Cleaning off my dying laptop I came across this piece. I wrote it at least 7 years ago as my niece is turning 15 and I refer to her as being 7. I have no recollection of writing it. The odd things loss will do to a brain. Though I wrote it as a survival guide to myself after Richard’s death I suspect it’s applicable to anyone experiencing loss- and that is pretty much everyone these days. So, speaking as someone who has had a great deal of loss, cut yourself some slack, enjoy the post, take a deep breath and keep moving forward. Know that even when we are hurting, feeling lost and at times overwhelmed, we will recover; it does get easier.
What to do when a most precious loved one dies
- Buy cereal. You will not feel like eating much. You might feel nauseous a lot of the time. But, because your body needs food of some sort, cereal is easy to eat and easy to make. If you can add a banana, raisins or a teaspoon of flax or chia all the better. Though you should not feel bad if you can’t do this. Be proud that you’ve poured the milk over the cereal and actually eaten something. Toast and a protein spread like peanut butter, almond butter, pumpkin butter or smashed avocado is also good. Pre-sliced cheese works too.
- Don’t buy vegetables or salad stuff, unless these foods are your comfort foods. Like that’s possible. If you think that now is the time to take care of yourself and you buy these things thinking you will prepare them and eat them you are fooling yourself. You will end up throwing out whatever it became in your crisper either into the compost pot or the garbage.
- Buy pre-cut veggie trays if you think you will eat them. That way you can get a mixture of veggies and you don’t have to cut anything, use a cutting board, or make a mess. If you don’t like broccoli and all of the trays have broccoli ask the prep person to please make one without broccoli. If need be, tell her it’s for a friend who has a broccoli allergy.
- Get a volunteer admin assistant. There are things that will make you feel better like having a massage, getting your hair cut, playing a round of golf or finally taking your dog to the vet. For some reason making appointments becomes a HUGE deal. A good friend can set up all of these appointments for you and if need be, will get someone to go with you.
- Tell people you are not up to visiting if you aren’t. Better yet, don’t answer the phone. You can always return calls when you are up to it. Or still better, wait until they are at work and then call and leave a message saying “I’m okay and thanks for thinking of me. Hopefully we’ll connect soon. If you don’t hear from me please give me a call in week or so.” You can repeat this dance as often as you need to until you are actually ready to connect. If they don’t get it, then you may ask yourself if you want to stay connected to them.
- If you don’t want to stay connected to someone then don’t. Losing someone you love makes you realize that time is the stuff life is made of. We all have a limited amount of time and so spending it with people we don’t really like is not a good use of our limited time, whether it’s on the phone or in person. Don’t feel guilty about this. I don’t.
- Buy boxes of fudgesicles or whatever else food products make you feel better when you eat them. Like my 7 year old niece Maya, I like sugar. Because my husband had cancer and my brother right before him too, sugar was no longer in our diet. Even agave, honey and maple syrup were mostly out. The first thing I ate that made me feel better after Richard died was an Italian icing sugar coated crostini followed by several of its brothers and sisters. It is what it is. Those crostini helped me cut back on the amount of cereal I was eating and I started eating frozen lasagna from the gourmet store, smoked salmon, cheese and avocados. They opened the door to my adding maple syrup to my coffee and the re-introduction of fudgesicles into my freezer. I didn’t always feel better for long, especially if I ate two or more fudgesicles but I did feel better for a bit and that was better than not feeling better at all.
- Go ahead and drink wine, beer or whatever turns your crank. Taking the edge off is not a bad idea. Work hard to wait until dinnertime and try not to have your first drink until the frozen lasagna in the oven. Gourmet store garlic bread and bruschetta are also worthwhile investments at this time. Drinking and sleeping pills is a bad, bad, bad idea so steer clear of that one. I’m very serious about this.
- When you start to gain weight or gain back the weight you lost because of the bread, wine, pasta, sugar and fudgesicle diet you’ve adopted, let it be. Know that this is what you need to do to get through the days right now. You will feel different a year from now and then you will be in a better place- you may even be able to cut up your own veggies by then.
- Grief counselling, courses and walking groups are sometimes better than friends. Being among others who are all struggling to rebuild their lives and who are hurting much like you are is a good place to be. Like becoming a parent, the loss of a precious loved one, demands that parts of your previous life cease to exist and that a new normal must be slowly discovered. No one knows this until they live it. Being with others who get this makes you feels less alone and less crazy or at least it makes you feel like you are not the only crazy one out there.
Stay well and PLEASE stay home. Save lives.
Looking for previous Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1