Dear Neil: After losing my husband of 28 years, I started dating again eleven months later. The gentleman and I got close, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes. Then I went into grieving for my husband. It’s as if there was a physical drive to get together, but my heart put on the brakes in no uncertain terms. Eventually, I said I wasn’t going to marry him, which devastated him.
What are the ways I will know when I’m not unstable anymore? I can’t stop these feelings for my husband. I want to be in a relationship, but perhaps I’m not ready yet. Any suggestions?
Unhappy in Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Dear Unhappy: It does sound like you’re not ready to be in another relationship yet, because your heart is still with your departed husband. You must grieve the loss—and make peace with the ending of that relationship—before you’ll be ready to cleanly offer your heart to someone else.
The sadness associated with grieving is not bottomless: it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and to go through that sadness is a necessary part of the grieving process.
Grieving takes time, and it hurts—which makes it understandable why you’re hoping to speed up the process. But if you’re like most people, you can’t speed up the process. You must go through it.
So what can you do to help yourself through the grieving process?
- What do you have to look forward to? Create some new goals for yourself—and go after achieving them.
- Invite new people into your life. This is the time to reach out to new people. Join new social, recreational or interest groups. Take classes, workshops and seminars. Expand your world.
- Few of us can cope with a major loss alone. Reach out to other people. Probably the best thing that you can do is talk about your loss with someone who is a good listener.
- Re-establish connections with old friends, family, children and meaningful people in your life.
- Under-indulge in substances or behaviors which are addictive or numbing. You don’t want to stuff the pain away, you want to get rid of it.
- Hospices, hospitals and organizations such as the Grief Education Institute run bereavement support groups and educational programs.
- Many agencies can use your help. Inquire at churches, schools, hospitals, youth agencies, soup kitchens, the Red Cross or libraries.
- Do something that needs to be done. Take care of a long-deferred task.
- This is a perfect time to keep a journal and write in it daily about your emotions, fears and sadness. In times of loss, your journal can easily become your best friend. Write about how you experience fear, anxiety, helplessness, guilt, sadness, cynicism, abandonment, fatigue and hopelessness. Also, address what parts of yourself you want to deepen and expand.
“To get to a good place, sometimes you have to go through a number of bad places.” Ashleigh Brilliant
“A time to be born, and a time to die… a time break down and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes