Grieving Who I Used To Be

As common as the term ‘new normal’ is among those grieving, I am always shocked how many people email or message us asking ‘how long until I feel normal again’. Other variations are something like ‘my family thinks I should be back to normal by now, but I am not’ or ‘I thought once I survived the first year I would start to feel normal again, but I don’t’. I always think long and hard before I answer these messages. I think about what I want to say and how I want to say it. That’s not because I haven’t said it many, many, many times before. It’s because I know on the other end of that screen is a person, lost in grief, hoping for an easy answer. Something like, ‘Oh, at about 552 days after the death, normalcy will resume’ or ‘don’t worry, things will settle out and you’ll feel like the old you before you know it’. But those aren’t the answers they’re about to read.

I walk them through slowly, taking them through some of the concepts that are old hat around here, helping them understand why they feel so disconnected from the person they used to be and the life they used to live. It seems simple – my loved one is gone, the world has changed. That’s true, but there is a lot more to it than that when it comes to our sense of self. If you missed it, we have a post called I Don’t Know Who I Am Anymore that is all about the complexity of identity and why grief really shakes it up. I tell them about it. We’ve also talked about how grief changes our priorities, shatters our assumptive beliefs about the world, and how grief is not just about the primary loss, but the domino of secondary losses we experience. I talk about all of those things too.  Though there are no universals in grief, I ease them into the idea that the ‘before and after’ experience is amazingly common, and we need to be gentle with our selves as we learn to cope with the person we are now, in the life we’re living now.

In Pauline Boss’s book on Ambiguous Loss, she mentions grieving someone who is still alive, but who has had an identity change and is expected by others to be who they used to be (this is a sort of subtype of variation of her Type 2 ambiguous loss). When we mention this and ask for examples in trainings or workshops for counselors, we often hear the examples: individuals who are transgendered or people who have significant changes in their faith identity. But inevitably someone in the depths of grief themselves, or who has had clients discuss it, says “People who are grieving! Me!”. They go on to explain that feeling of being changed fundamentally; they see and experience the world differently, but everyone expects them to be the person they always were. The people around them wear thin and are frustrated that they are not returning to ‘normal’. The person grieving wears thin and becomes frustrated that those around them can’t understand the shift.

When we think of all the things we grieve as part of a devastating primary loss, one thing we often don’t take the time to mourn is that sense of ‘normalcy’ we used to know, that ‘normal’ person we used to be. Losing that person we used to be doesn’t mean we will never be happy. It doesn’t mean we won’t find a ‘new normal’, as many like to say. It doesn’t mean we won’t make space for new people, new hope, new dreams. It does mean that our very life, going on without that person, will always be a bittersweet reminder that our loved one is gone and that we are different. Every step when they would have been in step next to us is a reminder that the world is no longer ‘normal’. We are trapped in that ambiguity that Boss describes so well, being uncertain of who we are now. It is a hard phenomenon to put into words until you experience it yourself.

Maggie Rogers released her new album today. If you don’t know who she is, she is a young musician with a Cinderella story. She went from being a student at NYU to being famous overnight, after a video of Pharrell Williams listening to (and loving) her music went viral. Her album is called ‘Heard it in a Past Life’ and I read an interview where she talked about the title. She explained that people keep asking her about reincarnation, something she knows nothing about. The title is actually a reference to the person she was, the life she lived, before becoming famous overnight. You can hear it in her interviews and her music as she tries to retain and reconcile her sense of identity, all the while aware that something so significant has happened that her life is now “before and after’.

Even in a Cinderella story, Rogers grieves for the person she used to be, the life before the fame. Even in the best of life-altering situations, we lose a sense of normalcy, we lose a piece of our identity, and we start to realize we can never fully go back to who we were before. Perhaps Maggie Rogers has labeled it best. After we lose a person, our life with them begins to feel like a past life. It was a life defined by their presence in it. We have a new life now, the life that is shaped by enduring love and enduring loss, where we also create space for new things. It feels complicated to understand who we are, how we fit, and what normal could possibly mean in this new world.

But as Pauline Boss’s work explains, we can work on expanding our thinking to help us cope. We can learn to think in a more dialectical way, accepting that sometimes two things that seem at odds can both be true. We can learn to accept things like:

I am both the person I used to be, a person with a set of memories from ‘before’, and a new person, who sees and experiences the world fundamentally differently.

The world is both the same and radically different.

