The first myth: The first year is the hardest. In the first year, your body goes into a fog state. With every first holiday, birthday, or trip to Wal-Mart, it is true that crying is endless at times. Sadness can become the go-to emotion. The second year is grossly underestimated. It is the year after you have survived the fog and are back in your body. This can be more painful. You are really experiencing life without your spouse. Your body is capable of feeling again with clarity. The feeling of being without and the reality of lost life-plans feels clearer. The second year is really the first year experienced in a sober way without the numbness.
The second myth: People really want to know how you feel. When you are asked, “How are you doing?,” if your answer isn’t “alright” or something that resembles “good,” the majority of the askers have no idea what to do. Our friends and acquaintances mean well. Loss is scary. If you are doing well in life, it gives others permission not to feel. Don’t take it personally. Especially, try not to pretend you are happy to keep your friends. If they care about you, they will understand. If they can’t tolerate your pain, take care of yourself and give them space and time. DO NOT COMFORT OTHERS. Save your strength for yourself. Understand that grief ebbs and flows so that you don’t feel stuck or wrong or sick for the depth of sadness you feel. What is important is your capacity to learn coping skills for self-healing.
The third myth: Your children will help normalize your life. While this is somewhat true, the myth implies that your children’s lives have not changed to such a degree that they require extra, extra love and attention. After the death of a parent, children tend to feel like they are balancing on stilts. You are in charge of keeping them from falling and breaking. For the most part, you are on call 24/7 for their needs. This is a parental fact. So although your children may be the reason to get up in the morning, your focus is around their mental health which can derail your ability to self-focus and self-soothe.
The fourth myth: If you change your out-going voice mail or keep your spouse’s email accounts open, or donate spouse’s clothes, etc., you will be disloyal. Healing is dependent on caring for your heart. Remember that the only person who truly knows your heart is you. Ask yourself, how much of my loved one’s physical presence that was left behind do I need to heal or carry me at this time? This must be a conversation that you have with yourself. Your loyalty can only be questioned by you. Loyalty and recovery go hand in hand. Don’t forget that your love for your spouse is imprinted IN you. Questioning your loyalty is questioning your love. It is an evolution of your healing, never an assassination of your loyalty. Think spectrum, not time frame.
The fifth myth: If you feel happiness or joy, you have recovered. The death of your spouse or anyone you love is not something that has a stamp, “Recovered.” Regaining a full, healthy, loving life is a path you walk. You will always carry your loved one in your DNA. Finding joy in life is wonderful and CAN co-exist with any other feeling.
Join us 7/9/13 at 8pm ET for an hour long #treatdiarieschat via Twitter with Jean Wolfe Powers to discuss this very important topic. You can learn more about Jean and her practice at http://jeanwolfepowers.com/therapy-counseling-westlake-village/.