I came across a piece of writing that so eloquently sums so much of what I’m going through. Fred, thanks for giving me permission to share.
Unique and Devastating Loss by Fred Marotto
With the death of our spouse (which here includes fiancée, significant other, partner, etc.), we grieve the loss of so much more than someone we merely loved or were close to, like a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend or pet. We grieve instead the loss of: The one we loved most deeply, cherished and felt the very closest to. The one we swore commitment to in that unique human bond of marriage, which many consider sacred. The one we shared the ultimate partnership with to live as one and perhaps bear children with. The one who embodied our true sense of home. The one who was our best friend and who was to be our companion for life. The one we confided in, depended on and trusted most. The one who really knew, understood and accepted us as we were. The one we felt safe and protected with. The one we shared private moments and intimate feelings with. The one we mated souls with.
But it is not just that this most precious person has been torn from our life, as unbearably heartbreaking as that alone is. With the death of our spouse, and only of our spouse, many additional profound losses must be grieved as well. For we also suffer: The loss of who we ourselves were while with them. The loss of the couple we were once half of. The loss of the life partnership we once formed. The loss of the husband or wife role we once embraced. The loss of the life we once lived. The loss of the plans we once made. The loss of the dreams we once shared. The loss of the future we once envisioned.
Amidst all this, we are also suddenly confronted with many hardships we never expected to face at this point in our life. Besides financial survival, increased domestic burdens and perhaps single parenting, additional challenges less apparent to others but all too real and terrifying to us. We must now find it within ourselves: To create a new identity. To redefine our role in life. To establish a new connection to the world. To build a new network of social relationships. To discover a new sense of purpose. To formulate a new set of goals. To decide on a new direction for our future.
And we must accomplish these without dishonoring our former life, but while suppressing bittersweet memories of that life, so that they not hold us back. Memories of happier times mostly, but also those of our spouse’s death, either sudden and shocking or after prolonged illness. We must further endure the feelings of guilt and disloyalty that follow us as we attempt to forget and move forward, but with our heartstrings tied so tightly to the past.
And all these tasks must be taken on at the lowest possible point of our life in the worst state imaginable. When we are the weakest, most vulnerable, most insecure, most isolated, most heartbroken and most emotionally exhausted we have ever been. Without that one person we long ago became accustomed to relying on to help get us through life’s greatest challenges. The one who, just by being there, would have provided us emotional comfort and moral support to draw upon, as well as the strength and confidence we need to complete those tasks and so much more. But now we face all this alone.
Profound indeed is the death of our spouse. Unique and devastating. For nearly all of us, much more catastrophic to our life than the loss of any other. And truly comparable, many of us widows and widowers often feel, to one other death only. Ours.