I know, it’s complicated. These ideas go against the way we often like to categorize the world, but they are often the reality of grief. They are the foundation of the complex new life. It is a life where somehow, day by day, we start to find some sort of ‘new normal’, all the while knowing we will never be normal again.

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April 11, 2019

36 responses on "Grieving Who I Used To Be"

  1. I am suffering from complicated grief. I have GI issues and went to a specialst for help who ruptured my spleen during a colonoscopy and I had an energency splenectomy. My entire world changed. I ca no longer have pets, eat organic vetables/fruits, no longer swim in pools, the lake, the ocean, garden, must wear long colthes and tick spray in the summer, no longer walk barefoot on the grass, no longer be in enclosed crowded places (no movies, concents, shows). I must be careful and avoid any sick people, all because I am now immunocompromised and have a higher risk of of an overwhelming infection. It had been difficult to accept and my personality changed. It impacted my eldrly mother who worried about my health and my personalty change and she had a nervous breakdown and I was too blame for it. I have not seen my mother in seven months, she is still to anxious to see me. I was planning to move in with her this past year as I am single and 66 and she is 91 but now she no longer feels it would be good. So I have lost the life and person I once was and now II have lost my mother. I cry most days, feel tremendous guilt and yet hurt that my mother ‘s therapist has said I can’t talk to my mother about my health. My mother thinks I should be who I was before I LOST MY SPLEEN AND i can’t be that person. I am not grieving two losses. I am fairly isolated at this point and my best friends, my neighbors are moving. Finding appropriate therapy where I live is not easy, given I have GI issues which keep me stuck in the house a lot. My sister has told me I am mentally ill, caused my mother’s breakdown, feel sorry for myself and I am the problem. I feel battered, by my sister, and rejected and alienated from the one person I could talk to to, my mother. Sometimes I feel hopeless. My life seems to have no more meaning.

  2. My boyfriend of 15 years passed away in December of 2017. So here I am over a year later and all hopes, dreams, and everything I once was is continuing to fade into the shadows. I am in total agony, all day, every day. I have spent every waking moment since his death concentrating on closing his estate, his business, his life. Now that I am almost done with my promises and obligations to him, I struggle to find a reason to get out of bed.
    I’ve sold my home, his home, all our cars and relocated to a different state so I could find some sort of solace and peace. I’ve suddenly realized that I now have only a single fear in life… which is how long I have to roam the face of the earth in this miserable state of melancholy.
    People keep asking me “do you love your new home?”, “have you made new friends?” … it continues to prove, they just don’t get it and never will. I can’t meet people – it wouldn’t be fair to them, all I think about, all I want to talk about is Patrick… so listening to others all continues to sound like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoon! So why would I ever introduce my misery to anyone else.
    Who I used to be is as dead as Patrick… Who I am now, is this monochromatic drone who simply just exists for no reason whatsoever, living in silent pain and agony because my friends and family think I should be over all of this by now.

  3. My Significant Other of 25 years died January 21, 2018, after developing a truly rare complication of already horrible esophogeal cancer. We thought he’d have six months from the time they discovered the tumors in his brain and spine, so I quit a job I loved to be able to be with him. Instead he died in five weeks, a week after I had quit my job. We had moved to a new town in a new state just two years before and hadn’t had time to develop a social network because he got sick soon after we moved, so in addition to his loss and losing my profession, I have a very thin support network here. All of my good friends back in Virginia are busy with their own careers, husbands, children, homes and lives and I rarely hear from them. I have sisters, but two (who still have their husbands) are clueless about how it feels to suddenly lose, yes, your life.
    Everyone who comments on how they feel they’ve lost the essence of their lives when a dearly loved one dies, I think they’re right. I’ve come to realize that you don’t just lose the imagined future, which is bad enough——-you also lose much of your past because the person who shared the memories, the laughs, the festive holidays, the bad times that you overcame——that person is gone. Yes, you still can remember, but who do you share the memories with?
    It’s now been thirteen months since my loss. Just yesterday I sat in the parking lot at the grocery store and cried my eyes out. Yet on another day I will feel sort-of-OK. But am I happy? No, not so much. I still love my dogs, I love nature, I love books, I know people want to be caring and kind if they just had the time. I survived Thanksgiving and Christmas (our favorite times of year). But I have very little enthusiasm for my life anymore. I just feel like there’s nothing much to look forward to. Nobody is going to make me laugh with his wit the way CC did. Nobody is going to make his fried chicken. Nobody will laugh over the annual argument about whether the Christmas tree was straight in the stand. Nobody will remember how goofy our cats were. Nobody is going to be there with so much confidence in me.
    And that’s the new reality. I guess—–I’ve read and heard and been told—–that things slowly get better. And I know I’m not as desperately miserable every minute as I was a year ago. But even after doing everything anyone advised me to do, from antidepressants to talk therapy to volunteering to making new friends to going down to the pretty lake nearby to going to church………….none of it really fills the immense absence that’s all around me.

