How I Survived The Loss Of My Husband

May 31, 2018 Published by
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How I Survived The Loss Of My Husband

My first experience with death and mourning occurred with the untimely death of my late husband, Michael.

Losing my soulmate was debilitating. I can best describe myself as shattered and shocked. One day I was young, in my forties with two precious daughters living near the sea, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Life in the Islands with Michael, also in his forties, was a romantic adventure. The word “survive” was not part of my vocabulary.

And then, the tide turned. I found myself immersed in a private and personal journey of unanticipated grief. As a young woman and mother, I was in uncharted waters. I was faced with learning how to handle constant sadness, fear, lack of concentration, loneliness, and grieving.

Looking back,  I survived by trusting my instincts and by always being mindful of signals coming from my heart. All along, it was telling me how to survive the loss of my husband, and I knew I had no choice but to ‘ride the wave.’

How One Phone Call Changed Everything

The phone rang as I was about to leave for the market to shop for a special dinner. We were going to celebrate Michael’s homecoming and a successful business trip to Salt Lake City, Utah.

I was as happy as a lark as I picked up the phone. I immediately recognized the voice on the other end of the line and I smiled. It was Michael’s brother, Roger, a Periodontist living in Colorado with his wife Karen and two children.

“Hi Rog! How are you? I am so happy to hear your voice,” I said.

Roger pulled no punches. He said to me, “Michael had a heart attack.”

I burst out, “I will be on the next available flight into Salt Lake.”

Roger said, with no emotion in his voice, “Susan, Michael is dead.”

Overwrought with uncontrolled and sorrowful emotion, I heard myself screaming at the top of my lungs, “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” I was screaming so loudly that my neighbor heard me from next door and phoned the police to report what she thought was a break-in.

Three officers arrived and saw me racked with uncontrollable and heart-wrenching sobs. Nothing could stop the faucet of tears from drenching my face. I was agonizing over my loss, truly feeling my pain.

Looking back, I now recognize I was in the beginning stages of mourning. I was a young woman who knew nothing of death.

It is now 20 years later. I survived this loss and yes, I can even say I am now thriving. The lesson is this: With fortitude and one step forward at a time, you too can survive and thrive again. Here’s how…

The Four Types Of Widows I Have Met, Myself Included

  1. Pretending to be ‘just fine.’
  2. Talks incessantly about the deceased spouse.
  3. The ‘merry widow,’ running as fast as she can.
  4. The widow riding the wave through the pain.

 During the first year, I felt like each of these types of widows at one point or another.

I was overcome with sadness. Lonely for Michael, I lost my ability to concentrate. I could not read or watch television for the first year.

Instead, I preferred spending my time alone in my private world, thinking. I had no desire to engage in social conversation other than with my daughters, and I could not remember anything negative about my marriage.

How I Survived… And You Can, Too!

  1. I walked four miles daily, two in the early morning and two at sunset with my pooch, Maholo, along the beach or down the road past Diamond Head and into the park, thinking almost always about my life with Michael. This helped my physical and emotional stress.
  2. I felt my pain and cried long and hard every day that first year. I never held back one tear or thought.
  3. My surroundings were extremely important to me, so I moved from our large home to a beautiful apartment with a large lanai near the sea. I breathed in the salty air; I filled my apartment with nature, orchids everywhere.  My new home wrapped its arms around me and brought serenity.
  4. My daughter, Jenny, asked if she could move into my apartment with me and I said, “yes.”
  5. 10 months after Michael’s death, I met my husband, Sheldon Good. I told him, “I cannot see you for a year and a day from the time of Michael’s death, out of respect for Michael, my daughters and myself.” He waited for me. We are now married and have been for over two decades. There is hope, my friends.
  6. I rode my personal wave, always listening to my heart.

The Four Stages of Mourning, Because The Only Way Out Is Through

I knew there were four stages of mourning. A widow or widower never fully recovers until they deal with their feelings.

  1. Shock and denial. We cannot comprehend.
  2. Anger, fear of the unknown, depression.
  3. Acceptance. We survived. Our mind accepts that life can go on. And so it does.
  4. Moving on to a new beginning, a new chapter.

These are natural feelings. I was able to get to the heart of my grief. It was natural for me to feel and release all of my emotions. However, I recognize this is not the case for everyone. If you are stuck in a state of grief, there is help for you in the form of private counseling, self-help groups, a family Priest, Minister or Rabbi. You must always do what is right for you.

The Message is This…

Life goes on and you can, too. That is what your partner wishes for you. Please don’t deny yourself the ability to ‘ride your wave’ to a new chapter of your life.

If you have lost a loved one, what tools helped you heal?

