I said in week one that the profound absence of my late husband felt like a lost limb–a phantom pain that was hard to explain at the time. The pain in the first few weeks and months is constantly exposed and magnified by every day actions. Things as simple as going to the bathroom, taking a shower, walking into the closet to get a shirt, were painful reminders that I was once a whole with two separate people.
In the closet, there were still his clothes, his shoes, his stash of instant coffee he was trying to hide from me. In the bathroom was “his side” where all his things remained in the exact spot he left them. In the shower was his shampoo and soap.
That wasn’t the worst thing that reminded me that I was alone. The worst thing also became what I missed the most–his scent on his pillow. The smell of Old Spice in whatever rendition he preferred. For a few days after I left the hospital, I would hold his pillow as if it were him, breathe in his scent and weep.
The pillow began to lose his scent and started to take on my scent. That was the most profound reminder that I was now alone. There was no “us.” There was just me.
I was crying a lot those first few days and weeks. Everyone wanted to help. My family was doing everything they could to stop my weeping with distractions, busy work, and plans for the future. People stopped by and I stayed in my room, crying.
I gave all Sam’s shirts to a friend who generously made a quilt out of them. I slept with that quilt for months, but honestly, it brought me no comfort for my loss. It did remind me of the fact I had friends who would do those sorts of things for me.
It wasn’t all bitter. Because my husband was deaf and we went to an ASL Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the deaf members of the congregation would come and help do the yard. I couldn’t face them, because they reminded me too much of my late husband. I had been dismissed from the branch (by the mostly hearing leadership) because I wasn’t deaf. I felt like a zombie after that. I was half dead because at one point, I had been US and US had been half deaf. I didn’t “need” ASL services and they, the ASL branch, obviously didn’t “need” me.
Yet, my friends in the branch disagreed. They showed me something about myself that I hadn’t realized before Sam passed away. They showed me that I was valued for ME, not because I was married to a deaf man, not because I was a hearing person who knew ASL, but because I was me and they loved ME.
One day, after coming to do my lawn for me (which my late husband usually did, and since he was legally blind, I always had to touch up for him), one of the members left a note:
That note is still on my fridge to remind me that I am loved for ME. It makes me a little weepy to remember all of this.
I went back to the branch after that, not because they needed me, but because I needed them. They were, for a long time after Sam passed away, what filled the hole left by Sam’s passing. They did a great job, by the way. They did what no one else could do for me. They helped me become ME again. In a very significant way, they also introduced me to my new husband.
But that’s a story for another day.
I suppose this blog post is to remind you, if you are grieving, that you are your own person. While your lost loved one may have influenced you, helped you grow, made you who you are the day they passed away, you are no less yourself and no less without other people who love and influence your life.
If you are trying to support someone who is grieving, treating them as if they are of value to you as themselves, weeping with them in their grief, supporting them in their process, being there (as I’ve said each time I’ve posted), is the best you can do for them. They would thank you for being there, if they weren’t in the throes of grief. Be patient. Time is the best thing you can give.
Please feel free to share your feelings below.
Comment, share, and visit my webstore, which I promise to work a lot harder on in the weeks to come (I’m just getting used to this home/online business stuff). There is a story involving my late husband with regards to the webstore, it’s name and all, which you might find if you read enough of OUR blog: A Deaf In the Family , in the early days of it.