I can close my eyes and go back there: the indescribable, unfathomable rift in the universe, the bizarre and surreal world after Matt disappeared into the river. A wholly irrelevant event catapulted into my life, changing everything.
The first weeks and months after an out-of-order death are a world unto themselves. At that initial time of impact, few things bring comfort. Words of intended comfort just grate. Encouragement is not really helpful. That “impact” zone is not the time for future plans or even for reflection on what’s going on. Survival has a very small circumference. It’s not an ordinary time, and ordinary rules do not apply.
Here are some of my survival rules from those early days:
1. Safety first. If you are driving while crying too hard to see straight, pull over. If you are about to get in the car, help yourself calm down before you start. Distraught driving is dangerous. Let’s be honest here, sometimes you do not care one bit about your own “safety.” I know. What kept my hands on the wheel in those cannot care about me moments was knowing I did not want to create another me. I kept driving, or stopped driving, because I did not want to risk harming someone else. I would not chance creating another widow. I did not want to mess up someone else’s life, or cause anyone else any pain, by creating an accident scene they had to clean up. So – safety first. Do it for yourself, if you can. Do it for others if you must.
2. Drink. Drink water. I have a list I wrote for myself in those very first months called: some survival things. Number two on that list is: crying for three months has really been dehydrating. Please drink water. Oh, it was so early then. I can close my eyes and feel it. The same is true now as it was then: Drink. Drink water.
3. Move. Number one on that survival list was move. This is the most reliable thing. And by “reliable,” I think I meant the thing that was the most likely to induce even the smallest measure of calm. In whatever ways your body might be able to, move. Movement can help. Not because it solves anything, but because movement itself, as you’re able, can make things different.
4. Get outside. Being outside in a non-human world is a relief; the trees will not ask “how are you really?” and the wind does not care if you cry. There is a lot to be said about being in places that don’t need anything from you. Getting out into the natural world can be a bit tricky if your loss happened outside in nature; you may need to experiment. For example, I still find the presence of water a necessity, though rushing rivers are no longer a place I can be.
5. Tend something. This is also on my early survival list. Clean out the garden. Water the plants. Brush the animals. Bake someone a cake. Send a care package. Why this soothed me, I don’t know. I’m sure it has something to do with thinking of others, or giving love, or getting out of myself for awhile. Whatever the reason, tending something seemed to help. It did then, and it still does now.
6. Read. My notes from back then say simply: it seems to put you in a better place. If you are a reader by nature, you may find yourself starving for words. I read and discarded more books than I can remember now. The ones that fed me, I devoured. It’s true: the right words will put you in a better place.
7. Shower. Really. You will feel just the tiniest bit better. The same goes for sweeping the floor or any other seemingly tedious and irrelevant task of hygiene. Really. You will feel just the tiniest bit better to be clean.
8. Eat. This is a tricky one. Some people eat under stress; some people, like me, lose all desire or interest in food. I dropped over 20 pounds within the first few months. I simply did not eat. My “nutrients” came largely from the cream in my tea and the occasional cupcake. Every few-to-several days, I might eat a few bites of something more. I was fortunate – there was no lasting damage to my physical body. I was also under my doctor’s care at this time, and she let me know she would intervene if she felt I was in danger. Your body may respond differently. Some people develop serious, lasting physical challenges due to what we call “the grief diet.” You might find that small doses of healthy, nutrient-dense food are more easily tolerated by your mind and body than full-on meals. Do what you can.
9. Do not turn your anger on yourself. Looking back on this list now, I am somewhat amazed at myself for this one. I wrote: do not turn your anger in on yourself. This is what you are doing when you think you aren’t doing this right, that you’re the one messing up your continued connection, that you should be better at this. Notice you’re angry. Call it that. Name it for what it is, don’t turn it on yourself. The answer to constriction and anger is to name it, not beat on yourself. The current me has nothing else to add to what I wrote back then.
10. Say no. Say yes. You cannot afford any big drains to your energy, and you can’t afford to miss too many ways to replenish it. This will mean saying no to people, places, and events that are too much for you. It will mean leaving a place you thought you could be, right in the middle of everything. This also means saying the occasional yes to things that have brought, or could bring, a small amount of light or love into your hour, your day, your week. Try out that new meditation group you read about, explore the group for new widows. Sit in empty churches in their off hours, or go to satsang while it’s full. Meet your old friends for tea. Be willing to gift yourself some light. Say no to what drains you further, say yes to what might offer even the smallest respite or support.
While these are the highlights from my list, the most supportive rules or guidelines for this time will come out of your own experience. You know yourself best. The core parts of you, the ways you care for yourself, the ways you find solace and connection – these have not completely changed, though they may feel irrelevant. It’s true that unexpected death messes with your world in a way few things can. Adding to this list, or creating a whole new one of your own, might give you just the tiniest road-map inside a wholly disoriented time.
If you are currently close to impact, what are some things you find useful? Are there ways you anchor yourself, or rules that help guide you? If you feel you have passed through that initial time, can you look back and see what helped?
Teresa Bruce says
I also benefited from the reminder to drink extra water.
In the early weeks after my husband’s sudden death, another widow urged me to BREATHE. I thought her suggestion seemed odd–of course I was breathing–until I inhaled fully. I’d been subsisting on oxygen-deprived, shallow breathing without knowing it. Breathing deeply again helped my grief-traumatized body more than I could have imagined had I not experienced it.
Megan Devine says
I know, right? I held my breath so much. And breathing deeply hurt – it was so visceral. So much the thing my love could no longer do. But breathing under the pain was good, and it did help to hold it, give it a container, in a way.
Turtle Davis says
Me too, seems silly bit I am constantly out of breathe. Then I realize it’s because I am holding my breathe and not breathing.
Then I have to breathe deep not to pass out.
I can relate to this. When really upset, my lovely Dad died suddenly on 24th August 2019, I say to myself breathe- when I need to calm down.
I can relate to this. When really upset, my lovely Dad died suddenly on 24th August 2019, I say to myself breathe- when I need to calm down.
Helpful. Glad I am here.
I have experienced a loss recently, and I did have a few minor dizzy spells in the beginning. I just figured my electolytes were low from my appetite taking a grief-based nosedive, and that could be true, but now that I think of it, I wasn’t really breathing deeply either….
This list is so helpful. For the first few months after my son’s death, I literally could not get a deep breath. The over-the-hump deep breath. I know now it was extreme anxiety and I had to learn to breathe right again.
Thankyou. Almost 9 weeks and with a diagnosis of Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy from the trauma of his death, breathing is a constant reminder but also, giving myself permission to feel allllll of it. In my previous life I could “push through” “get over” emotional stress…not this time, not after this. This is hard and it hurts.
I honestly don’t remember when I didn’t have to remind myself to breathe deeply.
Words from all appear to be just what I needed. I have not yet put my words to my deceased husband but I know when I am able to do so it will be cathartic. I need to cry and that’s difficult.
Sheila Bergquist says
A great list. Things that REALLY help, not the usual junk that’s out there. I was wondering if you had any anxiety problems and if so, what did you do about them? Thanks.
I had to be on medication. Still am as I have lost a son to sids at 3m old and 2 miscarriages since then. Its ok to do what you have too. As I started working through the grief I had panic attacks severe enough to go to er as I thought I was having a heart attack. So for 2 months I was on anxiety meds with my depression medication
I’m in early grief. My precious brother Michael died July 12, 2018, and I KNOW I need to breathe as I was taught by my therapist. My breaths are still shallow, and I sob and sob.
Kathy Handyside says
I just lost my precious brother, too. He died on September 4 of this year, of pancreatic cancer. He was my best friend and the best big brother one could ask for. God, it hurts, it hurts. He was the last of my immediate family. I feel like my whole family has abandoned me. I feel so alone. I don’t know if I can continue living. I so want out of this life.
I feel just like you. I want out too. But I believe my husband, who died 2 weeks ago, would be so mad at me if I stop trying. So one minute are a time.
Susie Peters-Komar says
I too lost my husband on September 4 of this year from Lung Cancer. He suffered since 2009. We were together 35 years. I know I felt similar to you 10 days after his death, but I am reaching out to you to let you know your family doesn’t have to be blood, it can be anyone. I send hugs for recovery. This is the first week I am feeling quasi normal, but, it’s because I’ve forced myself to acknowledge the pain like you are doing. Again, special hugs to you,
Kat Holmgren says
I, too, lost all of my immediate family with the exception of one son who is quite distant. However I have found “family” in my church and in my friends. It’s not the same as blood relatives. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s lonely. There’s no one around to laugh with you about Aunt Elma or something silly you did as a child. What you do have in this new family are people who understand you as an adult now, with your new experiences – your failures and successes. No one can ever replace the loved ones you’ve lost and I still grieve for my husband, my brother and my son. But, for the most part, my new “family” accepts me as I am, even though they don’t share all the memories. They comfort me as they best know how. I count myself as blessed that I do have the “family” that I do. I pray that everyone who is on this grief journey has people like I do. Hang in there.