Many feel guilty for finding happiness again. That is normal. Have you experienced this?

How did you regain happiness after a tragic loss? (And if you aren’t there yet, please trust that you will be happy again and you deserve to be happy.) 

Please share your thoughts and experiences either in the comments below or on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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6 Comments

  • Elizabeth Kershner says:

    Honey, how did you know I needed to see this today? One week ago, standing along side my brother we watched As our 95 year old mother passed from this life. We were blessed with meeting some amazing health care providers and pastoral care providers in the week leading up to her death. At 95, we cannot argue, she had full life, however, we ride the wave of emotions, knowing we are survivors, just as we were always taught, by a very strong mother. Thank you for sharing your guidance on grief and survival, and thriving in the face of loss and heartbreak. Much love. ❤️

  • Judi says:

    I relate so much to your advice on grieving. I had lost my parents in the mid 80’s, but know now I never really had the chance or took the chance to really grieve for them but 5 years ago next month in fact I lost the true love of my life. We were not married yet , knowing each other for 7 years, dating for 3, looking back now we would have never put it together at the time but now I pretty much know when he started getting sick, but when he did really start showing symptoms he thought he could work through it, but then in May he finally went to the doctor but it was really to late. He passed 10 weeks later.

    Your kinda like a zombie, the first year was awful, I remember thinking I don’t know how one human can have so many tears but there they were flowing uncontrollably. I would get and honestly for some reason still do this often get days and dates mixed up. I was told and I knew they were right I looked horrible, my youngest daughter who absolutely loved Ruben, said mom you are going to die, you look so bad, she and her mother-n-law got me into a grief counseling support group. I decided pretty much right away no matter what it was going to hurt like crazy beyond crazy so I had to go through it and I chose to go through it with God. There surely could have been other ways, but I chose God. I never was angry at God or Ruben or the cancer itself but I personally did deal with guilt over every argument, disagreement or fight. But God helped me every step. I moved around in a fog. Feeling like I barely was able to get up and shower and dress every day. I had to keep working and that I could do no issues except for such overwhelming intense sadness.

    Then came the physical effects which I already had a deisese that I fight so this really impacted that more so. They gave us ‘‘this work book and there were these little cards with scriptures printed on them, I began taping them to my mirror and every morning I would read and re read them for that first year. The day of his first year anniversary I went to a special mass for him with his sister. Tough day but it did start to get a little better but there were still those waves of uncomfortable sadness and crying like a roller coaster or waves in the ocean. Now 5 years later there isn’t a day I don’t think of him and still occasionally days of tears but usually now there is a smile on my face. My pictures comfort me and my memories. As far as love again well I have started wishing and praying for new love but is still a little grief like I’m cheating on him. Even though I know he’d want me to be happy but I also have not met anyone. But then I think maybe it will happen again when I least expect it, like a lovely gift or vase of flowers left at your door. I thank God for helping me through this very difficult time. He has carried me through this storm in my life, and he will continue to carry me. I have drawn closer to him. For what ever reason he needed to do it this way, I’d preferred something differently but his ways are best. And I am thankful because it also allowed me to finally grieve for my parents properly too. For all who grieve and we all will, none of us get a pass on this, I hold in my prayers and thoughts…❤️

    • Jannett White says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, lost the love of my last 30 years of my life..which left me devastated. My husband of 30 years went to heaven 2 years,3 months and 5 days ago.. He was here one week and gone the next..we never had the “if I die first talk”.. the couple time it was actually part of our conversation..we both agreed we would live ” forever”..unbelievable but true.
      God’s Great Grace brought me THROUGH..The only REAL answer.I can provide for me, personally?

      My heart was broken into a thousand pieces over and over again..the tears wouldn’t stop for the first year, weight loss. Lack of self care, no socialization..no appetite, anger, fear, lack of concentration,shock..totally traumatized. My only daughter..was the rock..along with God’s Grace..and the prayers of the saints and my family..known and unknown ..are the reasons for my existence today.

      I went to the cemetery every month on his last day on this earth for one full year.. I made the promise to Him and kept it..except for one month..but went the very next day..

      There were so many “if only”.. though I did what every ” loving wife would do..be there for him and with Him even through the valleys..but still guilt in many instances prevailed.. God promised in His Word to never “leave us or forsake us”.. and being a man of His Word, He NEVER did…..though many times I felt as if He had..sooo much anger for hubby leaving me..BUT .honestly.can say NEVER mad at God..though He left room for that emotion too.

      Two years plus, I have no desire to ever marry again.. Perhaps date casually in the distant future..dinner, movie, etc..at this point.if God doesn’t literally sit that person directly on front of me and tell me..” this is the one”..dating is not an option either.