    • Your story hit close to home. When its over and your spouse is gone-family that came for the wake/funeral scatter back to their homes and lives. You remain behind in heartache and silence. I too have found that my wifes family is not even reaching out to see how I am doing. We too had just retired to a new area-a new home and now I am here to fend for myself all alone. She was always the strong anchor and I just find myself going through the motions each day fending off phone calls-the daily mail etc…I wake into each day disappointed that I “have to endure”. I would have traded places in a heartbeat and always felt that way. Now I am left behind in silent horror- a beautiful home now just a house-a tomb of sorts. The life we left behind now gone and worse there is no more future so where the hell does that leave me? The walking dead in a haze-fog of continued disbelief and disgust of what are now my “Golden years”? I`m 65 and its all over but the waiting. What a great way to live but nobody understands and few try at all. The only people I can speak with as an adult is my counselor at Hospice. The neighborhood all married couples now seems to pass me by. We never had a chance to make real friends as we came here in March and by June she was diagnosed and in August she was gone. I feel as if all who now pass the house talk about the sad story inside. It was a beautiful home-it deserved better. Now I walk among its walls in disgust-nobody to talk about its beauty with. It gets no love and appreciation from me- just anger at what is now left. I have no interest in life-I came here so pumped up for life- bring it on. Now I hate going to bed and getting up- though at least at night I can sleep with aid of Zquil. When I open my eyes to another day of empty bed and bedroom and home its just so surreal. I have my wifes ashes in a room and sadly will glance at them , sometimes have a brief sad chat and its always “why why why”? I will at some point get back to church and God but for now not on speaking terms or attending. I simply do what I feel is my best to get by day by day- but no zest for anything I encounter . That zest was robbed from me that dreadful day in August. I hear same “it will get better” and I simply shrug my shoulders as if to say -maybe -maybe not. When someone does ask “how are you feeling” I always say “are you sure you can handle my answer because I dont sugarcoat”? My life is gone and done. They just dont get it- she was my life! She is gone- so how do you think I am feeling? Mentally I am playing “shoe on the other foot” but that would be offensive to most. Awww hell its over.

      • Gary—–I am just so sorry that you’re in such pain. I know how it feels—-I would have traded places with CC in a second. The world lost everything he knew how to do, not to mention his intelligence and incredible wit and humor. Like you and your beloved wife, we’d moved into a perfectly lovely house that we were going to live in for the rest of our lives. (Well….I guess part of that came true…….) For the first few months after he died, I couldn’t bear being in the house. I hated driving down the street to our driveway. But what I want to tell you is that that aspect of being so wretchedly unhappy DID fade. I guess just by having to live somewhere…………and so this was where I lived………..and he’d loved the house and done so much with it…………and the dogs were happy……….after a number of months, it did start to feel like a refuge. In fact, I’ve kind of gotten to the point that I don’t like being away from it! So maybe at least your house will eventually start to seem comforting to you. I really hope so.

        • Hi Aenor:
          Thank you.
          You made an excellent point in that not just the future was lost but that special someone who knew me inside and out and shared every up and down who really knew MY history is gone so therefore so is my PAST. The person who would encourage me- laugh at me-playfully insult me- the love games and words I so enjoyed sharing-all gone. The pet names…emptiness is all that exists. To have lost the person who could have told your story is now gone and I dont have the time -desire and nobody is asking who Gary was? Our 44 year love story ended and now has disappeared. We used to have a great audience when as a team we would tell how we met- how we split- how we remained friends and how I came back home after graduating college to get her back with me and be married the rest of our life. How sad- You lose your past and future- to me the 2 most importants because the now/today is a whole new experience we never wanted -to be alone-when together was necessary- its now just “get through this”. With no view – care or concern of the future.