Carolyn Wold says
I carry anticipatory grief. My husband was diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disease the same day we found our son unexpectedly deceased. Since that time, my husband has continued to deteriorate and is now in “end stage” disease. I grieve daily; for our son, for my husband, and for the life I thought we would continue to have. Journaling is what get’s me from day to day. I anticipate it will also help me when this nightmare is over.
Christine Dugger says
I know this feeling. Anticipatory grief is like holding your breath for too long, always sterling yourself for the next blow. There is trauma in that type of grief.
My sister died yesterday from complications of melanoma. It was a two year fight, and the anticipatory grief was hell, but this pain is just far beyond it. Everything hurts. My throat hurts from a day of crying. My head hurts. My stomach hurts. My heart. It felt so normal to wake up this morning, and now that I’ve had an hour or so into the day, I feel again the pain and loss. The only thing I’ve been able to remember is how to drink water, albeit sips.
Pamela D Diamond says
We were in a motorcycle wreck on the 4th of July. I broke 14 bones, my fiance, my cowboy went into a coma that he is still in, we don’t know what the end result will be. I do know I. Iss him so bad I can’t nor do I want to breath. He would say breath Damela, I was not that great, but he was and the slight hope that I will have him back in some capacity some day is both torture and triumph. I drive 12 hours every Sunday to “visit” him. Our whole life and future is gone and a void. Fear is always present and my will to live is lost.
My husband suddenly died eight days ago while we were on holiday in Japan. A holiday that we had been planning for nearly two years – a holiday of a lifetime.
He collapsed and for nine days I watched him and my world die without being able to speak or fight back. When he first collapsed I dug my heals in, started planning the route to his recovery; thinking about how I was going to have to live in this new country for maybe months until he was ready to travel home. When they mentioned brain damage or limited movement I started planning how we could adapt our home to help support him or sell it to get something more suitable.
Then they told me brain death had happened. His heart was still pumping because he was young, only 32, and strong but ‘he’ was gone. The doctor told me he could tell that he wanted to stay. That’s when my heart died. The powerlessness was overwhelming. The loss absolute. The anger like a fist clawing at my insides.
I am still away from home – my flight isn’t for a few days. My husband’s body will be repatriated the day after I fly back. Being trapped in this country that I was so excited about seeing just seems so mocking. The theft of his life makes me see red and the tears just don’t stop.
Jessica I’m sorry for your pain, Sendín Lots of love
Number 9 is the hardest one…
My partner died seven weeks ago at the age of 30. He collapsed 50 meters away from the finish line of a half marathon. He was young and healthy, we went running all the time and it was`t his first half marathon. I was there. I started resuscitating him. I drove with him in the ambulance to the hospital. And he was just gone. Since then nothing makes sense anymore. He is the love of my life. A few weeks later I found an engagement ring in his desk. I don`t understand why the world keeps spinning. And I definitely don`t want it to.
Sorry Jessica- it was`t meant as a reply to your post. And I´m so sorry for your loss. This just isn´t fair and it does´t make any sense.
Sorry Jessica- this was`t meant as a reply to your comment. And I`m so sorry for your loss. This just isn`t fair and it does´t make any sense.
Denise walker says
Dear Jessica i am so very sorry to hear of your loss and the pain that comes with it. And such an awful situation to be in. Recently bereaved suddenly myself if my son, my heart and compassion are reaching out to you. Take care where you can.
Jessica: I don’t have any words of advice, but send you a hand to hold in your grief. I too am overwhelmed by grief.
Pamela D Diamond says
I cry all the time too, which makesme mad. I hate crying. I’m so sorry we are both in need of this page.your a rock star for all you have done and endured up until now
Megan Mackney says
Interesting. I lost my husband on 21st July…he and I were inseparable. Many of the things mentioned in this article are things I’m actually doing…getting out into nature, meeting friends, planning little outings, trying something new…I have cried but no where near as much as I expected to..it feels like he’s still with me most of the time. I have planned a big celebration of his life in a couple of weeks…and I’m fairly sure that after that I may find that the situation starts to really hit me. We spent all our time together…and for the last 2 1/2 years he fought cancer…but he didn’t die of cancer he died of a massive infection. I’m very proud of how he beat the cancer after 6 chemotherapies but wish he could have beaten the infection.
I’m beginning to remember more about our life before the cancer and for me this is helping…I want people to talk about him..to recount little stories about him, to laugh at funny memories…to keep him relevant to this different world I find myself living in. He was my soulmate and souls aren’t alive..they can’t die so his soul is with mine. It helps.
I lost my husband April 6, 2018 to a heart attack. It was very sudden and devastating.
The list is great I’m doing all. I was doing them before so I just kept doing. We were married for 30 years. He was ill our entire marriage. I was blessed to be able to retire when I was 50 to become his full time caretaker. He was my soulmate also. When it first happened I thought I’m all alone now. I have no marriage etc. I have learned since he’s always with me in spirit. I was sad he was gone but I also was relieved he was out of pain. Very mixed up emotions. On June 6, 2018 I had to put our 12 year old lab down due to lung cancer. Wow did that hit me wrong, I don’t think I’ve ever cried that much in my life. I felt bad cause I didn’t cry that much for my husband however as time goes by I’m certainly crying now whenever the wave hits, I just ride it.
I am in a similar situation of having taken care of my chronically ill companion for 34 years, then to have her suddenly pass away Jan. 8, 2018. I still cry for missing her, but she is always with me in spirit and mind. Care giving for a soulmate or companion for so long creates complicated feelings because now they are free from illness and pain, but we the living must go on living as best we can without them. The bereavement will last forever for me until I am cremated and join her in our niche. In the meantime, I travel more to see family and friends who I was not able to before as a care giver. I’ve taken up Scottish dancing and cook and bake with my companion’s spirit as a guide.
Vickie Standridge says
That pain is all consuming at times. I lost my wife and best friend after a year battle with metastatic transitional cell cancer on January 11th this year. We were together almost every day, all day, for 29 years. I kept thinking there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t crying very much. But I’d lost 35 pounds in that year. I was exhausted and numb. Then my dog, my companion and shadow died suddenly from an aneurysm on March 11th. He died in my arms and resuscitation and CPR wouldn’t bring him back. The dam broke. My heart broke. BREATHE is what I do now. Sometimes an involuntary shuddering breath. And I cry. Every day avery night and every morning…when I first wake up I think my world is as it was. Then there’s no wet nose in the hand I hang off the bed and wiggle and there is no breathing “noise” (snore) next to me and reality crashes in. I agree that projects at home help, especially since COVID19 has us all isolated. I am grateful for this book and this site. I read. Cry. Breathe. And feel a little lighter and not like I’m slogging through mud when walking. I’m sorry you have to experience this gut wrenching time.
Yes, good tips… but some I could not do… In Nov 2017, my husband went to work as usual in the morning and was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor that afternoon. It rocked our world. When my husband died of a brain tumor 5 1/2 months later in May 2018, I was exhausted from being his caretaker… I had not slept for 6 months, lost 10 pounds, was filled with fear, anxiety and apathy. I could not read or concentrate. I would make myself eat (even if I wasn’t hungry) and make myself go for a walk and sought a counselor.. I felt like I was in an alternative universe… it looked like the world that I had previously inhabited, but it was not… My husband of nearly 40 years was not in it…I felt like I was in a fog. I sought the company of other women who had just lost their husbands. Or just wanted to be with my 2 grown children and grandchildren. The first books that I read was “When Breath Becomes Air” and CS Lewis’ “A Grief Observed” I wanted to figure out how others got through this… Now, I am 5 1/2 months out from his death, the fog has lifted.. It still is hard work to get through each day… I kept a journal during his entire illness and ever since…it helped so much.
H Mountfort says
I have ‘lost’ a man I loved very much to his indifference and lack of interest in me. Just writing this makes me feel so sad. We were never really together, but I loved him with all my heart. I feel guilty after reading your experiences because I was not married for a long time or even in a meaningful relationship, but the pain was so intense. He did not die like some of you have experienced and I don’t know how I would cope with such horrific experiences.