      The devastation, awful grief and deep.excruciating pain in my heart and very soul ..is something that I cannot even fanthom going through again….in the event hubby would pass away FIRST..

      The love my hubby and I shared can NEVER be duplicated..plus I am at the stage in my life..where I am ready to totally Move into what God has for me to do for His Kingdom..here on earth.

      I applause any one who desires to “remarry”.. As for me..though some say it will change..as I continue to heal ..it is not on my “, to do list”.

      Yes, Grief counseling, support groups, several as a matter of fact, were all part of my survival kit..BUT God’s unconditional love, and availability 24/7 makes me an overcomer everyday..one day at a time.

      I pray His richest Blessings and abundant Grace over and on everyone who has been through or going through the loss of a loved one..because without Him..I am a living witness. I NEVER would have made it…

      Continue to live on..One day at a time..and remember..no matter what..going THROUGH is the only way.. TRUE healing comes.

      Thank you for allowing me to share..

      • Susan "Honey" Good says:

        Thank you for sharing your story. You realized you can heal if you feel your deep sadness and loss of a love. I cried every day for more than a year. If I can give you one piece of advice don’t make any definite decisions about what lies ahead. Be mindful of each day and live it to its fullest and your new life will fall into place. I know. Warmly, Honey.

  • Marsha Gude says:

    Thank You for this
    I’m going through every bit of this except my husband is still alive. He has severe dementia and in a nursing home, I wish more than anything I could afford for him to be home but I can’t and can hardly afford him to be there . This is a nightmare to have to go there to see him because my visits are like I’m his nurse, I obsessed of making sure he’s clean , comfortable, hydrated and not hungry. He doesn’t know me anymore but that’s okay I know him. We’ve been married 24 years and together 30 . Basically it’s like he died but he’s still here . When he does pass it will be like a second death.
    When you wrote ” I preferred spending my time alone in my private world, thinking I had no desire to engage in social conversation other than with my daughters, and I could not remember anything negative about my marriage ” is me identically. At least I know this is normal and I will survive.

  • Lynn Burns says:

    Hello!
    Several years ago my husband and I had just bought a new home. He and my youngest daughter were on their way to take some measurements at the new house when they were hit by another car. I rushed to the hospital to meet them. They told me he was going into surgery for some broken bones, but they would not be addressing the cancer.. I told them surely this was a mistake. But, sadly, it was pancreatic cancer they found during a routine CT Scan. 1 year later he was gone. I was left with two daughters, ages 11 and 15.

    I went through all the stages of emotions you mentioned. After I was encouraged to go to a grief group, I decided to go. I know they certainly serve a purpose, but for me all of those people had not chosen to move forward . . . some after many years. I realized that night that you really only have two choices – find the strength and direction to move forward or you will be stuck in grief forever. So the next day I got up and chose to move forward one step at a time. I chose to be happy, even when my heart was heavy. I worked every day to learn how not to live WITHOUT him, but rather learn to live WITH him. I learned to embrace and live with the fun memories, the laughter over his silliness, the beautiful spirits of my daughters. It was also the beginning of new adventures for me and my daughters through travel. I took a deep breath and got the courage to travel with the three of us. We have gone so many places in the world and I would not take anything for that! I spent money I really did not have, but I wanted to make memories. My daughters are now living on their own but still talk about the fun we had together!

    And last, I knew there had to be a glimmer of joy out of this bad thing that had happened to our family. You must look for the joy. I believe it is always there. It took a while but I found it, as well as did my daughters. We have talked about it many times over the years. We all would give anything to have him back, but we have learned many lessons from this. My children now have compassion for other children who have lost a parent. They are not afraid to reach out to them. They feel they are much stronger and independent than they would have been otherwise. All three of us have learned how important it is not to abandon your friends when they have a family member die. Don’t avoid them simply because you do not know what to say. Continue to invite them to dinners and parties and holiday functions!. I have learned how to truly live life filled with joy and a sense of curiosity and adventure. I do love my creature comforts and have a passion for shoes and jewelry Haha!. . . but I am now fully aware that it is not those things that you will remember or value in the end. My husband and I had a beautiful brand new home, but it was the things we had done together that my husband wanted to talk about as I sat by his bedside holding his hand.

    So, I looked and found the joy in the midst of a black cloud. I would tell anyone to absolutely choose every day to move forward once step at a time. Fight staying in the same place. Choose to be happy even though you think you will die. Visualize walking forward. Know that your heart is not going to hurt like it does today..

    Thank you, Honey Good, for sharing what you know and encouraging others to share.

    Lynn.

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