At the end of the week of Sitting Shiva, my adult daughter came from Belgium to stay with me for two weeks. When it was time for her to go home, I was present to the terror I was feeling. Many times a day, I sobbed deeply and my grief was accompanied with a pain in my solar plexus and throat that I had never experienced before. I wasn’t able to go into public for a couple of months. The noise and bright lights in stores were invasive. I didn’t want people to hug me unless they knew me very well.
It took all my energy to ask for help. I asked people to do errands for me. In retrospect, I needed a care team of people who might be willing to check on me and help me. I was vulnerable in a way that was new to me. I needed to be invited to dinner a couple of times a week, but I couldn’t organize this myself. I was lost.
It took all my energy to ask for help. I asked people to do errands for me. In retrospect, I needed a care team of people who might be willing to check on me and help me. I was vulnerable in a way that was new to me.
One saving grace was that as soon as Alan died, I started to sleep. I no longer had to worry about how his situation was going to resolve. He was no longer here. I had only lived alone for a few months when I was twenty-one years old. I became aware that I couldn’t sit still. I ate simply, moving around while I ate. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t read. I was jumpy, moving around the house all the time. When I was in public and asked how I was doing, I cried. I didn’t care where I was; I cried. I gave myself permission to cry for as long as I needed to. The thoughts in my mind sounded like a mantra, “The only way to get over this is to go through it.”
I had a list of friends’ names that I could call when I needed to talk to someone. I called them as often as I needed to and felt gratitude for their friendship. Also throughout this period of time, I continued to see a therapist. I began to see a good homeopath who helped me tremendously.
After about one year, I noticed I was crying less often, and those times of grief weren’t quite as painful. I kept crying until I didn’t need to cry as much anymore. And then, as more months passed, the grief began to lift even more. I began to feel lighter. I remember the first time I felt joy. I think of happiness as the result of an event. Joy is pure and resides inside of us for no particular reason. It was a new feeling for me. I didn’t know when this new friend, this joy, would pop up inside of me. She began to visit more often. I began to notice that I wasn’t anxious. I began to feel like a new person.
As I continued to heal inside, it was as if space opened up in me. I was able to relax and trust that I was living in a new way without a partner by my side. I began to let go of any plan about how my life might proceed.
As I continued to heal inside, it was as if space opened up in me. I was able to relax and trust that I was living in a new way without a partner by my side. I began to let go of any plan about how my life might proceed. I had no structure or story to depend on anymore. I began to feel a sense of freedom inside of me that I had not felt since my childhood.
As I began to let go of fears, I recognized that underlying all of my fears was the fear of my own death. Even this fear began to lift. Perhaps this was the biggest gift my husband gave me from his journey through a conscious and peaceful death. I began to feel that he was still here with me, inside of me, and I didn’t lose him at all. That brought me a different concept about my own death. I began to feel a sense of freedom that I had never felt before.
I stopped thinking that I needed another man by my side to feel whole again. Maybe there will be another man in my life; maybe not. I know that what is right for me is what will occur.
I began to truly hear the first bird song at daybreak. I began to hear the rustle in the trees. I began to appreciate each new day, knowing that it could be my last. I put a note on the floor by my bed that says, “Is this the day I’m going to die?” I continued to appreciate stillness and silence.
My heart broke, and in its breaking, I began to hold more than I’d ever held before. I became more generous and wanting to help others more. I became proud of my “self” and my strengths and forgave my weaknesses
I began to share what I have learned about expanding choices about how and when we die.
I began to understand something I heard inside of myself as I was doing yoga during the time when Alan had cancer. I heard, “Love is. Kindness is.” I came to realize that love and kindness are energies. They are not about particular people. People are all around me, and if I give love and kindness, I will receive it in return.
I learned that I Am Love.