I am grieving a similar loss at this time. It is very real, and with that loss goes the future I imagined together, coupled with a feeling of failure which makes me turn anger inward on myself. It is helpful to read the advice, “do not turn your anger inward.” This has helped me to recognize that I have been doing just that thing.
I am grieving for a man I loved as my soulmate. We were only married for 5 years and our relationship became rocky at just 2 years. He started drinking again and was a heavy smoker. When he was diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer 2/18 we thought the radiation/chem would ‘fix everything’. It only calmed it for a few months. It came back aggressively 11/18 and he passed 12/27/18. I did feel like a failure, but reading the above and doing some of the things suggested does quiet the madness. Thank you Megan.
I always think it would be easier if he had just dumped me, to know he was still out walking, living would be better. Truth is pain and grief are all our own and we suffer with each.
John Narducci says
My darling wife and lifelong soulmate died in my arms on June 29th. She had metastatic cancer. We have just passed four months on October 29th, but it feels like yesterday. She was my everything. We had been married for 41 years, together for 50 years. We met in a freshman English class in high school. We were 14 years old. We started going steady at age 15. We had been through so much together…
It has been a difficult grieving period, but Ms. Devine’s book has been a godsend. I am poring through it. Well-meaning people around me don’t know what to do or say. Or they say something inappropriate. (There are a few exceptions.) The tears keep flowing, but I tell myself, as Tom Zuba says, “tears are for healing”, and they really are… I am a bicyclist, and after my wife died I started taking long solo bike rides that seemed to help ease my mind. I was lucky enough on one of the rides to meet a bike group that I am now a part of. They are a supportive group. One of my fellow riders is going through a similar loss. We are friends… Running and other forms of exercise have helped me too. Also, traveling. I went on a long trip for three weeks in Sept. and early Oct. and that helped a lot…
You are all correct about the importance of deep breathing… It is so easy to skip meals, so I try to eat 2 good meals a day and eat healthy snacks. I was dehydrated for awhile, but now I try to drink lots of water… As Megan suggested, getting projects going around the house, which my grief counselor also suggested, is very helpful. I have several projects going. I am a retired English teacher and a writer, so writing in a journal has helped me tremendously to express my feelings.
Sorry for your loss..it is so hard to lose your soulmate.. like part of you is missing.
Gay Meslovich says
Beth, you touched my heart. I lost my soulmate almost five years ago, and I was
only recently to talk about what it was like. He had cancer (bone marrow) diagnosed in Jan 2012. He died 1 1/2 years later in our home. I called hospice the day before he passed. We had been together 36 yrs, married 34 yrs. When he died, I could not cry.
I had the most incredible feeling of being only half a person. I was somehow incomplete. I thought there was something wrong with me, because I could not cry.
I have only lately to explain the feeling of incompleteness, and to weep openly about it.
Thank you for sharing.
My companion of 34 years passed away Jan. 8, 2018. I am starting to work in the garden she kept so well. Even if I let the lettuce grow flowers and never pick the radishes, it allows me to keep her memory and honor her.
My beloved sister killed herself 16 days ago. I’ve been doing most of the items on the list, and planning to do the one about kindness. I went out and bought really sweet thank you cards to write heartfelt notes to the people I love and who are helping me. Some of my friends told me not to send thank yous because they saw it as an obligation I can cross off my list. Then one of them who is a therapist (and recommended this site) said that I should grieve however I need to grieve, and if that includes thank you cards then go for it, if my heart wants it. So reading that you have a “do something nice for others” item on your list was very validating. I want to turn toward life. I cannot change that I wasn’t able to save my sister from the swirl of depression, isolation, and health problems that sucked her into the place of taking her life, but I can appreciate the amazing people still in my life and helping me cope with losing her, and telling them so formally in a card feels right.
Journaling is also helping, and touch helps as well. Not only being held by beloved friends and my husband who I trust to be with me, but also touching my own body or moving and stretching in whatever way feels right. Sometimes my chest constricts and I get tight pain, and I find that putting the palm of my hand there and rubbing vigorously over the tightness helps. Sometimes I feel I need to stretch and push my palms outward. Sometimes I need to knead my calves or forearms or biceps, or push on the pressure points in my hands.
At this point, I’m doing whatever truly feels it brings any measure of peace or can help be a bridge between the normal world and the utterly changed world inside me. Thanks for the work you’re doing to help be a bridge for us.
My husband fell down some stairs in April 2018. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and brain death. Just a fall. He was 37. We have 3 girls, ages 3, 5, and 8. I have been in shock for 7 months. A lot of the past months have been numb. Almost like I was playing “normal” in some ways. But the last couple of weeks have ripped me open and I find myself feeling like it was yesterday. Like I’m feeling more pain than I have this whole time. Food sounds terrible. I get nutrition from soy milk in my coffee. My hands shake. I have had to ask for help. And my friends have started to suggest drinking water or encouraging me to eat.
I can relate to this. I lost my girlfriend of 13 years to neuroendocrine lung cancer on August 2, 2018. I spent pretty much all of August crying my eyes out, and then in September I had to hold it together and go back to work. I spent that whole month going between numbness, depression, anger, despair, you name it – but trying hard to play normal. I was having a really hard time holding it together, so I took the first 3 weeks of October off to get into grief counseling (I have a 1-on-1 counselor and I go to a weekly group at Gilda’s Club). Since then, it has felt like I’ve been improving slowly, but this past week I have just been falling apart. This week, everything feels like it was yesterday – every memory, good and bad – and it all just cuts so bad that I can’t stop crying, can’t think straight… I know that the path through grief is not a straight line, but these setbacks are so difficult. I hope it gets better for you, and everyone else here.
Jon Giffin says
I understand completely. I lost my wife and best friend of 30 years unexpectedly on August 31 during a routine outpatient procedure. I was stunned beyond words. After several weeks of fog, numbness, insomnia, and disbelief I too thought I was perhaps getting a bit better. These were good days only on a relative basis. But I was sleeping a bit better and seemed to have a little more energy. However, most recently I have been having tearful breakdowns, anxiety, and the return of insomnia. You are so correct, the setbacks are like going through the first few weeks all over again.
My husband Robert suffered from siezure disorders. He worked as a body worker and range of motion therapist. On the morning of Mother’s Day 2018 we had a wonderful conversation, he told me he was going to give me a Mother’s Day massage, then popped up out of his chair and said Yes! That’s what I’m going to do, I’m giving you a Mother’s Day massage, he seemed so pleased with the idea. Then he went to grab some breakfast saying, I’ll see you in a minute. Not even a minute later, he walked down our hallway and had a siezure at the top of our stairs, and fell down the stairs and never woke up. He suffered a traumatic brain injury along with many other injuries. It was absolutely devastating to witness his passing over the next four hours. I’ve helped him come out of numerous grand mal siezures, and I’ve picked him up from so many falls and related injuries, but all I could do this time, was help him to transition. Lately, it all feels more exaggerated and confusing, My grief therapist said the 4-6 month period can be particularly hard to cope with as the shock wears off and the reality kicks in. I think there is some truth to this. But it’s been hard all along for me. I have had some okay moments with friends and family, but this grief travels with me everywhere I go. We both worked from home and were together 24//7. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and his 52nd birthday in March. It’s so much to digest, and as an artist I am used to pouring myself into my work. I haven’t been able to do that very well, and I know I need to start. I have a hard time imagining this can improve. What do you do when the person you call home suddenly exits your life with no warning? I know there is no easy way to loose a loved one. I’ve read many stories here and they are all equally heartbreaking. Grief is so incremental and opportunistic. I send my love to you all, what else can we do?
Our daughter was born prematurely on 24th August 2018 and sadly died on 5th October. So we arecreally in the midst of the raw stage of grief at the moment. What really resonates with me is the point about not turning the anger in on yourself and the feeling that I am not doing this right. I am desperately sad and cry every day but I am getting out of bed and doing lots of the things mentioned above. Often I feel very numb and don’t feel the real force of what has happened and every now and then a wave hits me. The things people have said about remembering to breathe makes sense to me now every so often I will involuntarily do a really big gasp of breath – I guess I have just been shallow breathing. I am going to start writing a journal as I think that will help but I am really struggling to read – my mind feels really foggy and I just can’t stay focussed.
