An Ending and a Beginning

Ellie S. Thomas

Copyright © 2014 by Ellie S. Thomas

Photo of a woman alone on a bench.

A loved one was gone--been gone the past six weeks, two months, it makes no difference because six months later, we would inform people 'he's been gone six months ago today' but not really believing that. It's been a total disruption of our lives but its still us, to me. Good people and well-wishers tell us that 'its gonna fade and you will heal'. All true but they leave out the most vital issues of what it's like to lose your mate, your parent, your sibling.

Our loved one was wrenched away from us in just a few hours when he went from an active old man to a memory. Better believe THAT takes some adjustment.

The first few weeks were spent as you might think, weeping and putting personal things out of sight, coping with the final needs that society demands but after that- silence. Guests vanished away to their own regimens and neighbors went on with their lives and we were left to find out how to get by on our own.

After the initial phase of meeting visitors and dealing with funeral directors, etc. you're so busy, then there is..nothing, survivors are left with a feeling of emptiness. What to do with oneself? It suddenly seems there is nothing to do. It is pointless to cook, clean, do the usual things because who would we do these things for? Everything becomes a problem. Many widows are truly called 'relics' because they are relics of the past, a time when many women never lived alone in their life and suddenly they are on their own, learning to cope with things they never understood.

The financial picture will most certainly change for most of us. If you get a pension, it will likely be cut by 50% and Social Security will take away either your check or his, whichever is smaller. And you will be fortunate if you dont lose the group insurance that takes care of your medical needs. Your vehicle will need attention and what do you know about visiting a garage?

Most widows will need to change their vehicular insurance because they will not be travelling the distances they enjoyed with their spouse or even with the spouse. It will likely be the same for men who have lost their wife. Reducing the required insurance to 'pleasure plus ten' might be the answer for those of us who will merely travel for groceries, church, short distances and be the only driver.

Then too, this is a time for self-protection. A loss often brings the predators out and they knock on the door, looking for work. They will mow for you, do snow removal, trim trees and shrubs. They tell you your roof looks bad and the chimney is crumbling. This is not the time to make big decisions. Best play it cool for a time.

For me, the best decision I ever made was to simply go away for awhile. The change in scenery, inside and out, proved the best possible relief. I had been unable to sleep or even eat. The food turned sour in my mouth. There was no one to sit across the table and my appetite vanished. I'd wander outside and look at the garden so lately planted and with such great hopes but who would reap the produce? Who could enjoy the flowers?

The laundry was sorted and the sad, worn little items went to Good Will, better things were taken by family and the closets and drawers stood empty. The rooms began to echo. The place so lately a home was no longer a home; it was merely a building with empty, echoing rooms, a place with four walls and filled with...stuff. The motivating force was gone. . And should you think the days were difficult; oh, the nights.

Night comes on so quickly and do what you will, inevitably you have to go to bed. You go through the usual routine, hoping it will bring on sleep but after retiring to the lonely bed, there's the things that 'go bump in the night.'

The noises begin and you hear creaks and groanings, rustling and bangings you never heard before. Is that somebody wrenching at the door handle, trying to open the window? There are footsteps coming up the stairs, crossing the other rooms. How did he/she get in here? After heaving and turning, twisting the bedclothes, you get up and walk the floor. Its not good to turn on lights. You'd feel so conspicuous, so highlighted! There will be many such nights until sheer exhaustion knocks you out.

Being alone can lead to some creative schemeing. If you get tired enough but can't sleep at night, you'll learn to sleep in the daytime! There are lots of interruptions until friends get the message but its helpful if you CAN sleep in the daytime. If thats impossible a very early bedtime, when others are still active and about, might be the safest time to sleep. As others go about their business, surely they would notice if anyone was hanging about, intruding. And if you can get in four or five interrupted hours of rest, it might be your salvation.

Fellow suffers told me about leaving a light on at the bedside, simulating reading at night, others left their TV going. Who knows if you're actually UP watching programs or asleep? The idea is to convey the notion that there IS someone up and about.

Well meaning friends suggested a dog for protection but I suspect that a dog may cause more fright than otherwise. They bark at every other dog, or cat, or nocturnal animal that passes by and sometimes at blowing pieces of trash, or just noises in general. Much better play it cool and secure the place before daylight fades. Lock all windows and doors, place flashlights where they can be found in a hurry, check the phone.

But you will still be scared....and lonely, and alone. Grieving chooses the dark hours and is more easily held back in the bright light of day. It something that has to be worked through and getting together with others in similar positions, often offers solutions. Its good to work out little signals with neighbors, warning flags if assistance is needed, and if things get bad enough, form a sleep over club where several rotate sleeping at each others home, a sort of grown up pajama party.

Naturally, all this is only part of the problem of handling grief but if it helps, it helps. The sobbing will continue to erupt at the worst moments and depression will occur but this is where religion is comforting. We think back to the Virgin Mary, the Dolorosa; who could have suffered more, or grieved more...and she knew in advance what was coming... and think of Jesus! He knew He'd be seized in the garden, He'd suffer agony, be betrayed. And God Himself- He gave HIS only son, HIS ONLY SON, in an effort to save us. This is our time of trial.

So we must walk our own path, growing old and suffering a loss is not for sissies. There is no way to circumvent any of it but we can work out a plan to help us get through the worst and others will help us and we can work together. And dont be afraid to show fear, its a natural normal instinct. Its what keeps us alert and keeps us alive. Only the foolhardy would scorn to show fear, to take cover, to keep their head down. So be cautious and protect yourself but dont forget to enjoy life along the way- there's still a lot of it left, so let's count the roses. 

 Read the sequel to this story, Then, Too...

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