I received the phone call that she had been notified by her husband’s family that they found her husband dead of an apparent heart attack. I sat down to gather my thoughts and to begin praying for her. This was the 2nd husband she had ‘lost’. She was in her 40’s!
When I arrived at her home I parked in the acre plus front yard joining many other parked cars. Indeed the kitchen was full of somber neighbors, family, friends, co-workers, and a minister or two.
It’s rural Oklahoma. Some men were silently trying to be present but not knowing what to say and just gathered close to one another holding their cowboy hats or local feed store ball cap. I noticed the mix of aromas in the room…brewing coffee, bouquets of fresh flowers on the kitchen table, homemade soup someone had brought in for the family and cinnamon rolls.
I nodded at a few familiar faces before turning the corner and finding her sitting on her couch in the living room. She looked like a poor little bird. She saw me and motioned me forward to sit next to her. I gathered her up in my arms and held her as she wept and shook. “I can’t stop shaking it seems.” She barely uttered.
“I know they all mean well but they don’t seem to know what to do. They just keep standing around and looking at me and offering me food. I know from last time that they don’t know what else to do. I’m grateful but I want to be alone for a while.” She whispered.
An elderly gentleman with a white shock of hair neatly combed into place made his way to the living room. He was one her neighbors. He had known her husband all his life. He was nearly crippled with arthritis but he wanted to get close to her to speak. “We just wanted to come by and pay our respects. I reckon God must have needed your husband more than you do. That’s all I can think of anyway. If you need anything just let us know.” And then he shuffled off back to the kitchen.
My dear little friend started trembling harder and turning red. Most of the people in the living room exited to the kitchen to give her some air. With as much restraint as she could muster she turned to me and said, “Becki, God does not need anyone. God does not need my husband more than I do. I don’t know why he had to die this young but I do know that was not the reason!”
“I agree. But that man probably overheard some well-meaning soul say that to someone else one day and thought it sounded good.” I answered her while continuing to hold her as she shook.
As the day progressed and people were leaving, my friend was breathing more normal with less trembling. She took a deep breath and said, “I will be okay. Eventually, I know I will be okay. I’ve been through this before. I will survive. Today, all I can do is try to sip some broth since I don’t have an appetite, take advantage of this ‘shock’ phase and do some necessary tasks. I thank you for coming. I will call you if I need to talk to you because I trust that if I need to curse, scream, cry, or throw a fit…you will let me and not judge me.”
With a background of being a Hospice nurse and a Chaplain for a while in my career, my patients and their families taught me so much about life and death and grief.
That dear woman is ‘okay’…more than okay. That was many years ago and now I see her from time to time and I love seeing her laugh or ‘smart off’ to someone for fun.
Some of what she and many others taught me is that:
There is no exact timetable on grief. It’s never appropriate to tell someone that if they have been grieving a year that it’s time to ‘snap out of it’. Grief is as individual and personal as life and death.
There’s a lot to be said for ‘One Day at a Time’.
We may decide to keep our child’s/spouse’s/sibling’s/ possessions forever or we may give them away to a charity the next day. Don’t judge anyone’s decision here.
Some days we cry all day and some days we laugh, share memories.
One sweet soul recently told me that her deceased husband came to visit her in a vivid dream the other night. He wanted to tell her he was okay. She said that blessed her more than anyone could ever imagine. She said he looked great. I was so thrilled she shared that with me.
There is conflict in releasing our loved ones, even when we believe they are going back to Spirit/God/All That Is, whatever you name God. In our heart of hearts many have shared that it’s not that we want them to continue to suffer or that we would want to keep them if they are ‘called home’. But we are human. And we deeply feel the loss. It is normal to grieve and it is …slowly…day by day…weeks and months away…normal to laugh again, feel less guilty if we are having a good time with a friend.
Some of my patients would share with me what they were seeing as they were ‘transitioning’ to the other side. Some were talking to angels, or their family members or friends. Some of them had near death experiences years before and were not afraid to go. One sweet elderly gentleman whom I had known for most of my life whispered to me as I sat next to his bedside, “Becki, it’s okay. My Mother is here. I’m not afraid. I died once before and I know I have nothing to fear. I’m going back to my real home. Don’t ever be afraid to die, dear nurse. We are just laying our clay vessels aside and stepping up and out of this sweet earth home.”
If you are reading this and are experiencing grief right now, please know I am so sorry and it is my prayer that you know without a shadow of doubt how beloved you are on so many levels and that your sweet angels are with you as you make this journey.