Life After Death

It’s been 15 months and 21 days since my husband passed away.

Some of us like to think that after a year, the grieving is done.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t.

I’m better, no doubt. I’ve come a long way since those painful days right after he passed. I was in the proverbial ‘shock’ phase. I knew it. I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and had worked at Hospice with teens who had lost a loved one for 10 years. I knew the stages.

But, what I didn’t know was that shock would feel an awful lot like sadness. I was sad. I cried and wailed. I was sad. But, somehow, even in that sadness, there was shock hovering around my heart so I didn’t feel the overwhelming intensity of ALL of the pain.

That would come later.

I had several months at home because I work in a school and was off for the summer. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to stand those long, lonely, unstructured, unplanned days. But, thank goodness for good friends who reached out and took me to lunch or dinner.

I got together with someone every day last summer. What a blessing!

Of course, not so, this summer. Thank you, Covid.

Then, school started. I was happy to be back in a routine and I had a hard year ahead of me, graduating 350 seniors. And, if you’re not a Guidance Counselor, let me just tell you that it feels like herding 350 cats. LOL

So, my mind was very occupied.

But, still, those first few days at work, I would break down crying. Something would make me think about him…

Like someone asked me was I a Ms. or a Mrs.

Oh yes, that’s right. I’m no longer a “Mrs.”

Tears puddled in my eyes. I tried to remain professional. Thank goodness this was over the phone and they couldn’t see the tears and I choked back the lump in my throat and said, “Ms.”

Or someone would talk about their weekend plans and I’d think, “I got nothing going on.”

Or my friends that we used to share husband stories (nothing bad mind you, just funny stuff), would suddenly feel self-conscious bringing anything up.

Or when I put the key in my car’s ignition at the end of the day and realized I was going home to an empty house.

Yes, my life changed in big and small ways and if it weren’t for shock, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it all at once.

But, as the year went, I felt the heaviness come on me. The shock was wearing off.

It didn’t matter that I had a job to do. It didn’t matter that I was all alone in my house with no one to process my feelings with.

And so, thank the good Lord, a friend introduced me to another recent widow, and if it weren’t for her (you know I love you, Paula!), I would NOT have made it.

Her total and complete understanding of how I felt allowed me to say what I felt and process it and grieve it.

I’m also very grateful for Robyn at Griefshare for running that Grief Group. It made a huge difference to have a place I was not only allowed to talk about my husband and my feelings but I was encouraged to do so. And there were loving, kind people there who also understood my pain.

And my precious, sweet Mom. Lord bless her. I called her every day (I still do) and she would listen to whatever I had to say and she would love and support me, no matter what. Thank you, Mom, from the bottom of my heart. I could NOT have walked this journey without you.

And I stayed busy. Very busy. I started cleaning out closets and moving furniture and re-arranging my home. Apparently, alot of widows do this. It’s like you’re looking for something you lost and you think, “If I can just clean up this drawer, this closet, this bedroom, I’ll find it.”

And then, I took to the yard. I had never been into yard work before. But, I threw myself into it with abandon. I raked up leaves. I pulled up weeds. I dug flower gardens. I potted plants. I planted plants in the ground. I laid down rock.

I grew physically strong and loved seeing the work of my hands. It’s very rewarding to see something change by your own hands.

And then I would sit and stare at the beautiful backyard that I have been blessed with and I would feel peace.

It was the only place I felt peace.

Not inside. Nope!

While I love my living room, there’s something about being outside and feeling the breeze blow across your skin, hearing the tinkling of the chime, the bubbling of the water fountain, seeing the butterflies floating by. And feeling God near me.

Somewhere around January, I began to feel angry. Not the usual, “God why did you do this?” anger.

No, I had prayed to God when my husband got sick and I thought he told me, “This isn’t the end.”

I believed it with all my heart. But, indeed, it was the end. I questioned if I ever heard God in my life.

Have you been there?

Eventually, He and I talked and He said, “It wasn’t the end. Joe lives in heaven with me and one day, you will too.”

That’s true, but I sure wish you had been more clear, God.

And he said, you couldn’t handle it. You needed to stay positive.

Ah, that’s it. I nodded my head and understood.

Then, came busy-ness with people. I had friends who I could call last minute and we would go out for dinner or just hangout or shop. I didn’t have to be alone, unless I wanted to.

But, then….you all know what happened. Covid and Quarantine.

Suddenly, I was thrust to being inside my home all day by myself with no office noise or people to chat with. I started listening to the radio in the background, just for stimulation.

At first, I felt safe. It felt good to be home and know I wasn’t near the virus.

I was good until about May. Then, I was about to come un-done. I didn’t want to be home alone anymore. I didn’t want the silence. I didn’t want to do it anymore.

But, I also didn’t want to go anywhere.

The first year anniversary came and I decided to take my chair and go sit at my husband’s niche and talk to him. I talked to him for a good 1.5-2 hours. I got it all out. Everything that had happened while he had been sick and everything since.

I packed up my chair and as I drove away, I felt a lightness that I had not expected. I decided this would be a good ritual to do every year.

And then, I was past the first year. Past all the first’s, the horrible first’s. I can honestly say I didn’t handle any of the holidays well. I was a mess.

I couldn’t think about anyone but myself and I felt right sorry for myself. I’m sorry to my family, especially, my daughter. I know I hurt her. I’m thankful for your understanding and unfailing love.

