They say that time heals all wounds. They think that there is a time table, that you allot a certain amount of time to grieve and then you get over it, pick yourself up, and move on. But the truth is that grieving deep loss is much messier than that. How easy would it be if this process could be so simple?  But how lonely would it be to never love so deeply that healing from loss could be anything but complicated and messy?

I once believed that grief was experienced in seven stages, and that to be healed meant to be good as new again. But deep loss isn’t a surface would, it’s an amputation. Healing is a long and arduous process that feels more like learning to swim while you’re drowning. It’s hard, it hurts, it’s exhausting, and it can be very hard not to give up at times. The waves hit and you get pulled under when you are already too exhausted to keep fighting, but you fight anyway because what choice do you have? This is what it feels like to struggle and heal through deep grief, it’s like learning to swim while drowning.

One of the greatest misconceptions about grief is that healing is a finite process. That eventually you will move on and rejoin the world just as you always were. But this isn’t true. Deep loss, like the loss of a spouse or a child, is like an amputation. That person was a part of you, a part of your identity and your day to day. That person has been infused into the very essence of who you are and how you live your life.

I am two years into my grief journey. I have changed so much along the way that I don’t fully remember the person I used to be because I am so different than her. I was happy with my husband, he was my other half and my “meant-to-be”. Losing him shattered me. For the first time I understood why they call it heartbreak because I could physically feel the pain in my chest. My body ached all the time, and in my worst moments I would feel as though my chest were being crushed by a stack of bricks and I would struggle to breathe. At first the grief would come in waves that would swallow me up and I would feel as though I could barely catch my breath. It was exhausting. Sometimes just waking up in the morning would be draining enough to send me back to bed. My world had crumbled. But over time I started to learn to swim. The waves would come, but they would come less frequently and eventually they stopped hitting as hard as they once did.

Many of you are new to this grief, some of you are further along than I am, and some of you have never experienced this depth of grief before. For those who are new to this and are struggling to see anything but darkness, I want you to know that I have been there and I know how it feels to be consumed by so much pain that it seems as though all goodness has died out. Give your pain a home inside you, welcome it. I know it seems counterintuitive to welcome the very thing that is tearing you apart, but it is necessary. Lean into your pain and into the darkness. Feel and embrace the agony that is consuming you and tell yourself that it is OK to be this broken. That is self-compassion and it is healing. No one needs compassion more than the lonely and broken hearted, but grief is isolating. Those who haven’t been through it don’t understand what you are going through and that can make you feel like a pariah. It’s a compounding situation where loneliness exacerbates loneliness. But no one can do this alone, and you should never be afraid to reach out for help. I used to attend a Young Widows Support Group in my area that is absolutely amazing. And though I no longer attend the group meetings anymore, there is a core group of us that branched out and continue to meet regularly. They are some of my dearest friends and I owe so much of my healing to them. I also still see my therapist every week. He is that safe place where I can walk in and not feel as though I’m carrying the world on my shoulders. He makes the baggage feel lighter. I believe in reaching out for help when you need it.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. So whether you cleaned out his closet in that first week, or it’s six months later and her bra is still hanging from the bedroom door – that’s normal. Whether you moved to get a fresh start or decided to never leave the home you shared together – that’s normal. Some widows will start dating sooner than others, and some never will. It is normal to be angry, and it is normal to feel guilty for being angry. It is normal to cry, and it is normal to not cry. However you do this, whatever your process, however you need to look at yourself and the world in order to make it through this – that’s OK. Eventually you will live again, but getting there isn’t easy.

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30 Comments

  1. Thank you. I lost a son 2 weeks ago. I feel like I am just going threw the motions just trying to stay busy or I will have a nervous breakdown. I am going to see therapist. You words have help me. Thanks

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    1. My heart goes out to you at this awful time. We lost our son 20 years ago, and I was on ‘auto pilot’ for some time….just going through the motions? People came to console us, but went away saying we were the strong ones – not realising we were numb? I send my love to you and the family, and pray that your grief will ease gradually, with the help of your friends, and counsellor x

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      1. Thank you, Anita. I am in a relatively good place now. I am happy and planning my future with my daughter, but life is not without it’s sadness and pain. I am sorry for your loss and I appreciate your kind words reaching out.

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    2. I am so sorry for your loss..I lost my son 7 months ago..it is a terrible road to walk…and I totally associate with what is written above..and I feel guilty at times for being a burden to others when these things hit, cause I know they are carrying baggage and grief too…

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I am so sorry for your loss. It will be 2 years on April 5 th that I lost my son. I just want you to know that you can get thru it. It’s tough and takes a lot of work somedays. When it gets to much I remember to just concentrate on breathing. Just take a breath! My prayers to you!

