was more along the lines of, "I'm so, so, miserable and in need of something nice in life; this is something I thought might be a good way to begin to move on."

I think your noting that you weren't close by in the time following your father's death hits on a big point too.   When my father died, my sister was already married.  She had a two-year-old.  My brother was a teenager.  My mother and I did form a certain kind of "thing" that involved us doing things to get out together, or spending a lot of time talking.  It didn't mean for a minute that she was closer to me than to either my sister or brother.  I know it didn't.  It just meant that we looked closer at the time, sometimes.  Of course, if there have been disagreements in a family, that makes more distance.  Sometimes if a person is in grief, he can't help but feel closer to the person he's not having disagreements with. 

When my mother died I had been at her house taking care of her daily.  I stayed at the house because there were a lot of loose ends (to say the least) to take care of.  My sister worked full-time.  So did my brother.  I was there every day.  I'm not at all saying the grief was any less or different for either of my siblings, but getting through each day in that period after my mother died was a different thing for me than for them.   I lived with big and small reminders of my mother - reminders of a happier time, reminders of all the awful things that led up to her death, reminders of everything.  There wasn't any escaping it.  I couldn't think of the happy times because doing that made me feel worse.  I couldn't think of the awful times because doing that made me feel bad too.   I'd just go to the local shopping center and see the bank I'd so often parked outside of and watched her go in, or come out.  The doorway brought back memories.    The same with the doorway she'd come out of at the grocery store.  Then - when they wrecked that shopping center to build a new one, I had to go through feeling as if it was "an end of an era" and not wanting to see the old, run-down, mall be demolished.

Some nights I'd go out and walk through the neighborhood, or I'd stand out in the yard - just to get away from the house.  A couple of nights it occurred to me that I could stand in a certain place and look in at the light in the kitchen, and feel like I was back to the time she would be behind that door and doing something in the kitchen.  I knew it was an "unhealthy" thing to allow myself to do, but I did.  I stood in that spot in the yard and pretended to be back to a happier time for awhile.  Then it made me feel worse because I did that.

My point is that it is a very different thing for the people who have been in someone's daily life to adjust to than it is for someone who wasn't close by.  Again, I can't stress enough that I'm not saying the grief isn't the same or equal in so many ways.  Processing it, and the experience of being nearby-versus-not, can be different.  Then, too, how close someone was to someone in his own way; birth order, how life was for any one family member at any one time; etc., are all different.  Nobody can exactly go through the same matters of loss, guilt, etc., and yet, in a lot of ways, people all tend to go through some things in common.  It's no wonder people get confused about whether or not they truly understand other family members' actions, decisions, motives, etc.

It strikes me that what you've been going through in more recent times is almost more a matter of grieving the whole life and relationships you had before, and may not really quite be grieving the loss of your father at this point.  No doubt, you're grieving his loss.  We tend never to get over the sense of sadness after losing a parent we're close to.  It's just that I think your sense of loss and grief has now kind of "metastasized beyond" just the isolated matter of your father's death. 
Basically, I'm under the impression you feel like your father's death marked the complete unheaval of not just your world, but your life and you and your sense of wellbeing within the context of your family.

That didn't happen for me when  either parent died, but I've had something like that go on in my life.  What I found I needed (and still need) were things that reminded me that my whole world had not fallen apart, and that my family remained strong and solid and close in spite of having some big strains on it.

As I think about what all of you might be able to do to make things better; naturally, the thought of talking with someone like a counselor comes to mind.  So does the "ever-popular" suggestion that everyone try to find ways to communicate more effectively and openly.  The trouble is, I think, sometimes when everyone is going through his own thing; it's almost too much to also try to work on relationships. 

If I can throw in one more thing I've run into in life, there was a time one of my sons and I were having real trouble getting along.  (It was around the time my mother had just died, and he'd been super-close to her, among a number of other factors.)  He and I decided that neither of us wanted to be fighting all the time, so we agreed not talk about any of the "hot button  issues" that inevitably got us arguing.  We knew it wasn't the greatest thing in the world to stay way from "confronting the issues" we had between us, but we also knew that (at least at the time) there wasn't going to be any agreement.    So, we agreed to stay away from talking about those "hot button issues" and only talk about things that were "neutral".  What doing that did, though, was give us the chance to be together and enjoy time together without arguing or without feeling resentful.  It kind of brought us back to a time when we'd been close and gotten along well.  Something as simple as laughing at the same movie, or talking about things that were enjoyable gave us the chance to "be us" again - the "real us", not the "temporary, arguing, us".

That was the beginning of us growing close again, and it was the thing that would help us stay close through a lot of difficult times that would follow (and times when it was most important we be close).

Other than that time with my son, there have been one or two big things that have created strains between me and a couple of family members.  We have always done the same thing, and that is to tell ourselves that, no matter what people do; we generally can never really understand "where they are coming from", and nobody ever means to hurt or slight someone else.  We remind ourselves that life is too short to let strains damage close relationships, especially because the people involved are usually very certain that, underneath it all, family members love each other in a way they can never express.

It occurs to me that since your mother is old enough to have grown kids, she's middle-aged.  She may have been looking at her future (after the future she'd always assumed she'd had was taken away), and assessing whether she had much choice in either letting dating wait, or going for a relationship with someone she thinks will make a good match.  Futures and time can look a lot different when you're middle-aged than when you're student-aged.   :)

Something else I've discovered about being old enough to have grown kids and grown nieces and nephews, is that; as the older person, I've always kind of thought that kids grow up and don't care much what parents/aunts/uncles think or so.  Grown kids have their own lives; so, as the earlier-generation adult, I've had a tendency to think grown kids have outgrown worrying about my input, decisions, actions, etc.  I've discovered, though, that I've been wrong about that at times.  I've discovered that even grown kids still care about what I think about one thing or another, or do.  So, what has felt to me like "realizing they're grown now" has occasionally looked to one grown son, daughter, or niece or another like insensitivity on my part.  Basically, I've sometimes kind of assumed that grown kids don't care all that much what I do sometimes.  I've discovered they still do.

Also, as bad as losing a parent is, losing a long-time spouse is a whole different, far more complicated, kind of loss.  I've known some people who were married over 30 years and suddenly broke up, and I've known people to lose a spouse to death.  There are issues about day-to-day life, looking at the future, losing the person, thinking of the things he won't get to share, and any number of other complicating things.  There are also issues about having to watch one's own children go through the loss and wondering (no matter how old one's children are) what one can do to return life to a feeling of "some version of normal" for one's children.  Maybe, in her own way, your mother believes if she builds a life for herself, that will be a "version of normal life" that you and your siblings will benefit from. 

I don't want to make you feel bad about your mother (and, of course, I don't know how she feels inside), but there's the chance she was in so, so, much pain and loneliness at losing her "soul mate", she went into the "emotional survival" mode grieving people can go into, which is, "I need to do whatever it takes to help myself feel at least a little better."  She may have known that, of course, there's zero chance of the life and future she once had being returned to her; and that can be a pretty unbearable thing for people to have to live with.  She may have thought that taking "positive steps" toward healing and re-building a life would be healthy examples for her grown kids.  She may have even thought that her kids had their own life and wouldn't mind a whole lot if she had a "friend".

You're probably right that you delayed the grieving process by not being there all the time.  I can see how once you got back home you'd be being faced with the things that your family members had been faced with years before.  Also, though, there's a lot of the "being there thing" that can make grief seem so much worse.  A silly example I have is that I was going through my mother's mail and papers (and stuff), and I found a note she'd left for someone, asking them to make sure they didn't let the cat into the kitchen because she'd left some Thanksgiving treats out and didn't want the cat checkng them out.  I know I'm going back to the thing about not being able to escape the large and small things that make things so much harder when we're around the home after a death; but my point is that even if your mother and others got to process some of the "proximity-to-the-loss" issues awhile before you had to, there were things they had to deal with that may be hard for you to imagine.  (I know I never said to my sister, "You know what I found?  Mum's note about the cat."  It would have made my sister feel as bad as I felt when I found it, and it would have made me feel bad all over again.  So, a lot of things I just never said to anyone.)

The fact, too, that you had to go through your father's long illness (besides losing him) means that you've had grief to process about watching him go through that, not just grief to process about losing him.   You were young when he was going through is long illness.  (Young people's brains aren't even finished completely maturing until early- to mid- twenties.  How they think, experience things, interpret things, etc. can be affected by being young.)  It was a lot for a teenager/early twenties to have dumped on her.  It's probably not at all unusual or surprising that such a "kick in the head" so young (particularly since it was preceded by all those years of your father's illness) meant you'd have some trouble with depression/chronic unhappiness.

Maybe you didn't so much need more time to get over losing your father.  Maybe what you needed was time in adult life, building a life with just your mother and siblings and kind of feeling like you got on your feet emotionally.  Maybe, after having life in upheaval for as long as you did (with your father's illness), you needed a chance to experience a sense of "normal" (even if it had to be without your father) with your mother and siblings; maybe as a way of getting back some of that pre-illness time your whole family had at one time.  In other words, maybe it was a kind of closure you needed after losing "pre-father's-illness" life so long ago, and for so long, before the illness was no longer an issue in all of your lives. 

If I could go on just awhile longer....     I think I know how you feel about your new partner and wishing he could know the "you" you were before (and the family you had before).  When I met my husband (from whom I'm long divorced now), it was a couple of/few months after I was in accident in which my best friend had been killed.   I still had some remnants of injuries, and I felt like I was "the girl who was in the bad accident" or "the girl who was living with having just lost her long-time best friend".  My (then) new acquaintance and I got to know each other better over the next few months.  We had our first date about six months after the accident, and when my date (and future husband) came to pick me up, it was my father who answered the door.  That was the only exposure to my father my new boyfriend had before my father's heart attack.  Later, he would come to the hospital with me once on one of my many visits before my father died.

In any case, as  our relationship grew, I kind of felt like I wasn't "just the girl who lost her best friend", but then "the person whose father just died".    Living with double-whammy grief when I first dated my husband, I felt like I was kind of "damaged goods" in some ways.  He had his two parents, and when we'd eventually go visit them in another state, I felt like "the one who only has her mother left".  As with all loss, I moved on and never thought a whole lot about being "the one" any more.  We were used to it.  When it came time to get married, we went with a small wedding because I figured, "Since I don't have my father - why bother with a big wedding."  (The "damaged-goods" thing reared its ugly head again.)

Well, I knew my husband for 18 years before we divorced; and we've now been divorced for years.  Just last week, my ex-husband was visiting, and my brother came by with some photos of our childhood, as well as photos of my father.  I was enthusiastic as I shared with my kids' father the pictures of my father being "him" (not being the man in the hospital, or just the man who answered the door that day).  I felt like the pictures showed my ex-husband that I, too, had had a father - and I was proud of how handsome and youthful my father looked.  It was as if a part of who I am, and a part of my life, that my kids' father had never seen was something I could finally share with him.  I was kind of "little-girl proud" to share the pictures of my childhood home, my grandfather and father with my sister, my brother, and my different shots of my father with someone who just had never known that part of my life.  It was just kind of like I could show my ex-husband, "See?  See how good it all was?  See how things were, and who I was, before I became "the person who no longer has her father"?  As I clarified for my brother which baby in the photos was which family member, and as I filled him on things in the pictures he's too young to have remembered; and as I watched my ex-husband sit and seem to kind of enjoy (yet feel left out, of course) my brother's and my going over these pictures for a little while;  I felt like - after all these years - I was getting to be "the one with the father" and "the one for whom things are normal and good and happy". 

When it comes to your new partner, my suggestion is (if you haven't done this already - and I don't know what took me 30 years to do it  (LOL) ), don't just be "the person who lost her father to cancer" or "the person whose life was turned upside" to your partner.  More importantly, try not to see yourself as that person.  Don't just let your partner be the person who brings new things into your "otherwise unhappy life".  Let him be part of your overall life, which includes the "pre-loss you", as well as the "post-loss you".  If you can look at, and share something like pictures or stories about your family before your father got sick, do that.   Yes, you're someone who has been knocked for a major loop by the loss of your father (and problems in the family), but you're still the same you.  You just don't feel like it right now, probably.  Do things that remind  yourself of the "old you" and your relationship with your mother and siblings before.

Don't let the loss of your father take away more from you, your future, or your family than it already has.  Separate an awful thing that happened in your life from who you, as a person, are (if you can).  Your mother, siblings, and you all have the same awful loss to live with; and it's a loss none of you will ever get over completely.  You all need to try to understand the others, because you all need each other's support on this one issue of having lost your father.

Sincerest wishes that you find a way to heal some of the fractures, and re-build the closeness that will help make the loss of your father just a little less painful for all of you.  


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    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      coasttocoast, your family situation (and your own sense of loss) kind of hit a chord with me (not so much because I lost my own father when I was young; but because my kids and I have been through a lot of loss together, and I kind of know the feeling of feeling as if our whole world is in danger of crumbling).

      Anyway, I wrote my response, and it turned out to be so long I'm posting it in a separate text box below for space purposes. It was just that your situation has so many elements to it, I thought, maybe, even if nothing I've said/guessed about your situation may apply to, or be of any help to, you; someone else who reads may find something that applies to them.

      I hope, of course, some of what I've said is at least a little useful or helpful. I just kind of took stabs in the dark at a bunch of the issues you mentioned.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Lisa, I stubbled upon this hubpage and I was impressed by your article as well as your thoughtful responses. I was hoping that you could give me some perspective.

      I lost my dad to cancer when I was 24 years old (2006). My dad and I were so close. He was the parent that understood me best and the balance for three strong-willed women (my mom, me and my sister). I adored him. He had been diagnosed 7 years prior and we had gone through various treatments (radiation etc..) along the way. When the cancer spread to his lungs (three years prior to his death) we knew that we were on borrowed time. Things took a turn five months before he died and we did the hospital/ICU thing for five weeks. I spent many nights sleeping in a chair beside him and staying by his side all day. The whole experience still feels like a movie when I look back at it.

      After he came home from the hospital (to a home-based hospice run by my mom, my sister and I), we had to move up my sister's wedding, sold his practice (that my mom had run for 20 years), and life as we knew it changed forever. It was just bad timing that I was accepted to law school across the country. However, it seemed like no question, this was something I had worked so hard for, dad wanted me to go, so I went. I went knowing that any day I would get the call to come back (that the end was near). I came home for about a month in my first year, and somehow I managed to pass.

      The next two years were easier but coming home was always hard and coming home (for good) after graduation has been the hardest. I was in the "numb" phase for three years. I realize now that I was not able to grieve in the same way that my mom and my sister did. I missed selling the house, going through his things, etc... I delayed my grief process when I was away because I needed to get through school. I think they kind of "get it", but not fully. Prior to my dad's death, my mother and I were very close (I lived at home the longest, and we also worked together at my dad's office). However, while I was away, she has grown closer with my sister, which is good, but at times, at the expense of our relationship. I guess, what I am trying to say is that when there are three left, one is always out of the loop. It doesn't seem like this happened for you, though.

      I thought dealing with the empty void my dad has left would be the biggest challenge, but it is not. The biggest challenge for me is living with those who have been left behind. Since coming home with the boyfriend/partner that I met at law school I am angry and sad that I can not show him my life "before" because everything has changed. My relationship with my mother is so, so different. She has become a different person, which is understandable because so much of her identity was wrapped up in my dad. I understand that she is trying to figure out who she is as an individual.

      My parents met when my mother was 18, were married 29 years, and my mom still refers to my dad as her soulmate. For the first three years after dad's death mom was adamant that dating was not something that she was interested in. She says that dad told her that he wanted her to meet someone to share the rest of her life with (and apparently told others too) but he never told my sister and I, despite the fact that we had years to prepare for the inevitable. I actually remember dad joking, about mom moving on too quickly.

      My mother told me last year that she was ready to "move on" and has acquired a boyfriend. She has handled the whole introduction process very badly. The first (and only) time I have met him was unexpectedly on the anniversary of my dad's death. I had popped over with a bottle of wine to toast dad and here was this guy. A similar thing has happened to my sister. The relationship seemed to really "take off" last year- trips, etc.. Again, the timing was horrific. While all this was unfolding I was writing my bar exams and I became so distracted and grief-stricken that I failed a portion and subsequently lost my job. I ended up very depressed and had to go on anti-depressants for a while.

      They have now been "together" for a little over a year (as far as I know).

      My mother has been very secretive about the whole thing, because she knows that it caused me unhappiness and confusion, but her secrecy only angers and hurts me more. Where has the close-knit family bond that we used to have gone to? Where is the mother that we used to talk about anything with? I don't really like this new independent-I'll-do-what-I-want-because- I'm-putting-myself-first attitude. I know it sounds selfish and silly. But I think at any age you always want to believe that your mother has your best interests in mind... Well, right or wrong, I no longer believe that.

      I understand that the grief that I may be experiencing is simply repressed grief of my father's death that has been made more "real" by this new relationship. However, I feel like I am not able to grieve at my own pace... and I am angry at my mother. As my mom is now "over it" this new guy is being introduced to other family members, friends etc, such that I am now the only "hold out" who can't "deal with it". I am between a rock and a hard place. I feel that I am slowing turning into the "black sheep", though not by choice.

      Through it all, my partner has been incredibly supportive, however this issue (my family) has become our main area of conflict and I don't want to lose him because of this.

      It's interesting that you mention "five years" as good settling period. When the dating first started, while my sister initially forbid it (but has since "moved on"), I suggested she give it a bit more time, slow down, I think I even said "we haven't reached five years yet". I felt like, intuitively, at five years I would be in a better position to accept change. Who knows.

      How do I deal with the loss of my dad at my own pace while feeling like if I don't "get over it" I will lose my family too? Did your mom change after losing your dad, and if so, how did you deal with it?

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      crystolite, I've never implied or said it's easy or anything even close to easy. I'm not sure exactly whether you're referring to this whole Hub or just the last comment and last few lines above. I think the overall Hub (and all the readers' comments) make it pretty clear that nobody thinks it's easy.

      I can see how someone might interpret might reply to seanlin as my suggesting "it's easy". The fact that I didn't load up my reply to him with words about how horribly difficult and long the road is likely to be for him, and his daughter; isn't intended to imply I think it will be easy. It is intended to convey what few day-to-day, and seemingly minor, things me might be able to do now; while he takes each day, minute by minute and hour by hour. Before people can move on, they have to deal with getting through each minute, hour, and day as best as possible. The small, seemingly insignificant, things people can do to make each minute or hour just a little bit more pleasant can make a big difference.

      When something horrible (like loss of a child's mother) happens; on the one thing, it makes it more difficult for the remaining parent because he has to 1) remain strong and positive for the child, and 2) watch his child go through such awful loss.

      On the other hand, it also makes it a little easier for that parent, because most parents' love for their child(ren), and determination to remain strong for a child or children can help them find whatever it takes to remain strong, do what needs to be done, and be that support for the child.

      When I referred to my own father's words, "figure something out", it wasn't intended to imply "figure something out and make things all wonderful". It was intended to convey "figure out something out when it comes to remaining strong, remaining together, getting through this rough ("horrible", might have been a better choice of words but I didn't want to add yet more discouraging words to something aimed at someone who's already in grief, uncertain, and discouraged) time; and any difficult times ahead; and eventually move on together as father and daughter.

      One of the biggest (and common) things people do shortly after losing someone is to think, "I don't know if I can't do this," or "I can't imagine being able to keep going." That's where seanlin is right now, but the reality is that people usually end up "figuring something out" (when it comes to "getting through it" or "continuing to go on") all the time. Not all (not even parents) manage to find a way to rebuild life and themselves, but in general it's what people discover they've managed to do.

      To be candid, probably the one thing that made me want to be encouraging to seanlin is that I've too often seen times when people with children, and in difficult situations, have been told, "This may be more than you can take on yourself. Maybe you should think about putting your child/children in the care of someone else."

      Vulnerable, frightened, parents who don't feel at all confident in their own ability to "figure something out", or in their ability to come up with the resources and strength to do what's right for their child; often have their concerns "fueled" by (even well intentioned) others who have not, themselves, seen first-hand that strong, loving, parents can be more than capable of "figuring something out". In the situation I described with my father and the doctor, and I heard and saw the doctor's doubt when my father refused to take her advice about foster care.