          • Gary this is my story with my husband. He died February 9th this year. Cancer after fighting 10 years and believing (both of us) that the next treatment would continue to give us more time till the next relapse like in the past. We had both retired 2 years ago and had so many plans. This is just ridiculously unfair and profoundly painful losing my best friend and partner just as we were primed to continue fighting this disease and keep living and loving. I wish us all hope to ease this pain some. Lost dreams. Unbelievable

  4. I was a sister as of last May, when my brave and beautiful younger sister died suddenly in front of me. I was positive, full of hope and faith, and I enjoyed holidays, birthdays and vacations, because she was always there to share them with me. All of the things that once brought joy, now only cause more pain. I lost the person I was with her, on that tragic night. I am left with this shell of a person I don’t even recognize, who can no longer laugh at the little things we used to, or look forward to a future. I feel like an “Imposter” who puts on a false persona each day, to betray the brokenness inside. She was my best friend, soul mate and human diary. She helped me to be a better person by her example. I grieve our history, the talks and laughs, inside jokes, and the friendship and unconditional love. She was my companion through life, now replaced by constant grief. This is my “new normal.”

  5. I lost my dear husband of 19 years a few months ago. He was in perfect health or so we thought. He had just had a knee replaced 2 weeks before he died. I came home from work at 8 pm and found him dead in the floor so immediately the coroner and I thought probably a blood cot and I requested an autopsy. The coroner called me the next day bad said it was the worst autopsy he had ever seen on someone who was supposedly healthy. My husband had cancer in both lungs cancer in the lymph nodes and a 2 inch tumor in the right frontal lobe of his brain and he had no symptoms. He was 67 years old. The shock of this has really affected every aspect of my life. I have no short term memory and I can’t eat I can’t sleep and I just don’t want to do anything. I try to think of the positive that I didn’t have to watch him die a slow painful death with cancer. He treated me like a queen. I feel so alone like my life is frozen in time and I am looking out at everyone else going on with their life and people don’t want to talk about it with me because they don’t want to see me cry. Everything I do I have to force myself to do it and then I don’t enjoy it. Please pray for me.

    • I am so sorry that you lost your husband so sudden and unexpectedly. I agree when you said at least you didn’t have to witness him enduring his battle with the cancer. I watched my older brother get sicker and then pass from leukemia, only weeks after I had been his bone marrow donor. I will pray for your healing, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Please pray for me also. Thank you.

  6. My father hasn’t even passed away yet and I’m grieving who I used to be… Earlier this week my dad called from Florida to break the news that he is in kidney failure with prostate cancer… and that he’s chosen not to go on dialysis. He is on medications right now and sounds like himself, but his kidneys could completely go at any time, and then I will be flying to down to see him in hospice and say goodbye and be there at the end. We spent lots of time together every summer camping, hanging out and talking and e-mailing about everything, and now I feel like everything I love to do, my whole way of life is soon going to end forever. I feel like the only other person who speaks the particular language of a huge portion of my life, is going to be gone and I will never be able to express or speak about or share all the times we had, nobody will understand the references or in-jokes or even care, really. On top of all the uncertainty of timing and planning for family leave, funeral arrangements, dealing with the rest of the family, etc, I have this feeling like part of me is dying and it’s only the beginning.

  7. in 2011 i lost the father of my son i have four children and he was the biological father to one but loved my other three like his own.he took his own life and it was so tragic, trying to put the pieces together and become normal again was almost impossible .then i met someone two years later and he was with us for four years he did everything for us was there for me and my children,in July of this year 2018 he was murdered my children lost two dads and i lost two men that i love but the last one really hit twice as hard as the other we were arguing at the time and were not speaking we were just going through a rough patch.his murder was all over the news i kept seing his picture in the news and its been transmitting it has been six months since he died but still feels like yesterday,i think that when each of them died it took a piece of me and i am not the same i dont think the same and i dont even look the same i dont recognize myself.i am cold most of the time and lost my sensitivity to others,this is not me or is this the new me?i am sick of people expecting me to be ok and i am sick of others being sick of me talking about him.sometimes the pain is so bad i just feel like theres nothing left for me.i am not suicidal i just feel like i am alone cus even when i talk about it with those that have lost some one they are jsut to busy talking about how strong they are and i will get over it eventually but i lost two men within six years.i dont want to live my life alone but the one that i am still in love with is gone .i just dont feel the same

    • Hi Ashley, I’m so sorry for all that you are going thru. I lost my son3 months ago and it was suicide. How you say you feel is exactly how I feel! Its so hard when people keep asking how r u and r u back to work! No can’t even think about that. He was well known in our city and everything and every where reminds me of him. I so feel your pain and hurt. I ad well don’t have a partner which makes it hard sometimes to deal with all if this. Take care of yourself and grieve be sad be happy when ever any of these emotions take over.

