Cutting our wedding cake in 1998. David died in 2010.
I entered a parallel universe two years ago after my husband, David, passed away in his sleep. This new universe looked familiar. I was cleaning the same house, driving the same route to work every morning, and going to sleep in the same bed at night, but everything felt surreal. One day I was a wife and then I was a widow, and that shift came with a new set of circumstances and emotions that I had never faced before. People are keen on giving you advice before you get married, but no one knows what to say to you when your husband dies before you do. I had so many questions. How do you survive when you outlive the man you love?

Riding out Grief

I was confronted with overwhelming grief when my husband died, so I scoured the Internet looking for advice on how to deal with it. My advice is to ignore all the advice. Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time. There are no rules about grieving, however, there are a few facts you need to know about the grieving process.

You will go through the stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Denial is the first stage of grief. It works as a filter and allows us to process our loss just a little bit at a time. Then comes anger. Be willing to embrace your rage. It’s all right to be angry with your husband because he left you, and it’s OK to be angry with God for taking him in the first place. Feeling anger is part of the healing process and it’s an expression of your own pain. Next comes bargaining. We want things to go back to the way they were so we can say all the things that should have been said, and complete all the tasks left undone. Logically, you know you can’t to go back into time, but your heart is not logical, and you will long for the past.

After bargaining, depression rolls in. This was the worst stage for me. I felt empty inside and experienced grief at the deepest level. Yes, I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t eat or sleep, I walked around in a fog, and I wept until I ran out of tears. You will think that you are going crazy when you enter this stage, but please keep in mind that this type of depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is a normal and horribly painful response to a huge loss. I say this with a caveat. Suicidal thoughts and impulses are not a normal response to grief. They are signs of clinical depression. Seek help if you have thoughts of self harm.

You will eventually enter a stage of acceptance. That doesn’t mean that you’re OK with your loss. It just means that you accepted the cold stone reality of your new situation. I keep focused on the here and now, and know that David would want me to be happy. Just remember that life goes on, the pain fades, and the memory of your spouse will live on in your heart forever.