      As it happens, I've had lots of exposure to teen mothers and families whose children have ended up in foster care. As an adoptive mother of one of my children, I've been "paying attention" to the whole issue of birth mothers for about 30 years now. Separate from all that, as someone who has had to help my own three (now grown) kids get through serious, serious, loss; I've discovered the strength and resourcefulness that we parents often have little choice but to muster up.

      At this time when someone like seanlin is in the ever-familiar throws of wondering how on Earth he's ever going to manage and keep going, my aim above was to try to point out to him/remind him that he's "under the influence of" acute grief right now, and many of those fears/uncertainties he's experiencing are the direct result of that.

    • crystolite profile image


      8 years ago from Houston TX

      Did you think that it is so easy?

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      seanline, I'm so sorry to know you're going through this, and it's so sad to know your little girl has lost her mother. So soon after loss most people (I think) have that very same feeling about not knowing how they're going to face the road ahead. They take it a step at a time (because they have no choice), and somehow, they keep going. Eventually, they start to feel better and surer; and life gets more and more normal.

      Your daughter needs you now more than ever, and if you're like most parents, you'll discover that your love for her will give you the strength. Right now, while you're grieving, accept help if you have people who can help with some things. Since you just got back to your home, a lot of what you're feeling right now is part of being hit with some of the harsh realizations of your usual home without her being there as usual.

      I'm not comparing this situation with yours because my mother didn't die at the time; but when my siblings (2 others) and I were little my mother got a lung infection and was to be hospitalized for months. I was just about 7. My baby brother was just about 2. My sister was 11/12. I was with my father in the doctor's office when the doctor suggested my father talk to someone about finding a foster home for us. She said something about knowing he had to work. My father sat there in the chair, looked right at the doctor, and said, "That's out." (meaning that the option of foster care was not an option in his eyes) The doctor went on a little more about how my father would have to continue working each day, and he said, "I'll figure out something." She (the doctor) said, "What you going to do?" He repeated, "I'll figure out something. They're NOT going into foster care."

      He ended up paying my aunt (who was a working, single, mother of a disabled child of her own) to quit her job; so she could be at our house each day while my father worked. She'd come to our house after she'd gotten her own child to school and after he'd gotten us all breakfast and ready for school. She'd leave to have dinner at her own house with own child, and he'd make dinner for himself and the three of us. My brother had been a premie, so he was toddler who was frequently hospitalized with pneumonia. My father would be going to the hospital to see my brother and finding a way to visit my mother.

      On Saturdays he'd do housework and things that needed to be done. On Sundays we'd all get dressed up (which is what they did in those days) to go to church, have a Sunday dinner, and then go visit my mother at the hospital. Paying my aunt and hospital bills meant he barely had any money after buying groceries and bills.

      His thinking (and my mother's thinking) was that there was always a way to manage somehow on little money. The main thing was that he kept us together, and that he be there for us. My sister and I shared a bedroom and would cry every single night, worrying that our mother was going to die. There was no doubt about it, we were sad and afraid. Still, during the days we had normal days and we went to school. We had normal dinners and did homework. Evenings and Saturdays were normal (and we weren't crying all the time). We didn't have our mother at home, but life was otherwise normal and OK. The one thing that helped us be reasonably OK most of the time (and only crying on those nights before we fell asleep) was that we were with the father we loved so much (and who loved us so much); and that he did what he could to keep things normal and happy at home.

      He was someone who always did silly things to try to make us laugh, and I think that helped him to laugh amidst the worry too. He would spend time with us, talking about everything. I remember hearing him up, around the house, getting things like lunches and our clothes ready for the next school day. If he wasn't working he'd be with us (unless we out playing). He knew my aunt was someone who would be good to us during the day while he worked. That's all he and my mother cared about.

      When my mother was able to come home she would always talk about how "the one thing" that helped her get through being away from us was that she knew the kind of father we had and knew he would "always find a way" to help us get through.

      My siblings and I grew up to be people who saw how perfectly capable fathers can be when it comes to taking care of children, taking care of a house, making meals, etc. In those days, a lot of people didn't really realize how capable fathers could be in that nurturing, care-taking, role.

      Most of the time, when parents love their child(ren) they will manage to "figure out a way", just the same way my father did when he was faced with three young kids who missed their mother, a house, and a full-time job.

      Having you there will help make up for the fact that your daughter won't have her mother around. I'm guessing that, a little at a time, you'll find yourself figuring out one way or another to meet the challenges you may face. Like most kids and parents, you and your daughter will continue to grow close as she grows.

      What you feel right now is what everyone tends to feel after losing someone. It's a rough time; but chances are you'll be more than able to "figure something out" in a way that holds your little family together. All that aside, being busy caring for your child (and, of course, thinking up silly things to do that will make her laugh) will help make some of the gray days ahead a little brighter.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My wife passed away two months during the trip back China. Yesterday, I came back home with my daughter.

      I really didnot want to go back home. The house is full of memory. We bought the house together and filled this house together, bed, sofa, table and everything. But now, I just feel this is not my home anymore and just want to escape from here.

      Looking at my daughter sleeping tightly, I just wonder how I am going to raise her. I know I should take care of her. But can I?

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      9 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Lisa, No need to apologize for a delay. HubPages notifies me anyway when there is a reply. Also, you were worried about the words you needed to come up with to express yourself.'s not the words so much that matter. But rather it's the sincerity behind those words and I know and I can see that you are very kind and very sincere with your feelings. I appreciate your reply and I thank you for adding more personal thoughts as well. I wish you all the best and I look forward to more Hubs by you.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Glenn, I'm sorry to know you're going through the loss of your close aunt; and I'm sorry it's taken me this long to reply to your here. Actually, because of the subject-matter involved, I usually like to try to put a little extra time and thought into my replies on this particular Hub.

      Your comment about your aunt's being the last of her generation in your family rung a bell for me, because we lost our last remaining aunt not long ago. There's definitely some aspects to losing that last person from our parents' generation that are unique to that particular loss.

      Because I was hoping to offer more on here than just "I know what you mean", I've been waiting to have the opportunity to really take a little time and add some observations of my own. As a result, "waiting for the opportunity" has led to "waiting and waiting" - so I just thought I'd reply here, without further waiting to be able to "come up with something more substantial".

      Thank you for your kind words about my own losses over the course of my life. Some came earlier for me than they do for others. At this stage in life, though, I guess everyone else who's middle-aged or older has gone through their own similar set of losses.

      Although I can't come up with the "more substantial" comments (on losing that last person of our parents' generation), I have to kind of smile when I think of what a close cousin of mine said after we lost our last aunt: She kind of laughed at her own choice of word, but she said, "It's really strange to think that, now, we're the 'reigning' generation." We both laughed because none of our parents/aunts were the "reigning type", and neither are we. Still, we both know what she meant.

      Peculiar little jokes aside, there is something awfully lonely about seeing someone, like a last remaining aunt, go. My siblings and I (and that cousin I mentioned) have all seemed to just kind of stepped into that "reigning generation" role, or be thrust into it, and found our ways to try to be that link between the past and the future for our own children.

      When we think about all those links that connect one generation to the next, that can sometimes make up for that temporary feeling of loneliness (that happens after first losing someone); because we realize that, as part of that chain that ties together family members, there's little reason to feel lonely.

      Again, Glenn, sorry to know you've had this loss (and sorry, again, to have taken this long to get back here).

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      9 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Lisa, I am glad I found your hub. I related to your feelings since my Aunt was the last of my prior generation to pass away. No one is left except my sister. I am sorry to hear that you had so many terrible losses, especially a baby nephew and your own miscarriage.

      Just like you I find writing about it helps to some degree as I also wrote a couple of hubs about my Aunt. You mentioned so many useful ideas. It’s true what you say that the longer we let the grayness takes up the space in our mind, the more chance it has to harden us. I had so many difficult things happen while truing to help her near the end. Your statement makes it clear to me that I need to forget about those things now and just remember her for the “good” of her.

      Thanks for a very useful hub.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      "Sometimes others will worry that we're not "moving on", and they can even make us feel as if we should stop talking about the loved one if we talk about him a little too much, or get rid of his belongings faster than we have, or simply start a new life sooner than we appear to be."

      This is soooo very true, Lisa. I like this hub very much!

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Russell_A, thank you for sharing your own experience with others here. After losing my father at 21 (versus losing my mother around 40), I did find a very different set of things to process, even though there was a similar "basic grief" with both. I wouldn't have believed I'd be saying this years after losing my father; but while losing him so young (he was 62) was a giant, giant, shock and kick in the head; losing my mother after having her in my adult life for so long was, in some ways, harder.

      With losing my father, though, there was the thing that my siblings and I always felt robbed of having him in our adult lives. Just a couple of weeks ago my sister commented on how our father would be turning 100 years old at the end of January, if he'd lived. She said how now we don't "have that thing that we could still have him if he hadn't died so young". She was saying how we wouldn't likely have him now anyway.

      With my father, the "different" aspect was primarily what life he didn't get to have. With my mother, the "different" aspect was primarily with processing so much of the pain and sadness that went on as a result of her long-term illness and suffering.

      I don't know... Either way it's a rotten, rotten, thing to go through; and yet we all (if our parents are fortunate enough to go before their children, "the way it's supposed to be") somehow process it all and get through it.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Zen_45, I'm sorry to know you lost such a close friend so young. As you may have seen above, I was in an accident in which my best friend since adolescence (and the driver) was killed. We were weeks apart in age and both 20, weeks away from turning 21. I'm not "pushing" more of my "gloomy" writing, but I started a blog (without intention of doing much with it, other than send a message about drunk driving and speeding); which can be reached through my profile. I'm wondering if reading the two "victim stories" on there may offer you any insight (or at least someone else's experience with having lost a close friend so suddenly, and at such a young age).

      Of course, I can't assume that my own experience will be the same as everyone else's; but I have a feeling that grayness won't last for you. It's just that it's still so soon. There are elements to losing a close friend so young, and having someone so young lose their life suddenly, that, I think, present a set of things to process that can be different from something like losing an elderly family member.

      In my case (and even though I'd lost my elderly grandfather at ten), my friend's death (and the accident in general) were a kick in the head and were things that suddenly knocked me out of the youthful belief that I (and someone like my young friend) was invincible. It took some adjusting to the realization that "things CAN happen to me" (us).

      There was the getting used to living life without her in it, and there was the getting past the resentment that her future had been taken from her by someone who chose to speed (and someone who meant nothing to her, and to whom she meant nothing when it came down to it).

      That feeling of having unfinished business is one that people commonly get, and it's one that women who have miscarriages also get. I guess it comes from the fact that there is, in a lot of ways, "unfinished business" - that reality that someone isn't going to fulfill what was once kind of taken for granted that they would.

      I think, too, there's a sense of being "up in the air" (uncertainty) when something that's such a kick in the head happens; and I think that up-in-the-air feeling of not being very grounded and certain can contribute to that sense of unfinished business. I assume a lot of that feeling of uncertainty/non-sureness must come from some of the "anxiety chemicals" we "have going" when we've gone through such a loss/event. After my mother died I kept saying to people, "I feel like I need some answer of some kind, but I don't really know what the question is." It seemed to me to be a different version of that "unfinished business" feeling I'd had after the accident and an unrelated, later, miscarriage. The difference may have been that I knew my mother had had a fairly long (ish) life, so there wasn't the factor of a life/future unlived.

      What helped me was to keep reminding myself that if I'd been the one to leave my friend behind, I wouldn't have wanted her languishing in grief. I'd have wanted her to pick up and move on. It also helped that I vowed she, nor the senseless way she died, would not be forgotten (and close to 30 years later, I continued to keep that vow by writing our story online and long, long, after I was "over" the loss).

      I can't speak for your friend, of course, but I had time to see the speeding car coming at us; and I had time to be fairly certain there was no way I'd survive what was about to happen. It seemed as if Nature took care of any emotions with, perhaps, adrenaline, because I was calm and (sort of) OK with the idea that I "was about to die". I was disgusted with the other driver because I didn't want to die, and I (foolishly, I suppose) hoped my parents "would know it was OK with me and that they didn't have to feel too bad". Other than being disgusted and concerned, however, I was amazingly calm and fine with what I was so certain was about to happen.

      In times of what we believe are imminent danger, in times of pain, and sometimes just through the quick and merciful loss of consciousness; Nature often has a way of sparing us one thing or another.

      I think youth works both for and against us in situations like yours (and mine, at the time). The colors will return to that "blank, white, future" you see now, I think. A little at a time. When they do the grayness will leave. If your experience is at all similar to mine you may feel you've been "launched into maturity" sooner than others your age, and a part of you may always kind of resent that. Still, that may be the same part of you that refuses to become "old and bitter and fearful and uncertain" in this life; and it may be the same part of you that decides you won't let a terrible tragedy rob you of yet more than it already has.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've never had to endure the loss of parents or children as so many on here have, but the loss of a very close friend, Luke, has been so difficult.

      I'm 19 and my friend Luke was a few days younger. A few months prior to this horrible event, another young guy I knew I was brutally murdered and everyone that knew him was greatly affected. At that time I was a student and had important exams coming up...but felt I could do nothing. One night, I opened up to Luke who took the time to put everything into perspective and made me feel hope despite the horror of it all. He told me that while young deaths are always the worst and that I should take the time I need to be pensive, and to rest, I shouldn't let the experience rule my life and made me see the value of my own life. The next day I got up, studied and passsed all my exams - he'd given me strength at one of the hardest times in my life and I believe I might not have found the strength had it not been for him.

      We'd been friends before this happened, but this experience made us much closer as over the next few weeks he offered unconditional support. I began to fall for him and felt a sort of calm around and in my relationship with him that I'd never felt before. More than just being a good listener, he knew the right words and was incredibly wise for his age - he was part of an online forum, and before they knew his real age, most thought he was around 30! An old soul...we understood eachother unusually well, and I think this is because we were so alike; but I didn't think it was possible to find someone like that.

      Anyway, shortly before I was next meant to meet with him, I went away for a few days and came back to find out he had died in an acccident. I think you'd mentioned a white or blank canvas? It felt immediately erased and everything I thought I was going to experience with him gone like that; no goodbyes, the last thing was our usual goodnight. After I'd got over the shock of it a bit I set up an event in his name, that family and friends attended...they said it helped them, and whether they were just saying that to be nice or not, I hope it did. I can't save him, but if I can help the people he loved that are left behind that's the main thing.

      I don't think too much about the future now; more just enjoying simple things like my favourite meal, lighting a candle, or listening to a relaxing song...spending time with friends I'm lucky to have. It's been almost 6 months now. A guy recently expressed an interest, and while I care for him, I couldn't even begin to consider that right now. But I can't tell anyone about how things were between us...aside from one friend who knew us both and revealed a while after that she thought we were about to get together.

      I feel that gray part all the feels like an overall ache or something that is just constantly with and living with me. Sometimes I feel like I'm living life for two as I try to live life doubly full now. But I've lost having him in my life every day...he put my mind and body at ease. I sometimes wonder if I'll always feel this gray area for the rest of my life? And I think I have this feeling of unfinished business because of the strong feelings that were on top of close friendship and the beginning of something.

      Lately I think about how he's not suffering and that's something positive. But the way it ended for him...I think about what his last moments would've been like(try not to) and everything he would've done with his life.

      I'm sorry to all of you that have lost someone close...

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Lisa, Thank you for your response. I think your article said a lot. I believe you have a gift to be able express yourself on this subject. My Mum was 81, but had been ill since 1981 when she was diagnosed with cancer only 7 months after my Father died. I was only 19 when he died by the way and it took me a long time to get over that. I think it was a long slow process that I didn’t notice month to month, but if I looked at it in 2 year chunks, I could see the difference.

      Being an only child, I decided that my plans needed to change and that I needed to be there for my mother and to look out for her. After 7 years of treatment, mum needed to have a serious operation. She was very ill following the procedure, was given the last rites, but survived and after a good few months of recovery led a fairly active life. I say “fairly”, because she still had to have minor procedures and a lot of checkups along the way and her ability to do anything too strenuous was limited.

      in 1998, she was unfortunately diagnosed with a different kind of cancer. Yes, she survived that too after an exhaustive round of chemo and radio therapy. This of course meant even more checkups and minor procedures to support her health. Amazingly, she was able to get back into her life as it was before and people around her just accepted that sometimes she would have to cancel things on the last minute if she was having an off day.

      Over the last 4 years, her general health started to go downhill and dementia started to take hold also. She was still pretty much the same old mum, but needed more support from me to stay living at her own home. As winter came this year (2010), she start to feel quite unwell and in November an infection turned septic and gave her a battle she wasn’t going to win. But as ever, it all happened so fast. It seems that caring for a parent over a long period of time can create a stronger bond than if they had been totally independent. This is the reason for my brief of my mother’s illness, to try to illustrate this.

      Now I am left picking up the pieces. I run my own business, I am a single person right now and also don’t have children of my own. I have some great cousins and friends who have helped me a lot, but in some ways I am alone with respect to very close family.

      This I guess has given me a freedom to choose how to grieve. I have given myself permission to cry when things get too much. Yes, I do feel worse when this happens, sometimes the pain does feel unbearable. But I believe it is a release valve the lets out and neutralizes emotions that are very much the result of processing my mum’s passing. Stating the obvious I know, but I felt I need to state it just the same. I haven’t fully got back into my working daily routine because I spend a lot of time thinking. The other thing I have been doing is to spend 2 or 3 hours a day going through my house and getting rid of anything I feel I no longer need. It was like I was cleansing my life. Possessions that mattered to me before, no longer matter now in this new post-mum era. I know I need to kick myself up the butt and I’m working on that too. But I believe that if can spare the time to grieve, then I must.

      Last night I had a long vivid dream in which my Mum came back and visited me for a day. We spent the day together, we did a few different fun things and had a good old laugh. The strange thing is that the dream didn’t make me sad, it was a very happy dream and I woke this morning feeling quite content and much calmer than I have done for weeks. I was even smiling to myself. This might seem a bit strange, but I guess we all find ways or get help coping with grief in different ways.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Russell_A, thank you. I'm sorry to know you've lost your mother so recently. Needless to say perhaps, but I wish there were something I could say that would be helpful, but I know there isn't. Somehow, no matter how difficult a time this is, the strength to cope does come; and things get better and better, a little at a time. Again, condolences. No doubt about it, it's a rough thing to get through.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Lisa, I really related to your article. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I lost my Mother 8 weeks ago and I too find the feelings unbearable and other times I think I am coping. Reading well thought out stuff like this really helps give me the strength to cope.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      prhh29, thank you for sharing with readers here. What you've shared is going to let someone know he's not alone. There's no doubt about it, one of the hardest parts of losing someone is that "nitty-gritty" of just getting used to not having them in those small, day-to-day, life activities. I think that's why so many people who lose a spouse think about moving, but it's also reason they're often told they shouldn't make such a decision at such a difficult time.

      Sincerest hopes that your find more and more ways to get through the next months. I do think people do find their own ways once the loss isn't quite as recent as yours is right now.



      SueWish, I know you don't need me to reiterate what an awful and difficult situation that had to have been for you and everyone else. You probably also don't need me to mention that guilt is pretty much a part of all grief for all people. There's always second-guessing what we did, and there's often (usually, I think) one kind of guilt or another.

      This may seem unrelated, but your remarks above made me think of when I was a little kid and my mother was hospitalized for eight months for a lung infection. My little brother was two, and he was a toddler who got febrile seizures with just about every fever he got. He'd been a premies, so he was prone to getting pneumonia with a lot of infections too. I was six/seven at the time. My father was trying to figure out how to get x miles away to the hospital where my mother was, but he also wanted to get to the hospital in another city. My mother told him to forget about going to see her because all she cared about was that my little brother had someone there each night at the hospital.

      My father earned a modest income, but he gave a good chunk of it to my mother's sister (who quit her job to do this), who would come to the house each day and be there for me, my older sister (12), and the baby.

      My mother so often said how awful it was to be separated from us, and how she didn't know what she would have done if it weren't for my aunt, and for the fact that my father found a way to go to work every day but also get to the hospital nights for my brother (when he had a couple of stays at least).

