As I grieve the loss of my husband, I find that my life is just OK. I write, I volunteer, I function, but function is the operative word, and it often keeps me in a stagnated state. I function at a five out of ten. Life is livable and I am still trying to find the joy that existed when Peter was alive. But how do I move from life mired in a five, to a six or seven? As I picture the skating judges assessing my Olympic performance, without too many falls on the ice, might I miraculously skate my way to the possibility of an eight rating?
When Peter died about four years ago, I experienced a loss so devastating that my life as I knew it was over. I had to crawl along the path of grief, inch by inch, scraping my knuckles on the floors and walls, propelling me reluctantly forward towards a new life that would be my acceptably different existence. It was truly the domino effect. Someone spends hours and hours setting up dominos and then with one push, the dominos tumble over. After the death of a loved one, there is a chain reaction of secondary losses that result from the first loss. I had to tackle each loss and figure out a way to amp up my life’s trajectory from a five to a seven.
I wrote about my first secondary loss when I penned the blog Demoted to Lunch. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-burrows-grad/pain-of-losing-a-spouse_b_8173264.html I was suddenly no longer a viable dinner companion but relegated to the lunch bunch. As a single woman, I had lost my status by losing my partner. The stigma of widowhood is such that we not only lose our dearly beloved mates, but instantly we become persona non grata at social gatherings. I had lost my relationship ID. I was no longer a wife, I was a widow. This was a hard one to tackle. I had to be smart and figure out how to be included in social functions again. I love to cook so I began giving dinner parties. Cooking was therapy for me and by having friends over for small dinners, I began to teach them to include me, even though I was, to quote Beyoncé, “a single lady.” (Grade of six-plus and counting)
Then there was the loss of my family dynamic. I lost my partner. My son had only a mother, and my grandchildren lost a grandfather affectionately named Duke. As a single person, I had to do all the chores that Peter and I shared. I had to take on the financial responsibility, the cleanup in the kitchen, and yes, I had to take out the garbage! (Grade of six-minus, since the inclusion of finances and garbage detail).
The loss of economic security was a very one to handle. Financially, I had to find my way to understanding my future. I enlisted the support of my friends who were actually pleased to help me find my way. It was a win-win situation since I learned how to handle my finances solo and they felt better having a task that would help a friend in need. (Grade of six-plus with more self-knowledge, and moving up the learning curve).
Other losses fell into place quickly after Peter died. I had the loss of my future dreams and plans. No longer would we travel together, party together, or have the luxury of planning our future together. I coped by making my own travel plans. I didn’t journey far but went on trips to visit close friends and actually began to enjoy the trips, even though I didn’t go long distances. (Grade six-minus. I pledge to venture further!)
There was also the loss of having someone to care for me. I shuddered at the thought of getting sick and depending on my son to care for me. I didn’t want to be a burden and the loss of security brought on a loss of self-worth, which devastated my personality. I am still working on this one. I am stockpiling chicken soup in my freezer just in case! (Still at a five, but trying to stay healthy!)
The loss of touch and intimacy was another hurdle. Many widows and widowers get a pet for comfort. I didn’t want the responsibility of caring for anything other than an occasional orchid plant, until I could get through the pain of grief. The loss of my best friend and confidante was the hardest. I had lost my cheering section and my support system suddenly and it was ravaging my being. Peter was the mirror to my soul and through that mirror I felt loved, wanted, and cherished to the max. Having my posse of friends rally immediately after Peter died, and still to this day almost four years later, is what got me through the muck of grief. I can’t tell you how much I am grateful for my friends. They call and inquire and make me laugh. They are supportive and kind and I am most beholden to them. (Grade six plus and Grade ten for my friends!)
I am working my way from five to six and then on to seven! I have survived. The sun doesn’t shine as brightly, and the stars don’t twinkle as intensely, but I have survived. I deal with each loss and achieve a sense of power by tackling them one by one. I will reset the dominos and hope they stand without tumbling. And if they tumble, I will pick them up one by one and move forward.
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