Grief: That heavy stone in your heart

They were more deeply in love than most couples are after 35 years of marriage, so it was even more tragic when the husband died of cancer three years ago.

His widow, only 60 at the time, was fortunate in that she had two loving grown children, a professional career and sufficient income to live comfortably.

But widows face many issues, especially if they are young and still in their “active, social” years. Life, as she had known it, stopped abruptly.

Friends, family and colleagues were considerate and tried to help her feel life is worth living.

She gamely attended a recent family wedding and seemed to enjoy the ceremony and cocktail hour, but as the reception got underway she felt more and more alone. She missed her husband even more sitting among family members and friends who all were in couples.

After salad had been served, she rose abruptly and said, “I’m done. I must go home.” And all at the table felt her sorrow.

Coincidentally, this week The Dr. Phil Show repeated a program focused on a 60-year-old widow with two grown children and a successful career, who was having trouble returning to a normal social life.

Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, chief medical advisor for Pfizer, was also featured and she gave this advice:

  1. Social Isolation (such as that experienced by many widows) is an addiction, as serious as any other, like alcohol, drugs, or obesity. It deserves to be treated as such.
  2.  This emotional paralysis caused by reminders of life with your husband may cause anxiety, depression, and especially fear. The greatest being falling in love again and losing that person too.
  3. Both this counselor and Dr. Phil emphasized that the length of time you grieve is no indication of how much you loved the deceased.
  4. The advice wasn’t unusual. It included getting back into civic and religious organizations and doing volunteer work. But also stressed the need for therapy, where talking about your feelings gives the most relief.

As one of our readers has remarked, “It’s like carrying a heavy stone in your heart. In time it gets lighter, but it’s never gone.”

And most of us don’t want or expect it to be.