has been written with hope that you will realise that you are not alone
in the way that you feel after the loss of a loved one.
In an ideal world the words on this website would be read by every couple in a loving relationship before the inevitable occurs and just one part of that couple is left alone. Please, you can help others unknown by passing the link,
at every opportunity.
This is my story. Your story will be very similar.
September, forty years married, normal ups and downs of everyday life that you would expect from bringing up three sons. Life had never been very easy, but, neither had it been very hard. just a normal life and my wife and I were very content.
The boys had moved on, all, with their wives, buying their own house, all in full time work, and there are six grand children. Life was good, and we never asked for "great". There is a smudge on the horizon and it is moving in quickly. This month I arrive at my sixty fifth year.
Its okay, we own our house, no mortgage to pay, get a part time job just to buy the little extras, we can still look forward to our days out, garden centres, seaside, etc, Saturday evenings at the "karaoke", with the family if they can get the baby sitter, the weekend dinner at a small restaurant, and of course, our large garden that we have looked after for thirty years. Yes, retirement will be good.
The garden in particular was our place. We both selected the plants and shrubs, a long drawn out selection process, but generally we agreed on the new acquisition, then the visit to the coffee shop and on the way out, a small pack of "tablet" for the journey home. I was the gardener, Sarah, my wife, was the labourer. I cut the hedges, and Sarah picked up the clippings. Sarah did the weeding, Sarah swept the paths. I planted the new shrubs, and cut the grass. Sarah picked up the grass.
We bought a seat and sited it exactly where it would be in the evening sun, we joked about putting a plaque on it, "To spend our later days". We never did that. On several occasions, on arriving home from work, Sarah's first words were, somebody knocked on the door to say how lovely the garden looked.
Fridays, home from work, cup of tea, and off to the supermarket. A very normal, and, necessary thing to do, but I enjoyed doing it. We were together. On the way home collect the "fish and chips" for dinner.
As I have said, life was good.But the most important thing was that we were content with each other. I did have some little worries as I was well aware that we would be spending a lot more time together, I had heard stories about other couples finding themselves in this new situation and the home becoming a "battle ground". We had talked about this and decided that the small bedroom would be my "retreat" for hobbies, painting etc. We had planned for my retirement.
Two weeks before my retirement the bad news came. Sarah had been attending the hospital with a problem, this is not the place to go in to details, but that "problem" became, out of the blue, confirmation of cancer. Thirty sessions of chemotherapy culminated in that October meeting with the consultant and the news "six months at most".
As you have chosen to read this story I can only guess that you have been in a similar situation, or, that you know of some one that is close to you, be it, family, friends or even a neighbour who is at this time in the same situation. and I do not wish to write in any great detail of the obvious shock that the consultants words caused. It was Sarah that said, "Christmas is getting close, we had better start planning".
Early in February Sarah passed away. She had spent a week in a Hospice but, with the support of the local staff at the health centre, Sarah was in a borrowed hospital bed in her own house when the end came.
The following week was a blur involving the many official things that must be done, and with the full support of the family, there is not a lot of time to think about anything except your loss and the forthcoming funeral.
Now, you are on your own , you are lonely and lost , but how else would you expect to be. You have never been in this position before, you have known for a while now, but never given it any thought. I knew that there were things that I had to do, Sarah's clothes must be moved out of the draws and wardrobe. I dont think that this, though I believe it is very necessary, should be done by the bereaved. I was lucky that having three daughter in laws, they did remove the clothes, taking away those that were not wanted to the recycling site, and packing the rest ready for me to take to the charity shop, I needed to do that myself. My advice to anyone else, and I believe that it is very important, do the same thing, it is part of accepting that certain things are finished, and they are.
I lay in bed at nights, I do not claim to be religious but I say my prayers, I always have. I see my prayers as a way of voicing my thoughts and wishes, not as speaking to a God, but I cant sleep because I am trying to picture Sarah's face, and I cant do it, and I don't know why.
You wander around the house, picking up things and putting them down again. You are doing nothing, but there is nothing that you want to do.
It was about three weeks after Sarah had died when I picked up a camera, it was of the type that used film, and on examining it I found that only three photographs had been taken. My memory took me back to that day in early November, a lovely autumn day, Sarah and I drove down to Helensburgh, it was a place that held many pleasant memories from her childhood, and I had taken three photos.
I quickly wound back the film and removed it from the camera and ten minutes later I was at the shop that developed in twenty four hours. I did not sleep that night and I called at the shop twice before the photographs came back from the developers, I remember that the shop assistant apologized to me, "Im sorry, it looks like only three came out", if only she had known how happy I was with that news.
