I’m 46 and suddenly alone. My husband, 49, active and energetic, died after a sudden massive heart attack last month. We had no children.
Now, it’s just me, struggling to accept the loneliness. I have my job, but since the pandemic, it’s been from home. There’s no one here to distract me from missing him.
I’m also angry at him, for not looking into his heart’s potential weakness due to his family’s heart disease history.
I have my parents to call or visit, but they’re so sad for me that I come away feeling distant from them to protect myself.
Someone suggested I attend a grief support group but it’s too soon and too hard for me to sit with other hurt people and discuss my pain. I’d rather stay home staring at my walls.
I’m wondering: Is grief a matter of just waiting out time until you can manage to carry on again?
Or, is grief a state of mind you must will away?
Grief is a response within yourself. There’s been a dramatic loss of your closest person, the man you loved.
The impact of such loss - especially when sudden and shocking - is felt emotionally, even physically in your body’s reactions, and socially, too, as it affects your behaviour with others.
Human behaviour experts will tell you that grief is a process. It can be acute for a short-term then return unexpectedly later. Or it can be prolonged and complicated over months or years.
From Psychology Today: “Without help and support, such grief can lead to isolation and chronic loneliness.”
That would be an even greater loss for you, giving up hope. At 46, you can’t give in to unrestrained despair.
Reach out for connections and help. Start with an individual grief counsellor, whether a pastoral counsellor, psychologist or psychotherapist.
Use the anger about your late husband’s underlying heart risk to give yourself some goal you care about - e.g. getting involved in learning more about advances in heart disease research.
Informing others can eventually save lives, and bring purpose/hope into your own life.
Contact any colleagues connected to your work, despite being on your own. They might’ve heard something but not known how to respond.
You need people for human exchange, distraction, and comfort.
Accept your parents’ natural sadness on your behalf but tell them and yourself that you’re going to be alright, precisely because you have them in your life.
They need you, and that’s part of the mutual contract in a family.
Your writing to this column is a first step of outreach. Take the next steps very soon, and include grief counselling as soon as possible, whether online or in person.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the woman’s question whether her boyfriend’s insistence on going to bed clothed, even to have sex, is a “fetish” (Sept 11):
“I’m a psychotherapist with 35 years’ experience including work with people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I agree that this doesn’t sound like a sexual fetish.
“I wonder if the man suffers from OCD. We’re told, that's what his mother taught him from childhood and that's how he ALWAYS sleeps.
“He’s possibly come to habitually connect this clothing with being in bed and doesn’t distinguish sleep from sexual activity regarding his clothing.
“It sounds like a compulsive habit that’s not fully rational nor conscious.
“People with OCD are usually high-functioning rational people apart from their particular obsessive concerns or compulsive behaviour.”
My son and daughter-in-law exclude me in their gatherings with her family on special occasions. It’s been happening for several years.
When he lived at home, I always had festive meals and celebrations for all holidays.
But our Thanksgiving is just three days away and he’s not invited me, though I divorced five years ago. He knows I have to rely on friends when I should be with family.
There’s more to this story, perhaps having to do with details of your divorce, his relationship with your ex, or other issues.
I advise you to enjoy the company of friends on Thanksgiving, and then later try to meet with your son to discuss what’s happened in your relationship.
Listen to his side, try to find some common ground.
Don’t expect overwhelming change, but hope for small steps, starting with just meeting over coffee and asking more about how he’s doing.
Tip of the day:
Grief is a process that can lead to renewed purpose/hope for your life ahead.