      It wasn't something she could even talk about very often, because it was so hard for her talking about it was hard. Even if your sister wasn't able to be aware, or if she wasn't able to express it; if you've been there for your sister's children chances are that's about all your sister really would have cared about.

      Sometimes it can help if we try to put ourselves in the other person's place. In your case (and maybe you already do this), have you asked, "If the shoe were on the other foot, would I have expected her to be there more even if I weren't aware that she was?"

      Chances are, you'll process all these kinds of things as you realize more and more that we do what we do at the time, usually because it feels as if it's the only thing to do at the time (for one reason or another).

      15 years is a long time to live with your sister's illness, and 4.5 years is a long time to have her at the stage she apparently was for that length of time. You may have already done this, or thought about it; but I'd think, if things get to be too much for you, maybe it wouldn't hurt to talk to someone who specializes in counseling family members of long-term, terminally ill, individuals. Quite a "chunk" of your own life has been spent living with having a terminally ill sister. Having just that aspect no longer in your life has to be a major, major, adjustment. Maybe a counselor could offer you some tips, or share a few things that s/he knows you may be able to expect as the months go on. Just a thought.

    • profile image


      9 years ago from Berkshire County , Mass

      Lisa- Thank you for your words . They ring true. I saw that poor woman suffer for 15 years. The last 4 1/2 years were spent in a nursing home about a half a mile from my house. I went there often in the begining, did all her laundry, lotioned her , talked to her. In the past year she was not "there" anymore and I stopped going on a regular basis. Perhaps I was hiding emotionally. I would tell my mother that she gets nothing out of it and all it does is tear me apart. I can't fall apart I am a single mother a business owner and a surogate mother to her teenage daughter and young adult son. So yes some of it could be guilt but I know in my hearts of hearts I am doing and did do what is right for her children. ( In the early years of her nursing home stay she would panic over her daughter, the staff knew to tell her "She is with Suzy" and she would calm down...) I tried your trick today. Looked up and apologized and told her I could not think about you right now. Worked... a few times. I know I need something to keep my mind occupied on thoughts other than my sister..I just wish I knew what.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Lisa, thank you so much for your feedback. You're right, I'm trying to process too much right now. My mind has been on over-drive trying to deal with what has happened, and I find it difficult to "turn it off". But I'm going to take you up on your suggestions and advice to try to put some of the harder thoughts off to a later time when I'm better prepared to deal with them, and pick up some mundane activities to occupy my mind in the meantime. The 'missing him' part is very difficult though, and each day new realities arise that hit me with the fact that I'm alone now and that he's not here for me to share something with or to lean on.

      I've been with my company for 16 years (I manage the local office of the national PR firm I work for)and they have been very understanding in giving me time to get through the holidays before easing back into work - something I've been dreading because I find it so hard to focus, and my motivation is not there. Also, my commute was one of our small daily routines - he and I would talk during my drive into work about news of the day, what might be going on in our lives, or what had to get done during the week. I like the audiobook idea and will try that and see if it helps.

      And I do believe whole-heartedly that my life was more whole for having shared the last 26 years with my husband - thanks for reminding me of that. I read somewhere that if you knew at the start that your time with the one you loved would be cut short, would you go through it anyway - and of course the answer for me is, yes! So whether one knows what lies ahead or not, is really irrelevant when you find true love - for however long it lasts - you must take it and thank God to have received such a precious, precious gift.

      As you say, what seems to help me get through each day are the small tasks, the must-dos, although I'll admit, many times I don't feel like doing anything at all - I still force myself though, even if I just do something small.

      The other thing that has helped me is to think of my husband and how he would want me to be/feel (or not be/feel), and remember how we would approach things or make decisions together. Doing that has given me greater clarity and resolve when I'm unsure in what I should be doing.

      I thank you again for your feedback, it has been truly helpful. This hub has been a helpful source for me, and I plan to re-read some of the earlier posts as I continue through this process, as well as pick up any new words of advice from future posts. Thank you again.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      prhh29, your post showed up while I was typing the one above. I'm sorry to know you've lost your young husband so recently. I agree that the reader contributions above serve to help others know they aren't alone, and that the world is full of people who have a pretty good idea of what those who've lost someone recently are going through.

      Losing a husband has its own set of issues, and I, personally, haven't had that experience. I think at this early stage, though, those issues associated with losing a spouse aren't really the things to be processing at this time. I think, so soon after losing someone close, the main task anyone faces is getting through those first days.

      As far as dealing with those early days goes, I think it can sometimes help (at least for some people) to first try to eliminate the stretches of time, or activities, that are most likely to make you feel bad. I think, though, each person has to have a kind of "play-it-by-ear" approach to those earlier days. If you feel like doing something, go ahead and do it. If you think something will make you feel worse, then let that be something for another day. What always made me feel better was to be with people and talking about things other than the loss. It was a chance to give my brain a rest from it all. I stayed away from music, because music would get me crying. At those times, I've also stayed away from tv shows/movies about negative or depressing stuff. I've always been someone who goes out by myself for outdoor coffee, because I find the fresh air and exercise always make me feel either better (or as if I've had "special time" to myself). Doing little things that are just kind of nice can be a reminder that even our saddest days don't have to be completely without minor joys.

      I've known more than one person to sleep with the radio or television on because being in silence can lead to too much thinking. After my father died my mother switched to a different bedroom because my father had had his heart attack in the bed. Keeping busy until you're ready to "pass out" (rather than having time to be awake and thinking) can help eliminate a lot of opportunity for getting those overwhelming thoughts going more than is idea right now.

      If you have a long commute that gives you time to think, maybe doing something like listening to audio books might keep the chance to "think too much" to a minimum.

      People don't usually feel like they can concentrate on much of anything at that time, but finding some "mindless" activity can help keep a mind busy without requiring a lot of thought. I had that time when I would sit at the computer and make "cartoon dolls" online (my 13-year-old daughter had shown me the sites). It was entertaining to make outfits for the "dolls", and I found myself saving whole little cartoon dance recitals for my niece's little girl. It kept me busy (and actually kind of happy) to do something this simple and mindless. As I started to think of how my niece's (and friend's) little girl would enjoy the collect I'd made for them, I was feeling as if I was doing something nice for someone's children.

      I don't know if this is "mentally correct" or not; but as I said above, I think the earliest days are not the days for trying to process and ponder much of anything. We do those things when we're more ready. It usually just comes naturally. In the meantime, finding those ways to keep too-much-thinking to a minimum, to find those small things that add a little niceness to the day, being with people and just kind of enjoying "neutral" conversation, and doing what we feel up to doing at any time, are all ways people get through those early days.

      Being able to give to, and offer, support between your husband's family and friends can help them, as well as you. You all share the loss in your own ways, and that can really help. Then, too, though, it can also help to be out with people who aren't as close to the loss.

      I know there's nothing much new offered here, but these are pretty much the only things I can think of that help people get through those early days.

      It's only been a month for you. Chances are, over the next several weeks, you find that you've settled into some version of a "workable routine" that includes doing those things that help you feel a little less acutely aware (at least at times) of the acute grief you're dealing with. I suppose, too, it's important to keep in mind that there are those awful days and hours that are going to happen, but people get through them and get past them. I guess my main point here is just to keep the task at hand simple: get through each day, one at a time. The rest of the processing and moving on and getting past will come in time and when you're ready.

      My mother was in her seventies when she died. I was just about forty. Not long before she died I said something about how "horrible" it was that I was turning 40. She said, "Don't say that. I remember how old I thought I was at 40, and now I think how I wish I knew how young 40 really is." I'm nowhere near my seventies, but I thought it may be worth mentioning here how young 40's is. There's no doubt about it: You have along journey ahead as far as moving on after losing your husband goes. Still, you're so young and still have so much time to build whatever life you'd like to build for yourself. (My mother was in her early fifties when my father died, and she went on and built a whole new life for herself without my father. We kids were pretty much grown, and she built a life that included a new kind of purpose and meaning, beyond just us kids and our father. Actually, my mother's life with my father and us was yet another case of her re-building her life; because she'd lost a young husband in WWII before having any children.) Hard as it may be for you to imagine right now, people go on to re-build their lives in their own way - and sometimes more than once. Eventually, their lives don't feel so much about loss as they seem to be more about being full and enriched and blessed.

      Maybe in these earliest days, it can help to keep in mind that your life has been more whole for having had your husband (and his, for having had you and his family in his life). That's not just a saying to help you feel better. It's an important thing to keep in mind, because it's what matters so much in this life.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      SueWish, I'm so sorry to know you loss your sister so, so, recently. I think when someone dies of a long-term, devastating, illness dealing with the whole thing (from while they were sick on to beyond their passing) is more complicated. It's not just a whopping kick in the head to lose them (the way it is to lose anyone close) - but there are all those complicating, and sometimes conflicting, things we need to process. Their illness, and all the emotions that it involves, becomes part of our life. We live with hope and no hope at the same time. We start to lose the person long before they're gone (but then, too, they're still here and we keep hoping something will get better or at least slow down). There's just so, so, many conflicting and complicated emotions.

      When my mother died (after a long-term, awful, set of health "horrors") I didn't think I could ever process the complicated set of thoughts/emotions associated with her illness and eventual passing. I couldn't think of the "old" her because it made me feel bad. I couldn't think of the "new" her because that was, in some ways, worse. She hadn't lost her mental abilities, but physically and emotionally she had become someone "new" in a lot of ways (and yet - more conflict - not in some ways).

      For the longest time after she died, the only way I could get through the days was to tell myself not to think of her at all. I told myself I could think of her later, when I was more ready; and that she'd want me to do whatever it took to get through the worst time after she passed away. (She had lost her mother, and she and her sisters always said how awful it had been. I told myself my mother wouldn't mind if I didn't think of her if at all possible, at least until I was more able to deal with thinking of her.)

      I told myself that not thinking of her at all obviously didn't mean I didn't care about her. Also, not allowing myself to think of her (if at all possible) didn't magically make me feel OK. All it did was help me feel as if "where I was" at the time was bearable.

      As time went on, I gradually "selected" one disturbing/upsetting thought/emotion and tried to address it, one at a time. At first, I'd even find just one thing unbearable to think about for more than a little while. After awhile, though, I had gradually (and in only the smallest, smallest, "doses") allowed myself to address/face each thought/feeling.

      Some people would say that was "escaping". I don't really think it was. I knew what I was doing. I planned it. It wasn't as if I was off on a trip to Paris and pretending all was great. It was a very conscious and careful plan not to allow myself to even try to face/confront/process all that giant, overwhelming, mess of issues before I'd had some time to process the "main thing", which was losing her at all.

      It looks to me as if you've already used this "trick" of not allowing yourself to think of her in some ways. I'm no psychologist; but based on my own experiences with losing people, it strikes me that now may still be too soon to allow yourself to think of your sister when she was "herself". I know people process things differently, but thinking with losing my mother was that I had time to allow myself to think of the "OK" her. I wanted those thoughts of her to be treasured memories - not thoughts that made the pain of losing her worse. I had to process all the stuff associated with the "not-OK her" first, and somehow, it seemed to make sense to deal with the immediate matter of losing her, and the matters of what went on leading up to losing her; before moving past that and onto the stage where thinking of her was a matter of thinking of the "her" she'd been before she got sick.

      When someone has been sick for a long time (and when it's been really devastating), it's like losing and also having them for a long time; but it's also like losing the "old" them and the "more recent" them. I almost think you may have been processing losing your "ok" sister all along, and now you're in the process of losing the "new" her. If it works the same way for you that it has for me (or for people I've talked to about this), I'm guessing that, emotionally, (not "intellectually") you need to first reconcile that the sister you lost was very much the same sister as that "earlier" one. The sister you had become the "new" her, but the same "her" nonetheless. I guess what I'm getting at (and you've probably "gotten at it" many times yourself at this point) is that reconciling that she was the same sister as ever, and dealing with losing the person she was most recently, might be the tasks at hand. Once those two tasks are done, I'd think that being able to think of the "earlier her" wouldn't so much seem like "haunting" as it would seem like a fond, comforting, memory. (Just some pondering. I don't pretend to think any of these thoughts will be of any use or insight.)

      Chances are, if you're like so many other people who have a similar kind of loss, you'll recover. It's way too soon now to even be able to imagine feeling at all normal again. Maybe, though, it would help a little (for now) if you tucked those memories of a healthier sister in a "mental file" for a little longer. It's still awfully early. Maybe you're just not ready to confront that particular aspect of the loss this soon.

      Just on another note, I don't know how involved you were with caring for her on a day-to-day basis; but even if you were living separate from her but living with the worry and fear (etc) of her illness, I'd imagine you now need to have some time to just "crash" and rest. The best thing you can do "for her" now is to take good care of yourself.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I lost my husband suddenly one month ago - he was only 46. I'm 44. He was my first and only true love and we have been together since I was 18.

      I realize this is still very fresh, and like you there are surrounding issues that make the loss that much more difficult and painful.

      I miss my husband terribly, and can't imagine the rest of my life without him - its inconceivable to me, yet its been forced upon me. Right now I'm just trying to hold on to my love for him and the memories we shared as I try to get through the days. But it still feels like yesterday, as though time has stopped even though I am doing many of the things you suggest like giving myself mental breaks and telling myself re-assuring statements of how things could have been worse. I've also been writing down my memories for fear of losing them altogether.

      Meanwhile, the sadness is deep, and the pain is physical, mental and emotional. I just keep praying and believing that he is in a better place now, and that I will somehow muster the strength to keep going until we see each other again.

      This is beyond hard, and would be thoroughly unbearable if not for the support from family and friends. Is there anything else you can suggest that might be helpful for these early stages? Thank you for creating this hub - finding it has been a God-send. Your wisdom, advice and insights, along with the posts from those that have shared their stories - have helped re-assure me that what I'm feeling is normal, while giving me a sense at what lies ahead for me with the hope that the pain does become a bit more manageable with time.

    • profile image


      9 years ago from Berkshire County , Mass

      I am having such a hard time with my sister's passing. She was ill for so many years and I thought I was "ready." Her illness was brain cancer and years later the radiation caused liasions to the brain causing her to become handicapped both mentally and physically. I loved her and got used to the new "her." Its been six weeks and the pain is unbearable. She and I were 18 months apart in age. We shared everything. She died right after her 50th birthday. Visions of the healthy vibrant sister is haunting me. I supressed those memories for a long time. I don't know if I will ever recover.

    • Shahid Bukhari profile image

      Shahid Bukhari 

      9 years ago from My Awareness in Being.

      Life must go on till Death

    • pennyofheaven profile image


      9 years ago from New Zealand

      Beautiful hub and excellent advice! Thanks

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Fossillady, sorry to know you lost your husband only a year ago, but thank you for sharing your encouragement with others (but especially with officielle) on here (and the kind words, as well).

    • Fossillady profile image


      9 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      I feel for officielle. Everything she said was me one year ago when I lost my dear husband of 25 years to lung cancer. I will say this, time does make it better and you have to be patient with yourself. We will struggle through and rebuild our lives because our husbands have given us the strength. Thank you Lisa for your wonderful article and all you good advise for all us mourners.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      officielle, I'm so, so, sorry to know you lost your husband so recently. I, personally, have not been through losing a long-time spouse; but I know that this soon after losing someone is about as bad as it gets, as far as how we feel goes. People go through the stages of grief in their own ways, but in general, so soon after losing someone involves that shock and grief stage.

      I know exactly how it feels (for different reasons) to feel as if you're "taking it one hour at a time". When I've had those times (again, for different losses/reasons than you are right now), the only way I've dealt with them is to tell myself just not to think about it for at that particular moment. I'd tell myself, "I'll think about this later, but just not now." Some people say that's "escaping", but there is no escaping the kind of grief you're living with right now. There is only fighting off letting it feel worse by trying to think about something like the whole rest of your future. That's too big a thing to take on right now. Right now, as you said, you need to take on each minute and each hour. I think (based only on my own experience) that the only way to get through those minutes and hours is to try not to complicate what's already a challenge to our mind by adding more thoughts and worries that would be better left worried and thought at a later time.

      I don't want to seem to be under-estimating the impact and degree of losing a husband of such a long time by referring to one experience I've had with losing the closest friend I had for years, but I do know what it's like to feel as if (even if we never know the future) we have a "framework" for a future, and that framework includes one person or another. (I wrote about "going into an unknown future" in a blog, "Drunk Driving" (which can be found through my profile on here.) After losing my closest friend in a car accident, it seemed as if the road, world, and future ahead of me had been erased and replaced with "white nothingness". When we feel like the future you'd imagined with someone has turned into "nothing but a blank, white, expanse", the reason we can't imagine that future it is, I think, because the "picture" we once had can seem to be erased when someone we'd imagined would part of that picture is suddenly gone.

      It's not like we can imagine all the things that may happen in the future, but we have that general picture that someone will be in it. It's the one thing we tend to think we have when it comes to imagining our future (those stable, always there for years, relationships that become a part of us and our lives).

      We lose the person with whom we share so much past, but then we also lose that "framework" for a future; so we don't just mourn and miss the person we lose. We need to process having had a "puzzle piece" in the picture that was our past missing (because it can feel as if the whole "puzzle picture" is falling apart), but we're faced with having to completely re-think years of that "framework" we thought we had for our future. In other words, we're faced with what looks like nothing, or an expanse of blank, white; because losing someone has come along and destroyed what we thought we were looking at as far as a future goes.

      I don't even think we always consciously build that "framework" we imagine for our future. Sometimes we do (as when we're a married couple, planning to have x number of children when we buy a house). In many ways, though, we don't. Instead, that framework grows around us, as life with that person unfolds and becomes the part of life that is "wrapped around us" (externally), rather than the part of life we experience from within, as individuals.

      Having all these things "eradicated" around us, and in front of us, are whole separate losses from the actual loss of, and missing of, the person we've lost. Just as life seemed to build around us in the past, it does keep building around us as each day (or at least year) goes by. The colors do start to show up in that "blank white expanse", but it takes time and new and different days. Once we're past the initial horror of losing someone (and that, alone, takes time), there are things we can do to help speed up the process of making those "colors" come back into the picture. So early on (as it is for you), though, I don't think it's possible to see what kind of future you can have; because you don't have those "new colors" that have started to show up yet. You can't build something out of nothing. You need a few pieces (those "colors" that happen a little at a time) to start building with (and around).

      I don't know if this is right or not, but I think, for now, you have to make that conscious effort to put all thoughts of the future (and maybe even a lot of thoughts of the past) out of your mind; and just concentrate on getting through those hours each day. The thoughts about the future and past can come back later when you're more ready and equipped to deal with them all.

      For now (and, again, I don't know if this is right or not - but it has worked, for the most part, for me in the past), I almost think you need to treat your acute grief as if it's almost like having the flu (I know that's a weird comparison, and do know grief and "flu" aren't at all alike). What I mean, though, is that if you had the flu you may know what you're able to do and not to do for now. For awhile, you're really sick and pretty much can't do much of anything. After awhile, you start to gradually feel a little better and do a little more. Grief is kind of like that. You wouldn't expect yourself to think about your plans for the future if you had the flu. You'd probably be pretty comfortable thinking, "I just need to rest right now. I'll start thinking about things when I feel better."

      Then, one day, you wake up and think, "Hey, I feel like I may wash my floors today, because I'm feeling a little better."

      I think when you're in acute grief the only thing you can do is take care of yourself, aim to rest your mind and body as much as you can, do what you can that helps you get through each day (be with a close friend, watch a silly movie if you can, find some "mindless" activity that helps keep you busy, etc.).

      One day you'll just discover that you're starting to think of one little aspect of your future a little at a time. For now, maybe, try not to even think about it. I think trying to think about such a "big picture" right now is expecting too much of yourself. Yes, it's awful (and unsettling and upsetting and sometimes horrifying) to look at the "blank, white, expanse" instead of the picture we once kind of took for granted; but that's one aspect of grief that requires more time and more living. I just think that while we're still looking at that "blank, white, expanse" ahead of us, all we can sometimes do is not look at it and find something else to "look at" instead.

      You lost "your everything". No doubt about that. What you didn't lose, though, was yourself or your life or your future. I don't know about you, but when I've lost someone close I've found that it can be so bad sometimes I think I may "lose my mind". The thing is, though, we don't lose our minds or our days or the need to find a way to get through them. The only way I've ever been able to get through times of acute grief has been to set aside all those thoughts and worries that really can be dealt with "another day" and just deal with the day-to-day (and as "mindless as possible") things.