My mother died on September 26th of stage 4 bowel cancer. I’m a doctor (Psychiatrist), a 30 year old only child, and I live in Ireland, while she lived in Argentina. I found out I was pregnant on January 5th this year, and she was diagnosed on the 17th. I was in Argentina by the 18th. We journeyed her disease and my twin pregnancy together. As a doctor, I suppose her death shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it shook the very core of my world. I had a very complicated pregnancy and my family kept my mam’s deterioration from me. The twins were born on August 24th. That night, my mam said she could now die in peace. One of my girls was in the ICU with sepsis for ten days. When she was discharged, my husband told me my mother had been put in palliative care. She passed two weeks later. Mam never met her granddaughters, and not a day passes that I don’t feel like a part of me died with my mother.
I lost my sweet 10 yr old daughter 3 weeks ago. The shock, disbelief, and tremendous hurt is unbearable. The necessity to breathe is so hard. Everything else is impossible.
I found “It”s OK That Your Not OK” on audiobook. I’m on my 4th time listening to it. Nobody in my family/social circle understands. The things they say hurt worse, although I know they mean well.
The book and now this website are helping me hold on to what little sanity I have left right now.
I am so so very sorry. My son Rand died on May 28, 58 minutes after he was born. I get it. Sending you love.
Thank you, Tonya. So glad the book found you, and so sorry you have need of it. If you haven’t yet, would you pop over to Amazon and Goodreads to leave your review of the book? Reviews help to keep the book showing up in search results so that other grieving people can find it. <3
Tonya, I lost my 50 year old son in 2020 to a drug overdose. Very different circumstances to yours but the same in that it’s an out of order death. We are not supposed to outlive our children, it’s unnatural. Hugs momma, I’m so sorry that we are members of this club that none of us want to be in.
I lost my boyfriend of 5 years on September 29, 2018, after a three month battle with small cell lung cancer that had already metastasized to his bones when he was diagnosed. I go from disbelief to rage to feeling fine to numbness and back to despair. I can’t believe that it all happened so fast. It was so hard to watch him suffer and I wasn’t always as patient as I should have been. It is hard not to wish for other outcomes or blame myself for what I did/didn’t do. There have been a lot of issues with his family–his mom and his wife, who he was separated from but never finalized their divorce. Hoping that stuff is over for now, I gave them all the belongings they wanted and kept a few things for me. His wife is his beneficiary for life insurance and pension, and the go fund me pages for his kids. I only hope she does something smart with the money for their college educations, but I don’t know that she is financially that responsible. Meanwhile I’ve lost my life partner and someone who helped me pay the rent so I am really trying to figure out if I will be able to keep paying for the house.
Gail Kelley says
I lost my 45 year old son suddenly, in August. All I do is cry. My 43 year old daughter and he were like soulmates. They talked, texted or FaceTimed every day, and my daughter is so distraught that it worries me. I don’t give a damn when I am talking to people if I just start crying, every one has been very understanding and supportive. I need to channel my grief into something more productive, and to help others yo grieve. Any suggestions?
First off, I’m sending gentle hugs your way for your loss. Grief is hard and it hurts but that’s okay. As far as suggestions, I’ve personally taken up crochet (again), and fostering kittens. I also started learning Spanish. With crochet I hope to make blanket for foster kittens. I’ve only had the foster kittens for 2 days but so far they’re a good distraction and use of energy.
Megan, I am at about the 10 week mark. I read all of your articles. My son died after a terrible struggle with Stage IV Colon Cancer. He was 26. I quit working in anticipation of his death; I wanted to care for him. I am looking for a job. Work has always been therapeutic for me.
Here’s my question. I felt so fortunate to be able to be off. Most workplace bereavement leaves are quite short. Do you have any opinions about how long “off” after a death is optimal? In truth, I feel really sad for people who do not get extra time to grieve.
This is such a helpful list. #9 is so important and something I’m really struggling with right now. Especially since I feel like I didn’t see or talk to my dad nearly enough now that he’s gone. He had a heart attack at the beginning of May, went through A LOT of health ups & downs, he nearly died a few times, we thought he would live in a long term care facility several times, and then he rapidly declined & died at the end of August. He would have been 76 on Wednesday. It was a brutal summer of hope and anticipatory grief. I jumped every time the phone rang.
Now I’m finally situated back home instead of at my parents house, have been since November 1, and the grief has hit so hard. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop crying so thank goodness for the reminder to hydrate.
Sharon Auma says
I lost my son on 8th September 2018, he was 3 months old. He was diagnosed with bilateral hydronephrosis (dilated kidneys) enutero and I had to undergo emergency ceaser at 36 weeks so he could undergo surgery to give him a better chance at survival. Surgery was done at 10 days and it was successful, we waited for him to pick up but sadly everyday was a struggle. He passed on at 3 months and 2 weeks from respiratory distress. It was so painful watching him going through what he was going through and not being able to help him. He was such a precious little boy, the comment from people around me make me feel like there is something wrong with me for missing him this much.
I find myself hiding in bedrooms, bathrooms or any place without people just so I can cry. The pain is almost tangible, like I could cut my stomach open and take it out. The only thing keeping me going is my 5 year old son, he needs me. I haven’t read your book and I think I should. I will try out the steps in the list, for now all I am good at is cryin.
I’ve lost my husband of 13 years to suicide, June 5th, 2016. He was 32 years old. It has been 2 years plus. The first year was the hardest, the questioning of what I could have done to change the outcome haunted me, his loss and the guilt were a daily reminder. I forgot to breathe, to eat, I honestly don’t remember about 5 months of my life, there were moments that I wanted to die, that life meant nothing anymore. Everything hurt physically, your brain doesn’t understand the pain so your body aches as well, I lost weight, hair and cried so much that my eyes wouldn’t even get red anymore. I honestly think I cried my weight off. BUT it got better. The emotions of grief suddenly started being a reminder of love. I hurt this bad because I loved so much. This mentality helped me. I can’t avoid the grief as much as I couldn’t avoid the love…I started to learn to live with it. I started to find me again, and a stronger me, because he was in my life. I travel a lot now, every chance I get to travel I do, I want to see the world, I want to explore what he couldn’t explore. The cards were delt and I am still her…I can’t change that, I am just happy he was there for as long as he was and blessed to be able to have those memories.. they hurt but they are mine. As someone who has been grieving for 2 years, and thinks grief will never leave us, we suddenly learn to live with it.
I’m so sorry for your loss.
I lost the love of my life 5 weeks ago. He struggled and committed suicide. He told me about his thoughts and even how he would do it. And I was sitting 2000 km away and made him go to the doctor to finally accept help. But I did the biggest mistake in my life. I didn’t call his job that day. He was a cup and said he would never forgive me if I called his job. So I got into paealyze mode and he said we will get through this. But before I could talk to him on the phone again, to take the decisipn to call his job if he did not feel better. He shot himself. I have a hard time existing with the guilt I feel and with not having him in ny life. He was my everything. We had a long distance relationship and should have met for the first time this month. Life took another turn.
I’m devastaded. I will now travel ro his country, to honor him by visiting the places he wanted to show me.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best.
I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Your post resonated with me due to being in a long distance relationship myself and haven’t been able to meet yet. I am truly so sorry and I’m sending prayers out to you.
I lost my husband of 43 years in May 2018 cancer after 4 years of fighting the cancer with a big operation, rounds of chemo and radiation at the end.
43 perfect years of marriage, my soul mate – we did everything together, renovations, shopping, dog training- gardening – I was so lucky, we had plans to do so much more but now by body aches – I am still grieving and crying each day – I think all your hints are very important. There is little joy and I feel that I am not functioning when those around me think I should be moving on. I know its up to me but I feel stuck.
My son died two months ago. He was 40 years old. The death was sudden. He lived near me and we were close. I have followed suggestions of everyone, writing, walking, knitting, seeing people. In addition, I take care of my son’s dog. I can not see any reason to go on. Every moment is too painful. Everything in my life was related to him.
wow, can I relate to this one. Ditto! finding out I didn’t really know my own son. info about his “other” life keep popping up. Turns out he has been angry w/ me since he was 10 yrs old. everything in my life is now backwards. not sure where to start. except the obvious/ BREATHE…………….