      • hi trish
        im really sorry to hear about your son ,my heart goes out to you .i hope that you have support to help you get through this journey ,i know and understand those people that push us to heal they will never know what it really feels like .thank you for sharing take care hun

  8. I am the youngest of five, I have lost all three of my older brothers, I’ve lost my mother, I’ve lost my father all before I turned 28.
    I’m now 31, and I have a now 4 1/2 y.o son whomever has been “legally” kidnapped for almost 3 years now. Shortly after my fist/oldest brother died, I ended up having brain surgery when I was about 13 y.o
    I refuse to allow anyone to Diagnose me, and I refuse to take any kind of pharmaceutical.
    it wasn’t until my son was taken away that I’ve ever been involved in any legal situations. now it seems like a never-ending legal battle for simply wanting to continue to be a father to my son. but through all these situations that I’ve experienced it has taught me more than I ever could imagine about myself and the world around me. I am using my experiences to try to have a positive impact in other people’s lives.
    Thanks for sharing your story and allowing others to do the same!

  9. That struck me. Friends, no need of grievance. You know that deep inside. Maybe it’s time for a family reunion… Or you can invite your friends. It’s a good practice. I recommend you to make your party fun and memorable. You deserve it. We like to hire artists from https://bstars.eu/. They’re all great and you should check it out. Because… Music has a big importance in your post. So I thought that would be relevant.

  10. I lost the most wonderful husband and caregiver. He was my partner for 36 years of fun, family and travel. I was blessed. But, I grieve even now…a decade later. I have been helped by family and friends. I moved from east to west coast to live with my middle son. Now, I am back east to live with my mom during her final years. I do not know where I will go next as it would be hard to live alone at this age. But, I see another “new normal” ahead for me. If I was physically able I would take up dancing. Luckily, I enjoy an adventure! I just miss my travel partner.

  11. I have been forcibly handed a new life that I wanted no part of. Who would after the 37 years it took to build? How the hell are any of us in this situation supposed to act? I dont know if I am doing anything right or wrong anymore? I wasnt ready to say good-bye! At our ages 64 (me) and 62 (my wife) neither of us was!
    This just plain sucks- I want out of this game that was planned for me!
    Game over.

  12. I have lost my dad on 1 January 2019.I am lost for words and miss him,I want to howl n shout all the time

  13. My father just died in November after getting a stage 4 lunch cancer diagnosis back in May. I keep trying to imagine what my life is going to be like now that he is gone and I cannot mange to really figure out what it is supposed look like. Obviously there is no way to really know what is will look like, but knowing he is not a part of it anymore is confusing. I know that I am changing every day and I’m not the daughter I was when he was alive. I don’t know what kind of daughter, wife, sister, or friend I will be now. It’s terrifying for me to know all these changes have to come and that I have no control over how they will change the course of my life. I just had my 26th birthday in December and I always imagined having so much time with my Dad to help continue to influence the person I am and the person I will become in the future.
    That is what I view normalcy as, my dad being here and doing what he always did for me. It has only been a few months and I cannot imagine anything feeling normal again.

    Thank you for making this post. I’m hopeful to get to a point of some kind of normalcy in my life again.

  14. In all of this, which by now is all too familiar, I am struggling to build a new vocabulary that will enable me to convey to others what my journey is like. The complexity of adjusting to the new reality, where the “me” I had cultivated across the decades has been shattered beyond repair. Thank you for this forum. I hope to be part of it now that I’ve found my way here.

  15. Im dealing with this right now. How do I become another me. Do I actively seek out change, or just let it come to me. I have the opportunity to become whatever I want, but what is that?

  16. My husband died in December on my birthday from complications due to Parkinson’s and dementia. It is very hard. He had been in a nursing home for the past year and I was going to see him every day. . . until I had back surgery in October. . . a simple procedure that has made my pain worse. During the time I most need to leave the house and go out with friends, I haven’t been able to drive since the surgery nor am I physically able to sit up long enough to go out for a meal. I feel like I have reached my all time low. I am grieving the loss of him but I am also grieving the loss of the things I cannot do that are just normal parts of life. I have had injections and I take CBD oil. I am in incredible pain. I took hydrocodone after the surgery but will not continue that and even it doesn’t do a lot for the pain I am in. I do journaling, read my Bible and other devotional books. . .but pain changes everything. I am very sensitive to many prescriptions.

