The 10 Best and Worst Things I’ve Learned after Losing my Spouse

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Best Things:

1. You learn which people are your true friends. (People who really care will show up, not to dispense advice, but to be there for whatever you need)

2. You realize to what great depth you loved someone. (Love deeply, you will grieve deeply)
3. You notice your loved one’s presence from time to time. (An important reminder that his or her soul continues to live)
4. You learn the truth about people. (People will show their true colors by their actions)
5. You learn to listen. (Listen to people, read everything—non-verbal behavior, verbal behavior, and between the lines, and you will see either their compassion or their annoyance with you)
6. You learn that cemeteries are sacred, and not to be feared.
7. You get to know yourself completely. (You may not like what you find, but at least you know the truth)
8. You realize how important love is during incarnations. (You discover that love is the only thing that matters)
9. You learn that people live to love.
10. You become strong. (Even if you were already strong, you become stronger)

Worst Things:
1. You learn which people are your true friends. (You realize that most people are merely acquaintances, and really do not care about your well-being unless it affects their life in some manner)
2. You realize to what great depth you loved someone. (Realizing the extent of your love means you also realize that your heart is ripped open and beyond repair)
3. You realize you can drink straight from the milk carton and it does not matter because there is no one there to care.
4. You learn the truth about people. (You learn that most people do not really care what you feel inside, but are concerned about what you reveal on the outside)
5. You learn to listen. (Unfortunately, while learning to listen—you develop an uncanny ability to read non-verbal clues)
6. You learn that people make assumptions based on appearances. (You realize that unless you are attractive, no one will ever get to know you)
7. You get to know yourself completely. (You may discover that it is impossible to function as yourself because people merely tolerate you)
8. You realize how important love is during incarnations. (By discovering that love is all that matters, you realize that everything that mattered is gone for the duration of this incarnation)
9. You learn that people live to love. (You realize that without love and affection, you cannot live, only exist)
10. You become strong. (If you were already strong, becoming stronger means that your heart begins to close, and eventually, it closes completely)

We all know that grief is different for everyone. We can read about the stages of grief, and the stories of grief, but ultimately, everyone experiences it differently. For me, losing my husband meant losing the best part of me. For nearly 20 years, I functioned on the premise that life was about happiness, affection, and love. For the last four years, I’ve realized that I was right—without those emotions, life is an unfulfilled journey. My husband and I were very passionate, and we laughed . . . we laughed so much. My personal experience dictates my list of the 10 best and worst things about losing a spouse. Everyone’s list is different.

You will note that many of the things on my “best” list are also on my “worst” list. It is all about perception. For instance, there is a positive and negative about learning who your true friends really are. If you think you have a wide circle of friends, you may realize that you only have a few. The true friends will not change the subject or ignore you. They will show up unexpectedly to mow your lawn or just listen. They will be there when you call them in the middle of the night, just to listen. And they never tell you that you are wrong to grieve. Treasure those people in your life, for they are few. On the other hand, finding out who your true friends are is a good thing because you realize where you stand with people. If they tire of your sadness, they tire of you. Those are the people who do not care about your feelings, but rather about what it is you can do for them. It is good to know where you stand. The cliché about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer is accurate. Know who your friends are and make adjustments accordingly.

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Realizing that you loved someone so completely that he or she was a part of you is wonderful, and equally devastating. You begin to know just how fully and completely you were loved and gave love, but at the same time, you realize that is gone and you will never have it again. For me, life has no purpose beyond that of loving. I can accumulate degrees and awards, but they mean nothing because at the end of the day—I have no one with whom to share those accomplishments. My life centered on affection—there were always good morning hugs, middle-of-the-day hugs, and night hugs. Now, I am fortunate to receive a hug once a year or so, and those hugs are usually forced. It is difficult learning to live life devoid of human affection. There are usually children and true friends to hug, but that is different, I am speaking of no holds barred, all-out partner hugs. Eventually, you learn that you can exist without affection, but that is all it is—existence. I continue to exist.

Learning the truth about people, much like learning who your friends are, is equally wonderful and devastating. You learn so much about people by reading their mannerisms and listening to their words. Unfortunately, you learn that the majority of people want to avoid you and just want to see you smile. They do not care whether those smiles are real or not; they just do not want to deal with the negativity or sadness. Essentially, you learn to wear a mask in public. Wearing a mask is not about deception necessarily, but about functioning in society. You must maintain a mask to work efficiently.

Learning that people live to love is a quandary. Love is the most powerful of all human emotion, and it does not matter how independent one is—when there is no one who looks into your eyes with total love, what is the point of anything? I’ve recently heard a lot about loving yourself, etc.—that is all great, but human beings still need to hear “I love you,” and not while gazing at your reflection. It is great to love yourself . . . to a point. When you love yourself too much, you become narcissistic and indifferent. I’ve always been independent, but I’ve also always believed that love is real. Ultimately, accepting that you will be alone for the rest of your days and no one will ever truly love you again is a pivotal point in life. For me, I have to accept it so that I can continue, but for anyone else—I would say never do this. Never accept solitude. Only the extremely strong will survive this way. Once you accept solitude, your heart begins to turn cold. I liked the “old me,” the person who loved completely and was loved in return. The “new me” has been alone so long that the thought of not being alone horrifies me. I am to the point that I look forward to coming home to an empty, cold, lonely home because for two days, I can be the “old me.” I can shed the mask and stop pretending, even if for just a few moments.

I was already strong. In fact, that was one of the qualities that my husband loved most about me. The “new me” has become even stronger. Colder, yes, but stronger—after all, the cold is a side effect of strength. You have to maintain a wall in order to build strength. You build a wall to cope and keep people out. Unfortunately, the wall eventually becomes so high that no one can penetrate it.

This list is primarily for me. I would never want anyone else to learn about grief in the manner I have. I will stop writing one day, I will stop talking about my loneliness one day, and I will completely accept solitude one day. I am still straddling the fence right now, with most of me almost there. “Hope” has all but taken his last breath inside my heart. When he gasps for the last breath of air, and I accept solitude completely, there will be no turning back. None. The “old me” looked forward to every day; the “new me” has nothing to look forward to, which is pointless. When Hope dies completely, I will have fulfilled my purpose in life as my heart closes forever. No doubt that it will be a great relief to most—they will no longer have to read about my grief or sadness, they will not hear negativity, they will see what they want. There will not be posts on social media sites, there will not be any more pleas for help; all will be silent. This is a good thing though, a good thing indeed, but not for those few true friends in my life, and certainly not for me.

©2014 Relinda R.

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