My wife Mary and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on September 12, 2020. On the morning of November 6, 2020 I went for my daily walk. When I returned from my walk, I found Mary lying dead on the bathroom floor. I was devastated and at a complete loss of what to do. Not only was she my wife but also my business partner. So I lost my wife, partner and also our livelihood…
The pain of loss to suicide is unlike any other grief. All loss is painful, and suicide adds layers that survivors must navigate. With the help of mental health professionals, fellow grievers, and a close network of friends, I have started my journey of grief recovery. Yes, this journey is about me. Not my late husband, but me.
A little “Q&A” from HeartLight Center about navigating grief during the holiday season. Take good and gentle care of you during the holidays!
Coping is a verb meaning “to deal with or attempt to overcome problems and difficulties,” and is often used with “learning to cope.” This is a word that I have become very familiar with over the last year, and is an action that I have become used to.
I want to share with you about my beloved, and how it was that she gave me an important gift – permission to make tough end of life decisions; to ultimately let her go.
Today I want to talk about getting through the first year after the death of a loved one, in particular at times of holidays and anniversaries. My wife Marilyn died on July 23, 2022, so I have just been through my first year without her. While I am suffering the pain and loss of a spouse, the loss of anyone, be it a parent, child, sibling, or friend impacts the first year in a way that is unimaginable and very difficult to live through. I don’t mean to imply that the second or third or fifth years are easy, but all I can relate to at this time is the first year. And I want to emphasize that I am not giving advice, only relating what has helped me this past year. We all have our own way of dealing with the tragedy of losing someone we love.
We scattered Robert’s cremated remains this past weekend in his favorite spot in Vail, along the river walk that he loved. A family friend of ours, who is also a minister, said to us as we gathered together, “It’s not for Robert that we grieve but for ourselves. We grieve so deeply because we loved so deeply”. I thought a lot about my own experience with losing Robert. This is what I now know, almost six months since he died: Grief is permission.
Next to my husband Dan, my dad was my second-best friend. When told that dad had six months to a year to live, the news tore my soul. I silently suffered anticipatory grief. Even though I was trained as an end-of-life doula a year prior, I was not prepared to practice on dad everything that I had learned. I went to my hometown on Valentine’s Day to care for dad while on hospice. Dad died from prostate cancer in April of 2020. I thought I would never laugh again. Losing dad at the beginning of a devastating pandemic did not help. The loneliness and isolation from family and friends left me numb.
Dear Fellow Human, May is “Mental Health Awareness Month”. In sharing from personal experience, I recall the first time I confided in someone that I was struggling, and I remember the heartbreak I felt when the reaction I received was irritation and the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” sentiment.
Dear Fellow Griever, I found some voice through haiku as I was processing some of the depths of my grief. The cadence of 5-7-5 worked for me. I wanted to share in case haiku may be useful to you, too.
Submit a “Heart to Heart” Letter!
Our stories are individual, but our experiences can be deeply connected. Knowing there is someone out there who understands what we are going through can be helpful and healing, creating connection to someone who was once a stranger.
Your grief story can help others on their journey of loss. HeartLight Center invites you to share what is on your heart so someone else may feel seen, understood, or less alone.
Even if you have never written before, send us a letter, poem, quote, short story, how you have coped, what you have learned, a book recommendation, or anything else that feels right or helpful to share.
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(If you have an expressive art piece that you would like to share such as a drawing, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Heart to Heart submission.)
From our heart to yours,