      Between doing that, and finding those few comforting thoughts I could hang onto ("At least he didn't live bedridden for years" or "At least he doesn't have to live with the kind of loss I'm living with" - that type of thing), somewhere along the way I noticed that time had passed and life felt normal again.

      Again, sincerest condolences. I don't know if any of these thoughts will be at all useful to you; but either way, hang in. You will get through this awful time and come out OK.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      November 2, 2010

      Six months ago, Bob and I were in Las Vegas having fun.

      Six months later, he is in my home, his final resting place. Who could have guessed? It has been 2 weeks since his death and I still shake my head in disbelief. One day at a time is sometimes too much for me. I have to go through taking it one hour, one minute...

      I wonder what will be the rest of my life without him. We had known each other for 30 years. He was my friend, my confident, the brother I never had, my spouse and more.

      I have lost my ''everything''. I try to figure out the rest of my life without him and it seems impossible.

      I need help.

      Thank you.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      gr82bme, thank you for your kind words.

    • gr82bme profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Lisa, you keep saying how you are not qualified in this area. I think your kind and caring words and the comments on this hub will help many.

      i am going to bookmark this hub because many times I do not know what to say, you have helped with that. You have put words to the way I feel

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      lost, thank you for sharing on here. It really is fairly recent for you, so - no matter how many complex "layers" of things/feelings there are to sort out - chances are as time continues to move on you'll eventually feel much better than you do right now.

      Of course, I'm only basing this on personal experiences, but I think; on the one hand, there will always be things we live with or go through that people can't really understand unless/until they go through something very similar. So, chances are you're right that some people wouldn't really understand what you're dealing with. On the other hand, I've found that if we just tell people what we're dealing with sometimes, they do at least see how difficult it is for us, and they often either understand better, or at least try to.

      I think there's a chance that what's making you feel as if everyone and everything has changed (besides that the fact that, in many ways, losing your mother is a huge, life-changing, event) might be that you're still feeling the "unsettlement" of a fairly recent loss (along with the complications of the circumstances). I know when I've had big,complicated, losses I've been left feeling as if I'm up in the air for a good long time.

      We don't know the world without our mother in it for our whole life, and then - all of a sudden - that world we knew changes. That, alone, is a huge thing. When my mother died there were "peripheral" complicating circumstances (completely different from your situation, but - oh brother - it was a complicated set of things to process). Some of them I made peace with. With others (that I couldn't make peace with), it was more that, as time went on, they just seemed to matter less. I suppose I ended up "tucking them in the 'can't-feel-better-about-this-but-it's-old-now 'mental file'".

      I suppose, since you say you had been "the parent" too, you didn't just lose your mother, but you also lost that element in your life that involved your having an adult to be "parenting" - yet more change in your life. Something else you probably feel like you lost is the future you had thought you'd be sharing with your mother longer. There are just so many elements that can come into losing a parent.

      I suppose, too, if the family members and friends were also close to your mother, they had their own ways of dealing with the loss. It's too bad they don't seem to have understood that your relationship with your mother was one kind of relationship and theirs was another, and however anyone felt after the accident, each person needed to process his own loss his own way, and in his own time.

      If you were close enough to them, maybe, in time, you'll gradually rebuild our relationships with some of them. When some "upheaval" goes on in an family, it does have a way of pulling some of the people apart for awhile.

      I wonder if it would help (or even if you'd want this) to have a "relationship-light" kind of thing with some of these people: Maybe agree that there have been strains between you over the loss of your mother, agree not to talk about those "areas of strain", and just kind of keep talk and activities "surface level" and "neutral" for awhile. Sometimes, once there has been strained relationships, it can help to "start small" and just kind of get used to having pleasant time together again (even if everyone sets aside the larger "issues of contention"). In the beginning, it can feel (for a very short time) that there's an "elephant in the room", but if everyone keeps things pleasant and "non-hot-button", that feeling can pass. Of course, I don't know how everything happened, and maybe you just have no use for any of these people.

      Relationships can be re-built. No, they won't be the kind of relationship you may have thought you had before; but if there has been so much misunderstanding or unwillingness to understand, maybe the relationships weren't all that "deep rooted" before either. So, sometimes starting "sort of anew" and staying away from the "hot-button" issues can at least mean having SOME relationship. If you have your husband for the "bigger" things, or if you met some new friends who may understand better, you wouldn't need those "old" people for more than "just socializing" or else maybe even enjoying time together without "getting deep".

      If you're like most people dealing with a fairly recent loss (and two years really is "fairly recent" when it comes to a mother and/or the complications surrounding your mother's accident), the only way you've really changed is that you're a "new, sad, angry (or whatever else you're feeling) you" these days. That will probably pass with time, and you'll go back to being the "old, regular, you" eventually.

      Sometimes, too, when someone is lost in an accident and so suddenly, friends and family really don't quite know what to be saying or thinking. I was in an accident in which my best friend was killed. I wasn't driving, and she (my best friend, and the driver) wasn't impaired. Even with that, a whole lot of people just didn't know what to say to me and kind of stayed away. For as many accidents as happen every year in this country, it does seem that when it happens to someone close, it's still a kind of "foreign" thing that people don't know how to deal with.

      Since you said your mother hit a truck, I'm guessing it wasn't a matter of her intentionally trying to kill herself by doing something like driving into something like a wall (or something); so, when it comes down to it, it was an accident. She didn't "check out" intentionally. I really think most people who drive impaired just don't believe anything will happen.

      If you haven't already talked to someone like a counselor, and if you get to feeling as if you just feel too sad and alone in dealing with your sadness; maybe it would be worth setting up at least an appointment or two. Maybe someone who specializes in helping people in your situation sort things out might be of help.

      In the meantime, take it a day at time. Maybe I'm wrong, and I don't know you or the details of the situation; but I have a feeling you'll one day discover that you haven't changed as much as you feel like you have right now.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I lost my mom almost 2yrs ago in a drunk driving accident. She was impaired, as was the truck she hit head on. I am an only child and feel very lost. Along with my mom's death, I lost some close friends and family members. They had no idea of what I was going through or how to talk to me; they didnt understand why I couldnt "get over it". I felt & still feel abandoned by them. Im deeply saddened by the situation, lost without my mom & also very angry at her at the same time. I am 40, she has a grandchild; I feel like she just checked out & left me. My parents are divorced, so most of the responsibility fell on me. Thank god for my husband, who was amazing in helping me through the really bad parts. My mom & I were very close but also had a difficult relationship. I was more of the parent. I have shared the circumstances of my moms death with a few people but not everyone would understand. I feel a deep sadness that I feel is never going away. I feel like everything & everyone I knew has changed, including me.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Cindy, I know that words from a stranger can't mean much to you, but I'm so sorry to see that you've had this kind of thing to deal with. I know that "the suicide factor" in your situation makes it exponentially more challenging, tragic, and difficult; and I'm not comparing the two situations in any way, but someone close to me is going through a version of seeing life unravel after layoffs forced her into early retirement and some other changes/losses in her life. Based only on seeing some of what she's going through, I can only imagine how that "suicide factor" makes it all so much worse for you.

      Of course, I don't pretend to be qualified to make any guesses about why your husband would do what he did (especially when he had a daughter), but I can only imagine he either had some kind of depression that affected his reasoning ability (serious depression can, as you probably already know), or else he was just in such pain at the moment he couldn't even think about anyone or anything else but getting out of pain. Sometimes, too, some parents (maybe fathers more than mothers) don't realize how much they truly mean and are still needed (in a different way than when kids are younger, of course) by their grown children.

      My mother (who died of natural causes, so it wasn't suicide) used to always say, "You always feel the same way about your kids, no matter how old they are; but how they feel about you changes." Well, my mother only had her own mother until she was 23, and her mother had been bedridden for quite awhile before she died. Between that, and the fact that 23 is still young enough to be "putting the finishing touches" on maturing completely as an adult, I don't think my mother was able to really know how "the same" even grown kids still feel about parents on that deeper level than just who supports whom, who needs whom to tie their shoes, etc. etc.

      My sister and I, both of whom had our mother until our forties, have often said that our mother never really knew those ways in which we still felt very much the same about her as grown-ups as we did when we were younger (even if it had nothing to do with needing emotional or financial support from anyone).

      So, while I don't pretend to be able to make any accurate guesses about why your husband did what he did (and in fact, pretty much know I know nothing about a whole lot of things in this world), I'm just wondering if, maybe, (depression-related unreasonable thinking and/or pain or not) he underestimated how important his role remained in his daughter's life (whether or not it always seemed that way on the surface or in all circumstances).

      The reason I say I wonder if fathers may do that more often than mothers is that a lot of men don't quite have the understanding of the needs of sons and daughters that so many mothers do. I guess, even if I want to be clear that I'm not guessing (and am only saying things that occurred to me as a result of your post) about your husband, I'm just wondering if, maybe, the reason having a daughter didn't stop him from taking the action he did could have some relationship to something like his not realizing how important his being here was to her.

      I suppose, since you belong to the group you mentioned, people have raised this kind of thought; but it occurs to me, too, that nobody would ever know if someone (like your husband) could have secretly been seeing a doctor, been diagnosed of some bleak condition, and thought he'd spare everyone the pain of it all (but also the attempts to convince him to try to keep fighting whatever it may have been).

      A family member of mine lost her almost-two-years-old little boy and thought, in her unbearable pain, she'd sign up for a support group. She went for a little while but decided it wasn't for her. She said it was all just too depressing to hear everyone talk about their own stories. I don't know... I suppose there's something to that thinking too.

      The loss of your husband is still such a recent thing for both you and your daughter, it's so understandable that you'd feel as you do this soon afterward. Maybe, too, you're in that stage mentioned above, with kind of expecting to feel a little less horrible but still feeling as bad as one often does at about a year.

      Somewhere between trying to re-build your life, or build a new one; and working to push yourself farther forward than you can be right now; is some middle ground where you try to live life but also keep in mind that time will move you forward, no matter what you do or don't do. I wonder if, maybe, you're trying to push yourself "more forward" than you're ready to be, without allowing yourself to take enough "mental rest" days off.

      Please overlook it if every thought I offered here is useless or doesn't apply. As I said, I know nothing and don't pretend to know anything about your situation. I hope you can stay strong (and give yourself that "mental rest" time you probably need. Maybe your daughter is like me - someone who needs to work out sadness and loss in her own, private, way. If she's like that, she'll most likely find her way to working it all out (or else she'll one day discover she hasn't been able to and will then see the need for looking to someone else for any help they can try to offer).

      Again, so sorry that you (or anyone) must go through this kind of thing.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      So much heartache here. I lost my husband to suicide in June 2009. It was Father's Day.

      My daughter was at a friends and came home to find a note on the door that told her not to come in. She was 18 and had come home to fix him breakfast. I was staying at a friends. Two weeks before, I had just retired. It was suppose to be a happy time in our lives. She was to go off to college and I was to retire. I don't understand what happened and I don't understand if he was depressed why he would hurt his daughter so for the rest of her life. I have been in suicide support group and individual therapy. My daughter refuses help of any kind. She feels robbed of her life. The pain is unbelivable for me. I lost my husband, my career, my daughter has now moved on her own. I have lost everything in a matter of such a short time. I am still lost. This last year was spent trying to take care of my daughter and myself in the mist of this tradegy. Now that she has moved away I am totally alone in my house trying to find my way in this world after losing all that was important to me. I am trying to "move through" this. Looking for a part time job, seeing friends, volunteering but the emptiness and the void is so large that most days it seems impossible.I am so lonely and I never have known this kind of lonely. I seem to be pushing myself forward and I am tired.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Lisa, I appreciate your thoughtful response to my query. And I want you to know that you gave me something I can work with. It made sense to me when you gave the example of the Christmas party and had asked yourself who would it benefit if you chose not to go. Yes, I have reminders/thoughts/etc., that make me sad, but they feel different from the self-sabotage I've been inflicting on myself. While no one likes that feeling of desolation, I've discovered that when I'm feeling more "normal" (whatever that is now), I have good thoughts about my dad come to me unbidden. At those times, he doesn't feel so far away. This is important to me. However, when I'm "in the hole", all I can feel is the loss.

      Thank you so much for taking the time.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Anna Marie, I know it may seem like I say this same thing to everyone who posts here, but there are no words to express how sorry I am to know you have gone through such an unbearable loss.

      I'm not, in any way, comparing the loss of a mother with the loss of a child, by any means; but that eight years you mentioned rung a bell for me, because - really - it kind of took eight years for me to get "somewhere" different from a still-sort-of-fragile-ish" point at five years after losing mother, to a more "stable" stage. After five years, I was, in many ways, much better and mostly OK (sort of). Even so, though, I still wouldn't do things like look at pictures of my mother, or think of some things. There had been a lot of "side issues" and some particularly heartbreaking "surrounding issues" with my mother's death, so maybe that didn't help. There was, though, definitely still some residual stuff going on, between even that five-year point and the eight years. So, to me, the fact that you mention eight years after your own awful, awful, loss doesn't surprise me at all.

      As I think I mentioned above, we lost a 20-month old nephew years ago. With whatever losses I've ever had in my life (including my parents), that was just the worst, worst, thing that ever happened. And yet, as the mother of this little boy said to me, she managed to somehow live with it, and go on. The little boy she had after losing her second child is now in college.

      I know there aren't words anyone can ever, ever, say to someone in your situation; but I always think how I wish people in your situation could at least know that there's probably not a mother in the world who isn't aware of, and pained by, the thought that another mother must live with what you do.

      Thank you for sharing with readers here.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Marieli, I'm sorry you're going through what may be one of the more difficult stages after losing someone. So many people expect to feel so much better after a year, and so many people even dread what they will do on the anniversary of the death. As I mentioned above, I think one of issues with that year anniversary is that some (certainly not all, by any means) of that numbness we may not even realize we live with in the months following a death has begun to wear off. We start to feel the loss almost more, at least in some ways, at around that year anniversary.

      I know what you mean about wanting to "erase those days from the calendar". No matter how long it's been since losing someone, a lot of people find they dread the anniversary (or at least don't want to see or hear about that particular date).

      Do what you need to do to help make those two days pass in a way that works best for you. Each day only last 24 hours, and some of those hours will probably be spent sleeping. If you need to cry, cry. Whether you believe it or not, the first anniversary can be the beginning of moving to a different stage of grief (and one that isn't quite so painful, even though, of course, it still isn't "great" a good part of the time). Those two days will pass a lot more quickly than the several weeks or days leading up to them, and dreading that anniversary.

      If nothing else, I do hope you keep in mind that approaching this one-year anniversary can be a particularly sad time; but believe that things will most likely start to feel a little better, a little at a time.

      Again, I'm sorry to know you're going through this difficult time, and hope you don't feel too discouraged about not noticing a lot of improvement in how you feel just yet.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      9 years ago from Florida

      I have lost several people very close to me. Some were easier than others. None of them were easy. Some I am still dealing with. My son passed away in 2002. That was the hardest thing I have ever dealt with. It is still very painful. Eight years and I still cry. Eight years, and at times, the pain is still so fresh. It does fade a little at a time, but at this point, I think it has faded as much as it is going to. Thank you for sharing this! Truly inspiring and beautiful.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Michelle, I'm sorry to know you've lost your father so, so, recently. I can only speak for myself (although people I've been close to have said something similar), but I think what you described is something a lot of people do.

      When I referred to those "bits and pieces of small joys", I was mainly referring to the longer-term, more "outside", stage of grief; after the initial process of it has passed, but while it still hangs on even after making a certain amount of progress. Then again, though, I didn't intend to specifically "rule out" that earliest stage of grief either. From personal experience, I do know it's easier to "accept" those small joys after a certain amount of time has passed, and the grief isn't quite so acute.

      I really think, for the most part, however anyone deals with those earlier stages of grief is OK. Then again, even in the worst of times, worry, or grief; there are often reasons to laugh or smile. I remember when my father was in ICU after having his heart attack. My mother, sister, and I sat outside waiting for our five-minute visits with another wife of a patient and her grown kids. We'd sit outside, and someone would be cracking one joke or another. You'd think we were having a party (or something). It wasn't that. It broke up the tension and the awfulness of having someone in ICU, and hearing those "Code 99, ICU" announcements every once in awhile.

      There was nothing we could do (any more than there is anything you can do now) about making the situation with my father any different or better. So, we had no choice but to sit outside that Intensive Care Unit, wait with that family who was waiting for their own five-minute time for a visit, and find some way to make that horrifying, frightening, and sad time a little more tolerable.

      My father died on Thanksgiving, and there was a kind of "fancy" Christmas party planned by the people at work. I don't remember the date, but, of course, it was a couple of weeks before Christmas. I didn't feel like going to a party, but at the time I thought, "If I don't go, what will be the benefit to that?" The guy I was going out with (and eventually married) hadn't just lost his father. I had the dress. So, even though I felt like it was kind of wrong to go to a party so soon after losing my father, I knew he wouldn't have wanted me to stop living. I knew my mother didn't want me to stop living. (She actually said I should go.) And, again, I just thought, "What would not going accomplish?" Naturally, nobody feels like "partying it up" a few weeks after losing their father, but, I went, talked to people, slow danced a little, and wasn't thinking about my father (for the most part) at least for a few hours. For just that few hours, I was, at least in a lot of ways, not the person whose father had just died. I was just one of the other people who worked with all those other people. It didn't do anything to change or speed up the grieving process. All it did was give me a break from what was overwhelming sadness.

      It's not crazy to find yourself laughing or not feeling horrible at one time or another. Our brain chemicals change when we're laughing or feeling "sort of happy for a little while". It's not only mentally healthy. It's physically healthy to laugh or have some pleasant moments. People in some pretty miserable circumstances often find one thing or another to laugh about (and sometimes they even find humor in those miserable circumstances). It's all part of the resilience of human nature (even if it's pretty limited this soon after such a loss).

      Laughing doesn't mean betraying your father, or not grieving his loss. It just means that life does go on, and laughing does happen again.

      I have three grown children myself now, and I know what I'd want for them if anything happened to me. I'd want them to let themselves laugh, and enjoy those brief moments of not feeling miserable; because sometimes it's not just time, alone, that heals. It's the addition to those reasonably (or very) pleasant moments that can help fill up that otherwise "empty" time of waiting until time has done its job.

      When we lose someone close, we can feel as if our whole world, and whole sense of what we are, can be turned upside down. Those little moments of laughing or finding some other joy can be the things that remind us that we're still the same person we've always been.

      I'm not suggesting people "go wild", run away from their grief, and become non-stop party-goers. I'm just saying that within the context of generally living our usual lives, we don't have to forget that laughing has always also been a part of that usual life.

      Again, I'm sorry to know you've lost your father so recently. I suppose, as you say, there is some comfort in knowing he didn't suffer for a long time.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      almost a year, as time approach that day i don't want to think what i am going to do, i feel so sad; his anniversary then the following day my birthday; i want to be alone those two days, just me and my thoughts, i want to erase those 2 days from my calendar. Don't tell me time will help me or don't cry; my time seems will take longer and i need to cry. I write a little note to him almost every day and ask for his advise in my dreams i know he will help me but in the meantime i have to cry

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've read your initial article and all the subsequent responses. It helps to read what others have experienced. I lost my dad Aug 2nd. Although he did have a heart condition, his death was unexpected. He was doing well--had been riding his bike, installing tile in the house, in short, living life. He suffered sudden cardiac death in the middle of the night, and it was over before the paramedics could arrive.

      In some ways my mom and I are fortunate, because my dad was very clear about his last wishes. He was so concerned, almost phobic, about becoming incapacitated that he had said many times, he just wanted to go quick and not be resuscitated. On a logical level I have some peace that he did not ever have to suffer the slow decline he considered such an indignity. Emotionally, it's a little harder to take.

      He was also very clear that if something happened to him that he wanted my mom and me to do our best to get on with life. And here is the crux of the matter for me. I totally agree with your idea that we need little bits of joy and happiness to help us cope with the loss. But I keep sabotaging myself. Whenever I realize that I'm feeling okay, then I emotionally, I feel that it's crazy to feel all right under the circumstances, and I manage to drive myself back into the hole. Believe me, I know that doesn't make sense; I know my dad would think that was unnecessary, and yet it happens.

