When a person loses a spouse or life partner it’s not unusual to be afraid. Afraid of the future, the dark, and sleeping alone. After all, a lot has changed. When one half of a couple dies the person who is left behind has many adjustments to make. Some adjustments are small, and some are life changing. Long engrained roles are left unfilled. She paid all the bills, he cleaned the gutters, we shared the cooking. Now the one left behind must do it all. How often do you change a furnace filter? Why aren’t my scrambled eggs fluffy? Do I have enough money? Should I move close to my children? Can I live in my house alone? It’s easy to understand how a person can feel
overwhelmed and fearful.
You might just feel like staying in your PJ’s and sleeping all day. After all, you’re not sleeping at night! That’s a short-term strategy, but it’s not a long-term answer. You know what they say about eating an elephant? You have to go about it one bite at a time. That is the strategy for overcoming your fear. It’s not a pep talk you need. What you need is a plan.
First, begin by figuring out what has you feeling off center. Name the fear. What is keeping you awake at night? That may not be as easy as it sounds. In the haze of grief, it may be difficult to identify what is bothering you. Doing something about it can feel impossible.
Take a deep breath, give yourself a hug, you can do this. If you are journaling (highly recommended for those who are grieving) just let it pour out of your head onto the paper. If you are not journaling, make a list. Use the old strategy you learned in school, who, what, where, when and why. Who or what makes you feel scared? Where or when do you feel scared? Why are you scared?
If you need help identifying the root of your fear, get help. A grief therapist may be able to help you identify your fear. Some people find talking with their minister, priest or rabbi helpful. Your funeral director may be able to help you find a grief therapist in your area.
Second, identify your priorities. The list might be long, that’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself the gift of time. You can’t fix it all in a day, but you can get started. Choose one thing to work on. You might start with the easiest or the most pressing. It’s not so much where you begin, as it is that you begin. You will find that you feel much better when you get something on your list started.
Think about what might help. Suppose you are not sleeping well. Perhaps you haven’t been alone at night for a long time. Would a motion sensor light or a security system help you feel more comfortable? What might help you as you adjust to this new reality?
Third, think about who can help you and what you would like for them to do. Do you need to talk to your financial advisor? Do you need legal advice? Can a friend or one of your children help? Don’t be shy about asking for help. It’s a pretty safe bet that you have family or friends who have no idea what to do to support you, but who would love to help you if you ask. Do be specific about what you need. Ask your son-in-law to help you find a security system. The added security may help you sleep better at night.
Finally, review your plan. Is your solution a good one or just a Band-Aid? Eating poorly prepared or take-out food may seem like an easy answer, but it’s not the long-term answer to not being able to cook or get healthy food. Leaving the TV on all night might alleviate sleeplessness, but it’s not a good long-term plan for getting the rest your body needs. Ignoring the change in your financial situation won’t make it go away. It may even lead to a painful reality check down the road. If your plan has holes, dig a little deeper. Think. Ask for help. Make a small start.