As the second month after my husband died, rolled around, I was having a surprisingly difficult time. So were the girls. There was an unusual amount of irritability between them over trivial things. And we were being thrust into a life that felt foreign to us. Absolutely nothing seemed to be the way it was when Dan was alive.
Grief/Loss Groups during the Second Month
I joined a couple of grief groups. So far, this hasn’t changed anything, but it is a process, like all things related to grief. And, it has given me an opportunity to meet other people like me who are in a lot of pain and, like me, want to be able to cry with others who need no explanation as to why. And I cry a lot on the days I attend these. The walls come down and you become vulnerable in a safe place. You can admit the pain you are feeling,
Our girls weren’t interested in grief counseling. But they have learned how to express their pain. For example, while I feel an intense need to talk about Dan and what we have been through, they have other needs. We were talking one day and our daughter Emily said, “Mom, I really can’t talk about this right now. Maybe in three months, but right now, it just hurts too bad.” Alright. Message delivered and received. I was impressed by how she was able to express her feelings about it and honored her wishes.
She wasn’t the only one who was having a hard time. Our daughter, Sam, requested that we not go through with our Father’s Day plans this year. No annual Erickson Family barbecue, nor a brunch with my parents. She said it was too hard to see everyone with their dads when she no longer had hers. So, I canceled our RSVP and eventually, thought of the perfect way to honor Dan without leaving home.
Crying during the Second Month
I have found myself extremely tearful lately. My daughter, Summer, remarked, “Mom, you’re not a crier.” And she’s right. But I feel as if protective layers have been peeled off of me, one by one, leaving me raw and vulnerable. I haven’t been handling this time well. One night, what began as frustration over Emily not doing her chores, ended in a screaming match. That’s one symptom.
Sleeping (or Not) during the Second Month
Another issue is my sleep schedule. Ever since Dan was diagnosed, I have struggled to sleep well. Now that he’s gone, I stay up way too late, because I can’t bear to turn out the light and be alone with my grief and the empty space beside me. So, instead, I read, watch Netflix, and even play video games until I am so tired I feel like I can fall asleep right away. Then, I fall asleep at 3…maybe 4 am, and still need to wake up at 8 am. Long term, this isn’t healthy.
Difficulty Concentrating during the Second month
I’ve noticed that my ability to concentrate seems hindered. This is commonly known as “widow-brain.” It’s very similar to the cognitive impairment that happens to women during their pregnancies and postpartum, and it can last for up to two years into your mourning. I can certainly function, but it takes a lot more effort.
Back to Work
I have had to carefully tread back into Real Estate, which involves new business cards, a letter letting past clients know that Dan has died but that I’m still available to help them with their Real Estate needs, all while avoiding sounding salesy. At the same time, I am doing my continuing education credits (at the last minute) so I’m doing a lot of online classes, during the second month.
My Second Month To-Do List
Meanwhile, unexpected medical bills have been coming in the mail, I still have to sell our car, and it seems every day I have to tell someone that Dan has died (like when I went to my annual mammogram and they wanted to confirm that Dan was still my emergency contact).
Our closet has always been too cramped, yet all of his clothes are still hanging where they always have. So I thought about folding them and putting them in some tubs to give me a little breathing room in there. But each of these things feels like I’m erasing a part of our life. That’s why his phone is still connected. I’m actually paying for an extra phone line because I can’t bear to turn it off.
Perhaps the worst thing of all is not being able to celebrate the little victories with him or laugh with him about a private joke. Those things that used to bring me such joy, now leave a hollow feeling in me.
So, the second month is harder than the first because it hurts more, problems keep coming up that he would have dealt with, our children are feeling the pain more, and everything here is so quiet. Don’t get me wrong—I’m an introvert, so I love quiet, but this is just so far removed from the way it was. I’m a total mess. That’s not something you will hear me say very often because I don’t like admitting that kind of thing, but I am.
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