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Now What?

You have survived the initial shock of your person leaving this earth. You have survived the ritual of saying goodbye to your person and celebrated their life with family and friends, if you were able to do so. All the well-wishers who come out of the woodwork when someone dies have come and gone. Everyone has gone back to living their lives. What is next for you?

Your life will never me the same, how could it be? A part of you is missing. You are now tasked with coming to terms with that and figuring out what your life looks like without them.

If you are anything like I was, at this point you are utterly lost. Putting one foot in front of the other was about the best I could manage. Rational thought escaped me and even the most mundane tasks seemed impossible. I wanted to curl up in a ball and lose myself in my grief. Yet there were things that needed to be done. Personal affairs that needed tended, bills that needed paid, tasks that needed done.

Whether I liked it or not, my life too had to go on. In hindsight, having to take care of business was the only thing that gave me purpose and made me force myself to get out of bed in the morning.

The first day after Mikes funeral was brutal. Reality had slapped me across the face. Everyone had gone back to their lives, it was just another work day to them. It was a normal Tuesday yet there was nothing normal about it for me. Up to that point I was so consumed with making plans for the service and keeping everyone else happy that I didn’t have to face the reality of what was going on around me. I could hide in plain sight and keep myself busy so I wouldn’t have to think about how my life was going to change moving forward.

You are mentally in a fog for the first few weeks and months. I remembered hearing that a person shouldn’t make any major decisions for the first year after losing someone they love. I can attest to that now. That fog you experience is debilitating. I couldn’t remember what I had done two minutes prior let alone what I was supposed to accomplish on a given day. I had always been a list maker but it became vital to my survival at that point. That is if I could remember where I left my list. If you have not experienced deep grief you may think I am exaggerating, I assure you I am not. The fog is so thick it makes you question your own sanity.

The point is, your only option is to take one day at a time. Don’t expect much from yourself. The first few weeks the simple tasks of feeding yourself and taking a shower might seem like a major chore but try to do that (people will still want to come see you, do it for yourself and for them). Do what is necessary to get through the day, most other things can wait a week or two. Be kind to yourself. We can be our own worst critics so if you are struggling with getting anything accomplished, please give yourself a break!

As each day passes the mental weight on you will become lighter. How long it takes depends on you. I was in a major fog for at least 6 months and didn’t feel like I had regained my grasp on reality for about a year. Everyone is different though so your timeline may be shorter or longer than mine. Either way, be kind to yourself and don’t be critical of your progress. Any forward progress should be celebrated but anything seen as a backward slide should also be forgiven.

Take care of your physical health. You may not care, I didn’t. I wasn’t sleeping, I was grinding my teeth, my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest everyday, but I didn’t go to the doctor or ask for help because I simply didn’t care. My life without Mike had no meaning so it really didn’t matter to me that my health was in jeopardy. It wasn’t a conscious decision to do nothing about how crappy I was feeling, it just never dawned on me I should get checked by a doctor. It took a trip to the dentist 6 months after he died when my hygienist took my blood pressure and realized it was SUPER high!! She walked me over to the doctors office and made them get me in that day or I would have continued to ignore it.

In all honesty lack of caring wasn’t the only reason I ignored my physical health. It was also because I wasn’t accustomed to asking for help. I think on our best day too many of us have the mentality that we don’t need help, we are strong and capable and can handle things on our own thank you very much! Please don’t make the same mistakes I did. When you are grieving is not the time to be big and bad and handle things on your own. Now is the time to ask for help. Now is the time to let other people take care of you. Now is the time to be kind to yourself and let others be kind to you. Put your ego aside and let others in.

When we are grieving our emotions are right on the surface ready to boil over at any moment. This is another reason why it’s difficult to let people in to help you on your journey. A friends mother recently passed away and she said she wished people would stop reaching out to give her condolences because every time she read another text or post it made her cry more! She just wanted to be left alone! Why is it so hard for us to accept sympathy and help from other people? When emotions are already running high, acts of kindness can make them break through the surface, run down our face and force us to feel the vulnerability and sorrow we are working so hard to hide from everyone.

At this point in your journey your priorities should be taking care of your physical and mental health. If you are a care giver to others you can’t take care of them if you don’t take care of yourself first! Your world may be a shit show at the moment but you owe it to yourself, your family and everyone else who loves you to stay on top of it. Even if you don’t really care right now…. You will care again one day.

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