As an Advance Planning Specialist, I’ve been helping families with Advance Planning for the past 17 years. I have worked with large and small family owned funeral homes and corporately owned funeral homes and cemeteries.
Today I would like to share my thoughts and experiences about grief. Specifically grief due to the loss of a spouse. Before you read any further, please know that I do not have answers. I only have experiences.
I have met thousands of surviving spouses in the weeks, months and years after a death. Generally, in my opionion, women who have lost husbands fare better than husbands who have lost wives. A few years ago I met a man that bought a ring and proposed to his wife’s best friend (and caretaker) just a few days after her death. Another man asked the Dollar Store clerk out on a date just a week after the funeral because he was lonely already. One man told me quite proudly that as he returned to his home after his wife’s funeral, he took off his wedding ring in front of his shocked family. He took his vow “until death do we part” quite literally.
My husband passed away in March of 2010. His funeral was on a Saturday. I went back to work on Monday. I didn’t know what else to do. Those first few weeks were a blur. For the first time in 10+ years in the funeral business, I cried with the families I met. At my work I see death every day, so I trudged forward determined to not let it get the best of me.
Looking back, I now realize that I was pretty hard on myself. I had decided that I would be done with grief by the one year anniversary of my husband’s death. Outwardly it probably looked like I was doing fine. Inside I was a wreck as the anniversary approached. I went to the cemetery on my way to work. I spent some time crying and yelling, fixed my face, took off my wedding ring and went on with my day. Grief was not done with me that day as I had hoped. It still sneaks in every now and then, even after five years.
Spending all these years in and around funeral homes changes you. When someone tells me of a loved ones illness I have to filter what I say. My first thought is always: “Everyone dies.” It’s true, but not a compassionate thing to say. When someone asks: “Why me?” or “Why my husband?”, my first thought is:”Why not? What makes you so special?” So instead, I say: “I’m sorry to hear that”, which is true.
There is an abundance of grief resources available. There are books, clergy, and counselors to help us through. Many have found comfort in Grief and Loss Support groups. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. The thought of sitting in a circle with other sad people did not appeal to me. Mostly I was afraid that if I started crying that I would never stop.
The point I am making is that grief over the loss of a spouse is different for each of us. Please don’t do what I did. Instead, be kind to yourself, seek help, allow the ebbs and the flows of your grief and don’t set a time for it to be over. Feel free to call me at (260) 456-0890 with questions regarding funeral planning. I am here to help.
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