      Do you or anyone else have some coping method for this?

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      WannaBWriter, thank you for your kind words and sharing with others who may read here. You've certainly been through what seems like unbearable loss. Years ago I lived on a street that had a pond at the end of it. The young couple across the street had elderly parents living with them. (They were from a culture that believed being sick and "a burden" was "shameful".) The elderly man used to walk by my house every day. I figured he was getting some exercise. One day, as always, he walked by. Later, I heard he walked into that pond, never to come out. I was, of course, bothered by that (especially to hear that he had reason to think he would "bring shame" if he were ill). I guess, though, it was how he wanted it.

      On the other hand, also years ago, I wrote a thing for a newspaper on suicide. The experts I interviewed said how, so often, people are in a moment of feeling that they can't stand to live another minute, and how if they could have resisted the urge to "do something" it wouldn't have happened when it did. They said, too, that sometimes drugs or alcohol reduce inhibitions that would otherwise help a person control the urge to take such an action. So, I suppose, in some ways, this particular kind of suicide could almost be considered an "accident" (not that they didn't want to do it at the time, but that they may not really have chosen it at any other moment).

      The editor of the paper chose to use the words, "No Easy Answers" in the feature's title - and I guess that's pretty accurate. Of course, if someone is suffering with serious enough depression, that risk is always there. I suppose, regardless of why it happens, the survivors need to keep in mind that they had no control of someone else's actions.

      I'm so sorry to know you've lost both a son and a daughter. If anyone can help reassure readers that life does keep going on, it's (unfortunately) you. Again, thank you for sharing here.

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      9 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Lisa, how kind of you to treat each one's loss with such personal and helpful feedback. I am 67 now. I lost my dad in 1987, my 14-year-old son in an accident in 1991, a very close friend to suicide in 2003, my mom to cancer in 2005, and, finally, my 36-year old estranged daughter to suicide in 2009. So I think I've run the gamut on different sorts of grief. I have found my journey much as you describe it. There is always a special spot in your heart for the precious memories that you keep alive, but after enough time passes, you can get over the hardest parts of dealing with death. The easiest to get over are illnesses an accidents, in my opinion, since the person who died didn't choose them. The suicides are the toughest to deal with. It's been seven years since our friend Rich died, and we've moved on, in a sense, in that we don't think about it every day. But when those birthdays and anniversaries come around, the "why?' that can never really be answered except by conjecture, still hits the brain. I am holding back tears now as I still remember the night it happened. I think with sudden and unexpected deaths we never forget finding out and we often still relive it when it comes to mind -- even after 19 years. Yet most of the time, after enough time passes, that pain is only an occasional thought, and the happy memories are what I think of most. For those whose grief is still very fresh and new, I just want to testify that it will get better some day, and you won't always hurt as much as you do today.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Latasha, here's the link I mentioned above...

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      tna77, I'm sorry to see of your loss. It sounds like you have a healthy attitude, but it hasn't been very long since you lost your boyfriend; so I'm not surprised you have dreams about him. I think what's happening is that your mind/brain has to process some of the things/issues associated with having your boyfriend here and then losing him before you really are ready to "let him go". In other words, we can "know in our heads" that we need to let someone go, but in our emotions/hearts (which amounts to our brains, as well, when it comes down to it) there's a certain amount of processing that has to be done. I think when we process things "on an intellectual level" (when we're awake), they aren't "hidden" and waiting to come out in the form of dreams. I don't know... I sometimes think it's no more complex that our having so much to process "intellectually" there's only so much room in our heads, and time, to process everything there is to process within x amount of time.

      I think a person could also be perfectly ready to let someone go, but there could be issues not related to letting go at all that a person's dreams need to resolve.

      In any case, five months is not a very long time at all when it comes to losing someone close. Obviously, I don't know how old you are or how truly close you were with your boyfriend; and those things can make some difference. If, by any chance, you don't feel ready to let him go at five months that would be pretty common. We can let people go "in our heads" because we know we have no choice and know what's a healthy way to deal with a death. Whether we can let someone go with our hearts - well, that's a separate matter.

      People just need to relax and know that however we deal with loss and grief is usually "normal" and "OK". People and relationships are different. Most of us move on one way or another.

      If anyone feels as if he can't deal with the level of grief or with how abnormal life feels for him, then seeing a professional at least to "get a reading" on what's to be expected never hurts.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Latasha, I wrote a whole, long, response to your comment; but it turned so long I needed several comment boxes. What I did was turn all those remarks into a separate Hub. I'll post the link to it as soon as I have one (which will be within the next half hour).

      I don't even know if anything I've written will be even a morsel of help, and I don't know if you even feel like reading all that. Still, your comment seemed to warrant some real thinking about what you've living with right now. I just thought, even if you don't feel like reading it, maybe some of those thoughts might help someone else in some way.

      Sincerest condolences on the loss of your husband, and I'm sorry to know what you're dealing with. If you do to choose/feel up to reading the separate Hub, I hope it isn't a giant waste of time for you. If nothing else, please keep in mind that you are far from alone in such grief.

    • profile image


      9 years ago


      I lost my boyfriend suddenly 5 months ago and find that every day is a struggle right now. I fell like we were both robbed of the life we were supposed to share together. He was my best friend and the sense of loss I feel is unimaginable. At the moment I take each day as it comes and the only thing that keeps me going is to think of how he would what me to be. He hated to see me upset or crying and although I have done alot of this since I try not too let it get me down. He was a very happy, kind and loving person and I give thanks that I was blessed with him in my life, no one cane take away the memories we shared they will live on forever. But I feel that I need to let him go now. I need to let him rest in peace. I keep dreaming about him and wake up and forget that he has passed. My mother thinks that this is because I dont want to let him go and am unknowingly behaving like he is still here. In order for him to rest in peace I need to let him go from this world in order for him to begin his new life. How I'm going to do that I dont know but I know I have to.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I am no farther along than I was two yearsa ago. I live in chaos and I really cannot enjoy any aspect of life; we did everything together. I feel like a ghost and watch other people do the things we used to do, go the places we used to go; they are happy as we were. My husband died of cancer and did not want to leave me orother memebers of our family. He was far too young. As a result of all of this, I stay in the house mostly and the thought of leaving the house frightens me. The death of my spouse is a nightmare and I am ready to join him. I hate being here.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Gemma, I'm particularly uncomfortable offering too much of an opinion; because I'm only a freelance. What I've offered here is from a blend of personal experience and observations and having read all the "usual" stuff about grieving that most people read, at least at some point in (usually) adult life. In other words, I'm just reminding you (or anyone else here) that I don't necessarily know what I'm talking about when it comes to people other than myself. (I do know myself and my own experiences and observations well, but that's it. I do know that most things we go through when grieving are things a whole lot of other people have also gone through when they grieve.)

      When my father died I had no children. At his funeral, though, I knew I couldn't let myself cry; because at the time I felt as if I allowed even a hint of crying to start I'd not be able to stop (and it would be so overcoming I'd just be a big mess - and I don't just mean having a sniffly nose and having my mascara run). Anyway, I just told myself not to cry there in the church or at the cemetery. I removed myself "mentally", went through the motions, and got myself through it. In fact, I didn't even allow myself to really have the kind of cry I needed for a few months. I cried, but it was always with the idea that I couldn't let it get to out-of-control. When my mother died - same thing. The difference then, though, was I couldn't let my three children or any of the other children in the family (my mother's other grandchildren and some young people who saw her as their "mother" in for one reason or another). I just knew that my siblings and I were, by that time, "the only older generation" left. I saw it as my responsibility to remain strong for the teenagers and early-twenties grandchildren, for whom losing the grandmother they loved so much was absolutely horrible.

      A person or two thought there was something "wrong" that I chose not to allow myself to cry. There wasn't (as far as I'm concerned). I cried in smaller amounts when the situation wasn't one (like saying a "final goodbye" and all the overwhelmingly sad things associated with a funeral). Just a few months after the grief wasn't so brand new, I did have a giant cry over my father. With my mother, I'd grieved over one incident or another before she died. (For example, the days when she lost her feet there was some major, major, grieving for the loss of "her as she'd always been" and the loss of the hope that she'd ever get better and no longer have leg pain. My point is, I knew I had to deal with the overwhelming grief my own way. I think that's only way anyone can deal with his own grief. When my girlfriend lost her father she hadn't been close to him. My girlfriend had her own set/kind of issues associated with grief. Hers wasn't about not having her father in day-to-day life. Hers was about regrets that she hadn't had him in her life on a daily basis. People and their relationships with someone like parents are just different.

      When a family member and her husband lost their 20-month old toddler years ago, the mother said they wanted to have another baby because it was so horrible to lose their child they desperately needed "something happy" in their lives, and they thought the only "happy thing" that could be anywhere near an "equal level of intensity" to the sadness would be to have a new child born. She said friends and family members acted as if they didn't understand and thought she was being shallow, by "trying to replace" the child she lost. She said, "We aren't going to replace him. He can't be replaced. It's just that we need some big, happy, thing in our lives; and the only thing that "equally big" would be to have a new child born into our lives." They were acting out of their desperate need for something that could somehow make their lives a little more bearable. They new a new child wouldn't replace their son. They just thought, since he couldn't be replaced, and since they were as unbearably sad as they were; the one thing they could do was try to bring something positive into their lives, and try to move on from there (rather than "wallowing" in grief, without even trying to introduce some new, big, kind of happiness - even if it would be alongside their grief). (Maybe your mother is doing something similar, when it comes to meeting someone new?) Also, though, some people prefer to get through a rough time alone. Others tend to look for support or company from others. I don't know your mother, and nobody can guess about someone else's "mental matters", but I suspect she may just be looking for something nice - a little brightness - in her life.

      With the dreams, I've had those "refusing to acknowledge me" dreams. What I realized it was for me was processing that sense of knowing that even if I believed (which I wasn't sure about anyway) there was the chance a deceased loved one might be watching "from somewhere", and even if I tried to talk to them; they wouldn't be answering me. On a more "Earthly-thinking level", I recognized that I felt the person was with me, but I also knew that feeling s/he was with me wouldn't me s/he would be talking back to me. Another aspect to it could be knowing that the person is no longer able to know what we're going through, worry about us, or acknowledge the happy or sad things that go on in our lives. There's the thinking/feeling, "You are out there somewhere (or you are with me somehow), but now you'll never know what's going on in my life." I found, when I was going through the grief process, that I felt like it was "one-sided" loving someone, in view of realizing/believing that the person could no longer return the love. If I really thought about those dreams, I realized it felt to me as if I was no longer in a two-sided relationship. I was loving (and loving a whole lot) someone who could no longer feel or reciprocate. This is pure guessing, but maybe you were processing the realization that you, at that time, didn't know how your father was feeling about you, once he had passed away and was a "a different kind of person" (namely, a no-longer-living person).

      I don't know much about all there is to know about repressed feelings, but I think what you need to ask yourself is whether you are dealing with your grief as if it's a "monster to fight" or whether you aren't feeling the grief at all. Then, I suppose, if you're not feeling the grief at all you need to ask if there's reason not to feel it (for example, not being all that emotionally close to a parent). I can't really find (in the writing above, or at least readily) how long it's been since you lost your father. If it's only been months there's a really good chance you really aren't able to even "confront the reality" yet. You may be aware of what that reality is but just not be able to spend a lot of time thinking too much about all the associated issues (especially the ones that feel unbearable when you think about them). If you're 18 and it's be over a year, that means you were awfully young to lose your father. Losing your father at 18 (or as I did, at 21) is also awfully young. We're not ready to lose parents so young. My sister and I have often said that we think our kids' losing their grandmother in their teens may have been even harder, because really little kids don't really "get" what's going on when someone dies (or at least they don't have the level of thinking that teens do). Teens are still young, but they have that more advanced level of thinking everything out and being more aware of all the aspects of death. In other words, it may be harder, or more of a challenge, for teens to process grief the way someone older may be able to (not all older people process it very well either sometimes), because they still haven't had those years and the time to pick up a little more "emotional skill" or coping skill, no matter how intelligent or emotionally mature they generally are.

      Someone could say that I "repressed" my feelings when I didn't cry at my parents' funerals. They weren't "repressed". I was in touch with them. I was fighting

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I would like to thank you for posting this and the dreams reply to an earlier comment. After my father died I have had dreams about him, sometimes for 2 or 3 nights in a row. Elements of them are similar but within each one his feelings towards me are different. In the first he refused to acknowledge me, the next he was happy and we were doing things together. At a point, these dreams worried me because of the state they left me in when I woke up. But now I think it may be a way of me to deal with what happenned? Im only 18 and havent relly much of a clue of Im 'grieving properly' and my mum is worried that I havent grieved enough for him and that I may be repressing my feelings and worried about how they will come out. But reading this has made me realise that my grieving is my own and may be different to that of my brother and sister or my mother. Although I am worried that she may be moving on too quickly after wanting to meet with a guy only months after his death, could she be looking for a replacement? I now get that in time I will be able to face what happened to my dad and carry on with life.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      pat, I'm so sorry to know you're going through this, because as anyone who lost a mother they're close to knows, it's pretty much one of the biggest, worst, losses people go through. One thing that I always kept in mind about my mother, though, was that the managed to get through this life without having lost one of her own children. That, in itself, is reason to know that no matter what kind of life a mother had, it was a blessed and fortunate life. On the other hand, I have a family members who went through the loss of a child, and when that child's grandparents died only a few years later, I kept thinking how, at least, they weren't living with their loss any longer. I knew they didn't have time to get over that loss because they were as elderly as they were when their little grandson died.

      This may not seem to much, in terms of "advice"; and it doesn't related directly to moving on after losing a mother. I think, though, that only time helps people move on, "inch by inch"; and until time can do its job, the only way to feel a little less horrible each day is to find those things to think about that help just a little, and sometimes only for a very brief time.

      They tell people with incurable physical disease that they can't approach it from a "make-it-go-away" approach. Instead, they learn to manage it. I think grief is kind of an "emotional version" of the same thing. Everyone processes grief differently; but I think you're kind of "in the heart of it" right now. It's long enough to past that initial stage but really not long at all.

      It think the only things you can do are to try to take care of your physical health (sleep as much as need to, eat as good a diet as you can, get out and get fresh air, etc.) When the particularly disturbing thoughts start to creep in, find those things to tell yourself that help "trim down" the "degree" of those thoughts.

      Don't try to sleep when you're not tired. Laying awake for a long time is the worst thing for not feeling bad. If you need a radio or other droning talk on to help you keep from "slipping into too much thinking", use that.

      As I mentioned above, give yourself permission to find a few minor things that may make you laugh, or at least "feel neutral". Over time, those things do add up; and even if they don't add up to nearly enough, for every minute your mind isn't focused on sadness, that's a minute when your brain isn't "initiating" a cycle of "negative-feeling" hormones/brain chemicals. When I had too much in terms of grief, I actually found (and this will sound really ridiculous) online dollmaker sites, where you can just "robotically" make these little "paper dolls" and drag clothes and hair to then have "virtual paper dolls". They're useless. Using time that way (for an adult, especially) seems ridiculous and bizarre. Still, as I started to kind of enjoy thinking of what the next "outfit" would be, I found I was kind of getting involved in it. (I now have a disk somewhere with a "paper dolls" in whole Miss America Pageants, dance recitals, and any number of other "events".)

      Why that worked was that it required no real thinking (but it also required enough thinking that I wasn't completely thinking about my grief) and could be done "robotically". (After my father died my mother had done something similar with multi-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles.) It has to be OK to just find some "dumb" thing to waste time on, because that's better than feeling some of the stuff we feel after losing someone so close. That kind of thing requires just enough "brain use" to help direct the mind away from the grief. Something like watching television or movies doesn't usually do that. For me, it wasn't as if I spent all my days doing "the doll thing". It was just when I was in a really bad slump and didn't feel like doing anything else anyway. (For months, my mother had her latest puzzles out on the dining room table, waiting for those times when she'd feel like finding a few more pieces.) Whatever the "idle entertainment" a person uses as a way to keep his mind of grief, one day the person just realizes he isn't interested, and doesn't need the activity, any longer.

      Besides having to process not having your mother here, you're also in the process of needing to get used to living life without her in it (after a life of always having her in it). There's the grief over "just plain losing her", but then there's that issue of getting used to living life without her. They're two different part of grief. If you're like most people, you certainly won't feel lost and alone forever. You will find happiness again, and you will find peace. "Lost and alone" are parts of grief. They pass. So is feeling as if there's no way on Earth you can ever feel happy again. It's what pretty much everyone goes through. It does pass, but it is so gradual you don't even know when or how it passed.

      If it ever gets so bad that you feel like you just can't deal with it on your own, there's nothing wrong with finding a professional who deals with grief counseling.

      I know that no words that anyone says to you right now can help. That's the awful thing about grief, and it's the awful thing about knowing someone is going through it.

      Something else about losing a mother or parent is that it can be different, depending on your age. I lost my father when I was 21, and that was "particularly bad" because it was a giant shock, left me feeling "short-changed", and had a number of different "elements" to it that I didn't have when I lost my mother around 40. On the other hand, I'd spent all those years living with her in my adult life. Getting used to a "new adult life" without her was harder. With my father, it was more like being launched prematurely into "real life" or "adult life". So that's something else to factor in. (My cousin was in her 60's when her 89-year-old mother died. People think it should be easier because at least someone "had a long life". Maybe in some ways it is. In other ways, though, someone like my cousin had to adjust to a "new life" after living more than 60 years with her mother in it. One way or another, it's never easy. These are things to consider, though, when you're trying to break down the elements of your own grief and think of ways to process each of those elements.

      Sincerest condolences. Hang in there. It will get better. No matter how you process your own grief, time will help. Sometimes it seems like it takes far less time than you'd ever imagine to feel a little better. At other times, it seems like it takes far more. I guess that's because grief has all those different elements to it, and each needs to be worked through in its own time. (Maybe a life in grief is kind of like those multi-thousand-piece puzzles my mother once did. Piece by piece, and bit by bit, the picture becomes whole.)

    • profile image

      pat welsh 

      9 years ago

      These are some very helpful and thought provoking comments. I lost my mother suddenly six months ago,I was extremely close to her and I am in profound grief. Life used to be something to savor, now it just seems like a daily chore to live through. I am so weary of feeling so empty and sad! I am afraid that I will never feel true happiness and peace again and this scares me! I need some advice in how to move on,My mother was my rock and I feel so lost and alone without her.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Brooke S, I'm sorry to know you lost your father so recently.

      You're right that everyone processes his own grief in his own way, and the same person can process grief over losing different loved ones differently too. Usually, there are some common things people tend to do. On the other hand, when someone loses someone he loves but is extremely close to on a day-to-day basis, it can be different from losing someone we love but don't have in our life on a day-to-day basis. My sister and I have often gone over "what was worse in what ways", when we'd compare losing our father (suddenly when we were pretty young) to losing our mother (after long illness and when when we had passed 40).

      I think our individual grief is our own, and there is no right or wrong way to process it. Most of the time, we have no choice but to keep "traveling down that road" when grief first hits, and over time we move farther away from it. I guess, if we feel like it's more than we can deal with, that's time to think about talking to someone (like a counselor) who specialize in grief counseling.

      There's no doubt about it, it's a rotten thing to have to go through; but usually, just because we do keep on living our lives, we do get breaks from it here and there. As time goes on, those breaks from it come more often.

      Sometimes, too, when someone has been sick for a long time, we may do some grieving before we actually lose them.

      I think one reason we think more about the negative things than positive ones after losing someone is that we need to "mentally process" all those disturbing, negative, things (that often are hard to process or leave us feeling confused about something that was or wasn't done - that type of thing).

      After my mother had a heart attack, was bedridden for months, and eventually needed to have both her feet "taken", that was, needless to say, a really, really, tough one to process. My sister and I discovered that both of us had a dream or two (or three) in which our mother was doing something like dancing around the kitchen on little fins (instead of feet). We laughed about the silly dreams, because we both said our mother and we were happy in the dreams. It was obvious to me that I needed to process the idea that my mother had lost her feet, that we hadn't been able to bring her home and figure out some way that she could sort of have a normal life, and that at least she was no longer suffering.