  17. Wow, that struck a chord!

    The funeral is over,
    The caring days are done
    And life goes back to normal
    For each and everyone…ELSE!
    For me there is no normal,
    I don’t know what to do,
    I don’t know who I am now,
    I haven’t got a clue…

    Part of a poem I wrote after the death of my husband last year. I’m not the person I was when I met him, nor am I the person I turned into after 30yrs of marriage, nor even the person I was when he passed after 4yrs of a cruel, cruel illness. Who am I now? Who will I become? Who knows?….

  18. Joni writes: ” The “gifts” of grief, such as greater compassion for others in this position, don’t seem to come close to making up for what it steals.”

    You are so right! I can clearly state that there ARE “gifts” of grief, being almost 8 years out now from the sudden death of my 20 year-old-son. But so unimportant, really, when compared to what was lost!

    I like to say that my world permanently tilted when my son died. Any equilibrium I get in this new life will never equal what I used to have.

  19. This is one of the hardest and least expected parts of loss, it seems to me. I feel like I’ve not only lost the “me” I was before, but I don’t know why my partner would love the me am I now, either, so I also feel like I’m letting him down. And grieving the old me for both of us — as well as for the family members who are frustrated with the new me! Yet it’s also impossible to be the old one. Too wounded. The “gifts” of grief, such as greater compassion for others in this position, don’t seem to come close to making up for what it steals. (Even as important as maximum compassion is.) I’m left with not only the sense of loss but a terrible sense of failure, of badly flunking whatever lesson I’m supposed to be learning. And yet when it comes to seeking joy, or trying to appreciate life, or any of the things that the old me believed strongly in, “fake it till you make it” doesn’t seem to work in this instance, at least not so far, 2 years in.

    Thank you for this site, though, and the opportunities to consider and share these so-difficult journeys.

    • So true- Nobody understands you not only lost your loved one but also the person you developed into after say in my case 37 years.
      What is incredible is that even family does not get this and I hear so much of that and its just plain insulting. All I say is to them- just wait your turn. Maybe you will be fortunate and tag out to old age gracefully together and have a Notebook ending? But I ask them to put yourself in my shoes if just hypothetically and tell me how you would feel? I get no answers and usually an uncomfortable glaze along with “I dont know”. Yeah but you do know! You would be devastated, crushed, destroyed, alone, scared, worried, filled with anxiety. You just dont want to admit that it could happen to you. I read thats what so many feel when with us who grieve openly- “please I dont want to feel like that-thats not happening to us”. Its as if….oh my God is it contagious?

  20. Great article! Thank you. A week ago yesterday I had to put my faithful canine companion down, who guided me through the loss of my husband over 14 years ago, and it is amazing how I feel like I am grieving for both my dog and my husband all over again. It is this sense of heaviness that has settled all over my soul, and again the anxiety attacks. I know the tools, I have done the work, but for some reason I am just sitting in this overwhelming pile yet again. For me personally, it is in experiencing this grief over my pet that has trigged the grief of the loss of my family that has me coming yet again to the table and I am simply trying to be gentle with myself and allow it to wash over me, without thinking I need to be doing something else . . . I guess that is what I have learned after all this time, and that with time things do become softer.

    • Heather I feel for you. My partner, Scott, died 2 years ago, I had to put down the dog he gave me a year later. I tried everything to keep that old dog going as he was such a link to better times. In the end I had to admit that I was putting him through unnessesary suffering just so I didn’t have to putting my dog down on the first anniversary of Scott’s death. Now that anniversary is rolling around again and I don’t know if I can cope with it.

