Sunday, April 11, 2010

Leaving the TV on all night is OK

When I first found myself shockingly alone and grieving, I sometimes left the TV on in my bedroom all night. Watching television helped get my mind to stop processing the pain and as I drifted into sleep the monotonous background noise provided a kind of comfort. I was not alone because I had the TV and the cat next to me.

Surviving grief is an aspect of widowhood (or the wrenching loss of a long-term relationship) that takes time. For me it has now been almost three years and I still have periods when I grieve over the loss of my marriage. But I've started to say no to myself when the pain creeps into my mind. There are too many things I want to enjoy in the here and now... my family, my new relationship with a loving person and life as I find it now full of challenges. Still when I spend time with women as I did a few days ago, who are new to their loss and the grieving process, I think again about what it was like for me as I resolutely planted one foot in front of the other to put time and new experiences between me and what felt like a horrible emotional traffic accident where my bleeding body was sprawled on the pavement. Nothing, however, can rush the process. The pain is real, unbearable except that we have no choice but to endure. As my mother said, "You can't go until you're called." But in some ways, the pain provides a connection to life that is sweet and precious. I've never felt more in tune to the mystery of the universe than during my months of intense grieving. Dawn was my special time to be awake, to listen to the world and to my own heart. Night was the worst. That's why I stayed up as late as I could to be as tired as possible and occasionally used a prescribed sleeping aid to overcome the free-wheeling thoughts that wouldn't go away.
I bought books on self-actualization, books with daily inspirational quotes. I sought professional counseling. I spent time on weekends with friends who "got it," who understood what I needed and did more listening than talking. In moments of meditation I sought assistance from a higher power. I babied my self with an occasional massage. I scheduled my time so I had something out there on the calendar. I wrote in my journal. I embraced the life I had and began writing this blog for Sixty and Single women.
Susan Fuller has written a book called "How to Survive Your Grief." In it she shares these observations about what normal grieving might include: Feeling numb, finding it hard to believe that the death (loss) has really happened, feeling restless and fidgety, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping and feeling exhausted. Some who experience a loss may think they hear, smell, see, or feel the person who is gone. Some may experience volatile mood changes or lose their sense of purpose and direction. Guilt or being afraid you’ll forget them is not uncommon. To read more go to
For me it was more about moving on..."breaking new trial" as one friend said.
The women I talked with both had lost their husbands to cancer. One knew for two years that her husband was dying, the other only a few months. Both are in the throes of deep grief while at the same time having to handle unfinished business left behind by their husbands, find their financial footing and find a new life on their own. While no one wants to experience the pain of loss, neither can we expect to avoid it especially as we move into our sixties. For those in grief, make yourself a blessing to someone else in some small way every day. A kind smile to the grocery checkout clerk may be all that person needs to make it through her shift. Your grief becomes a way to see people in a new light, to feel their humanity and experience the mystery of all our lives. As Susan Fuller suggests on her Web site, grief does come to an end…"in its own time, it really does end." Don't try to rush it.

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