Newly Widowed - The first four weeks
Pure agony, terror, shock, disbelief, panic. I felt it all and it changed from one second to the next.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 30, 2009, I heard my husband calling me from the hallway, where he lay, struggling to breathe. 911 guided me through CPR as he lay unconscious and I begged him not to leave me. The ambulance rushed him away and I rode in the back of the Sheriff's car after telling my children I was going to the hospital with Daddy. I was called from the waiting room to a tiny room and a doctor began with "I'm so sorry" (the first of hundreds I would hear), "your husband didn't make it". Covering my face, crying "Oh my God". I asked to see him and was escorted to the end of a long hallway and a closed blue curtain. He looked to be sleeping, yet they said my strong, handsome soul mate at the age of forty-seven, was gone.
I laid across his chest, breathing in his smell I'd loved so much and the first wave of terror hit me that I would never smell his chest again. I touched the stubble on his cheeks, smoothed back his hair, held his large caloused hand, that would never again hold mine. I cried in agony, I reminded him of all the things we had yet to do. I thought of nothing else but of wanting him back. People came in, said their goodbyes, while I held onto him and sobbed. Our oldest came and to hear him say goodbye to his father, brought me an entirely new pain. The father of our children was gone too. Our son removed his father's wedding ring, a dear friend took a chain from around her neck, his wedding ring now hangs from that chain around my neck.
Friends and family came, and after being told numerous times that they had to take him, I reluctantly let go. Leaving the hospital with loved ones around me, I'd never felt so alone in my forty-three years. My first task as a new widow, was to go home and tell the other four children, that Daddy was gone.
The days that followed were a blur and I was led around by the hand and advised what needed to be done. I followed their lists, welcomed visitors, and thanked them for their offer of condolences and help. I waited for night to come when I could sleep, with the help of medication, and dreaded the mornings when I woke up and the grief started fresh. Early mornings were our time, I'd hear the shower turn on and get his coffee. We'd share a cup and good uninterrupted conversation until he left for work. It took a month before I stopped expecting to hear the shower. Drinking my coffee alone, I spoke to him, told him all the things he already knew, how much I loved him and would miss him every second of everyday. I asked him to send me his strength to go on each day. When the sun finally came up I turned into mommy mode and auto piloted through the day, yearning for night again.
Week Two and Three
His death was sudden and unexpected, so we were not prepared. He was self-employed, I, a stay at home mom. No life insurance. With the realization of what the financial situation truly was, I found some strength from somewhere that I was alone and that our five children now solely depended on me and that I needed to act quickly. The first priority was Social Security and my sister-in-law held my hand through it. The funeral arrangements were made complicated by the coroner's investigation and initially listing cause of death as pending. We ordered an independent autopsy as well, because I needed answers. I began to wonder as week two turned into three just how long the mortuary was willing to keep him. I secretly hoped, forever.
His service was held on the 16th of January, and I made a very tough decision, for a few reasons, but mostly because I couldn't bare to see a casket knowing he was in there. Luckily, the Catholic Church accepted that. Some decisions can be left up to others, but there are some that only the survivor can make. I didn't care that others would question it, I figured they would be more horrified to see me trying to crawl in there with him. We held a beautiful celebration of his life afterwards with a video montage of his life. We shared stories and happy memories and that's the way he would have wanted it to be. He was buried in our small town on the 18th, with close friends and family gathered under umbrellas shielding them from a downpour. I had the children each write him a letter, made copies to keep for them, placed pictures and a love letter from me in a Ziploc bag along with his favorite hat placed in the coffin, I kissed the coffin and told him I loved him and closed my eyes as he was lowered into the grave.
Well week four came with fire and brimstone, as they say. All of the emotions they say come with the grief process seem to hit me at once. Anger, guilt, fear, helplessness, anguish, confusion, anxiety, loneliness, sorrow, rage and the big one DENIAL. Way back somewhere within me I know the truth, but the rest of me pushes it away and I refuse to think of it, of him, of what was and what was still yet to be.
From one new widow to another...
Let people help you. It was difficult to watch people fold my laundry, so I went into the bathroom for a good cry, but was later relieved that folding laundry was no longer on my list of things to do. Let people bring you dinner! Designate one person to set up a schedule for you. People were told that if I didn't answer the door to place dinner in our freezer in the garage. Let people pick your kids up from school and don't feel guilty. If they offer it's because they want to help. Let them.
Get a box to house folders and important papers. I carry around this black file box, with all important papers, birth, death, marriage certificates. Social Security cards and Death Benefit information. Wills, pension, life insurance, titles for property and vehicles. Anything you may need immediate access to. Order 10, yes 10 original death certificates.
Use a notepad or notebook. Write lists of things you need to do. Each day, note the date and what you have done or accomplished, with details, names and numbers. Keep it in your box. You will forget!
Talk to other widows. There are numerous groups on the web for new widows. People want to tell you about how they felt when their mother, father, or grandfather passed away. It is NOT the same. Only other widows know exactly what your are going through.
Don't hide your grief from your children. I did that. I thought if they see Mom fall apart then where will that leave them. When actually, it lets them know that it's okay to grieve, to cry, to be angry or sad. Also I contacted the school psychologists for each of the kids schools and they offered them immediate grief counseling, and contacted me by phone to let me know how it went.
Do Not let anyone push you into something you don't feel comfortable with. Some things are very personal and only you can decide when the time is right. I had family cleaning up the house and collecting my husband's laundry. I asked them please don't touch his clothes. They are still in a bag in his closet. Dirty clothes, but they still smell like him.
Most importantly take your time and take care of yourself! It took me a couple of weeks to realize that everything couldn't be done in a day. I did what I could until I dropped from exhaustion and left the rest for the next day. I don't think I ate for a week. I know I've lost weight my clothes are hanging off of me. It's on my daily list so I don't forget: EAT!
One foot in front of the other, one second, one hour, one day at a time.