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Sudden loss brings on grief, anger

DEAR AMY: My husband died unexpectedly. Since his death, I have had to deal with overwhelming paperwork and people. To everyone who means well: Please do not tell me to get a pet. Please don't say that I will meet someone who will fill the void. Oh -- and (my favorite) -- please don't say that he is in a better place and that I will see him when I die. Do not tell me that if there is anything I need I should just call. Unless you can raise the dead, there is nothing you can do for me. Please just tell me you are sorry. What I would like to know is: How do I cope with the immediate loss and pain? Does the emptiness ever go away? Does it ever get any better? Will I ever stop crying?

-- Unexpected Widow

DEAR WIDOW: I am so very sorry for your loss. Your anger is understandable, and one potentially powerful thing for you to understand right now is that any way you feel is the "right" way to feel.

Grief (like love) presents its own peculiar roller coaster of emotions.

However, if you let people in -- they will help, even if they don't know what to say or are clunky in their attempts to comfort you.

Do you need a hand with paperwork? Maybe a friend can come over and help you organize it over coffee. You need a break, and you must give yourself a break.

You will feel better but this process of healing is slow and gradual. Your journey should start with you being gentle toward yourself and choosing to do whatever you can to get through these tough days.

Grief counseling would help you immeasurably. Your local hospice center can give you a referral for a grief group, where you will be among others who can understand, comfort you, and be comforted by you.

Joan Didion's account of her husband's sudden death is touching and powerful: "The Year of Magical Thinking" (2007, Vintage). This book might help you to understand what you are going through.

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