This summer, I had no plans. Unending, unstructured days stretched before me.

I had a neighbor friend who walked with me and we rode bikes together. It felt so good to get outside and breathe fresh air. I’m thankful for her.

I decided to make a trip to NC and take my Mom’s things that were earmarked for my sister and brother up to them. It was a lovely 4 day visit. It was an easy drive up and back. It was great to be with family and give and receive hugs. It was definitely what I needed. And I’m ever so grateful that we didn’t get each other sick.

But, other than that, no plans. I worked some.

Honestly, I was thankful to get back to the routine of work this fall, even though it is anything but normal! I enjoy the chatter down the office hallway. I enjoy the kids and parents. I enjoy the teachers, even though they are stressed out of their minds. I’m so sorry for all they are going through.

We have had some setbacks. Two of our people decided not to work in the craziness of Covid, but one really wonderful addition and that’s our Mental Health Counselor/Social Worker. A welcomed surprise!

It was somehwere in the middle of Covid, that I realized I wasn’t crying every day anymore. Maybe once a week. And as time stretched on, even less than that.

I’m better. I know I can live the rest of my life, however long that may be, and be okay in the arms of Christ.

If it weren’t for Jesus in my life, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I prayed and meditated and listened to spirit-filled inspired preachers. I listened to Christian music that gave me hope. I filled up my bucket with Jesus. And He met me at every turn. I’m so thankful that I know Him and have a relationship with Him.

Whatever His plans for me, I know they are good and I will follow them.

No, grief, doesn’t end in a year. It changes, no doubt. I’m growing. It’s a process. I’m learning how to move forward while figuring out how to let go. But, it’s not over.

Some have suggested that the second year is even harder because the concept of “permanence” settles in. I have definitely cried tears wanting my old life back. You feel stupid. You know you can’t have it back, but your heart doesn’t care. It wants what it wants.

But, after the tears, you settle into, “Okay, this is forever, now what?”

I’ll touch base with you throughout this year on that.

Thank you for indulging me this post. I usually share children’s books and I’ll get back to that, but occasionally, at least I’ve heard that sometimes, people like to hear from the author behind the books.

So, here it is. This is me. All laid bare for you to see the painful journey I have been on these past 15 months and 21 days.

Thank you to everyone for all of your love and support. There have been others who have reached out throughout this year that I didn’t mention. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to offend anyone, just telling the story in broad sweeps.

Thank you to my blogging family. You all are awesome!

If any of you have gone through anything similar, I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment.

23 thoughts on “Life After Death

  1. Dear Wanda, I’m glad you shared this with us. You have been in my thoughts a lot and I wondered how you were coping. On the surface, you seemed to be handling it very well, but you are of course human. Thankfully you have a good support team and your faith. Blessings to you. xo

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Darlene. Yes, I don’t tend to post the more sad days on social media (like most people) and overall, I’m doing fairly well; better than I would expect if someone had told me I would lose my husband and after 15 months, I’d be doing pretty much okay. I appreciate your support and thoughts more than you can know. God bless you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad to hear you’re doing okay, Wanda, and it’s interesting to read about the details of your journey dealing with grief. Those of us who divorce after many years of marriage experience many of the same emotions, I believe. Someday you’ll be that person helping someone else, just as Paula has been for you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Becky, for stopping by my blog and leaving such a kind and supportive comment. Paula and I have helped each other through this journey. She says the same thing about me. I do believe when you go through any loss (be it divorce or death), you need someone who’s going through it too to talk to and support each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m very moved by your thoughts, especially the courage it takes to share this with the world. I have to think it will help someone going through the same thing. As I read your piece, I immediately started thinking about my mom, who passed away two years ago. I realize it’s not a fair comparison, though. Mom was the best person I’ve ever known. She had a fulfilling life and touched a lot of people through her kind ways. It’s far different because your husband died while the two of you were in your prime. Dementia took much of my mom away, and after all of the trips to the hospital, I felt almost relieved for her when she passed.

    Thank you for sharing your moving story, Wanda. Thank goodness for supportive family members and friends. Grief is a long, long process. I’m glad you are in a better place than you were a year ago.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Pete, for your kind and thoughtful words. They mean so much. I do hope my words and the sharing of my experience will help others. It’s a difficult journey. I’m so sorry for the loss of your Mom. Any loss hurts. My late husband’s Mom had dementia and so she, too, was stolen before she passed away. I understand the feeling of relief. It’s horrible to see them that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful, brave article, Wanda. I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes reading this… We all know that we will lose people we love – that there will come a time when we will all have to cope with major grief. And when someone we respect and trust summons up the courage to tell it like it is – that gives us valuable knowledge to help others we know also going through this testing, terrible time. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wanda, I kept up with you on social media. I knew you had the firsts. I’ve been there. I also saw your faith in posts. That is what I knew would keep you going. Your personal relationship with Jesus is the exact thing, the One who gives you strength when you most need it. Lean on Him. Express your feelings. Bottled up doesn’t work. I’m always around to lend an ear. Love, Mary

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for sharing with us Wanda! It requires a lot of courage actually to vocalize your painful thoughts. I can so well understand your feelings as I have watched my mother after I lost my father 20 years back. It was a very difficult time for all of us but most for my mother. May God bless you with more strength and power. Take care❤️🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Wanda,

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you all the best. Stay strong. Take care of yourself. God bless. 🤗

    Michael

    Liked by 2 people

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