      Later, my sister and I both discovered that we'd both had "arguing dreams" about our mother. I now realize that I was processing my "issues" regarding my mother and losing her as if those issues were in layers, and the dreams "addressed" the top (most obvious) layer first, and worked their way down to the "next-down" layer, such as working out issues associated with having done something that may have upset my mother, or having had her make choices about her own care that kind of made me a little angry.

      The last dream we both said we had (not necessarily at the same time, or anything like that - but within similar time frames) was a hard-to-analyze one. In it, our mother and father were both in the house we'd grown up in. My mother was in one bedroom, alive, but sick (the way she'd been when she was bedridden). My father was in the bedroom they'd once shared, only he was "sort of alive" but in the room full of cobwebs. (They were both buried together.) I realized that what I (and probably my sister) was doing was trying to "emotionally process" that my mother and father were "equal" (as opposed to once being "one-deceased/one-alive"). What I realized, though, was that emotionally they didn't feel "equal". I had processed losing my father over twenty years earlier. It was "old". Emotionally, my mother "wasn't in the same place for me" as my father. So, the dream kind of had them "equal" but in different rooms and in different states.

      It was as if I'd processed first the issues associated only with my mother when she had been alive and sick. Then I processed issues associated with my relationship with her during the time she was sick. Then I processed things like my overall relationship with her. Finally, I processed the reality that she and my father were in the same place physically, but not in the same place in my "emotional thinking".

      That weird dream was the last "processing dream" (that I can tell). Since then there have been the occasional dreams when my mother is alive and doing "the usual stuff" she always did. I suppose, maybe, that's the occasional surfacing of an underlying wish that she could still be here. What it seems like to me is that those initial "weird" processing dreams (with weirdness like little flippers, my mother dancing around like a mischievous and happy leprechaun, and the cobwebs-thing probably were images that came from some "disturbed" place in my emotions. I'm guessing that some of those things I was processing were so disturbing to me I didn't even let them "come to the surface" in my awake thinking.

      I thought I'd mention this in case you, or anyone else who reads here, start to notice odd dreams. I don't know if everyone processes things in this way (when it comes to dreams after a loss), but I found that when I recognized what seemed to be happening with the "layers" being dealt with from the top down, it was easier for me to see what I'd been dealing with in any particular dream. As a result, I was more able to process the issue on a conscious, head-on, way; rather than have it keep showing up in dreams.

      Again, sincerest condolences on having lost your father so recently. Stay confident in knowing that your grief belongs to you, and that you are the one who knows how you need to process it. You'll know if it ever seems to be more than you can process, and if that were to happen you can always seek some help.

      I think, usually, most of us just keep muddling our way through grief until we get to the day when we know we've muddled our way back to mostly the way we used to be.

    • profile image

      Brooke S 

      9 years ago

      Thankyou for posting this. My dad died about 7 months ago and it was my first real experience of death. Me and my family watched him suffer for months beforehand as his illnesses progressively worsened. I did not know how to grieve or what the right way to grieve was and used to worry when I didnt think about him or when I could only remember negative things. I recognise many of the things you have pointed out and although I know that all cases are different, I have a better idea of what to expect and understand some of what I'm feeling myself. Thankyou for posting this, I hope it continues to help others.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      susinaz, you raised a couple of points that I think are worth mentioning (before I close this "encyclopedia-sized" "input" of mine:

      I think when you've been through a lot in a short time people don't quite know what to think, what to say, or whether you're "OK in spite of it all". Believe it or not, like you (and in spite of what this Hub and all my comments might lead people to think), I'm an extremely "light" and positive person too. Between that "lighter" nature, and seeing some of these overwhelming losses as something that "aren't going to win", those aspects to a personality can, I think, in themselves help bring some of those "positive things" into an otherwise not-very-happy mind after going through such loss.

      You're right. A lot of these rough times in life can bring people closer, and once it all dies down you can look around and think, "Why, look what we've all gotten through as family." That's yet another one of those "positive" things that adds "nourishing" to the mind/soul.

      My sister and I were once comparing what was "worse" about losing our father versus losing our mother. After some back and forth we both kind of came to the conclusion, "You can't be going over what you "maybe could have done" or what made one death worse, and all that." One of us said, "No matter how you look at it or what the circumstances are, having someone die is rotten." One person was too young. Someone else lingered. Someone should have done one thing or another. Etc. Etc. All that "wheel-spinning" (while some of it may have some use in our processing it) can turn into wasted energy. Somehow, for us, just recognizing that bottom-line - all death is rotten, helped us kind of simplify the processing and come get a little closer to some kind of "peace" with it all.

      I've always been very grateful for any numbness that comes at such times. It's helpful not to be able to feel quite as much as we otherwise might at such a time. We still feel the loss acutely, but the grief helps numb us and keep us from feeling as if we'll "lose our minds" over it.

      Stay positive. It sounds to me like you're doing what most solid, otherwise positive, people do after going through such a time - hanging in, doing your best, and taking it a day at a time.

      Thank you for your generous sharing, as well.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks Lisa, that was very generous of you to post your experiences. Like you I have 3 kids (sons, now taller than me) and there's an expectation in their eyes as to how everything is going to "look" going forward. I'm pretty good at making things "look" normal and relieving them of their fears. I have the advantage of being very positive and can see how these events have brought my sons and I to a closeness that is rare. I count those blessings. It does seem that people want to define me by these events and it's a struggle to redefine my life by more positive events. I haven't seen anyone professionally but I am constantly reevaluating myself. I deleted all of the "what if" thoughts in my life realizing there were no re-do's and those thoughts weren't productive. I also know the difference between lonely and loneliness. I choose my boundaries and try to fill the balance of the time constructively. My goal is to come out of this numbness and still have a quality life to look forward to. People that dig deep ponds to comfort themselves sometimes never climb their way out. Thanks again for your generous wisdom and providing such an open forum for people on this journey, such as me.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      susinaz, (continued from above....)

      I probably shouldn't even bring up my own personal experience, because each loss is different for each person; and each person is different from every other person. Then again, sometimes one horrible reason for grief can, in ways, be very much like all other horrible losses.

      Also, I probably shouldn't paint quite such a bleak picture, because even when all that loss was going on for me, so was life. There was laughing, enjoying time with my kids, holidays, socializing, etc. etc. Those things helped keep all the loss a little more at bay, by essentially keeping my mind more filled for awhile; as well as, I'm sure, altering my brain chemicals at least temporarily.

      I don't know... The process of grief and loss and the time it takes to sort it out, let it get a little older, and generally feel ourselves emerge from within again; is so, so, gradual and subtle and complex it's hard to describe it or put a time-table on it.

      I've pulled what was a "running thread in the background of my mind" (at least a lot of the times) out to the foreground as a way of trying to describe it or label things. I hope that my doing that doesn't create the impression all that "grayness" "stays in the foreground" more or longer than it really does.

      For me, a lot of time has now passed since that stretch of years. I suppose I'd describe the earliest (5) years as dealing with the process of letting acute grief fade. That "lower level" and far less extreme, chronic, sense of "residual" grief did hang around for a few years past the first 5. I guess it was "Phase II".

      This that I'm about to guess comes from, as I said, nothing but guessing: I suspect (and am really cautious to emphasize I'm only guessing, by on what I've gone through and nothing else) that maybe if there's a whole lot of big loss, there is a "Phase II". It's important to keep emphasizing, though, that we can feel pretty happy a good part of the time even during "Phase I" (especially after the first year of not having "horror"). By only discussing all the bad stuff, I may have created the impression that there weren't lots of good moments full of good stuff. (But this Hub isn't about the good stuff. Just keep in mind there's no balance in the discussion.)

      For me, personally, (and I know this is because of those "complications" and "other people" I mentioned; and I don't think there would be this if I were "just" (forgive the "just") dealing with the loss of more than one loved ones); there has been a "Phase III", and I think I'm there now.

      On the one hand, all that "horror" is "ancient history" for me now. It's just part of my "story", and it's as much a part of my life as my eye color or the fact that I was raised in the city I was raised in as a kid. The fact that I can write about it all, as I have here, shows that it's all just an "account" at this point.

      Life has gone on. I'd say I've been "over it" (all) for ages now. Where there has been a "Phase III" is with some really, really, "background", grief that, at this point, I'm starting to think is either adrenal fatigue or mild depression. I can tell you right now, and without mistake, that I know what it would take to make me feel like myself; and at this point, what it would take is no longer time. It would take those things I mentioned above. In other words, don't go by me because my situation is different.

      The only reason I've brought all this up is because I know how big those losses have been for you, and I know how complicated and difficult it can be to have so many big losses around the same time.

      I'm not suggesting this to you, because I know I had no need to see a counselor and "re-hash" what I was going over and over in my head; and what I pretty free to talk about with friends and family anyway; but in view of all your loss, I don't think it's a bad idea to consider talking to a professional IF you feel like you could use that. Looking back, while I didn't see the need to talk to a professional as a way of "re-hashing it" or getting "support", what might have helped was to find someone who could do what I've tried to do here, which is kind of layout some of the things to watch out for on the road from grieving to "normal again".

      Back when I was in my "horror-movie" stage, I couldn't even imagine, or think about, getting back to normal at all. All I could think about was getting myself through each day. I suppose, if I'd thought about it, I would have assumed that time, alone, would heal most of it. I think I also would have assumed that, "messy" as it all was, there was some linear progression from grieving to not grieving.

      It wasn't linear, like moving a game piece in a board game. It was more like "being in" several board games at once, and then changing to a whole new set of board games. The only thing linear about it was the moving from day to day; and over time, eventually moving from one bunch of board games that I was "in" simultaneously to another bunch of them.

      Somewhere along the way I just discovered that I was no longer in any board games and was, instead, in the "fresh, green, grass" of life. (In other words, I guess, I moved from not feeling I really "in life" to again feeling I was.) The trouble was that even once I got to "real life" I still had some processing to do. It was just that it was easier and more clear-cut once the "board-game" phase was over.

      I have no idea if you, or anyone else, will ever read all this. I have no idea if any of it may be at all helpful or if it just look like the "rantings" of a crazy person. LOL I just know that I have a rough idea about how you must be feeling right now (at least in some ways); and somehow it seems to me worthwhile to at least try to share some of what I think I've figured out, in the hopes of possibly saying at least a few words that may, in some way, be a little helpful.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      susinaz, (continued from above)...

      I actually (and without any credentials or "right" to even consider this) kind of developed a theory about PTSD, because I wondered if I may have a mild case of it. I read about it, and I wasn't having any flashbacks that involved "leaving reality" (mentally) at all. Still, what I'd done was push all the awful stuff to the back of my mind, try not to think of it, and hope some new, positive, experiences would "come in" and "lighten the grayness". Well, there were some positive experiences, as there usually are in most lives; but they weren't as "big" as all that loss. It felt to me as if I needed some equally big positive things to help fill that "gray room" in my mind.

      To give you an idea, I picture a prison cell with a vase of beautiful flowers on the table. The positive things weren't doing it for me at the time.

      What it felt like for me was that, because the "bad stuff" hadn't been successfully or adequately replaced by positive stuff; it was as if the bad stuff was just kind of still in the "main part" of my mind, getting older and harder (as opposed to remaining fresh and acute) as time went on.

      I discovered that smoking cigarettes actually help "give me the mental strength" (nicotine, of course) to keep those more acute thoughts in the background. Still, there was all that "old, dead" grief left in the foreground. If I didn't smoke I'd start to feel as if there was a Pandora's Box of all the memories I didn't want to think about, coming out in a unbearable way.

      That's when I started to wonder if some mild cases of PTSD are a matter of someone's going through SO much but not having that "equalizing" amount of positive, new, experiences to really "clear out" the "old, dead, calcified" stuff. I've read that when people feel sufficiently threatened (and that isn't necessarily feeling threatened with their own death, although that can be a part of it much of the time) the hippocampus and amygdala have certain things occurring that are now associated with PTSD. I was, for the most part, living my life reasonably normally and doing what I needed to do for my kids and myself. I was laughing the way I always laugh. All seemed normal in so many ways. Still, I was living each day, always (or at least often) spending a lot of mental energy trying to keep myself from thinking about all the horror and loss at all.

      I suppose, in all honesty (and I don't like being this honest with you right now, I guess), I'd say that at five years after the last big awful thing happened (but even then, a lot of awful things didn't stop happening; they just weren't as big), the acute grief had run a similar course to grief I've had in more simple, basic, situations of losing someone close.

      What had replaced the acute grief (at least in some ways) was, I think, a less intense, "lower level", chronic grief that was easier to manage for several years. It's important to mention that I know some of that chronic, low-level, grief could have been alleviated if I'd gotten a few things (acknowledgement, information, other things from a few people I needed them from); so I don't want to suggest that you would have something similar (if your grief is all "death-related" and a matter of nothing more complicated than too many "individual cases of standard-but-major mourning"). For me, some of the complications and aggravations of that "standard mourning" were caused by people. The only reason I'm mentioning all this is that it's all I have to go on as far as personal experience goes.

      So, with all those words, I guess I'd say that the five-year-thing generally does apply, no matter how many different "cases of big grief" occur within a short time. With a husband and parents, all of whom are such major, major, losses in life; I'm not sure it's good to assume that 5 years is a "magic number". At the same time, though, I do think people can help speed up SOME of that healing process if they have enough positive experiences in their life to at least help offset some of the loss.

      When I was going through my "horror-movie phase", I just kind of felt as if I was number than usual, to the point where I was SO numb I almost didn't feel any of it (and yet, of course, I did at the same time). It felt as if I was walking through some battlefield, hoping only to avoid being "attacked" yet again. I felt as if my main objective (other than being a solid, supportive, mother to my kids) was to "just emotionally survive".

      continued next comment block before wrapping up.....

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      suzinaz, I'm sorry to see that you've been through so much "big" loss in such a short time. I have a friend who went through something very similar.

      The five-year thing is something I've noticed in my own experience, but it's also something that was confirmed when Diane Sawyer (ABC) did a special on the 5th anniversary of September 11. She said how "all" the families seemed to have reached a new stage, and how they had started to seem to have started to rebuild new lives/futures. I'm uncomfortable to say the five-year thing is a "rule of thumb". Grief is different for everyone, as you know. I think the five-year-thing is more a "rough idea of what a lot of people seem to notice".

      I'm only one person, but from my personal experience, I'd "cautiously" say I think there's a big difference at 5 years no matter how much loss there has been. It's important to say that it doesn't take the whole 5 years to start feeling better than you did at 1 year. It's a very gradual thing. The point about the 5 years is that it can feel much different than any of the years before did, even if each of them felt increasingly less "gray".

      I had one year in my life (when I turned 21) when my best friend from childhood and I were in a car accident that killed her. Months later another close friend's brother died at 17. Months before our accident another close friend's two brothers and their friend were in a horrible accident. Two boys died. One was severely burned and nearly died. That little stretch of time was all "topped off" when my father died (similar to your husband, only my father was 62). In the case of that little stretch of time, I did find the five-year mark felt very different. Of course, awful as all those deaths of young friends was, none of them was "equal" to losing my father. Then again, though, there were other factors that introduced other kinds of sad things into the "mix", as well as the fact that I was as young as I was.

      Fast forward to a stretch of years between my late thirties and early forties. I had so much big, awful, horrible, and overwhelming loss over the course of a few years; my life just felt like I was in a horror movie. Truly. I had numbness like I'd never had before, and I pretty much lived on adrenaline for those relatively few years. Besides all kinds of big, bizarre, loss that didn't include death; there was the loss of my nephew at 20 months, my father-in-law (after losing his legs through congestive heart failure), a couple of uncles, a couple of aunts, a friend, my mother (after being bedridden for 15 months and losing her legs the same as my father-in-law had shortly before). On top of it, there was cancer in the family, cancer scares for my husband, loss of long-time pets - and this is the stuff that's easy to describe here. Again, I just felt like I was the star of an awful horror movie. It was beyond grief and just horror. But, I'm the mother of three kids (and at the time they were young). I had to keep going and keep being strong for them. If it weren't for that "precious" numbness, I don't know how I would have survived or stayed sane or whatever else one would think would happen under such horror.

      At five years after the last biggest and most awful losses/sources of grief had hit, I do think I felt a lot different than I did earlier. I can't judge the first four years because, honestly, it was all a blur (in ways). There were too many big things hitting my life to even be able to sort it all out. Still, yes, at five years I was feeling that things had calmed down and I wasn't waiting for some new horrible thing to hit at any moment.

      Before that, I had figured out how to "push it all" to the back of my mind and try not to think about any of it. I wondered if that was healthy, but I knew it was the only way I could kind of feel "regular" and keep coping. I told myself, "Do whatever it takes "mentally" to cope and be "regular" for myself and the kids".

      Anyway, I can't give a good reading on those years between the first anniversary of any of those losses and the fifth, but I do know I was very different. I know, though, that with so many "peripheral" and "complicating" things to process and deal with, associated with each "main" awful loss; there was a lot of leftover, but not acute, grief kind of hanging around in the back of mind. I'm going to continue this in the next comment block because I'm not sure what kind of space is left here....

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I came across this post today (my husband's birthday) and it was really helpful. He died at 55 from a heart attack the end of September. One of those really healthy guys with no previous symptoms. Later that week my Dad died, not so unexpected and this past May I had to sit with and watch my Mother die in Hospice with only 2 weeks left to live. She was my rock getting through my husband's death while she was grieving my Dad's death. I have to wonder with so much tragedy in 8 months if 5 years is still the rule of thumb. Something to look forward to - having the shock and numbness wear off. I needed some place to turn today and I'm glad I found this site. Thanks.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      (Correction: That should have been, "....sorry to know" (not "knoc"). I noticed that too late to correct it.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Peggy W, thank you for your kind words. I'm sorry to knoc that you've lost both your mother and your brother so recently. It's nice to think someone found the Hub at least a little helpful. You've had more than your share of loss, and I'm guessing you're still pretty much "in the thick" of grieving the loss of your mother and brother. The thought that my mother never had to be in a nursing home was one that helped me too. My father went from the house (where he had a heart attack) to ICU and then a regular bed in the hospital, so knowing that neither of my parents were in a nursing home is something I'm grateful for.

      When my mother reached a certain age, I used to think about how she'd lost her parents, siblings, a young husband (WWII and before she married my father and had us, kids), friends, etc. It always surprised me that she'd just seemed to have kind of made peace with all the loss. It was almost like death had become something she was used to. I wondered how she could seem like such an "old hand" at dealing with having lost so many people. I've discovered that it can almost seem as if the first or second major losses are things we have to figure out our coping techniques on, and then subsequent losses are kind of a matter of bring out, and dusting off, those coping skills we figured out the first couple of times out.

      Today, my sister and I go to our parents' grave at the local cemetery; and although neither of us can really (even still) quite believe they're really there, and although both have us have said we feel a sense of melancholy there (of course), we also often slip into "ordinary" conversation about things like which graves look nice, what we'd like to buy for our parents' grave, or whose grave (of someone we know, like someone else in town or our uncle and aunt) looks like someone has come and put something new on it.

      We find ourselves chatting and laughing and kind of acting as if we're at the local park (or something). We often mention how strange it is that this whole "cemetery thing" has become so routine and run-of-the-mill for us. Now, I guess I understand how once my mother got to be a certain age she seemed as "comfortable" (up to a point, anyway) with death as she did. Maybe she wasn't really as comfortable with it as she appeared, but she certainly did seem practiced at it.

      Life is quite the learning experience, isn't it....

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas should be a therapist! Your experience and advice regarding this subject is so heartfelt and sincere.

      I lost my mother in January of this year unexpectedly and my only consolation is that she will never have to experience living in a nursing home which was one of my promises to her. We were not only mother and daughter, but best friends as well.

      My Dad died at age 55; my youngest brother at age 35; my other brother just before he turned 60 which was less than a year before my mother died.

      So now (since we do not have children) my husband bears the brunt of my grieving. I am so happy to have him in my life and I can't imagine what it would be like without him! He was an only child and lost his mother several years ago and they were close.

      Reading all of these comments...I do realize that the grieving process takes time and each of us does it in our own way.

