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Filling the time and space you would have spent with your spouse day to day.

One of the most difficult things I remember from early in my own journey was all the empty space and time in my life as well as the often numbing level of silence that had all been previously filled by my wife. We were blessed with having spent at least 10 years together in a mostly retired, together all the time life. But on the other side of that, when my grief occurred, all of a sudden there was an awfully large void that confronted me at every turn, not matter what I did, it was less and it was much more empty for Andi not being at my side. But regardless of how much time you spent together, the space your loved one filled is now empty and finding ways to fill those spaces remains one of the most difficult tasks in our bereavement journeys. I’m going to write much more about this in a future post.

The rebound effect: 

It took me some time before I realized that a large amount of what I was wishing for and thinking about during the lonely hours of sitting around, thinking and feeling empty, and wanting someone to talk to and be with and even my times of just wanting some affection, was mostly fantasy. They were just illusions and I often ended up projecting them onto the people I saw and met just because I needed to fill those empty spaces in my life. I finally began to understand and see that what I really wanted was to have my wife back filling all those spaces and needs and not someone else. 

In my grief, the needs and desires for what I was missing in my physical and emotional life made me think I wanted and needed to fill those voids with another person. But really, what I needed to do was to learn to let those spaces heal and the emptiness close, scab and scar over. Over time, it finally became clear to me what it was that I really wanted and needed (Andi) and that I couldn’t just rebound into spending time with someone else trying to fill up my emptiness with another person as a substitute for my wife.

As I go forward, I see that I indeed really do need to do a significant amount of healing first and become resigned to being on my own in my material life. Only then, once I know I can do it by myself, that I have learned enough and grown strong enough to function on my own can I even entertain the idea that I might actually have something to offer another person. Again, I need to heal my own self or else what do I have to give to someone other than my grief and my needs. Those might buy me sympathy or empathy but they certainly wouldn’t give me love or an equal and balanced relationship should I ever decide that I actually wanted one..

Overcoming inertia yet again: 

Returning to this idea again because it seems very important to me and was a large part of my growth and I had to work on it almost daily from the very start. The lack of energy and ambition that so commonly accompanies grief made it very difficult to want to do much and on some days almost impossible to actually do anything at all. I’ve talked to people who tell me there were days and even weeks in the early parts of their grief when they could hardly get out of bed, certainly not take a shower and get dressed and even thinking about eating or fixing food was much more difficult than they could imagine or handle. 

I remember many days when I did make it out of bed but not much further than the couch where I just sat, sometime staring into space and remembering, sometimes crying, sometimes being pretty numb and not doing much of anything. There were days of reading all day and though I don’t watch much TV, many others I’ve talked to just watched movies and almost anything that came on just because they couldn’t do much else.

This is all what I call inertia. The tendency to stay in place and not move under the weight of our grief. 

Once I recognized it as something that was happening to me and that I needed to overcome to start moving forward in my life, when ever I would get thoughts like, I’m too tired, I’m too sad, I just don’t want to do it, its too hard, it takes too long and others of the like, I began to deny them in my mind. I kept telling myself, no, this is just inertia and no matter how you feel and what your mind tells you, yes you can do these tasks and you need to get up off the couch and do them. 

And each success led to more success and more confidence that I indeed could do these things. And the side effect of overcoming the inertia was a building of self confidence and self image as a “ doer” as a person who could actually get things done and it allowed me to begin to slowly do the tasks of every day life and begin to build a basis for not only doing things but also of enjoying the doing.

I cooked my first meal late in the first month of my bereavement. For some reason I got up one Sunday morning thinking how nice it would be to have French Toast for breakfast. And then I went through all the “oh its too hard, takes too long and on and on” denials. And finally I got tired of all that, I knew I had made french toast before, it wasn’t that hard and so I just got out a pan and began to make breakfast. 

And it wasn’t hard and it didn’t take too long and it tasted great! It was a beginning. I made it a ritual. I made myself cook french toast every Sunday morning there after and I still do so over three years later. And it’s still good! It was the beginning of my discovery of inertia and that my mind was telling me I couldn’t and in my grief I believed it and once I began to deny it, I found out I could not only make french toast, but I could also do pretty much everything else I wanted or needed to do once, no matter how I felt, I stopped listening to the I can’t and substituted I can and I will.

One Reply to “Filling the time and space you would have spent with your spouse day to day”

  1. Once again Howard you so wonderfully put into words living in the void of loss. I too recall those days in a fog, desolate in my little cove of a world. I myself spent many days in bed or the couch watching old movies that reminded me of my husband Steve, Reading a book was impossible through my tear washed eyes, I was known to always have a book or three within reach but my mind just could not focus.. We too were fortunate to have spent 5 years of retirement time together, that was such a dream for us. After Steve’s passing I remember telling friends the worst part of the day was waking up alone and then it was going to bed alone and the alone in between. In hindsight, I believe we have a resiliency that comes from the wonderful deep love gifted to us from our husband or wife that can only help us with the inertia to move out from the weight of grief. By the way that description is exactly how it felt. Steve and I loved to open our home to friends and family and entertained so often so continuing that activity helped me to move forward. Finding a social group that accepts me as I am and not feel the need to “fix” me has been my saving grace.
    A quick share in relation to making a meal. You see I was not the cook, it was Steve’s delight. As many people find in grief, eating is not a priority. Well after three months of Steve’s passing I decided to make a meal that he and I enjoyed – King Salmon with green beans, mushrooms and tomatoes baked in parchment with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Sounds eloquent but it is an easy, cannot go wrong meal, one of the few I could cook and be edible. Well I was so happy with the outcome I posted a picture on my FaceBook page stating I finally cooked a meal for myself. Here is the punch line – my friend’s daughter called her Mom and said “I am really worried about Vickie, she has not eaten in 3 months!” Becoming vulnerable helps lift the weight of grief. Cheers my friend!

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