I have been interacting a lot with other widowers on the facebook Widowers Support Network group. Some have been widowed a lot longer than I have; some not even as long. I try to help console those who are in need of it, pass along things I’ve learned about what one needs to do after one’s spouse has passed, and give advice where it makes sense for me to do so.
The number one thing I keep finding myself saying to these other men, sometimes not in so many words, is “Don’t let your grief define you.”
We will all grieve, each in our own way, and each at our own intensity – that’s just nature. We’re all different. But I found there are things that work to help take the edge off of the emotion. First among these are: get out. Interact with people. Be as cheerful and outgoing as you can manage. Not only does this attract people to you, giving you company and taking your mind off your loss – if even for the briefest moment – it also retrains your mind to be, well: cheerful and outgoing!
I’ve been trying to be as upbeat and positive with people I encounter as I can. My number-one testbed has been at my physical therapy sessions, twice each week. I am repeatedly told how much they enjoy my presence there, and that they are amazed at my frame of mind. I even made a new friend of one of them, and am sharing my collection of motorcycle skills books with him. There may be a few rides in the summer to practice what he’s learned with him, too (the Harley brotherhood is a strong one…).
Those of you who have been reading along know that this hasn’t always been my frame of mind. Up until last Saturday, I was having one hell of a time just motivating myself to go out the front door. It took some effort. I went out. I did things and, in doing so, had to work with other people. Plus, I’ve been in physical therapy a couple of weeks, so the impact of my “mind game” wasn’t immediate. The key seems to be taking those steps, framing your mood to present to others, and then sticking with it.
At first, I would still choke up now and again, just thinking that “Last time I was here, I was with Kim.” or “This was Kim’s favorite place.” But, with more excursions, it became easier to do those things and go to those places.
Am I still grieving over my loss of Kim? You bet your sweet… bottom dollar I am. But I’m no longer willing to let it define me. I want the memory of Kim to be something I smile over. Her last few weeks may never elicit that smile, but I note again that she smiled when she passed. I will always remember that as indicating something good for her. That she was at peace and on her way to happiness. See? You can even find something positive in the most negative situation – I was smiling as I remembered her last smile.
I have had the best mood I’ve had in over a year these past few days. Opening yourself up to others like this is a risk, true; however, it sure seems to work. Try it. It may help you attain some sense of normalcy, too.