      I have several good friends who have lost spouses and parents. Going to forward this hub to them. Hopefully it will help each and every reader of this hub to move forward and get to the happy memory stage...and not so much of the pain that some of us are still feeling.

      Rating this up and useful. Thanks Lisa for writing this hub!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I lost my only and much loved son, just a bit over a year now. I too, also, thought there would be some sense of closure or lessing of pain at the year mark, but not for me. My son was killed while in a hopital by a doctor who gave him over 20+ meds, which of course resulted in his death at the young age of 22. He had nothing wrong with him physically only depression and mental issues. The main thing was the gross negligence of the nurse's and doctor : I say this becouse they left him in a bed all day long it was 14 hrs after he was last checked - he was purple and dead for at least 10-12 hrs. (He was given over 24 meds that evening earlier when they (2) had to help him to bed due to his slurred speech and staggering). This is like a persons worst nightmare I cannot wake up from..some days its all I can do to get through another day. Some days its in bleak, frozen, gray day...I guess I have not gone very far in the (5 stages of grief) I read of in a book. All I know at this point of it all, is I would give every drop of my blood, soul, life, heart to hear/hold/talk with him again. I am sorry, if I was too graphic and offended anyone but it is the I beg all of you : Be careful and watchful even in hospitals...this particular one broke rule after rule, as did the doctor and even after 1 year there has been NO CRIMINAL CHARGES, which I do not understand...even the death certifcate says : death due to : Toxic combinations of mutliple medications. Since he was in the hospital for almost a week, and they were giving him ALL of his can see why I am confused to as why they (legal persons) have not done anything or made charges. I guess I am very very angry also, I feel as if I have been let down by our own police/SBI/ etc...its like nobody cares..they just want it to go away....It won't, I have a huge hole in my heart now, and at this point not much to look forward too. As, I said..I am sorry if this is not the place to talk about all this, but I read what you wrote about the different times it takes etc, and what others said and it helped a bit, it gave a little bit of understanding of why I still feel this bad. When I look back to how I felt on that horrible day it is a bit better each day. So, I am very very thankful that there are blogs/webs/writings like this where people can also comment and others comment on their comments. Just knowing that others experiance some of this pain helps, as I do feel so very alone now. If anyone knows of any online places to talk or share also, or maybe a chat kinda of thing, or things of that nature it would be very helpful as I do not get out much or around much right now, and am just now really even starting to get back on the computer again and reading, which use to be my passions. Once again, thank you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I lost my dear husband of 17 years in April, very unexpected. The shock and fear that consumed me was unbelieveable. One minute I was fixing dinner and the next I was planning a funeral or so it did seem at the time. I still feel as though I am lost as though my identity just disappeared. I thank you for your words of comfort. It really helps to be able to relate with other folks whom are going thru the same. The road traveled so familar has suddenly changed but after reading your hub it's nice to have a sence of what's around the bend. Thank you for sharing.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      9 years ago from Wales

      Hi Lisa HW. Thank you so much for that reply and I'm so glad that I've come accross exactly as I feel. Without your feedback I wouldn't have known that. I've published another hub called A welsh Gem and this is all about Ty Hafan. I just wanted to make it all so real so that spmeone else will hopefully benefit from it. My daughter was very outspoken and I can imagine her looking down in despair when I have a bad day and this makes me give myself a good shaking. However it is also improtant that we do openly grieve as well!! Again thanks for your reply.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Eiddwen, thank you for sharing your own experience with others here (and, of course, so sorry to know you've had such awful losses). I'm sure there's someone who will run into this Hub and find reassurance in seeing that you're somehow managing to keep going on and put things in as much perspective and "light" as you seem to be.

      I agree that the one thing that can help a lot of people keep going and not let themselves "give up on life" is what you said - that the loved ones would not want that.

      Knowing that you lost your daughter so recently, I don't really feel worthy of even trying to offer words that would at all come close to being appropriate or useful. I felt the same with some of the people who commented above, but they asked for some kind of feedback (so I thought I'd at least try to think of something that might possibly be at least a little helpful or reassuring). I'm tempted to say that since you didn't ask for anyone else's "two cents" you seem to have found your own way of managing (and I'm sure you have, in view of the fact the we have no choice in these things).

      I guess I'm just trying to say that I'm not someone who would presume to offer that "two cents" unless someone asks; and I know very well there's little I could say that would help you feel any better with such an unimaginable loss not all that long ago. All words just seem so empty sometimes.

      Again, thank you for reminding others here that it's possible to keep in mind that loved ones would not want us to just stop living and laughing.

      Deepest condolences on what you've been through.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      9 years ago from Wales

      Hi Lisa your hub came accross as being very inspiring and true to life.

      I lost my only sister ten years ago in tragic circumstances and last year I lost my youngest daughter. I don't think we ever get over these tragedies but somehow we learn to live with them. My first hub FROM THIS MOMENT ON is about these tragedies that I have experienced. I'm so grateful that I have been able to gain a 'POSITIVE' from both. I believe in the prayer( God grant me the courage to change what I can and the strength to live with what I can't.) Sometimes it only seems like yesterday since I lost both and I believe this is perfectly natural and tears should be willingly shed but also our loved ones would not want us to be sad all the time and we must also shed any negatives telling us that we should never be happy again.We never really lose our loved ones as they will always live on in our memories and hearts. Thanks Lisa HW for a brilliant hub.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      It was a relief...thank you Lisa.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      rmvl, I want to be careful to again say I haven't lost a husband - only my parents, other relatives, close friends, etc. Based on my own experience, I can't say I've started to forget anyone. What happened with me, though, is that maybe a very long time (like 25/30 years) I'd realize I felt as if I didn't know that person any more. It's hard to describe. There was definitely a distance, as compared to, say, after only 10 or 11 years. Well, with my mother (who I had until I was in my middle years) it will be soon be 15 years. I'm realizing that "distance" seems to kind be there now, although it isn't anywhere near the same as with my father (over 30 years). It's more like you feel like they've missed so much since they've been gone there are things they don't know about the "later you".

      It's definitely not forgetting at all (at least for me). For me, it's more like moving from "loving someone the same as always even though they're not here any more" to "someone I loved so much when they were here".

      It definitely doesn't take away from how much I loved them, or even how much I'd love to be able to have them still here. It's more that it's being able to remember loving them, remember them with love and fondness, but not hurting so acutely. When you still feel like you love someone it hurts acutely to not be able to have them here. So, I guess, that's how the "moving on" (emotionally, anyway) process seems to go.

      This is a really corny verse I once saw on a sympathy card, but I found it very moving (in spite of the fact that I also found it a little "too much"). It was: "God gave us memory so that we may have roses in December." Corny or not, I think that's true. I also think that sometimes we may hold back on feeling free to allow ourselves to move on, out of fear of forgetting the other person. From what I've heard, and based on my own experience, I don't think we ever forget the people we deeply love, even if (for some reason) we wanted to.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      is it true that when you finally have move on over a loved one's death you tend to forget him? I don't want to forget my husband.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you so much for the encouragement Lisa. Yes, you are right I have to take it one day at a time. It may took so many years maybe for me to move on. He is my first boyfriend, my first love...and i put it in mind my last husband. I am still denial. If I could only turn back time...

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      rmvl, I'm sorry to hear of your loss. It's still a pretty recent loss, so I'm not surprised to hear you're not at the "feeling-ready-to-move-on" stage yet. Sometimes you can't ask, "why". Some people believe there's "a reason for everything", and maybe there is. If there is, though, we're not going to learn what that reason is, at least not while we're here on Earth. Then again, maybe there is no reason. If your husband became ill, sometimes the only reason is awful "luck". If he had an accident, sometimes accidents happen when someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time. What has always helped me was to keep reminding myself that we're all here "on our own terms" and "for the x amount time we happen to get. We can share our lives, love, and time while we're here with the other person; but where each individual usually is "on his own" is when it comes to his time on Earth. When someone young has died, sometimes it can help to think of how he may have been spared some particularly difficult thing that may have come later, or else to think of how it's always harder on the people left living than one the people who aren't here to feel sad or suffer.

      I don't know if this is the wisest thing to do or not, but some people find that not letting the room be silent when they try to sleep helps - maybe a tv with a timer, or a radio (something droning but something that may be going on in the background to listen to as you fall asleep). Some people may find it helps not to try to sleep until they're absolutely exhausted and ready to "pass out". The reason it's difficult to believe he's gone is that Nature has a way of making it difficult to believe while you're in the grief process. For now, try to be OK-enough with not really believing he's gone (you know, in your mind, he is - but if you can't really make it sink in, that's how people often feel for awhile).

      I haven't lost a husband (my mother lost two, though - one at 24 and the other in her fifties; but I've lost other close people). I think you should keep taking it a day at a time, don't feel as if you have to "move on" right now, when you're not ready. Instead, just take it that day at a time; and one day you'll discover that you've begun to move on. If you get any chances to go out and talk to friends or family, and maybe have a little pleasant time that may help get your mind off your loss; go. You don't have to expect yourself to have "big fun" - just a pleasant time. The more pleasant time you can find, the less miserable time you'll be having. Eventually, some of that pleasant time (or at least sort-of-pleasant time) will build up and help you feel a little better, a little at a time.

      You may not like to work, but working may at least give you something else to think about; and a way to get out and at least be talking to people. If you'd like to do different work than you do now, maybe you could think about figuring out how to find the kind of work you may like to do (either out at a company somewhere, or even at home). Since you've found yourself alone (at least for now), maybe you could concentrate on you, as an individual, and on what you would like in your future. Use what you'd one day like in your life as a guide for steps to take now to start building that. If you can do that, chances are more new and different things will start coming into your life and making you feel more like you again.

      Stay strong. When it comes to moving on, you know how they say "You have to walk before you can run?" Moving on is the same kind of thing. You have to get through that whole first year or so before you can even begin to really move on. You've gotten through that much, so you have that much behind you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My husband died last July 24. Moving on is very hard. I am 28 years old and he is 35. I can't help but ask so many questions. Why too early? Why my husband? I have so many regrets. I felt so guilty of his death. I don't like to work, i love to stay at home. There are times that I will convince myself that I am okay but I am not. There are so many sleepless nights after his death. Very difficult to believe that he's gone. I don't know how to start moving on.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Angie, I'm sorry to know you've had those big losses. It's really recent for your husband, and (although I know everyone can be different) it hasn't really been all that long with your mother either (as far as losing parents goes). It's really important to me that nobody here gets the idea I'm saying it takes that full five years before ever feeling at all better. It doesn't. Again, I know people can be different; but I think a common thing is that people feel a whole lot better at 2 years than 2, with gradual improvement with each year. A year and a half is still soon soon with your husband, and you've got the added challenge (for lack of better word) of having to be thinking about such young children.

      Based only on my own experience losing someone close (and I haven't lost a husband, so I know that's a whole different kind of thing; although my mother was widowed fairly young), and based on what others close to me have said; I almost think you may be at one kind of "lowest point" right now. There's that initial "lowest point" that's "its own kind of thing"; but then there's a different kind of "lowest point" in terms of having sort of settled in a life without the person (so it isn't brand new any more). At that year or so stage, people just seem to start expecting to feel a lot better than they do; and I don't think any ever really feels that OK at even a year a half. This time next year - maybe. Maybe even six or so months from now.

      What I've found (at least for me, and again - not comparing it to the loss of a young husband) was that the more life and "the world" seemed to "settle in" as that first year had just passed, the more (in some ways) it made how rotten I was feeling seem to stand out more and kind of call attention to itself, to me, and kind of remind me how "not OK" I still felt.

      Also, I think when someone first passes away we think about that person, then we think about all the immediate and more urgent things to deal with. It takes awhile to get around to thinking about us, ourselves - just us and what the loss means to us.

      I know none of this is going to help, but I guess my main point is, don't expect too much of yourself quite this soon. For me, the numbness that happens has always been a good thing because it helps us get through the time when we're still not ready to be rid of the numbness. Feeling normal again comes so slowly and such a little bit at a time, people don't really see it happening - but it does. It's just too soon right now to expect that.

      I'm just muddling my way here, when it comes to thinking about your comment, but I wonder if it would help if you make a point of separating being unhappy because of losing your husband and the father of your kids, and being unhappy with a single lifestyle. They're two different things (even if one led to the other). I wonder if it's a matter of having to process all the things of losing your husband and his death; but then having to separately address the issues associated with being single. The loss, itself, is one of those things that can just take getting used to; but the "single" aspect of it has its own set of things that might be something that could be addressed, one at a time.

      Maybe you can't speed up the grieving the process, but I wonder if there are small things you could do to speed up adjusting to (and even seeing the positive things about) being single (and there are some). If you're lonely, try addressing that in small ways. You don't have to "go out and find a boyfriend". What about increasing time with people you feel less lonely around? Can you fill more time with things that are pleasant enough to make your days just a little less "empty" (if that's the word that applies). Are there things you and the children could do more often that would give you more happy time together over the course of a week? If you're tired with something like working and after-school care (or other nitty-gritty aspects of life without that second person), could you find ways to improve on any of those kinds of things?

      Just thoughts. If you've already tried all that (and you probably have) disregard my thoughts, of course.

      Either way, hang in. It will get better.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I know the pain of losing a loved one. My mother died when I was 40 and my husband died when I was 47 yrs. old. Our children were 9 and 11 yrs. old. It is very tiring to try and manage everything. Some days I don't know how I am going to make it. Everything seems so difficult. It has been a year and a half and I still don't feel like there is any real joy or happiness in my heart. I am not the same person I use to be. I still feel numb and have an I don't really care attitude. I put on a strong facade, however my heart is still in pieces on the inside. I hate being single. Five years seems like a long time to feel "normal" again. I also hate all the stress of raising two children alone. I didn't ask for this kind of life and while I know it could be worse, I still think it sucks.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Lilly, so sorry to know you have "that one" to deal with. My friend lost her teen-age sons years ago. Even though it's "old" for her now (as "old" as it will ever be), when she talks about him I still feel so helpless in wishing there were something I could say that would help.

      I'm not at all comparing the loss of an elderly mother with the loss of a child, but I do know that after I lost my mother I still wasn't "all over it" at 8 years. I was a whole lot better with it, but I definitely was not where I eventually got to be with it once, maybe, 10 years had passed. (Of course, there was a lot of extra "horror" surrounding my mother's death, so there were "complicating factors" beyond "the usual"). After 5 years passed I thought, "Well, this is it. This is as over it as I'm ever going to get." That wasn't correct. Somewhere along the way I apparently kept getting "better and better" with it.

      I can't make guesses about you in your situation. I do know, though, that there can be the thing when we reach x number of years and think we're as "good" as we're going to get, only to discover a few years later that there's apparently no cut-off point for continued healing.

      Thank you for sharing your own situation here. Someone else in your situation and stage after such a loss may see your comment and know they aren't alone.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      9 years ago from Central Oregon

      Thank you for your soulful and healing writing. You are doing a work here, thank you. I lost my 17 year old daughter in 2002. I have done well in some areas, in others not so good, but it is a process, and I understand death is a part of life. I would bring her back if I could, but I know she is near in spirit. : 0)

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Ladybythelake55, sorry to know you've had this kind of loss. I think "moving on" can mean different things to different people. I'm not sure that when someone has had more loss than we think of as "the average amount for their age" it's really all that possible for them to "just overcome it all" and "return to their regular, old, self".

      I think that time, alone, isn't the thing responsible for our feeling at least a little more "healed", but that it's the new, happier, experiences/thoughts (or at least experiences/thoughts that give us a sense of well being in some small way)( that come with that additional time and start to nurture the soul (and/or maybe get brain chemicals in a little better balance after awhile). I think the problem may be, though, that one major loss, by itself, takes time and a whole lot of "soul-nurturing moments of wellbeing or joy". When we get more than one major loss (especially in too short a time), and then may have a bunch of other smaller losses/sources of unhappiness added to the mix; it can be pretty difficult to get enough positive experiences in a short enough time to help "balance out" the sense of loss and kind of push it to the background a little at a time.

      People who have a lost a child generally say they never really "get over it". They just learn to live with it. People who were close to their parents and lose them usually say they never really get over that and just get used to living with it.

      The one thing that has helped me "give myself permission" to take a rest from thinking about someone close I've lost is to think of whether they'd want me using up the one mind/life I have to be missing them; or whether they'd say, "Just stop thinking about me for awhile and think about something happier." If that person truly loved us, usually that's the kind of thing they'd say. Some people would say that's "escapism" but a) it can help here and there, and b) I see it as taking what control I can of my own thoughts and managing (at least to some degree) my own sadness.

      Sometimes we miss people for different reasons. It may be that we miss what they brought to our lives other than just themselves (in which case, I think we need to find our own ways to find whatever it is they brought to us for ourselves). In other cases, we just plain old miss having that person in our lives. That - I don't think - ever goes away, and that, I think, is where (at least for me) stopping myself from spending too much time thinking about the person has helped.

      Sometimes too, I think we can have so much big loss/grief in our lives it's almost natural to start to let it affect the identity we see for ourselves as "Sad Person/Have Been for Years and Always Will Be". We can start to feel as if we're "made of sadness" when so many other people are "made of something regular". Maybe we start to set ourselves apart from all the "regular" people, and maybe that reinforces our image of ourselves/feelings that we're different and can never be like everyone else. One thing that has helped me has been having "fight". "Fight" has helped me vow not to let the "monsters" of one loss or another define who I am. I've always thought (whenever I've been through one of those stretches of loss), "I will not let this define me. I will define it and put it in its place eventually." The other thing I often think is that we have one mind, and we can't find a way to ease its troubles some; that mind will start to affect our physical health. The "fight" in me reminds me, "Life is short (no matter how long we live), and I have one life. This thing isn't going to destroy my health and make my life any shorter than it isn't already is." Along those lines, I've also always reminded myself that person who is gone is no longer here and no longer has to deal with worries/sadness. They had their one life. I have mine. Somehow I think that I owe it to them, to myself, and to God (if there is one, and I usually lean in that direction) to take whatever good care of the one good mind and I heart I've been given.

      People are different. Loss is different. I don't know if any of these thoughts apply at all to you/your situation. I just know they've helped me get past (to whatever degree I'll ever get past) a lot of grief/loss. Maybe the thing, too, is that we shouldn't expect ourselves to return the same old "before-grief" us. Maybe that's expecting too much, and when we can't do that we feel like we're failing. Maybe, instead, we need to learn to be happy (or at least happier) "around" (or in spite of) the fact that we'll always be a sadder us than we were before we lost someone.

    • Ladybythelake55 profile image


      9 years ago from I was Born in Bethesda, Maryland and I live in Chicago,IL

      I have not been able to move on since I lost the first man I ever loved since 1995, and I have never been able to move on since I lost my infant son in 1975 and after that there has been a string of friends and men I have loved that have died and moving on has becoming difficult for me.

      It is not that I don't want to it is just impossible for me to do so; They were so much a part of my life and now I don't have them. I miss them very much.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Norma, so sorry to hear that you're going through such a recent loss. Fortunately (for me), I haven't gone through losing a spouse. I know what my mother went through when my father died and she was widowed in her early fifties. (Well, of course, I DON'T really know what she went through, but we were close and she talked about it; so I have a "rough idea".)

      When I referred to five years, it wasn't to say that how someone "where you are now" will feel the same for a solid five years. People who have lost loved ones usually say the same thing: That the initial grief feels like a major, major, nightmare; but, over time, feels less like horror and more like sadness that eventually, and ever-so-gradually dies down to be something that seems more like wistfulness than "acute" sadness.

      People process grief their own way and in their own time, of course; but from what I've experienced, read, hear from others, etc; I think it's often a matter of that first year being "its own thing" and being a matter of taking steps through it, with each week and month moving one farther away from the initial loss. Then, it seems as if Years 2 through 5 are "their own thing", but a very different (and far easier to live with) thing from Year 1. Somewhere between the beginning of Year 2 (when one still can feel pretty awful and wonder if he shouldn't be feeling much better "by now") to the completion of Year 5 it's generally a slow but certain move toward feeling back to oneself completely (although a "oneself" who will always live with the loss. Happiness and feeling normal, though, tend to move in gradually and kind of "push the 'older' loss farther and farther back in the mind most of the time.