      Liked by 1 person

    4. I am so sorry for your loss. This is a very hard time and you are so numb right now… I am glad that my words have helped. And I’m glad you are going to see someone. It is so important to have a safe place to go to help you carry this weight. I continue to write, follow my blog or my Facebook page if it brings you comfort and reach out anytime. I hope you can find some peace in this very difficult time.

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    5. My son passed away Nov 8th, I’m so sorry to hear about your son, as a parent this is the worst thing that can possibly happen, I have read a few books that have really helped me through the grieving process, Hope for hurting hearts, by Greg Laurie, Heaven, by Randy Alcorn and one minute after we die…God Bless you..

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  2. SPOT ON. Every sentence is spot on. Thank you for this!
    I’m 3.5 months out and the light in the end is very hard to see, but I do know it’s there…
    Just keep swimming~

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. I have read SO much on grief and nothing comes close to being as accurate as you have described it. What a gift this is to us who find no consolation, yet I feel validated. Thank you!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The stuff I can’t put in words, but yes this is the most accurate explanation of grief that I have seen. I’m also nearly two years down this road with the absolutely devastating loss of my life partner. And yes it is so true that we will never be the same because the person I was with him by my side, died with him that day when he left this life.

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    1. Karen, I am so sorry for your loss. Life will never be the same, but it can still be a good life, just a different life. There will always be a hole, but we live in their honor. I intend to be happy. My husband would want that. I wish you peace in your healing.

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    1. Donna, thank you. I am glad this is helpful to you. You are in a very difficult time in your grief. For me, months 8-11 were the most difficult. Hang in there. I will keep writing and I hope my words can bring you comfort when you need it.

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  4. Extremely good article. Since I am only 2 months into my journey I am so sad, full of grief and so very lonely. We were married 50 years and life without him seems impossible to me..i have now tried to look for articles to see how others are learning to cope with such great loss. This has been the worst and sadddest experience I have ever had. I miss my life with him..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The worst part of this devastating life shattering heartbreak is that you can’t even begin to express the complexity and anguish…however somehow I feel you have done just that thank you… it’s been a little over 2 months since i lost my husband and my babies lost their father🙁

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  6. Lost my soulmate 10 weeks ago just 2 weeks before we were FINALLY going to marry, something we had put off for years due to finances, she was 49 and we were madly in love and inseparable. Reunited childhood sweethearts. Your description is 100% on point you just left out the part about just wanting to die but knowing you can’t. Sleep is elusive, joy nonexistent and hope? What is that. I’m glad to know it might get easier just don’t see how. Thank you for this information.

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  7. I too am two years into my journey and afraid to let others see that I am so broken..I put on a smile and tell them I am fine but I am NOT fine.. I cry alone ..everyone else has moved on.. I fear that if I reach out they will see it as drama..and.noone likes.drama..so I cry alone everyday, every night.
    .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is OK to be broken. We all break sometimes. Don’t be afraid to let others see you in all of your broken, wounded heartache. I know how it feels to always put on that happy face no matter how you feel. I have forced myself to learn how to be more honest. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I will usually give them the reflexive “I’m good, you?”… but I will sometimes correct myself now and tell them, “I lied, I’m not really fine today, I’m having a hard day.”

      Do you have a safe place where you can talk about all of the hard things you don’t talk about with others? A best friend or therapist or a family member who knows you intimately enough to know when “im ok” really means “I’m not ok but I just don’t know how to say it”? These are such hard things and if Widows went around being totally honest about every emotion we would be scorned and shunned from society… because there is deep turmoil within us that makes coping a constant battle. “Outsiders” don’t understand what it is like to agonize with grief this deep so they wouldn’t get it if we tried explaining it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be honest without filling them with drama. Sometimes the most healing thing you can do for yourself is cry on someone’s shoulder. You do so much alone already, Widows know the loneliest kind of lonely. You need a shoulder to cry on. Maybe if you reached out to one person, someone you think you could trust with your emotions, and test the waters of opening up? If you do this, I recommend seeking the counsel of a therapist first because this is a difficult thing to do and an emotional journey to begin opening up for the first time.

      Believe it or not, opening up does not come naturally to me. In fact, I created this blog page 5 months before I made my first post. Because it took me that long to get up the guts to share this part of myself with others. And it took me about 6 months before that to get up the courage to even create the blog page. I never talked about negative emotions with people other than my husband, and even with him it was hard. I didn’t open up, I feared rejection. I was afraid of being “Debbie downer” because nobody wants a downer around them. So I sat with my demons alone.

      You don’t have to do this alone, it’s far too much to handle all on your own. If you send me an email through my contact page or a message on my Facebook page I will be happy to share the burden of your demons… I know them intimately. This is too lonely a road to walk alone. Please let me help ease the loneliness a little. Who better to walk with you than a widow who’s been there, too?

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