When does the tide start to turn?

To continue my oceanic metaphor, I was reflecting back on when the tide of grief started to turn, or better put, when the undertow stopped drowning me. A loss of this magnitude is so ridiculously out of control, it turns your every moment into turmoil. And the place where you turn for comfort—your home, your family—is what’s most undone. When does that all come back under your control?

Well, let me just set the record straight and say, I have no idea. I thought, like so many other life events, that I would get over it, time would heal the wounds, things would be better, and all those  things we say to one another in our helplessness to fix this sorrow. What I’m finding is that none of it is true. There is no better, there is no healing, there is no over it. But…

I can say that I do not feel the bone-crushing weight I was carrying last year. I don’t know if its because I’m stronger or the weight is lighter, and honestly I don’t really care which it is. I am glad that it’s lighter, however it got that way. Here’s some things that are easier: I can come back home to the house alone and find it the place warmly welcoming again. I am able to do house projects that make me feel good, even if I have no one to share them with. I look forward to my next day, and not just because I can get back to bed and escape into sleep. I like listening to music again and can finally concentrate enough to read a whole book. Little things, but they’re making a difference.

So better isn’t better, it’s seeing the world through new eyes and finding how lovely it still is. The healing isn’t really healing. It’s more about being at peace with the wound. I didn’t wake up one day and realize, oh I don’t feel so bad anymore. It was more about looking practical widowhood in the eye and thinking, ok, I can take this one tiny step forward into a life I didn’t ask for but got anyway.

I’m stuck with it any way you look at it, so here goes.

Born in 1961. Married in 1990. Widowed in 2007. Blogging in 2009.

10 comments On When does the tide start to turn?

  • Hi, I’m Melanie Shelton, and I work for a website called griefandrenewal.com. My dad died when I was 13 months old. My mom, Dr. Laura Slap-Shelton, Psy.D. started this site in order to help other people through their losses by providing resources, information, and support. The site has an emphasis on widows, both in the United States and international.
    We love your work, and we were wondering if we could post it on our website.

    Also, we wanted to let you know about the Soaring Spirits Conference on Widowhood, which will take place from July 17-19 in San Diego, at the Marriott Hotel and Marina. The conference will address ways to help people who are grieving. It will also include an international panel which will discuss ways to help widows in other countries.
    Here’s the link. If you’re interested, please check it out! (http://www.sslf.org/conference.html)

    All the best,
    Melanie Shelton

  • I needed this message today! My husband’s car has not been washed since he died (4 months). I’ve never washed a car in my life and when I asked my daughter-in-law how a car wash worked, she laughed and said you just drive through. Well, this car had never been through a car wash and I wasn’t going to start now. So remembering what I could of how DH did it, I set out with the garden hose, a bucket of suds and any old toweling I could find. (My adult children did such a thorough job of ‘clearing out’ that barely a trace of their father is left- but that’s another story for another day.) I washed and rinsed and even applied some spray polish and the car now gleams. This was supposed to make me feel better, right? As soon as I finished, I burst into tears and was weepy the rest of the afternoon because “he” couldn’t see what I had accomplished. But tears are necessary to healing and it is still awfully early in this widowhood endeavor. So your essay brought some hope and solace- and the realization that some days or parts of days are getting better- I know you remember.

  • PracticalWidow

    Margaret, you washed the car!!!??? Awesome! That’s a huge undertaking! When you shake away the tears, head back out to the garage and admire your work again. It may tire you out for the whole week, but you now have a shiny car to look at as proof you’re hanging in there. Right on!

  • PracticalWidow

    Hi Melanie, please feel free to link to this site. I appreciate your kind words. My lovely nephew lives in San Diego, so I do wish I could make it to the conference, but I just can’t get away next week. I’ll be reading along & hope y’all twitter/blog for us virtual fans. Hope it goes well for you all. I love the idea of the 5K Cry-n-Fly Widow’s Walk (can’t remember what you’re calling it).

  • Hello. I have recently become a widow (November 2008–the day BEFORE I was to celebrate my 19th wedding anniversary). Though it has been only a few short months (though it seems so much longer!!) since the passing of my husband, I met someone new and we have been together since February. It caused me much strife with my children (with much understanding, of course) but now it has somewhat “calmed” a bit. Was I wrong for accepting the attention from this man or was I just caught at such a “vulnerable” moment that I became “caught up?” I would NEVER want to disrepect the life spent together with my husband (he was my only husband, by the way), but I also feel that he would not want me to sit around and sulk about anything, either.

  • PracticalWidow

    I’m the last person to hand out advice (ok, maybe not the LAST but way on down the list) and no-one likes to hear advice anyway. At least I don’t. But I’m wondering why you think it might be “wrong”? What’s making you question it?

    Ok, I can’t hold back from just a little advice… it hasn’t been very long since you lost your husband. Take everything slowly and carefully in the throes of grief, from what you buy at the store to whom you date when you’re ready to jump back in that pool. Know that it’s hard to think clearly through the fog of grief. It’s hard to care for someone new when you’ve become someone new yourself. But if you can find your peace with it, everyone else will too.

  • Widowed too soon

    I have a male friend that has helped me out and is there to give a shoulder so to speak, I have always loved this male friend but us becoming one right now is not in the picture. I am disabled and am doing all I can to hold out until I can retire in 8 months. My husband picked out our retirement land before he died and I made the decision to fulfill our dream, my mother wants to move out there with me because it is out of state and not near any relatives or friends. It would not be my husband and my dream if I were to bring her along. So I let her know that she can visit but not move in. I feel this is something that I need to do on my own. My male friend has been invited to come out and visit or to move in but not till after I get settled. He doesn’t retire fora few more years anyway and by then I should know if I will be ready to move on or if I am destined to be alone which is how I felt after my husband died four month into our marriage. Right now my heart is not in anything and it is all I can do to try to make it to work 40 hours a week. I still don’t know which way to turn or where to go from here. I do know things will get better I just don’t know when. Just like the answers to the questions that I have. In time I may know but for now they are not coming to me.

  • Thank you for this site. My husband died just over 6 weeks ago. I just stopped having a long crying session. I sometimes wonder how one person can make so many tears. I can’t imagine ever getting over this. I know that, with time, I will cope better, but how does one ever get over the loss of the love of their life and best friend. My heart aches.

  • Jan, you said it perfectly. I lost my husband on November 27 2015 and I’m crying again as I type this.

  • I lost my husband in July of 2015 to cancer. He was 58. He was the most beautiful man inside and out. I am sad because he loved life so much. Everything I see, every place I go, everything I do I have thoughts of this wonderful man. I don’t know when or if the cloud of sadness and longing for him will lift. I still talk to him as if he is still here. I will always love him. Strength to those of you who have lost a soul mate in this life. You’re not alone. I do believe with continuing love we’ll once again be united with our beloved.

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One more thing…

How else do I know what hurts and what helps? Because not only were they done to me… I learned through this process that I am certain to have done the very same "Don't" things to others at some point along the way. If you're one of them, I am genuinely sorry. I'm trying to learn.