Kimberly Woodard says
This existence is hell. I’m struggling with accepting it, pushing on, and forcing myself to realize I am here and there’s nothing I can do about Mark’s passing. I’m angry. I’m FURIOUS. I have lost the love of my life and my faith in God. And that’s not something I thought I would ever lose but I have. Seeing my fiance die from the stupid decision a surgeon made and seeing what my precious man went through is gut wrenching. WHY??????? Why did he have to go through this? Why did he have to die this way? I can’t even pray. I’m empty. I have lived through hell the majority of my life. All of it has been crazy things that have happened and now this too. It’s like I am cursed. Reading over this post all I see is I, I, I, I……. I’m NOT a me me me person. I’m not selfish absorbed, BUT right now I’m so deeply wounded. I’m so terribly angry. I’m so awfully heartbroken. I’m so in such a dark place and I can’t understand WHY this had to happen. I worry about Mark. IF I feel this way how is he??? I have always felt deep in my core that there is life after death. That Heaven is real and our loved ones visit us. I’ve lost two other men whom I loved dearly. YES. I’ve lost 3 men. All sudden and CRAZY. My first love was murdered. Shot 7 times. My second love suddenly became very sick from a mysterious illness and within 2 years, he fell dead without warning. He was never so sick the doctors thought he would die. And now Mark. He became sick with what we thought was a stomach virus. NEVER sick before. Always so healthy. Never missed a day of work. He was admitted to the hospital. The doctors found an obstruction. He was diagnosed. BUT he would be able to go through treatment and we were ready for the fight. BUT a stupid surgeon made a terrible decision that killed Mark. I am close to several doctors, PAs, NPs, and they all were in shock at what caused Mark’s death. I blame myself. I WISH when he said, “let’s go to Cartersville Medical.” I had said, “NO. I’m taking you to Northside.” All of this is so draining and so heartbreaking. Mark died 10 days before our wedding. We were so happy. We BOTH had been through hell in the past and were so happy. We said our finding each other was a God send. So in love. So looking forward to marrying, traveling, and LIVING. And now……….. This. My precious man made me feel more alive than I had ever felt. He was kind. He was so intelligent. He was such an incredible person. I have loved before but never like this. And now I am suffering from such a terrible heartbreak. I loved the other two men who passed but when they passed it didn’t affect me like Mark’s death has affected me. My first love was always part of my heart. I wanted the best for him. I loved him but we had been childhood sweethearts and I had always kept up with him and he with me. We loved each other dearly but it was never intimate. The second man and I had been engaged but I had broke off the engagement. He was a good man but he drank excessively. I had tried and tried but his alcoholism and his control issues were too much. I loved him but I was not in love with him. I wanted so much for him but I knew I was not the right person for him and he was not the right person for me. We both had moved on in our hearts and knew we could only be friends and we were good friends at the time of his death. Until Mark and I found each other, I had never truly experienced being loved. It was bliss. He felt the same way. He told me he had never been with a woman who fit. And we did. We fit. We were soulmates. Our happiness was such a joy to even witness. Our families said they had never seen us so happy and we were. Now all I can dwell on is my worry he is in as much pain as I’m in. I watched him die. I was pulled from him. I miss him so deeply. I know a lot of me died with him. I hope he is at peace but I’m afraid he is waiting for me. And that breaks my heart more.
I too have suddenly lost the love of my life. It was 9 weeks yesterday when he was tragically killed while I was 9,076 kms (as we so often used to say to each other)!
We had known each other for many years and then 40 years later met up and fell in love.
We had both previously been married but mine had been in difficult circumstances.
He said we would never again waste a second of being together and they would write about us in newspapers, saying we had met in our early 20’s and reconnected in our 60’s to live happily forever – and then he was killed and has just gone from my life.
The pain is indescribable and my heart has broken into a million pieces.
D Ross says
Bev, I am sorry for your loss and heartache. I lost my husband, soul mate and one true love a month ago. We were engaged my senior year of high school and broke up with him but we did reunite 11 years ago and lived a wonderful, love filled life until he died. I am angry and this is so unfair. We had lost years we planned to make up for. My grief feels so overwhelming. My heart too is broken into pieces that will never be put back together. take care
I lost my Father 20 years ago very suddenly to cancer, he was only 69 years old.
2 years later my younger sister was killed.
I have 3 beautiful children. My oldest died 4 years ago of a accidental prescription drug overdose.
My youngest son has been using drugs and is now homeless on the streets.
We have tried to “help”. This anticipatory grief is almost too much to bare.
Afraid everyday I’m going to get that ”call”.
My days are a challenge….
I have a loving and supportive family who mean the world to me.
But it’s still a struggle.
My dad died Nov 3, 2018. He battled cancer for 8 years. Age 74 barely. Proudest Viet Nam vet and patriot. He was” our” rock. I was born the 2nd of 4. Our mom committed suicide 26 years ago. He defied every stat oncology gave. He loved life. Hospice said he had a week. So I took a leave of absence. It lasted 90 days !!! They were so beautiful. Even though I knew this bitter grief would come I didn’t care, I inhaled every breath and moment with him. He was my best friend. As a single mom, he helped co parent with me. He was a hero to so many. We practiced the walk down the aisle for my upcoming wedding, walked through the house I moved into the day after his funeral. He loved life ! Lived every year like. Every day like it was his last. Not just the sick ones. Every morning, we had coffee and talked life, Jesus and politics. And those precious precious 90 days…..we laughed, loved and cried. He was so much more than just a dad. It’s been months. I’m robotic. Or smiling for the world. Or crying privately. I knew it wouldn’t be as traumatic as my mom. I was ” prepared” for this” right? But yet this crater hit my earth still !!! And I didn’t know how awful I’d feel being this old and orphaned. (All 4 grand parents passed before my mom). I have deep faith in my Abba. Deeper actually. He hasn’t changed at all but me ? I’m completely……gone. I miss me. I know I’ll see him again. I told him I would….in heaven one day. I’m half way through chapter 2. You referenced chapter 8. I jumped ahead….that’s me. I’m ok. As in, perfect description of how I feel. Thank you for getting my words out.
My very very close friend died almost two years ago, but someone faked being her online. So the messages over that time that we shared were a lie, they weren’t her at all.
This would have been tragic and awful but the added layer of having our time together stolen from me … it’s just too much. I don’t know how to do this. Everything hurts and seems off kilter and wrong.
Geoff Thornley says
Nine and ten are good, but I feel guilt. It would take too long to go into everything but my wife of 24 years died 5th Feb 2019 at 7.20 am. She had been admitted to hospital on the 3rd Jan for a spinal growth which was cancerous but contracted pneumonia and died from it after being discharged a week earlier whilst still suffering from a bad chest cold. Had to rush her back in o the 4th and she died the following morning.
We talked about a lot of thngs before she died and fortunately I don’t have any regrets as to well I wish I had said that or I had told her this or NOT said that. We had discussed and said everything we wanted to say to each other which is an absolute blessing now.
Neither of us saw this coming. We were gearing up for chemo which was due to start in a few weeks, planning this and thinking about a holiday in late spring after final chemo treatment had taken place, when presto…she got a bad chest cold and was dead within a fortnight. I imagine it was like being drowned in an icy pool as I just went numb when they told me she was slipping away, was now virtually brain dead because her breathing had become so shallow the brain was being starved of oxygen and that her kidneys had stopped working.
I feel guilt about several things, irrational things but most of all over could I have done more. If I had insisted on this or that, would she be alive now. If I hadn’t listened to Christine who insisted she was ok and rung the ambulance days earlier, would she be alive now.
If I had insisted and pushed her to the doctors earlier rather than Christine saying she was ok it’s just a pulled muscle, which is what the original diagnosis was…would she be alive now!
Why do somedays I don’t even think of her and am enjoying the freedom of not looking after her and thinking about a new life when her ashes are not even scattered yet. When other days it seems she died that very morning and it just reduces me to a wreck.
Unfortunately there is no manual that comes with being a widow/er, I wish there was so you could turn to page 47 and read that day 21 you feel like this all day until about 7 then you are to feel like this. It would be so much easier than his shit. I don’t want to experience this. What I want is to be the first person in history to have their wife come back from the dead and to life a full, pain free life.
My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the late winter of 2016. As we were preparing for the inevitable as a family, out of the blue my sister was struck with a very rare and very aggressive form on cancer in the spring of 2017. She died suddenly 5 months later September 25th of 2017. Six weeks to the day my dad passed away on November 6th 2017 leaving my bother and myself (my mother had died 12 years earlier) My brother had progressive MS and unfortunately 10 months later my brother had 2 strokes and died September 3rd 2018.
The morning of my brothers celebration of life as I was heading out of the shower with less than 40 minutes to get my niece and nephew at the airport I awoke on the bathroom floor , I had passed out from stress. I made it through the day but was in shock from everything that had gone on.
