A few days ago, I had a great conversation with a dear friend of mine. The miles separate us, but we talk almost weekly on the phone and I consider her to be one of my closest friends.
We talked about old times and new and how crazy the world is and how life can be so hard sometimes. She asked me a question that I didn’t really have to think too much about to answer- she said something along the lines of –
“How were you able to get through John’s death without therapy or meds?”
In short- my horses…. my animals… Yes, I have a son and my answer was my animals. I hope that doesn’t make me a “bad” person. But the reality was if the need arose somebody could take care of my child and raise him to be an upstanding young man. The routine of caring for horses involves two daily meals… every day… I couldn’t stay in bed and hide under the covers… the horses needed fed. And then… when I spent time with my horses… for that short time, I wasn’t a grieving widow… I was just spending time with my beloved animals. I love my son to pieces, but children often aren’t very loving and caring towards their parents and can be sometimes downright rude and nasty (luckily, mine is a pretty good egg- most of the time, but they all have their moments). Our pets usually love us unconditionally and forgive us of our problems without holding grudges. For me, the peaceful love and bond with my horses helped me to make it through the darkest days. It’s easy to feel better when petting a purring cat, listening to horses eat, and just in general spending time with your animal friends.
Losing a beloved spouse leaves you in one of the darkest places. In my case, I found myself very much alone… I don’t know if it was me, if people don’t know what to say- so they avoid. In the case of the fire company- they’d done their job and helped “their brother.” I wasn’t “a brother.” Maybe I even pushed people away… I didn’t think I did, but I don’t remember. And then there is the awkwardness of “family” who really isn’t family anymore… invites to functions ended… again… I don’t know if it was me or them. If you haven’t lost a spouse you can’t relate to the depth of grief and the emotions that occur and everybody experiences grief differently.
All of that being said… when John was ill we had a lot of support and closeness from the fire company and from friends and relatives. That ended and I was alone… very… very… very alone. I found myself looking to the sky and seeing the intense blueness… the white puffy clouds… the beauty in a sunrise and sunset. Every day had the similarity of the sun rising and setting… and life goes on. Yet at the same time, every day is different and unique and beautiful. Rather than dwelling on the darkness and emptiness in my life, I looked towards the sky, listened to the birds, and was searched for the beauty that life holds.
Online support was also amazing. In my case, I can only think of one other person my age who was a widower and by John’s death he had been happily re-married for a few years. I didn’t know of any young people with young kids who had lost their spouses. I felt like an outsider in so many ways. But, the internet is an amazing thing! I now know a lot of people in my shoes and we’ve banded together to support each other. The knowledge that you weren’t completely alone and the ability to find a “wid” friend at all hours of the day and night is comforting.
For me medication wasn’t a route I would have considered. To many, better living through chemistry is perfect. In my case grief was something I had to go through… as raw and as painful as it was… it was an experience that I had to experience. Everybody has what works for them… if medication in the answer then great!
If I’d had a grief group available that would have worked for me, I probably would have gone. But in my experience grief groups aren’t for a one year old to be disrupting and paying for a sitter for me to attend a grief group wasn’t in the budget. In addition, any grief group met at a time when I was working and I couldn’t exactly change my schedule at that point. When John was sick, I had went to a therapist a few times and found it a complete and utter waste of time… I didn’t need a cocked head and sad eyes and the advice of “find a mother’s helper.” Again, therapists are a very personal choice and there are ones you click with and ones you don’t.
As some contacts disappeared, others emerged, some friendships strengthened more, and kiddo and I kind of just do our own thing and I do my best to instill in him what a great man his father was and how proud he’d be of him. I’ve learned that our lives are ours to live or to not live, the sun rises and sets no matter what you do, nature always has impressive an amazing beauties to behold, and to quote Winston Churchill, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”