I forced myself to wait as I walked back to the car and drove the couple of minutes to my house. I remember that my hands were shaking as I opened the wallet and looked for the first time at the pictures.
I am looking at one of the photographs as I write this, perfectly developed, perfectly in focus, the water is blue, the hills in the background are beautiful greens and greys.
In the middle of the photograph is Sarah's mother. of course its not, its Sarah, and its Sarah as I had never seen her.
I go upstairs and collect all the photograph albums from the last forty or more years, I take out each photo of Sarah and lay them on the bed in chronological order from two years before we were married up to the new ones that I have just collected from the shop.
Sarah did get older, here is the proof, but I still don't believe it. When I said good bye for the last time I still saw the face of that beautiful girl that married me.
I look at my own reflection in the mirror, I have never seen that face before. I am old, and all of me is old along with it. and yet, I never saw it as old just two short months ago.
Crying, is a symptom, and the feeling that those tears are not for the loved one, but, for your self. They possibly are, but don't feel guilty about it, its very normal and now it is you that needs the help.
You do not realise it, and probably wouldn't care if you did, but your own health is starting to go "down hill". Friends and family have kept repeating, "Look after your self, make sure that you eat". I am sure that they have the best of intentions, but you don't care, well, actually you do know that it makes sense, and you do cook your self a dinner, but you cant swallow the first mouthful and the lot goes in to the bin. You have milk for your cup of tea and that will do you for now.
You sit down to watch the television, and ten minutes later you realise that you have no idea of what you have been watching, you turn off the television and do what you seem to be doing so often, roam around the house, going from room to room you will never admit to your self that you are hoping to see someone sitting there. You are not eating, your body is getting sick, and now, its your mind that is getting sick. and you don't realise it and you would not care if you did.
Jealousy is waiting just around the corner, you have never been jealous in your life but it is very normal at this time, its enough to look out of the window and see your neighbour and his wife walking by, chatting to one another, and you are jealous of them. In my case I was at the supermarket, my basket, yes, a basket is all I need now, with bread and milk, I look around and see the couples doing their shopping, I drop my basket and run out of the shop. Your jealous, don't be ashamed, it happens and you are normal, just another symptom of grieving.
Thank God for my family, they care and they show that they care, visits and phone calls. "We are going to the karaoke tonight, come along with us". You go, and things are not the same, they all try their hardest to involve you in the conversation, they do their best, but you know that you are on your own, and you know that you are going home to an empty house. You decide, you will not do this again.
You start to think that there is no future. Suicidal thoughts, it might be the best thing to do. Don't worry, its normal, and its just another part of bereavement. You have just forgotten for a while the grief that you will be giving to your Sons, Daughters, Grand children, and the other people out there that do care about you. And when you do think about it you feel selfish. It is that mind playing up again.
Possibly the biggest worry, feelings of guilt. Yet another symptom that comes with bereavement. You are almost certainly, guilty of nothing. That does not stop the feeling, did I do the right things, could I have done more, did I say the right things, why wasn't it me. These are questions that you will never be able to answer, but I am sure that you have nothing to feel guilty about. Remember, its your mind that is telling you these things.
By now you are in a mess. You have lost weight, you are not sleeping, possibly, even personal hygiene is slipping, you are sick, and need help. You don't want to ask for help from family or friends, you turn to your doctor.
Your doctor will know the reasons for your visit, the doctor will probably know that you are recently bereaved, you will be no different to the many that have visited the consulting room before. The doctor will have heard your symptoms reported on several occasions, It is likely that you will be given anti-depressant pills and possibly, a mild sleeping pill, but now you have spoken about your self for the first time.
Religion. Whether you are a believer or not, your local religious minister, priest, reverend, maybe the one that conducted the funeral service, is ready and waiting to help. These are very special people and I have had to re-think my attitude to religion since my wife passed away.
Whilst Sarah was in the hospice, a catholic sponsored hospice, and Sarah was a protestant, the local priest visited each evening and shared a prayer with her, Sarah deeply believed in an afterlife, and those few minutes of prayer had a noticeable effect.
Sarah spent her last few days in our house and I wanted to continue with that prayer, neither of us were church goers, but, a neighbour was, and when the neighbour mentioned it to that genuine, man of the church, the reverend called at our house on a daily basis until Sarah passed away.
I am not religious, but, I believe I am a christian. A christian will do the best that they can to live a decent life, a christian will do good deeds, a christian will help others. Do you need a church or any other building to be a christian. Yes, you do. Without an established church where would I have found that person to help Sarah on her journey, and without fear, to the after life. Even men of the church can not live without an income, the church building requires money. No, you don't have to go to church to be a christian, but, to be a christian you have to help the church.
