everyone grieves differently, but people grieving often have a lot of similar experiences and feelings as they go through the process. This is a snapshot of my first month.
The first month after my husband died was awful. I’d just lost my best friend, the person I did everything with, my business partner. We were together 24/7 and we loved every minute of it. Then, suddenly, he was gone. Maybe not so suddenly, since we had 6 1/2 years of cancer before he died, but it was still a shock to my system. Death always is.
There was also a level of trauma that we all experienced, not just from the day of his death, but from all of the days that preceded it, beginning the day he ended up in the emergency room at St. Mary’s after an infusion at the Mayo Clinic went wrong. We had all felt shellshocked. Yet, there was so much that had to be done, and the clock was running the whole time.
We had one week to plan a funeral
—One that we knew would be a big one. Ten years earlier, we spent 6 months planning our wedding, which had 80 guests. Now we had 6 days to plan a funeral with 500 guests, all while grieving. We got it done, though, thanks to lots of help from family members (especially my sister-in-law, Marion who sat with me for nearly 8 hours going over the details). Coon Rapids Evangelical Free Church, where we held the funeral, and Johnson’s Funeral Home in Waconia, Minnesota were also especially kind and helpful The ladies who made the funeral luncheon were amazing!
The week was a whirlwind of activity that pushed me through to the day we would say our final goodbyes. After the funeral, our busy home came to a standstill. Rather than the constant stream of people in our home, We only had a couple of visitors, but they were a breath for fresh air.
Then, came the practical issues of life…
…Our old Nissan decided not to start at the most inopportune times, like when my kids were in St. Paul, or me and my sister-in-law got stranded while in Brooklyn Park. I certainly couldn’t have that happen while out with Real Estate Clients and I had an appointment the following Tuesday. So, I spent an entire week car shopping. I had only ever purchased one vehicle by myself. The whole process made me anxious. Dan loved car shopping, so I gladly left that up to him.
My 17-year-old daughter, Sam, went with me to test drive vehicles for a week. Then I learned that the ones in my price range all had salvage titles and I wouldn’t be able to fully insure one of them. Back to the drawing board. Then, Sam found one on Craig’s list that she felt was worth a look.
It was a KIA Soul, just like Dan had always wanted (and I teased him about it because I thought they were odd). But this one was in my price range and had a clean title. So, I looked, and I bought it, just glad to have that behind me. Doing new things is often difficult, and everything seems to be new when you’re grieving. Now I need to do something else I’ve never done before and sell the old Nissan. At least now I could leave the house without having to call AAA to get me home.
And I had to leave the house
I soon learned that the way Dan thought that the social security survivorship benefits worked, wasn’t the way they actually work. I would have to kick it into gear so that we wouldn’t go under. And this was (and remains) a very real concern. The rest of the month was spent trying to switch the bills into my name and pay them.
Because Dan had been in charge of our finances, I knew absolutely nothing about them. I put off learning about them because it was difficult to face this change. By the time we knew he was actively dying, he was unable to explain them to me. Several important things fell through the cracks during the last few months of his life. He just couldn’t keep up with it all, the way he felt. Plus, there were things to do, like closing out his insurance policies. I had to make an extra Blue Cross Blue Shield payment because I forgot to let them know that Dan had died, prior to the automated billing (which happened before we even had his funeral). That same company is now denying a slew of his medical bills, and they won’t talk to me because I’m “not authorized.” Dealing with hassles like these is never fun, but it’s extra painful when you are grieving.
Meanwhile, I had a lot of thank you cards to get out.
My sister-in-law came over more than once to help me wade through them. We shared stories and memories, triggered by the many people who cared enough to remember us in our time of grief. In many ways, it was very healing.
I also had a friend who came and helped me get my home back into a livable state. Still, there are parts of the house that are in complete disarray.
Our Grieving Daughters
Our daughters had to return to classes at their respective colleges to finish up the last lectures, projects, and final exams. I was amazed that they were able to do it but so glad that they could. We had talked about this possibility long before Dan died. Rather than have their grades derailed, we told them it was okay to compartmentalize their grief until the summer. Somehow they were able to do that. By the end of the month all of the flowers had died, classes were over, cards were no longer arriving, and I was seeing a lot of pain in our kids, as well as in me.
Next week I will share why the 2nd month after losing a loved one is worse than the first.
What Are Your Thoughts?
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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker