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Loss of Husband

Helen K.

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My husband of 22 years died on May 12, 2018. He had been in and out of the hospital numerous times. He had congestive heart failure, an effection rate of 40% and chronic renal failure, 30%. At Thanksgiving his blood pressure was 59/36 and he was in in afibs for five days. He went to a rehab hospital after icu for ten days. So many times I thought he would die. So many times he didn’t. He always pulled through. He started smoking again, drinking vodka, doing meth. Two nights before he died I had him at the hospital all night and he had high potassium level in his blood. Again. The day before he died he told me the last 22 yrs had been the best of his life and he wouldn’t change a thing. The day he died he told me there was so much he wanted us still to do together. He had been verbally and physically abusive in our relationship. I know that he loved me with all his heart as conflicting as that sounds. He was my everything, taking care of him was a full time job. I cooked what he wanted, I only left to shop for groceries. The night he died I couldn’t believe it. For the first two weeks I sat with our two little dogs by the window waiting for him to come home. He was a big man and had a big personality. Just about everything was about him. Well, everything was about him. I loved him and sometimes I hated him. When he called me ugly names I told him I hated him. At times I think he only stayed married to me because I had received a large inheritance and he bought what ever he wanted to buy. Also, he didn’t want to give up half of his retirement check. All the furniture in the house are antiques I inherited. It has been five weeks since he died and I still wait for him to walk in the door. It doesn’t seem real to me that he is gone. I have had a few breakdowns but I quickly tell myself to just pretend he is coming home. The alternative is just too enormous for me to think about. I already did everything by myself, he sat on the couch and watched television. So I know I didn’t need him for those things, infact, he taught me not to need him for anything. I know did everything for him, even taking his shoes on and off.  When will I feel like this is real? I am afraid if I let myself breakdown and cry I will shatter and not be able to pick up the pieces. Is it normal to feel this way? By the way he had done meth an hour before he died. His death certificate says pending toxicology report. I didn’t see him do the meth, I didn’t get it for him, but I feel like it is my fault although I couldn’t have stopped him. I found him not breathing like he went to sleep and I couldn’t wake him up. I feel like I am responsible and I understand could even be held responsible. Has anybody been through this?

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Helen, he was a grown man responsible for his own decisions. Feeling guilt is normal. I would encourage you to let your feelings out even though it hurts. The only way to get through grief is to go through it. You have to be kind and patient with yourself it is a process that unfolds in it's own unique way for everybody. I'm sure you are experiencing the same thing that I have felt in the past which is a million thoughts about what you should have, could have done differently. That too is normal. I am getting therapy once a week which has been a HUGE help because it gives me a safe place to unload everything I carry around all week long. If that is something you are open to I would say schedule that right away. I wish you strength during this time.

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I am sorry for your loss.  I know love is complicated and multifaceted, it's possible to feel all kinds of emotions at once and all of them valid.  You made your life entirely about him so of course you're going to feel it on an extreme level, not only missing him, but feeling like your purpose is gone...a lot of us feel that, but caregivers especially are hit with that when their caretaking is no longer needed.  I really exhort you strongly to see a grief counselor, someone professional that can help you know where to start with your life, PLEASE!  It's too hard to try to do on your own, don't ignore it, call around today and find someone to make an appointment with.  Continue to come here, pour out your heart to us, we're here, we want to see you through this.  I'm glad you have your two little dogs, my animals are my incentive to keep going when life gets it's hardest.  I have to try for them, they have no one else to take care of them, I won't let them down.

You can't tackle everything at once though, it can feel overwhelming and paralyze you with not knowing where to start.  A professional can help you break it down into biteable chunks so you know where to start.  The best advice I ever got was to take a day at a time.  This is what I've learned in the first 12 years of my journey, please print it out and read it every couple of months...not everything will speak to you right now but different parts will loom out at you at different times on your journey as it's needed, but read through it, print it out and keep it for reference, okay?


There's no way to sum up how to go on in a simple easy answer, but I encourage you to read the other threads here, little by little you will learn how to make your way through this.  I do want to give you some pointers though, of some things I've learned on my journey.

  • Take one day at a time.  The Bible says each day has enough trouble of it's own, I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew.  It can be challenging enough just to tackle today.  I tell myself, I only have to get through today.  Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.  To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety.
  • Don't be afraid, grief may not end but it evolves.  The intensity lessens eventually.
  • Visit your doctor.  Tell them about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks.  They need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common in early grief.  If they're reoccurring, call a suicide hotline.  I felt that way early on, but then realized it wasn't that I wanted to die so much as I didn't want to go through what I'd have to face if I lived.  Back to taking a day at a time.
  • Give yourself permission to smile.  It is not our grief that binds us to them, but our love, and that continues still.
  • Try not to isolate too much.  
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief, and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself.  We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief, it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it!  Some people set aside time every day to grieve.  I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever.  That person that would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate, practice self-care.  You'll need it more than ever.
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, find a professional grief counselor that is.  We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc.  They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group.  If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through, it helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it". 
  • Be patient, give yourself time.  There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc.  They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it.  It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters.  
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time.  That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse.  Finally, they were up to stay.
  • Consider a pet.  Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely.  It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him.  Besides, they're known to relieve stress.  Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage.
  • Make yourself get out now and then.  You may not feel interest in anything, things that interested you before seem to feel flat now.  That's normal.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then.  Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first.  You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout, that's okay, you did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it.  If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot.
  • Keep coming here.  We've been through it and we're all going through this together.
  • Look for joy in every day.  It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T.  It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully.  You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it.  It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it.
  • Eventually consider volunteering.  It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win.

(((hugs))) Praying for you today.


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