One of the hardest intellectual and emotional tipping points to achieve in a widower’s healing grief journey is when you turn your thought away from the past toward the future.
Five years ago, I began my grief journey. For several months I was buried in stomach wrenching physical and mental pain which included my constantly looking backwards. During this time, I first reluctantly, and then willingly experienced pain I had never had before.
I did everything I could to hold on to my wife and her memories. This included talking to her, listening to old taped messages, burying myself in our old photos, and engaging in memorial projects for her such as reorganizing her craft room… as if I expected her to return and use it again.
During this time, I could not accept her death. In my mind, she was still with me despite all the evidence to the contrary. At every turn I wondered what she would advise me to do, I wondered if she could still hear or see me, and I wondered if she was somehow still by my side.
I sleep-walked through the motions of settling all our legal, accounting, and personal affairs such as:
- changing the names on all our accounts, titles, and wills,
- notifying everyone of her passing,
- selling her car, and
- clearing out her closets, drawers, and knick knacks.
But eventually I came to a point where I realized that I had to change my focus from the past (where I was repeatedly revisiting the pain) to the future when I might start to live and enjoy life again.
As I was in the middle of starting up a Men’s Grief Group at Pathways Hospice, I met with Joe Maio who started a similar group in Colorado Springs. The first thing he told me was to hold on to one fact, “It will never be the same again.” He told me that once you accept this fact you can begin the healing process. I took this to heart and made it a mantra repeated at every meeting of our Men’s Grief Group.
This acceptance of your new reality, this acceptance that she will never return, and this acceptance of your loss allows you to shift your focus from the pain to the healing. You are not suddenly well because of this realization, but you are able to begin the work of becoming more whole again.
Does that mean that she is no longer a part of your life? No! As I say in my book (Widower to Widower), “My belief is that, for us to move forward, we need to know that we do not have to leave anyone behind.”
You can hold on to her memory, you can still love her, and you can still honor her. But that does not mean constantly dwelling on the past as you did during the early deep grieving phase. It does mean that you will make room for new activities, new people in your life, and new ways to celebrate life going forward.
© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby
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