As I awoke the next day I was given sort of a vision of a fork in the road , if I traveled down one path I would be consumed with grief and become ill and very depressed and risk a nervous break down and failing health or I could choose to hit myself with as much ‘light” as I could get. ….. So I started the next day with Pranayama breathing techniques (youtube), then started doing Qigong (youtube) , Brad Yates videos had helped me in the past getting off of anti depressants so I knew EFT was going to be a large part of this. I started going to salt room meditations, float tanks, gong baths, yoga classes and guided meditations every night as I fall asleep. I am hitting myself with as much light and vibration as I can get and in the past 6 months I even followed a goal and finished my Reiki masters training and am now a Reiki practitioner.
It was not until yesterday that I realized I was angry. I thought I had skipped that one. I have not
I also struggle with intrusive thoughts about every ache and pain I feel trying to harm me. I realize that this too is in a vein of anger..expecting myself to be over this and perfect and why after everything I am doing am I not fine. Looking at it now… My brother has only been gone for 7 months and that is compounded on the other two.
I will be more gentle with myself.
Thank you for this list.
I am glad the weather is changing and I can get out soon.
I lost my husband October 24, 2016. He was eating soup for dinner around 8:00pm. He started to have severe pain in his right leg on and off. We googled possible reasons until I finally said get in the car we are going to the hospital. As I pulled up in front of the emergency entrance and ran around the car to get him there was no response. I said his name twice. No answer. I froze. I thought maybe he was unconscious. It never entered my mind to check his breathing or pulse. He looked so peaceful. All pain erased from his face. And looked so young. He died at 57 from a massive heart attack. He had coronary artery disease. A friend remarked that morning he didn’t look good. There were things I wish I had said to him in the car. We met in 1980, married in 1984. 36 years. Two children. He was my best friend. Nothing was the same. Nothing was normal. My daughter was 30 and had already been thru a lot. Upcoming marriage off, had to sell their shared home, got a dui and was fired from her job because she just couldn’t function. Then her dad died. I later found out how much trouble she was in emotionally. I found her journal and spoke to friends. She was doing heroin. She never opened up to me about her pain or asked for help. She moved back in with me and I was there for her as much as I could be. Other people knew how much trouble she was in but didn’t say anything to me. She overdosed and died on October 20, 2018. I found her unresponsive in her room. They were born in the same month of December a few days apart and died in the same month of October a few days apart. My heart has broken twice. I have my son and brother. I’m in therapy which really helps and reading it’s ok your not ok. Both have really helped me. I have also read many other books on losing someone. Some really helpful, some not. It’s hard to imagine being happy again in any thing, loving someone else. I’ll be 62 in May. One day at a time. I only plan a couple things a week. I don’t work so I don’t have to worry about getting thru the day. I have vivid dreams and nightmares, one of the hardest parts of grief. I no longer relive those two days as I did constantly. I try to remember good times. I cry everyday and write in my journal. I know I am not alone in my grief. As with most people you never expect these things to happen so early in life. I’ve learned to let go of the guilt. If you love you lose. I got a puppy which is wonderful and trying at times. I have to move. Major stressors. But I keep on mostly for my son. My thoughts are with everyone else who has been thru such tradedies. Do what you need to do and be kind to yourself as Megan says.
I lost my son 17 days ago. I drink lots of water. I take long bath & walks, I force feed myself to stay strong, I do mindfulness Yoga everyday, and I journal, but this pain that I cannot seem to pinpoint seems to always be just under the surface. I never know when it will rise up, how long it will stay or if it will ever go away!
Marlene london says
My son was killed April 16, 2019. My insides are shredded. There are no words for this pain… I am an artist, so I am trying to paint thru the agony. I am doing the grief work, counseling every week, grief audio books, drinking water, walking, crying, journaling, whatever I can.. But this loss is beyond measure. I am crushed.
I suffered from anxiety maybe because the man I was so much in love with tried to kill me. He had a bad episode of PTSD. But I had to get out even though I still loved him. I lost a whole lifestyle too as we lived on the water in a steel sailboat. I have never recovered and if I share no one understands my love for him or why I grieve. So I have been alone with it most of the time and I had to talk to myself constantly out loud all the time. It seems to help a lot. I talk back and surprisingly there is this other being that has been my guide through this whole thing. I don’t know how to describe the voice that is there for me but it believes in me, sees me as a hero and stands up for and tells me what to do next. It has never forsaken me and does not expect me to ever get over it or move on. Thank you Megan for your raw and honest grief sharing. It has been a confirmation of how I too have experienced others inability to respond to my experience.
Melinda Southard says
I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for creating this site and sharing your heart with others so we can walk this journey together.
My 32-year-old son, a Duke graduate, who was addicted to cocaine, committed a serious crime and was sentenced to 30-38 years in prison. His personality and the adventurous life he had lived were too BIG for a cell for that long along with gangs, fights, boredom, drugs, etc. so he committed suicide on December 28, 2018.
I know he’s in a better place but some days I struggle just to keep breathing. I got a “last visit, last hug and good-bye letter,” encouraging me not to rush to join him but to live the life he would/could have lived if things had not taken such a disastrous turn.
I see a therapist, read voraciously about how to grieve, how to walk this lonely journey, and try to find the passion that he had for life.
A broken-hearted Moma …
It’s odd, I didn’t realize I was only breathing in shallow gasps until I read another’s post to “Breathe.” Even after nearly two years, the sudden, unexpected loss of my husband is again fresh as his birthday and death date nears. At other times during this past year and a half, some days the pain is just a dull ache. Today, I can’t breathe deeply as my insides would explode I’m afraid. My chest feels as if a boulder sits on me. It only loses some of its weight when my grief is so extraordinary and overwhelming that it tears open my chest and I am able to cry. No, not cry—wail. Then I have a bit of relief until it all builds up again.
Paul Wilson says
I lost my wife and my soulmate 16 days ago, we were both 47 and had been married 10 days shy of our 22nd anniversary.. She had been battling breast cancer. First diagnosed in 2009 and clear until almost 2 years ago. When it came back it was in several different parts of her body. Recently she was approved for a brand new immunotherapy protocol that we believed would be ‘the one’. When the end came for her it was so sudden, we have a 12 year old daughter and a 16 year old boy and one of the hardest parts of losing her is that we didn’t get to say goodbye. My wife sent me an email almost 2 months before she died and told me not to read it until she died. She put a link to this site in her email. It still doesn’t feel real, I still cannot believe that this has happened to us. The slightest thing will have me crying. The feeling of grief is like having a heavy bag on sand sitting on your chest, making it harder and harder to breathe. Until you force yourself to take a huge breath.
We lost our beloved daughter (17 years and seven weeks old) six weeks, one day and 200 minutes ago.
She was threatened online and died by suicide.
Our sons lost their elder sister.
Our world is shattered, I feel as if my heart has been ripped off.
Trying to survive reading your book given to me by my sister.
My husband doesn’t talk much. Our boys are small who open up about her occasionally.
Lost in grief
Jay Jorgenson says
I would like to know what to do if a loved one passes away and I’m grieving. I like how you mention it’s risky if you are driving while crying so pull over and help yourself calm down before you start. Thank you for the advice. I’ll share this information with my family so they can be safe if we’re ever in a situation like this.
Natalie Mowbray says
Thank you, Megan. This list helps. My husband took his own life two weeks and two days ago, and I feel like I’ve been blinded, gutted, totally incapacitated. The pain and grief is completely overwhelming. But I found this site through your book, sent to me by my sister. Thank you for being here for us. And for the reminders to live, even if we can’t do it well.
My husband died from suicide July 26, 2019. It was a Friday. I hadn’t seen him since Monday when he had left on a business trip. I didn’t see him after death either. I found his note before he died. The police were on the scene looking for him. The sound of the gunshot told them where he was.
The secrets that came out after his death has just kept me spinning.
I never knew grief, mourning, loss would be such a physical thing. I struggle to eat. Swallowing hurts. I struggle to breathe. My chest feels so heavy. The insomnia, the anxiety. Every day is just one long unrelenting agony.
I was a wife. Part of a couple. We had plans. A future. It’s all gone now and I am alone.
Thank you for this page, your advice and to the many who shared their stories. I cried to read them all. I somehow feel better to know that I am not lone in this agony.
I lost my darling husband to a very short battle with cancer 7 months ago after 23 of marriage, being together 24/7 at the farm. We laughed and hugged every day.
My life is so empty despite phone calls from family.
As I was writing that, my sister called to find me in tears. She understands and is sorry for/with me, but nothing and nobody can ease this pain.
I was doing well, or pretending so, until this week. I am seeing a grief councilor and a social worker.