      You're not alone. That's for sure. The one thing that kind of helped me get through the initial months after my mother died (and I had been taking care of her) was that she had been in and out the hospital frequently. When she "went" I kind of had the feeling she was "just in the hospital again". I wasn't "nutty enough" to "leave reality" and go into "real denial" or anything like that. I'd catch myself and think, "Oh, she isn't coming back." Still, I didn't make any big effort to get rid of that feeling and, instead, try to make myself "feel the reality". In my head, of course, I knew she wasn't coming back. Somehow, though, I had the feeling; and I discovered that having that back-of-the-mind feeling was something that got me through so much of any single day.

      As I think I mentioned above, my thinking is that people in the first stages of loss (and six weeks is very much "first stages") need to find the one or two thoughts that are at least somewhat comforting, and keep reminding themselves of those things as way to "come down from the cliff" when the grief gets particularly bad. One by one, the days keep passing; and somehow people get through them.

      Sincerest condolences to you. Stay strong and do what it takes (that isn't destructive to you, of course) that will help you get through this initial time of grief. There's no doubt about it - you've got a long road ahead. That road, however, is a whole lot different after six months, eighteen months, three years, etc. etc.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Kris, sorry to know of your daughter and you are going through. There's never anything any of us (especially strangers) can say to make someone feel better, even if we wish we could. My friend's son lost his fiance in car accident, and it was such an awful thing for him to lose the person he was planning to marry.

      I think, though, that maybe the best thing I can try to offer here is my own experience in a fatal car accident when I was 20 and when the best friend I'd grown up with (the driver) was killed by a drunk, speeding, driver. Needless to say, my two parents were sick at the whole thing. Months later, my father had a heart attack and died, and I've always suspected that he was so upset at what I was going through he may have sped up a heart attack that may not have occurred quite so early under other circumstances. Today I have grown children of my own (and grown nieces and nephews), and I know how awful it is to watch someone we feel protective of suffer loss or unhappiness.

      Having been the daughter with loss, but also the person who has had to watch someone else go through loss of a different kind; I'm convinced it's sometimes worse for the "other" person than for the person, herself. There's no doubt about it, being the person who has had the "primary" loss is the most difficult in most ways. At the same time, though, Nature has a way of getting us through some things. When I went through the accident I knew I a "monster" to fight, so I mustered up that fight, and it got me through. (I'm not comparing a best friend to a boyfriend, of course, but my years of memories of my growing up were left to be my memories, alone; and a whole future my friend and I had taken for granted would be shared was wiped out. (I've written about it my "drunk driving" blog (at my profile).

      Still, even though I was, of course, in grief; I always wished relatives and friends who didn't know if I was OK could know I was OK (not too happy, by any means, but OK). Their worrying about me actually made me feel more isolated at a time when I really could have used someone who understood. What was happening was I was feeling I'd changed in everyone's eyes and was suddenly "some delicate flower" that nobody knew what to say what to. I've actually had a person or two say (to me), "That accident damaged you forever." Well, it didn't. 30-plus years after that accident, I'm still the same me I was before it happened. Yes, it made me unhappy. Yes, it gave me something I had to fight and get through, in terms of grief and adjusting. Still, I knew - way back then - that I was, underneath it all, OK (but with something awful to process). I wasn't going to let a "monster" (the accident) take away more from me/my life than it already had, and that's what got me through. Other people didn't seem to know how to "fight that monster" and refuse to let it take away their view of of me and a take-it-for-granted faith that I'd get through it because I was strong and sensible. I've never been someone who "leans on people" anyway; but when something that big happened, and I REALLY pulled away in a lot of ways; people started thinking there was something wrong with the fact that I didn't "turn to them for support". I guess my point is that "kids" (you grow up sooner when something like that happens, but that's not such a horrible thing) are often far stronger than parents imagine they are. I was, after all, 20 (and people younger than that live through serving in wars and whatever else they do). Also, I imagined how it would be if I had been killed instead of my friend, and I kept in mind that I would have wanted her to move on and not worry about me.

      When I was old enough to have kids my late friend's age, I did go through a "secondary-grief" kind of thing. It didn't take long to go through it, and it was more melancholy and "new awareness" than grief; but I realized what would have helped would have been if someone had told me that this new form of "issues" might arise 20-plus years after I thought I was over the whole thing. After my father died, but before my mother died (years later) I would go through a variety of losses, and it was always just that much more difficult to know how worried my mother was about me. I wished she would know that I would be OK.

      As a mother, one of the biggest, biggest, things in life that I've had the most difficulty "coming to terms with" has been all those times when I've known my children is going through some sadness (bigger than what "everybody goes through" but not of the kind your daughter is going through). Today (unlike when I was 20 and didn't know how parents feel about grown kids), I understand that overcoming that protective instinct and empathy for our children is (I think) pretty much impossible. I know I'm not offering anything helpful here, but I just thought sharing my own experience from both angles may make some sense (in view of the fact that nothing I say is going to help you or your daughter feel any better). As the "secondary sufferer" in a number of situations, I've learned, too, how isolating it can feel to be grieving your own loss while also feeling like you have "no right to grieve that much", in view of the fact that someone else was the "main griever". In that situation, we often feel we need to be strong for the other person; and I think that can mean "pushing down" our own feelings/grief to do that, and maybe slowing down the matter of processing our own grief.

      Sincerest condolences to you and your daughter.

    • profile image

      Norma B 

      9 years ago

      Hi.. I'm Norma and I lost my husband suddenly 5 weeks ago & this pain I am feeling i can't even imagine feeling like this for 5 years...How do I go on? I feel like I'm about to lose my mind. I can't stop crying and I feel like I was jipped out of spending the rest of my life with this man. I do believe that God doesn't make mistakes but my heart is telling me something is wrong with this situation. I don't want to be ALONE.. I want my husband BACK.

      I do appreciate your article though and it gave me hope that what I am feeling I am not alone so I'm glad I found this site.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My 21-year-old daughter lost her fiance in a horrible car accident about three months ago. After several really bad relationships for both of them, my daughter and her man had found their soulmates in each other and were planning a beautiful life together. He was a really special soul, and he 'got' her -- and she him. And now, the world has stopped spinning. My own grief over losing him is enormous. Trying to help my daughter with her loss seems absolutely impossible. I am also grieving the loss of the daughter I knew, the loss of her happiness, of her well-being.

      We've also been severely and mind-blowingly disappointed by people we thought were good family and friends who have added monumental insult to injury during a time when we are already trying to survive every day at what we thought was rock bottom. Then we find out there are several more layers below that bottom, and people really do go there.

      Thank you, Lisa, for posting your Hub. It does give me hope for my daughter. I have copied it and plan on giving it to her at an appropriate time, so that she can see what she is going through is 'normal' (well, you know...) and to remain true to herself... no matter what other people do or say or think.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      generalbrat, there are no words to express how sorry I am to hear you've been through such a loss. Our little nephew "went" at 20 months, only days after being stricken with a serious throat infection. It was just awful (and he was a nephew). Having to know his parents went through that was yet another part of the awfulness of it all. Having to see his grandparents go through that loss was yet another awful thing.

      Then I had my own little kids, and it was quite a thing for them to lose their little cousin.

      I haven't yet seen your Hubs (and I will), so I don't know how long ago it was you lost Ryan. For my nephew's parents it has been about 20 years now. Somehow, they kept going. They had to because they had an older child to be strong for. Life kept going on, and I suppose, all these years later, they've made some form of peace with it.

      There's one thing I always think of that this couple went through. They said losing their child was SO unbearable, the only thing they could think might make life a little more bearable was to have another child. At the time, they had people "judging" them and insinuating that they thought "all they had to do was have another child and be fine". The mother said what people didn't understand was that it wasn't about having another child and being fine. Another child would be a whole, new, different, person; and they knew that. She said, though, that the grief was so bad all they could think might possibly make it a little less bad was to find some "big enough" source of joy to bring to their lives.

      The mother said, "Even though even the kind of joy a new baby brings still wouldn't be enough, it's the only joy that's at least somewhere near big enough to help take the place of some of that overwhelming grief." I understood what she was saying, and I wished anyone who didn't would have been more supportive of this couple in this wish to find some "big joy" that might give them and their eldest child "something nice" in a life that had been so shattered and sad. The mother said how she wished people would know they weren't trying to have a "replacement" baby - only trying to find a new source of joy in all the sadness and grief.

      Two years after losing their little boy, they had a third beautiful little son who was so completely different from their second son. All these years later, my grown children, their father, and I continue to think of, and mention, our nephew/cousin. He'll always be a part of our lives. I hope, in some way, you may find it comforting to know that years later others will continue to think of your child and see him as a part of their life.

    • generalbrat profile image


      9 years ago from california,usa

      I can say I relate to your experiance I have also lost someone very dear to me my 3 year old son was such a great kid very intellegent he loved to learn anything that came in front of him. I could still hear his voice.I can see him I wish I would wake up one day and this nightmare would be gone. I hope that Ryan would be there. well i hope you all can check my hubpages out.

    • ALL4JESUS profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Lisa HW,

      After I lost my husband I heard a statistic that I found comforting - it takes 5 years to "recover" after the death of a spouse, 8 years after a divorce and 18 years after the death of a child. The perspective you give is very important. We want to know it will be OK again at some point. This fact is reassuring. The fact that Jesus is with us and the saying that he will carry us (footprints in the sand) is the words that I force myself to return to and remember that Jesus is always here for us. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • profile image

      Kathryn LJ 

      9 years ago

      Good hub! Wish I had been able to read it when my husband died 6 years ago. I got stuck for a while in my grief experience because of the manner of his death. As you say , after 5 years there is more perspective. Take comfort from this hub sweet people, Lisa knows what she's talking about.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      John, thank you for sharing some of your own challenges here. It will help others who read your comment to know they aren't the one one going through something similar.

      Losing a spouse after a long marriage is a loss "in its own category". Not having experienced that, I don't think I have anything much useful to add to the comments you've already made about your own experience.

      I do know that, no matter what any of us ever does/goes through, when it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one, a whole lot of other people have also done the same kind of thing when going through a similar loss.

      Two years still isn't a very long time when it comes to getting to a "different place" in terms of getting through the grief/loss process.

      Sincerest wishes for your continued strength in getting through this difficult process. Thanks again for sharing with others here.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Are i meant to say in your article you point out the struggle with grief alone and to point out that if you have been like sole mates as i was for 40 yrs doing everthing together that alone is another challenge along with the grief trying to become seperate and the worst thing about this is having to do it when you DONT want to do it !!

      take care all of you !!!!

      john xxx

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I loved my wife dearly who i lost on fathers day not even ill 15th june 2008 she just did not wake up that day !! after knowing her 40 yrs and married for 36 yrs three wonderfle children two boys and a girl all grown up and with partners...the desperate terror of the empty viod has fuled some silly things mainly dating to soon to try to fill the empty void not realising how much it hurt my children but in the overall sceme of things just dating seems quite mundame when my priest said many people turn to drugs, sex, alcohol and even prostitution to fill the just coming up to two yrs now and what a journey it has been fighting my way out of the nightmare !! but boy have i leant a lot about myself and a family we all love each other very much and all try to support each other even when they dont agree with my desparate actions !! i go to my councillor each friday she helps very much as i am such a rigid thinker...what a roller coaster of immotions hey good luck to everyone going through it !!! god bless you all ...take care john

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      very accurate and informative all these types of articles i feel help me realise i am doing ok and what ever is happening to me is quite normal which gives me hope !!!


    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Beverly, it isn't clear from your post whether your husband has been gone for five years or more; based on the words you used to describe your daughter's age, I'm guessing it hasn't been five years or more.

      I think the thing is, it pretty much takes that full five years for people to really feel ready to move on. It gets better after the first year or so, and gradually people get more and more used to live without the other person. (So it isn't like someone feels as horrible at four years as they did as one year. ) Again, I'm just guessing here, but I'm thinking if it's only been two or three years (or even four), and your friends are thinking "enough" time has been passed, you may not really be as ready as you're friend(s) think you are.

      Then again, if it's been five or more years, and you're still not ready to think about marrying someone else; that's understandable and normal too. After my father died my mother just said she "plain, old" didn't even want to think about getting married again - ever.

      I think with big loss (and after the numbness and even "horror" that come immediately after a death wear off), we're still left feeling so acutely disturbed by the loss it amounts to "getting stress chemicals going" in our bodies. What I've found was a sense of anxiety without there being any real-seeming, immediate, cause of the "non-descript" anxiety. It can feel like you're afraid, only there isn't anything you're aware you're afraid of.

      Loneliness is something else that just naturally follows the loss of someone close.

      I think if you're having real trouble dealing with the loss you may want to think about talking to a professional. If nothing else, maybe s/he could give you some tips for getting through whatever stage you're in, but it may also help you feel that much less lonely if you have someone to talk openly with.

      If it's been five or more years, it may be particularly helpful for you if you were to see someone; because sometimes people can "get stuck" in grief.

      Other than that, I can only try to imagine what I'd do if I lost a spouse (or remember what I've done in the past after losing someone close); and I think all you can do is try to find pleasant things to "give your mind a little rest" for a little while. If you can find things to do that will give your mind x number of minutes/hours each day when you're not feeling "disturbed", your brain will also have a chance to rest, and with enough chance to rest from the stress/sense of loneliness and loss, in time it may be enough to help your brain stop "giving off" quite so many "stress/anxiety chemicals".

      If it hasn't been five years yet, I think (and this is only my personal opinion, based on my own experiences) all you can do is start by trying to make some kind of peace with the idea that you won't be feeling like yourself for awhile; and that you need to address your "injured emotions" in the same way you would something like injured/broken bones - treat them with some rest, some nurturing, and try to find some things you can do even if you're not going to be up to/able to doing what you'll one day again be able to do.

      I think if I were in your situation I'd try to make sure I had lots of positive time together with my daughter, try to ease the loneliness with having pleasant time out visiting women friends, and maybe plan to keep any male company visits to something like dinner and a movie (and let people know that's all you're interested in). Things like dinner or a movie are always nice, and if that's all you're ready for, I imagine the right guy would understand.

      After 29 years, besides all the other aspects of grief and losing someone so close, you also have the challenge of having to adjust to life without him (which is separate from having to process the actual thing of losing him).

      Condolences on the loss of your husband. I don't imagine much I've tried to offer here will help. Most people do eventually find they've gotten through their "storm" and find themselves more ready to move on.

    • profile image

      Beverly Ussery 

      9 years ago

      Hello I was Married to my husband my best friend for 29 years we had our ups amd downs i told him everything that happened in my daily routin we always told each other we where soul mate we have an 11 year old daughter we miss him so much i was woundering how to move on i play zinga poker i had a guy tell me if he wins the lotto he would send for me and my daughter and he wanted to marry me we have been friends for a couple of months i told him i could not marry him and cut all ties with him then my nehibor had me to meet one of her friends nice guy but when he would call i did not answer the phone what am i doing still missing my huband how do i take the next step ??? scared and lonely

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Movingon, I'm sorry to know your husband has passed away so recently. I imagine another reader my come along with his own personal experience with losing a spouse, but for now I'll add my own response.

      I don't have personal experience with losing a spouse, but I know what my fifty-something mother went through when my father died. Being middle-aged now, I do have friends and family members who have been in your situation (and one who is processing a recent break up of a 38-year marriage - not the same kind of loss, but a major life change too). Based on personal conversations, but also research about the grieving process, that thing about sometimes wishing there were someone there to take care of you is something a whole lot people feel (at least from time to time). I almost think it's more likely to hit people who have had a good relationship and marriage more than someone who didn't, because someone in people in good marriages often get used to having that other person who tries to take care of him/her. People who haven't had that have often gotten used to life without it, so some of them haven't lost something they once had (and often, for a very long time).

      I can't tell you how many people, even just in my own little circle of relatives and friends, I've heard talk about how they just never thought they'd have to live the rest of their lives without that other person. That much I know from my own experience with losing people who were close, even if they weren't a spouse.

      I've always found that (even if the writing would never go beyond a file box in my closet), just putting things into words can help make it easier for my mind to process things that, before writing, may have just seemed like a "gray, non-descript, fog" . One nice thing about the Internet is that people can/do run into other people who feel/felt exactly the same - and sometimes it's just kind of good to know you're not the only one who feels one way or another.

      I do know, even if it's past that "all-important" first year, the loss of your husband is still awfully recent; and that it's still pretty early to hope to feel "completely yourself" just yet. I think of my mother and how, even though she always missed my father, she went on to build her own life, her own way; and how "kind of proud" she was that she'd gotten through losing two husbands (one to WWII before she married my father or had us) and, of course, my father (after being married to him close to 30 years), and to have found herself "OK" and with "her own" life.

      It takes time, and it takes a lot of processing, but little by little, people usually get to that place where they've moved on (even if their loved one will always remain a part of their life).

      It doesn't sound at all selfish to say you miss something that you had that was a nice thing to have in life. I was talking to that person who's adjusting to the end of her long marriage just the other day. We were talking about how we get used to living one way and having a "certain set" of things in our life, and how we often don't see the other things in life that there would be if our circumstances were different. She's just not starting to discover some of the things she didn't know she was missing, even in the situation she saw as "the way she planned her life". She's becoming pleasantly surprised to keep running into these small ways in which she's discovering that her new life isn't just about what she no longer has, but about what she can now have. These things don't change the larger picture or loss, of course, but they eventually help change the colors in that "gray" picture; and even help people "living that picture" see and have things they never saw/had before.

      Based on my own set of losses in this world, I don't happen to be someone who thinks "good always comes from bad". Lots of time nothing good comes out of bad. I think, more often, good comes in spite of bad. Either way, though, I'm pretty sure that no matter what any of us feel in any circumstances, there have always been millions of people (and always will be) who have felt exactly the same way.

      I know none of these words (no matter how many of them there are) will do much to help you process things right now, from "where" you are; but - boy - I do know you aren't alone or selfish in your thoughts/feeling, or in the fact that you can't believe you'd write what you have for others to read. Just by doing so, though, you're reaching out to others who may need to know they aren't alone either.

      Sincerest condolences on your own life-changing and difficult loss.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Good Morning,

      You know there are others suffering out there,but its comforting to know some are feeling the same thing as you. I lost my husband 13 months ago this Thursday. The first year is like a dream and you still wonder how you got through it. Ive always been a busy person so the busyness has even got busier if anyone can understand that.I work in the faith field so that has been my rock and always will be. I have two sons in thier 20's so I also need to be their rock and have tried my best.I'm still in my 50's and

      didnt have any clue I would be spending the rest of my life without a spouse, there are days when I just want someone there to take care of me , I know that sounds selfish but I do.I actually can't believe I'm writing this for others to read but just wondering if anyone else feels that way.On the other hand I have wonderful friends and family and a awesome church family to support me which have gone beyond their generosity. I really don't have time for a significant other in my life now and know that God has his own plan for me but some days I just can't get rid of the feeling of wanting someone in my life again. I guess it just feels good to type it here and know that others may feel the same.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      rontlog, glad you've come this far. It will, as you know, get easier from here.

      The link to "The Dark, Black, Cave" is below.

    • rontlog profile image


      9 years ago from England


      I'm ok. I spent several months in "the cave" and at the time could see no way out, but recently I clambered up onto "the new island" and started to enjoy life again and get back into the swing of things.

      If I think about my parents in a sad way, I do end up back at "the cave" for a short while, but this is happening less and less now thank goodness.

      I know "the cave" will always be there and I will probably visit it many times again in the future, but that is ok, it doesn't seem so scary now.

      I guess I am at the stage where I am now living on "the new island" and will have some occassions in the future when I will look back across the sea to the old island and remember what life was like there when my parent lived there too. But in the meantime I am getting on with life now.

      I am sure my parents are on their own new island somewhere, having been through their own caves - but that is another journey and place I am not ready to think about yet, but may explore in the future.

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      rontlog, thank you. I've read the Dark Black Cave; and as I mentioned in my comment on it, I think it describes grief and life after it perfectly.

      I'm sorry to know that you're still (I'm guessing) not quite out of that cave yet, and sorry to hear that you lost both parents so close to one another and so young. My father was 62, and he died over 30 years ago. To this day, my siblings and I still feel we were short-changed in losing him as young as he was.


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