Words were my salvation.I was low, very low, but I was lucky. I met someone that I could talk to, really talk to, to say what needed to be said and admitted, it took a while, it didn't happen immediately, she, the person that I met, and I had met others previous to that, had a very similar background having lost her husband about the same time as I lost Sarah. We had both "bottled up" our feelings . Over a period we were both able to say the words that we needed to say to someone. The feeling that you were being unfaithful to the person that you had loved and lost, Fear of getting too close and upsetting family were factors that we had to over come, it is a slow process, and some two years later we are still helping each other,I can talk to her about Sarah, and She can talk about her husband and I truly believe that this is, if not the only way, a way that we can help our selves. and others.
I hope that the anonymity of the Forum at this place
will help you to make those first statements, it is only a beginning,
because eventually, I hope, you can share them with a real person. every
thing must start some where. You may wish to leave the words that you
feel were unsaid, a message that you would like to say now, who knows,
maybe messages can still get through. Click on "Angel Letters" top of
Often laughed about, but, very helpful, can be the
contact pages in the local paper, very anonymous and the opportunity to
know some details of the person before making contact, but be a little
cautious. I have to admit that on many occasions Sarah and I had read
them out and joked about them, "I am picking out my second wife", I
would say, and she would reply, "And I will come back and haunt you". I
did meet several ladies that way, it was just for a cup of coffee in a
public place, and I realised that, on most occasions they were meeting
me for the same reason, they just wanted to talk with some one in the
same age group and, with the same kind of problems. The modern method
for meeting others is by using one of the many website dating agency's,
although most of these websites were set up with the best intentions,
and of course to make money for the owners, this method is fraught with
dangers for the inexperienced and great care must be taken when
arranging a meeting. Any reasonable person will understand if you say
that you will have a friend with you at that first meeting and this will
help to deter those that have an ulterior reason for joining that
Spiritualists and Mediums. I don't know, what I do know is that there is no scientific proof of their ability to contact "The other side". I have seen stage "magicians" doing the same thing and admitting that it was a trick, but this does not prove that the others are tricksters.
You must make your own mind up, but, remember, your
mind has been playing tricks with you. If it helps you can it be bad,
remember this, mediums and spiritualists are making a living out of it
and to have you return to hear them again you must be told what you want
to hear, and your mind will often, at this crisis time in your life,
only hear what you want it to hear. There is an article, Psychics, Clairvoyants, mediums, etc. Fact or Fiction? on the "Forum" page of this site that may be of some help. ( Click on "Forum" at the top of this page under the page title )
Herbal remedies, again, I don't know. Medical science often tells us that there is no proof of their "claims to cure". If you read their advertisements you will see the statement "may help", so, do they have any proof?. There are claims that several studies have been carried out but the test sample has been so small that the results are not widely accepted.
You must decide for your self, if you want to try any herbal treatment it is advised that you check with your doctor first, some herbal products are said to interfere with any medicines that you may be taking for other problems. Certainly the effects on some people taking herbal remedies are good, maybe it is only a psychological thing, but if you feel better, and have taken the precaution of checking with your doctor, where is the harm.
Stress. Stress may be a problem that creeps up on you after a period of time and it is not often realised that it has done so, the results of stress are varied and there is a fuller explanation on the page of this website titled "Stress". ( Click on "Stress" at the top of this page below the page title. )
is often one of the causes, or the cause of stress and depression can,
in time, lead to very dark days. Do not be afraid to talk with your
doctor about this, he/she can help. It is not always a anti-depressent
pill that you require as your doctor has many tools that can be used.
You may find more help on this subject on the "Depression" page of this
website. ( Click on "Depression" at the top of this page below the page
I hope that some of the things that I have written here will help you in some way, the loss of a loved one often occurs when we are in our later years and then we realise, possibly for the first time, that "change" is hard. I hope that some of the things that I have written about will show you that the way that you feel is a normal reaction to bereavement. When you are ready to take what I believe to be the first steps this will be the start of the next part of your life, I believe this is what THEY would have wanted.
There is now a hardback book available that is an edited edition of "After Loss". Self published with "Blurb". http://www.blurb.com/make/booksmart
HELP THROUGH A JOURNEY.
Copies of the book seen on left can be obtained from the author. Please use the E-Mail link on "Home" page of this website for further information and price.
The book includes a section for those grieving the loss of a pet.
The author would be pleased to receive comments and reviews about this book via the E-Mail link.