  21. Just as I was beginning (at age 64) to appreciate- like- enjoy-love who I was becoming(my wife and I had just retired) -TRAGEDY struck in the form of stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized into brian cancer in the form of 20 tumors. To make a horribly long story short it only took 2 months to destroy BOTH our lives. The poor angel had no shot and despite doing what we could it never sunk in with me my life too was done. That came after the funeral and all family had left. With each day I could feel a bad changeover coming on-it could not be stopped-I was grieving hard the loss of 37 years marriage and 44 years of true love since my wifes senior year in HS in 1974. What was I supposed to do? I am now at 5 months and the pain and agony harder than ever- I still move in a sloth like- haze like way. I fear phones ringing-door bells…I walk to the mail box every day like its the “Green Mile” in my driveway- afraid of what could now be lurking in there? In this time I have had to endure the complete indignity of erasing my wifes name from life with the credit cards-banks- home- car- insurances-you name it-thats all on YOU and rarely do you hear of that stage but “ERASURE” of ones spouse should be a separate stage of grief! The bottom line is I am changed and gone-the decent-happy go lucky-good guy now a shell of himself. I hate who I have become and I had to- there was no choice. No shrink around is gonna change me back to what I was or make me feel better about myself! Man that guy was great BECAUSE of his wife! I lost the soulmate-life support system-my checks and balances on everything. I now lay open like a giant sore wound for all the world to attack and have at it. I lost all that confidence and a bit of swagger as we entered into retirement with a beautiful home near our grandchildren. That home? No- its now a HOUSE or more shall I say a TOMB. Its dead as well without her. So sad as we had plans for the next 20 or so years all lined up- then the shocking and it was stunning discovery that what we thought to be a bad back (missed by Drs) was in affect the cancer doing its evil deed spreading like wildfire in its quest. So farewell to who I used to be -someone my wife also loved so much. It had finally got to that point I was proud of what I-she had accomplished- we were to enter into the wonderful world of retirement- we both worked almost 40 years to get to this point! We had some hard financial years and many moves but finally we had settled…ahh bring on the Golden years!! Well she got to 62 and all of 2 months in retirement. Who I was and now left to be will never be seen again. Its a shame-You would have liked me- I was about to be a damn good guy / husband/grandpa after working on it for 63 years. Now at age 64? I am nothing but a spec of dirt on this earth just waiting to be reunited with the love of my life. Nothing else really matters anymore.

    • As a fellow spec of dirt on this Earth let me say I feel your pain. It has been a year this very week that I lost my beloved to a deadly rare form of cancer. I could say that her death changed me but to be honest the moment she was diagnosed 13 months prior my life was changed. I lived in hope and fear. Then when we were told a year later she was terminal I lived only in fear. For 27 days I feared the Future. I could not see past her death. Then she died and I began my nightmare. In a year I have gone through a lot and I, like you am not the man I was. Truth be told human beings aren’t static. We’re always changing and adapting to our circumstances. It’s called survival. In a year I have realized that at the core of my being I’m not really different. The things that caused her to fall in love with me are still there. All of our experiences together over a 27.5 year (14yrs married) period are still a part of my being. That includes her death and yeah that has changed me. The one thing I can tell you is today a year later I don’t hurt the same way I did then. I still hurt but it’s different. I suppose that is progress. It has been said that who a man thinks he is and who the rest of the world think he is two different things and the truth lies somewhere in between. Something to keep in mind as we try to take stock of who we are during the darkest hours of our lives.

      • Thanks for replying.
        Yes also at diagnosis was when the heavy grief already started. For some it happens after the passing but like you mine started immediately and never left. It was a 2 month whirlwind of activity-stress-tears-fears-worries-concerns all while watching MY WORLD -MY WIFE failing sharply. My God the last week before going to inpatient was the fastest decline. It was what led the Hospice nurse and social worker to say to us “you did the best you could-she has to come to inpatient care”. In our hearts we know it was the right call- In our minds? We had failed and to me its never stopped being a failure on my part. I should have done this- should have said that- should have tried harder. None of which would have mattered. Its now the endless mind games. I have her ashes home with me and here I will try to stay. Its my sad way of saying to her “you are home” and the thought of putting her in the niche without me-never felt right. We retired to come to our new home in March (so she got 2 months) as diagnosis-game over came June 6th- 2 days before our daughters wedding. We got all of 2 normal months in our retirement dream home. Thats all she got after our 37 year investment. I dread each wake up morning. I hear you on the changed man you as well as I have become. Its too bad- I thought I was a pretty damned good happy grandpa. It was all because of my wife. Now I am an empty tormented and tortured soul seeking the end of each day so I can escape to sleep. Alas, only to wake up again disappointed. I suppose things will change as I now go into month 6 but not seeing it. Good luck to you!

    • I feel the exact same way Gary. I feel your hurt your pain your frustration and the loss of you. So technically we are mourning the death of our spouses as well as ourselves. I don’t feel like I belong or fit in anywhere.