I will reread the list and try to practice it.
My heart goes out to all of you.
Thank you for this site and to all of you who shared your stories and heartrending emotions. I cried as I read the whole page. It freed me to allow myself to shed my honest tears and face my bleak situation.
I lost my darling husband of 23 years to a very short battle with cancer 7 months ago. We were together 24/7 at the farm and laughed every day. We had such wonderful plans for the next ten years. I have no joy in life now, and see no prospects for the future.
I am going to move on to other pages in search of hope. I have not read the book, but my angry mind is saying “No! It is NOT OK that I am not OK!! I want to be OK again, dammit!!”
My heart goes out to all of you who walk this awful path alone. I am glad this place exists to share our pain.
Zoe, I agree. It’s NOT OK that we’re not OK.
I lost my dad unexpectedly on October 5, 2019. He had been visiting with me in Florida for a long weekend, returned home on October 1 and died 4 days later. By the time I got up to New York on Friday he was already on life support and in a coma. I never got to say goodbye.
All I do is cry everyday. I can’t believe he is gone. I feel so empty inside. I’ve finally gone to a grief counselor but I don’t think I will ever get over this.
Thank you for this website where we can share in our experiences of grief. My husband passed away in March 2019. I still feel so lost and alone, 8 months later. I look, to others, like I’m doing okay, which only adds to my feeling alone. Reading the stories here helps me to know that I am not. But what will fill this gaping hole in my heart where his smiles, his wit, his caring and his wisdom lived?
I am so tired of going through the motions of life without a spark of joy. It’s a dull slog.
My dear Dad died suddenly on 30th September, I found him dead in bed. He was nearly 92, but that doesn’t make it any better. Part of him died when my Sweet Mum died in February 2016, they had been together for nearly 75 years and months short of their 70th wedding anniversary.
I still grieve for Mum as I have spent over 3 years coping with Dad’s grief.
Now I am totally alone and have kept myself busy since Dad’s death, but now I have to face my loneliness. The tears are finally beginning to flow I just feel so lost. What’s next ???
Kelsi Watters says
My almost two year-old neice died last month. That was the initial loss. The secondary loss just happened. A loss of a friend, possibly forever…. After visiting her over the holiday (after ⠮ loss) I did not hear from her for over two weeks. She said she ⠙⠕⠑⠎ not want to talk about anything emotionally charged. She also thought I was pursuing her for intimate affection because I would hug her too long, etc, and made her uncomfortable. This was not my intent. I am an adult woman and all I wanted was someone to hold and comfort me. I admit I was very attached to her and was probably draining for her. But I feel I wrecked a beautibbl ip. friendship. I’m just so devastated. How could I cause a friend so much pain and discomfort? Does she think I’m sick and wrbbg? Could she ever, ever love me as a friend again? Yes, I’m blaming myself. It’s still fre I’m walking around in a haze of pain. I feel no joy. I can’t bring myself to accept this is the end of our friendship, forever. I just want to keep telling her how sorry I am. I keep begging God to give me another chance, asking him to give me the strength to get through the day. I know she needs space. I just wonder if she will be my friend ever again.
Amalia A. H. says
This site is what I need right now! I lost my husband just 8 days after our 3rd baby was born and I still don’t know what’s going on! It’s coming up to 1 year and I’m glad to hear and upset to hear that I am not alone in my grief. I don’t know anything about death and I find myself learning as I go through it along with my children. He died in front of us and I play the last 24 hours of his life in my head on repeat every single day. I can’t seem to move passed the fact that I could have done more and I possibly could have saved him. My 2 & 4 year old play dead and play CPR all the time so we are late wherever we go as I’m not interrupting their play. The baby wasn’t named and the paperwork to prove he was her father was astounding! I’m not sure what the future holds for us but it looks dim and uneventful as I can’t make a decision for the life of me and I worry about finances all the time! And I’m tired. I thought I had the best partner to help me coparent these kids and now I’m struggling as a Solo mom. No discussion about schools or anyone to help me coparent these kids and that’s a very hard pill to swallow as I did everything to not be in this position and now I’m lost with kids… learning to live without him has been traumatic and very very lonely.
Tina Mills says
I lost my precious, beautiful Daddy on Feb. 6, 2020.. This feels like I’m in a nightmare and can’t wake up.. My Dad passed away on his swing outside and my Mom is the one who found him. He took his last 2 breaths while my Mom was calling 911. They were married for 50 years and we’re best friends. He passed away from a sudden myocardial infarction (a sudden heart attack). We’re all grieving and it’s the hardest thing we’ve ever had too face.. I feel like a part of me died when my Daddy left. How do you just go back living an everyday life without him?? I’m so empty. My poor Mom is so devastated and I worry about her.. 50 years married and now he’s gone, how do you go on without your bff, your rock and how do we help her?? This pain we feel is 50 times worse for my Mom.. We feel so lost and lonely
Amber Schissel says
I lost my husband of 9 years yesterday to an opioid overdose. He had been clean for a number of years then suffered debilitating injury to his left hand back on 30 Jan at work. As an artist this loss made his already present anxiety and depression more acute. Just as he was to begin working again, social isolation mandates went into effect for NYC, which also meant he stopped attending both an outpatient rehab and physical therapy. He would not take the tele med option. Though he had a been on saboxone I believe he stopped taking it. He used after I was in bed Thursday April 2nd I found him deceased the next morning . It appeared he had been deceased for a number of hours so it was too late for any type of intervention . His body was here for 8 hours before the ME department could come. Though I’ve been with him throughout his addiction I am still in shock and have no idea how to make it through this .
My 43-year old partner died from covid19 in London on 3 April with no underlying health issues. We both caught the virus on 9 March, I recovered but his symptoms worsened and he was taken into hospital where he passed away after two weeks. It all seemed to happen so quickly. He was the most wonderful man in the world and even though we had only been together three years, we were soul mates. He adored me and I adored him.
Waiting for the daily updates from the hospital and thinking positively about his chances was excruciating. The social-distancing and isolation also meant it was/is impossible to meet friends in person for support. His mother and family were in East Asia and couldn’t travel to be with him which was agonising for them.
I am utterly devastated. I have spent the last week crying. But I have a feeling that I have only touched part of the grief and that there is a sledgehammer of darkness driving towards me that I cannot see. I keep asking, ‘Why us?’ ‘How did this happen to us?’ ‘How did things change so utterly in such a short period of time?’ I feel like we were violently assaulted. I am grieving for the future we have lost as a couple, and for our individual dreams of happiness that have been stolen.
I am grateful for the few precious moments we had in the hospital while he was conscious and for the moments I had with him while he was in a coma when I spoke to him, told him how much I loved him, how beautiful he was, and stroked and caressed him. In my devastation, these are life-saving memories.
Pat L. says
It’s 3 weeks now and some of the numbness is wearing off, which exposes the raw nerve endings…. I know people don’t know what to say and want sincerely to help, but the next time someone says “I’m so sorry for your loss” I may scream! It doesn’t help that I cannot express to anyone my odd and guilt ridden sense of relief that the pancreatic cancer took my dear hubby before the Alzheimer’s did – and I feel so angry at myself for this.
His little cat misses him terribly also, so we comfort one another…..
Mary V says
I lost my son to an accidental overdose in July 2020. He was 36. It is now October and I am still having troubling remembering anything, sleeping, working, etc. Even getting up. When will this go away? A dear person gave me the book “its okay not to be okay” and its helping me so far, I just started reading it yesterday as I could not even open it when it arrived. What I highlighted that really hit home, is “Companionship not correction is the way forward”. I showed it to my husband of 36 years as we are at odds and it hurts, deep, deep to the heart to the soul. I am going to seek counseling, but have not yet.
Hi, Mary. Chapter 9 of the book specifically talks about the issues you’re asking about – how grief affects the body. Memory, concentration, and sleep issues are very common, especially in early grief, and you literally just lost your son. We’re so very sorry you have need of this place, but we’re also very glad you’re here.
Mary V says
Maika, thank you for taking the time and concern to respond. I appreciate you and everyone on here having to deal with this dreadfulness. I guess all we can do is move forward. Ineed to turn the page in the book.
We lost our son suddenly August 30th to a sudden cardiac arrhythmia. He was only 21. One moment he was fine, then next he was gone. Every day I wish I could sleep just a bit longer. Sleep is the only peaceful place it seems. Minus the insomnia… I am struggling to imagine the rest of our lives this way. In pain, full of sorrow and lost. It’s only been 8 weeks. But a lifetime seems to have passed. Every morning I wake up to face the realization that our boy is gone. And I don’t know how to get past the agony.
