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Everything falls apart: A Grief Relief column

She flipped the outdoor light switch on and noted with dismay that it remained dark, the bulb most certainly blown.  Walking back into the house, she searched in vain for a replacement and then realized that even if she found one, she did not feel confident enough to climb up on a ladder, something her husband always did with ease.  Picking up the phone to call her son, she noticed water seeping along the floor underneath the washing machine and simply collapsed on the ground, despair and frustration cascading over her, a desire to “throw in the towel” first and foremost in her mind.

Several friends had spoken to her about this, almost as if trying to prepare her for things to come, that unlikely phenomenon that many widows face after losing their husbands in which it feels as if everything falls apart.  And, not only is everything falling apart, it seems as though it is happening all at once which can be overwhelming and foreign to those that are so used to “having everything together.”  Grief is the rude awakening that shows up and reminds us that roles we once shared with our loved ones have now become ours and our alone.  Want the grass mowed?  How about repairing the handle on the toilet seat?  Who do I even contact to change the oil in the car?  Not to mention the financial aspect and the burden that weighs on our hearts as we desperately search for ways to pay bills and unexpected repairs that pop up suddenly and unannounced.

Keep in mind, this is not just limited to women as men experience some of the very same frustrations and concerns.  Not having someone to bounce things off of and make important decisions with is gut wrenching, a painful reminder that you are alone in your decision making, a place you never allowed yourself to think that you would be.  But, it happens and it happens to us all at some point.  The thing is, it is normal to feel like the world and everyone in it is against you, because that is what grief does- it makes us feel uncertain and threatens our confidence.  In time, once we are able to breathe again and engage in some healing, we can look back at everything we accomplished during a time in which we never thought we would survive, and yet we did.  As human beings, we have the ability to get kicked to the ground repeatedly and still find ways to stand back up, stronger than before.

Yes, when death first occurs, everything does feel as though it is all falling apart, and sometimes it truly is- that’s a fact.  But, with support from family and friends and with our own strength and resolve we can find ways to stumble through those moments and emerge filled with new insight and transcendence.  Sometimes the “falling apart” allows the gift of unexpected strength, the knowledge that we “can” and “will” be able to make things work and trust that we will be able to make those decisions with confidence once again, tossing doubt to the curb alongside the rubbish.  Picking up the pieces, one bit at a time.