Last night, I sat in my living room helping a man in his 80’s process the emotional roller coaster of losing his wife of 60 plus years.
He was struggling with first the shock of her disappearance the day before, then the angry realization that she lay alone in the bottom of a stairwell after a City of Hamilton public building had closed – after the staff said she had never made it inside.
There she lay, alone, until the police finished their investigation and the coroner arrived. The procedural dramas on TV never show THIS aspect of an investigation – the sheer HAVOC this wreaks on the families of the deceased.
I keep on hoping someone does a police procedural from the victim’s family’s perspective – then realized it would never fly because it would be too hard to watch and the people who haven’t experienced that kind of loss would believe the emotional range a person goes through.
It was hard for me knowing that Larry passed alone on the surgical floor of Juravinsky Hospital, to be found by a nurse doing their rounds. The knowledge that your most beloved friend and partner died alone in the bottom of a stairwell, not to be found until the police searched several hours later, would be crushing.
He embodied the shifting emotions ranging from sorrow, anger, grief, profound loss and rage. He was manic and astounded at how confused he was as he was feeling everything and nothing all at once.
When he asked me when it gets better, my reply was honest and short – it doesn’t.
Losing the love of your life, your partner, your better half, is losing a part of yourself – whether it’s 15 or 50+ years.
You are no longer “we,” you have become “me” due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
I warned him that his life will be a shambles focusing on being executor of her estate for the next several weeks. It’s practically a full time job as it becomes all consuming. I didn’t mention that this will followed by dealing with the emotional fallout for months to come, not to mention the year of firsts and anniversaries.
All of these things nobody ever prepares you for. All of these things nobody can prepare you for.
When asked by another friend how I still counsel people after losing my own husband, my reply was simple:
I’m unable to do anything but hope and pray – this is 95% of what I do. The rest is just to be present and listen.