My husband and I feel the same way. One minute our beautiful happy girl was with us, less than 6 hours later she was gone. Some days it seems like a life time and other days it feels like yesterday. Sometimes it feels like she was not even hear and we dreamed the last 2 and a half years. Everyday is a struggle.
My heart goes out to you. I understand.
I lost my 2 and a half year old daughter 3 weeks ago yesterday. She has a series of seizures caused by low blood sugar, her brain died less than 12 hours later. She was not diabetic and she had never seized before, these symptoms were not part of the condition that she did have. After only 3 weeks, I have no idea how my husband and are supposed to survive a life time without her. Our home is too empty, our floors are too clean and the silence is deafening. She was a beautiful little person and I ache for her every minute of every day.
Natalie, I weep with you for your little precious one…I simply cannot imagine
Margie Stearns says
We lost our 48 yr. old son on the 18th of November. My husband & I have been married almost 50 yrs. I’ve known him for 55 yrs. We met in Jr. high & he has always been my best friend & the love of my life. We married at 18 & had our son 9 months later still 18. Our son was the the joy of our hearts. We grew up together & you couldn’t have had a more beautiful, loving, wonderful son than our son. My husband has also been a pastor for close to 50 yrs. Our son grew up singing in the choir, helping the elderly, helping with VBS, & just having lots of friends. He loved people, Loved the Lord & loved his country. He had been in the service 20 yrs. & was overseas in Syria/Iraq & had saved groups of Chaldean & Kurdish Christians. However before he could get back home he had an anoxic brain injury. They rushed us to him & then began close to a year of recovery. He did well until he was in a facility in N.J. where the governor placed hundreds of Covid patients in the institute along with 4 in my son’s room. He caught Covid & then really had a hard time recovering. We were no longer able to be with him & help him. He began to deteriorate. He had a lot of problems from then on. Some caused by the staff & others by the Covid. He again was transferred to a nursing facility. It was discovered that he had an infection so should have never been transferred. The facility called to have our son transferred to a military hospital just down the street. The ambulance driver began to argue with the head nurse. My son lay in the hallway and as they argued for a long time until he died. Alone & without help! He had saved so many & no one saved him. Only the Lord was with him. We weren’t allowed! He was there 1 day! I am angry at the lock downs, the attitude of the staff & others, I am angry at the military for allowing this, Covid restrictions, & I was really angry at the Lord for the entire thing, but I know someday He will explain it! Mostly I regret not being able to see & show him how much we love him. All of his friends, his wife & the rest of the family were kept from helping him. I am really having a hard time. The “Joy of our heart” is gone & we didn’t even get to say goodbye!
I lost the love of my life July 2020. We weren’t together anymore, but I still loved him and had hoped that one day I’d be with him again, or at least speak to him. The pain is real, I am devastated. No one seems to understand how I am this upset since we weren’t together. Love is love, and in fact the only reason I even know he is gone is because I dreamed he died on the night he died. I guess some bonds are never broken. I woke up and thought “Oh, that was actually a nightmare” and went about my day. A couple weeks later I was traveling to a state where we met and lived together and thought I’d look him up. An obituary stared me in the face. He loved me so much, I was young and threw it away mostly, not realizing what I had and being so damaged, probably not believing I was deserving of so much love. Now I’ll never get to tell him that I have never loved anyone as much as I love him. I’ll never be able to tell him I am sorry. That I know he loved me. He was too young to die, and I actually don’t even know how it happened. It has been 5 months and I still cry every single day. I sometimes think I am OK, but it comes back when I think of him. This isn’t going to get better, how could it? He is always going to be gone and I am always going to unhappy about it and regret not being able to say I love you and to say good bye.
My precious son died 9-15-2020. His brother found him hunched over at his desk, with his headsets still on his head. A year prior, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart abnormality. The cardiologists told us he was born with this, but during puberty it starts to become apparent. He was on beta-blockers to slow down his heart and it seemed to help, he had tachycardia all the time. We all thought things were under control…he died suddenly sitting at his desk…so nothing was in control. Time stopped that day. Our lives without him in it, will never be the same. The world without him in it, will never be the same. His loss and energy has left a big open hole, a big wound, that will never stop bleeding. I feel guilty being here and he is not. He did not deserve this fate. He was such a kind, sensitive loving human being, we loved him so much.
He was 23.
I lost my son 2 and a half months ago . Mental illness overcame and he ended his life. I’m broken. Destroyed. Shattered. There are times doing all 10 feels a lot for me. Most days I just want to hide
I lost my 36 year old daughter to suicide. She has 4 small children. She took a bottle of pills and went to bed. In the morning, she was still alive, barely. She was in the ICU for 4 weeks fighting for her life. Finally all her organs were shutting down, her small intestine was dead. We chose to take her off life support when she was not brain dead, the most horrible decision to have to make! It’s been 6 months, I feel like it just happened and I can’t move on. I can’t do anything. I want her back!
I’m now four years out, after my 53-year-old soulmate husband died in 2017 – officially of a heart attack after about a decade with a failing body, addiction/abuse of prescription and OTC medications, plus genetic mental illness that came on and worsened to the point that it was terminal.
It has been a long road of just putting one foot in front of the other for me to be functional again, and I still have a ways to go.
Some things that help me are getting outdoors, exercising, an awesome and experienced grief counselor, eating and drinking healthfully, and helping others as much as possible. The summer after he passed, I volunteered at The Salvation Army’s summer camp. Yoga helped me relax and start sleeping again. Also, I tried to forge closer bonds with family, which had weakened during the years that I was pretty isolated while taking care of my husband. I reconnected with them and started taking some trips with them.
Also, I renewed my faith, which became a little tattered after my husband passed.
Bob keenan says
My wee wife died this morning. And I am devastated. Trying hard to be strong. Not working. God help me
Ananya Borah says
I lost my hubby who was only 32 last month and it feels very painful which cannot be describe in words.But the book Its Ok If you are not OK plays a vital role like a bible in my present sutuation .Thank you for the book.
Bob keenan says
I am struggling to eat.lost my wife 6 weeks ago,better than what I was. But still get sad,and lonely,still, occasionally get dark thoughts. But will not do it. I’ve prayed for my life to end when I’m sleeping. It’s desperate still think it’s all a bad dream
Thanks for sharing. As a single mother, I lost my only child earlier this year. I have to compartmentalize because they don’t give you off work, you dont get funds to help with expenses, you dont keep your job if you aren’t perfect for them. I have no spouse or partner to be with me ( like just be there) or help with house chores(who I was seeing cheated a day after funeral) so I say yes to make people happy so they’ll leave me alone…
So although the list is ideal, its not possible for some people.
Choose your team around you carefully, true support looks very different to the well-meaning friends.
I lost my mom 18 years ago. That year I lost a part of me…to this day I have never been who I was then and never will be. She was my first real loss she was a saint in every aspect of the word and I still miss her each and every day.
In 2016 I lost my father, after the loss of my mother I made him a major priority ,to be there for him each and every day when he needed me. He passed away in July 2016 again because he had been such a focal part of my life it was an enormous loss because I had dedicated so much of me to him I was kinda lost again.
Then in October 2016 my son passed away and the autopsy did not identify why. This one was really had to deal with. A mother should never have to deal with the loss of a child. Two major losses in one year almost unbearable however, being a single mom with 4 children you have to pick yourself up and move. Not an easy task but necessary.
The way I have gotten through these losses is to remind myself how very fortunate these humans came into my life. I am truly blessed that I was able to love them in life and have nothing but awesome memories of each and every one of them to help me along my journey…They are my blessing that carry me forward each day.
Life is not for the weak and grief has no boundaries…2022 was a horrendous year. So many things went wrong but what I wasn’t prepared for the the grief to come flooding make like a tsunami. Breathing does help!!
I lost the love of my life 3 weeks ago. A very sudden unexpected death in a healthy 62 year old man. He died quickly doing what he loved and that’s a blessing. We were together for 47 years, side by side. It wasn’t a perfect marriage but it was authentic, real love. He adored me and l adored him. We were each others safe place to fall. I have no idea how to do this. I feel so very lost and for me the only thing that helps right now is not to think to deeply about anything. Small things like bathing or brushing my teeth are victories in my day. I will not ever love anyone the way l loved him and l will never be as loved or vulnerable. My pain is both physical and emotional. Thinking l will feel this way forever is defeating. Bless you all.