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DEATH OF A SPOUSE

A co-worker of mine has been mourning the death of her husband for little over a year now.

She mentioned how she has been crying continuously for over 365 days. She was teary eyed even at the beginning of our conversation.

“Why are you still crying everyday at this point?” I asked. She knew I wasn’t being insensitive; just my curious mind at work again.

Her answer: she still expects to see her husband, hear his laughter, smell him, and have him take care of things. She wonders why it happened to her family. Why was the love of her life who was only 46 years old taken from her?

All understandable points, and from that conversation comes this blog.

Halloween, October 31, 1993 – 22 years ago today when I was 31 years old, my mother died (I can say that word now). I thought my world would end; thought I wouldn’t be able to go on. After all, my mother was everything to my dad and my five siblings – she was our nucleus and the first we’ve ever lost in our close knit family. When I think back to that time, I remember how my mother consumed my thoughts every second of every day – did you understand what you just read? I said “every second of every day.” Can you imagine someone in your thoughts to that degree? Well, I did it – can’t say for how long though, which is probably why I didn’t properly mourn until six months later (finally broke down emotionally and took a month off work).

My father died 12 years later in 2005. I cried like a baby when he was in the hospital. I remember asking my nurse sister, Trish, “How long can he last like this?” A day. A week. A month. As long as his heart is strong, maybe longer than that. I cried harder. I prayed his heart would give out because I couldn’t stand to see him suffer as he was. I drove all the way home from Einstein Hospital with tears in my eyes; soon as I wiped them, they welled up again and at some point, I just stopped wiping and let ’em flow. Only God kept me from being in an accident. So, unlike my mom’s death, there was no waiting period for my dad. My grief was immediate.

We respond to grief differently even within the same family as I just demonstrated. We also grieve in our own time.

But unlike Z, I still have my husband so I don’t truly know the depth of what she’s feeling, although I can imagine. I get why she still cries. To be with someone you’ve shared a life with, had children with, went through some stuff with – I get it.

It’s inevitable that we all will experience the death of a loved one, but I want to focus on the death of a spouse. I don’t want to imagine my life without my husband and I’m so sure he feels exactly the same way. I’ve thought about life without him and I don’t particularly like the outlook. Even though we get on each others’ nerves to no end, we still do not want to live without each other. He’s already proven that he would be a total mess because I’ve seen his reaction when I went through hip surgery. I wasn’t even in the operating room, yet he was already freaked out, telling me he wouldn’t know what to do without me. And I feel the same way. We’ve been married for 17 years – we got time invested; he’s a habit to me and I’m a habit to him.

And now the questions.

If something were to happen to either of us, what would we do after the funeral? Once all the phone calls and text messages stop, and the cards no longer come in the mail? How would we deal with coming home expecting to see the other one when it’s not going to happen. What do I do with his car? His clothes? All his things? How long do I do nothing before I do something? At what point will the urge stop to buy birthday and father’s day cards? The unfinished or non-started household projects? And the two of us sharing financial situations – how to do deal with being the only one handling everything? All fearful and real thoughts.

There are so many things to consider and the questions keep coming, for instance, what do we do about missing our spouses and their presence? Privately and at family functions? How long do we grieve them; you don’t know if you’ve never lost one, right? And when should you begin dating (if that’s what you choose to do)? Will people look at you differently and expect you to live differently? When do you have sex again (well, that is a real consideration folks – don’t frown at me because I said it)? How do you stay strong for the children and then parent them by yourself? How would a mother raise her male child/children without their father? And how does a father handle a female child without the wife’s input? And what about the dog, cat, and the bird, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, paying the bills, reassuring each other in difficult times, which brings me to this as I’m typing –¬†your spouse will not be there to help you deal with their own death. What do you think they’d say?

I could go on forever with this subject so let me stop here.

Death is a difficult and unwanted part of life that no one looks forward to it.

Z, I understand your tears and I thank you for allowing me to share part of your story.