My husband and I had a wonderful marriage for twenty-six years. We talked about everything. We navigated his illness with laryngeal cancer. In fact, we both were heroes and won the cancer battle using only alternative means.
My husband and I had a wonderful marriage for twenty-six years. We talked about everything. We navigated through his illness with laryngeal cancer. In fact, we both were heroes and won the cancer battle using only alternative means. He healed in four months from the cancer (LINK to How Alan Healed From Cancer). However, we could no longer be in Alzheimer’s denial. About one month after he healed from the cancer, the Alzheimer’s became even more evident. We cried together for a week.
I started grieving the loss of my husband about two years before he died. With the help of a therapist, I began to face the reality that Alan and I were each on our own respective life journey. I needed to respect Alan’s choices, his strengths and his fears. I couldn’t burden him with my fears. We were each working out different issues for ourselves.
Throughout this time, I took good care of myself. I ate well, did yoga. I meditated and daily walked on our nearby forested trails. I knew that my own health was at risk from all the stress. On the many nights when I couldn’t sleep, I returned to my meditation cushion and meditated in the middle of the night. It was the only thing that got me back to sleep.
I made the decision to experience the grieving process however and whenever it showed up. I wasn’t going to push emotions away.
The day arrived when Alan started his process of dying. We had a wonderful doctor and two caregivers who took good care of him throughout his passage. I invited a friend to stay at the house with me to support me. I made the decision to experience the grieving process however and whenever it showed up. I wasn’t going to push emotions away. I knew in every cell of my being that I’d never recover unless I grieved until I was done grieving. I didn’t care how long it took.
Different cultures grieve differently. Our American culture is not very good at dealing with grief. I went to a workshop on how one Native American community dealt with grief. I learned that if it was a woman who was grieving, she cut her hair six inches. Since hair grows about a half inch monthly, her community knew that a year had passed when her hair was full length again. The woman wore black. For three months people brought her food and did her errands for her.
In the American culture, we are impatient and not as comfortable with difficult emotions. Even though a great deal of suffering is occurring, we push it away with technology, drugs, and entertainment. We aren’t very good at sitting quietly with a person who is grieving and being still with her, or simply asking, “What can I do to support you?” I had to figure this all out on my own when I was in a state of acute grief.
As soon as Alan died, to begin to take care of myself and honor Alan at the same time, I drew on Jewish, Pagan and Buddhist traditions. In advance, I arranged to have a vigil with Alan’s body after his death. His body was put on dry ice and kept in the house for three days. These three days were the first days of the seven days of Sitting Shiva. This is an ancient Jewish tradition. From 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. each day, people came and brought food and sat in my living room with me. I shared stories and cried. The mirrors were covered in the house so I didn’t have to devote any energy to anything other than grieving.