      • Yes Carol- My son even tells people he lost his Mom and his Dad the same day. Its true- In fact it started at her diagnosis-I am not me and never will be again. Like you I feel I dont fit in anywhere I go- I used to be so adaptable- adjustable- fit in anywhere-now square peg -round hole in every situation. I go to church and feel strange. I go to football games and I feel alone as if watching from another planet. I cant get back the same feeling of happiness even in happy situations like grandchildren birthday or this past Holiday season. I do fake it but I am not going to make it. The worst part is I have a house and not sure where I want to be anymore. Its as if I should just go away somewhere- yeah sure and then what and where would be somewhere? Its alot of talk but things come and go in my mind where I feel almost “insane”.

  22. I really appreciate this article. Sometimes I have wondered if there was a death and grieving for dummies. lol. My husband died 2 years ago. And I have been progressing through some profound changes, not only in my physical life but also I have felt a loss of myself. Its interesting how people in our lives approach a person who is grieving. Many of my friends, family and peers at times are frustrated at me. I have a very “hard edged” boss. (a female), who complains that I have changed, my work is not the same, I am different, when am I gonna snap out of it. In my head I am thinking that I am working at the same pace as before my husband died, but I know that at times I have concentration issues, attention deficit, sometimes I have health issues. One day I wanted to just explain to her what was going on (she is aware that my husband is dead), So when I told her that some of my behavior seems to stem just from the daily “hard time”, and coping mechanisms . She just snarled at me, Look everyone is having a hard time, you are not special. Wow I thought, I wasn’t asking for any special favors, not that she would give them. But it kinda stung that she would not be open to a conversation. Anyway, I am moving into my third year, and I feel awake for now and I am hopeful, and looking forward to doing things that I miss. I am revisiting hobbies I used to love , I realize I have neglected my self, so I have been watching tutorials on how to apply cosmetics properly and what ot look. I know that sounds maybe trivial, but I realized that I haven’t’ really laughed really hard in a long time, I just barely look in the mirror when I am getting dressed because I just put on the minimal of make up and come my hair. But I have been teaching myself how to take a proper selfie, so that I can look at myself without flinching, and smile into the camera so I can remember myself. These are some steps I am making, and most of all keeping a journal

    • Hi Ramona: Gee you brought me way back as one of the women who worked for me in early 80s was named Ramona…just got a spark back to that time (I am 64). But I gotta say it seems that women working for women is not a good thing? I hear alot about that when it comes to what you are dealing with now. Their sympathy is not there and the cattiness and claws come out. I think that sucks. I know myself as a boss to many women only shared their grief as best I could- never put pressure on as I had a few dealings with this. You would think it would not be the way but I guess times have changed. I am glad I was a manager of people (mostly women) in the 80s and 90s! Wow 3 years and still for you things are like this? I have so much to look forward to after my 5th month! I know all are different but so am I and I see this lasting my lifetime-no matter what that may be. There is no rule book that states “I have to” either! If I go through life felling I/ we were shortchanged-screwed and worse- then thats my right. As Billy Joel sang “I dont care what you say anymore this is my life- go ahead with your own life and leave me alone”. I cant get into the journal thing as all I do is write same stuff-so I stopped after a week or so. Didnt feel it was helping in any way. I too have taken a few selfies- I guess to leave for the kids I leave behind when I go (my wife did this-sadly and they were so bad we had to delete so many)..but to also say “look at that-look how beat down I look” etc.. I am fortunate that I have retired and right now do not need to work. I will eventually pick something up maybe in the spring (no need to deal with Buffalo snow and cold getting up for work). But that scares me too-hey I am 64-not 54 or 44! But I worked almost 40 years and will not take anything I dont like-job-hours-days etc. I worked too hard and long to get used like a rented mule at this age! So do what you can about the job-but dont let it take away your pride or dignity even in this trying time when both could be lacking. Hey I am nothing without my wife- see my prior posts- when I say better half? That was an understatement. I wish I had gone and she was left behind- the world would have been much better for it having her. So would my children and family- she was a total Angel. Me? I was expendable and would have gladly changed places as for now at age 64-whatever life I have will never be the same. The face in that mirror never to be seen looking good. My smile? forced- My laugh? forced. Will that ever change? Some say yes…I say we shall see. In the end I was going to football games as we bought season tickets to Bills when we came here- it was all part of a wonderful retirement package. To make this point only is why I bring it up. I was among crowds of 67,000 people- 8 times and you know what? I never felt more alone in my life!

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