Random Ways to Survive a Loss
It's crazy how you can be spinning through life at warp speed, minding your own business, and then tragedy strikes. Time just suddenly stands still. I lost my husband to suicide in 2018. I felt like my whole world was crashing down. I was crawling through quicksand, while trying to function in every day life. There was still laundry to fold, groceries to buy and toilets to scrub. When you are grieving, everyone will offer advice. Most of it will make you want to scream. I don't have all the answer but I do know a thing or two about losing my shit. If you have recently had a loss, here are a few random ways to survive.
Just Say Yes
In my previous life, the word delegate was not in my vocabulary. God forbid I ever ask for any help. But when my husband died I was overcome by a shitstorm of emotions I wasn't prepared to handle. It was no time to be a hero. I was humbled by the outpouring of love and support from my friends and neighbors bringing Costco rotisserie chickens and hugs. But when they would ask what they could do for me I was at a loss. I didn't know where to begin. And being the anxious, people pleaser that I am, I was afraid to ask. I promise people want to help. It makes them feel useful and lets them show you they care. If you keep saying no they will stop asking. Take them up on their offer. Don't try to do it all on your own. Try jotting stuff down on a list starting with childcare, prayers and paper plates and just say yes to all the help.
Choose a Representative
Most people are lucky enough to have a friend or two they can count on when they need a hand. If you're super lucky like me, you have a best friend who has known you all your life, knows what makes you tick and can speak on your behalf. This is who you need right now. Trust me. Have this person be your middleman. Think bouncer at an L.A. nightclub on a Friday night. There will be a sudden influx of tasks that need to be handled. She can keep your running to do list, delegate to the aforementioned helpers and tell you it's all going to be okay while you cry. My BFF came storming in with a clipboard and a headset and started making shit happen. She screened my calls, shuttled family from the airport and made sure I showered once in a while. She coordinated meals, helped plan the memorial service and performed regular sanity checks. She took care of all the big, scary things I couldn't handle on my own. Good friends fold your laundry and bring wine. Best friends pick up ashes from the mortuary.
Ride the Train
No matter what happens in life, as a mom, you are still expected to feed people. Yes, seriously. And as hard as it is to imagine chewing and swallowing actual food at this point, you will need it to survive. You probably have children and visiting relatives to think of as well. Lucky for you, some genius somewhere created the Meal Train as a way for friends and family to help. It is a calendar sent out to people you know who can sign up to bring you meals on a schedule. This was a huge blessing for me as I couldn't fathom planning or shopping for meals for my child or how to feed family staying in a nearby hotel. Make sure to customize your train. A wonderful, long-time friend arranged one for me. Somewhere over the years she mistook my not eating red meat for vegetarianism and people starting bringing lentils and tofu. You can specify things like how many people you're feeding, what days and times you would like meals delivered, likes and dislikes and allergies. Do yourself a favor and just request soup. It's all your stomach can handle right now anyway.
I'm not saying I wasn't ugly crying in the kitchen, talking to pictures of my late husband, drinking chardonnay straight from the bottle late at night. What I am saying is it was a dumpster fire. Along with widow's fog, PTSD, hair loss and depression, I was also cursed with a mean case of acid reflux. For some reason, pouring gallons of cheap wine into my stomach on a regular basis just didn't seem to be helping. Not to mention that I was utterly drained. Hangovers were not serving me. The more I drank, the more anxious I felt the next day. Believe me I get it. It would be much easier to numb all your feelings than to actually feel them. But the truth is you can't hide from them forever. Whether it's alcohol, food, shopping, social media, Netflix or any other vice, buffering your emotions will only prolong the grieving process. A little bit of wine can calm your nerves. A shitload of wine will end badly. Tread carefully.
Get All the Sleep
I don't know about you but I am the worst version of myself with lack of sleep. Sprinkle a little trauma on top and I'm a hot mess express. It sounds completely absurd and also slightly obvious that you need all the sleep you can get right now. I realized early on that the only way I was going to survive this thing was to get some rest. Nighttime was hard. When the day was over and the house was quiet I couldn't seem to turn off my brain. I was afraid to hear my own thoughts when I closed my eyes. But when exhaustion set in I knew I had to take action fast. Blackout curtains were hung. An early bedtime was set. A new evening ritual was born. It included melatonin, essential oils, Will & Grace and a mantra I repeated over and over in my head until I drifted off to sleep. I am strong. I am brave. I am good. Do whatever it takes and find what works best for you but get some z's. Put down the wine and go to bed.
Slow Your Roll
It can feel extremely overwhelming handling affairs after someone you love passes away. Between notifying friends, contacting the life insurance company and making arrangements for services, it feels like a clusterfuck of overwhelm. It can be emotionally draining to have to continually announce someone's death. When I called one company and told the representative what happened, she asked me what I needed her to do. After a moment of utter disbelief, I found my voice. "Believe it or not, this is the first time I've had a husband die so I was hoping you could tell me." It all feels very urgent but it's not. Pace yourself. The only one in a hurry right now is you. Make a list. Prioritize it in order of importance. You don't have to do everything at once. Most things will wait until you're ready.
Use Your Free Pass
Unfortunately, after your person dies, people will have the audacity to keep on living their lives. There will continue to be traffic, long lines at Target and all of the other mundane bullshit included in everyday life. However, you have earned yourself a free pass. For an undetermined amount of time, you are exempt from obligations, gatherings or any other scenarios that you are not capable of doing right now. You do not need to apologize. You don't owe anyone an explanation. Get together with other families for the holidays? Nope. Volunteer your time in your kid's classroom? Hard pass. Any other event where you have to smile and wear pants? Absolutely not. Just show your pass. And as an added bonus, any acts of bat shit craziness would be fully acceptable at this point. If there were ever a time to pull a Jerry McGuire, it would be now. People will be expecting this from you.
Find Your People
Finally, when you'e ready, find support. I have amazing friends who want nothing more than to help me through this thing. Some of them have admitted they don't know how. Unless someone has been in, or is currently in, your shoes, it's hard for them to relate. It can even be awkward. It's comforting to have a safe place to vent, ask questions and spill your guts, especially when what you have to say isn't exactly pretty. It's refreshing to be among people who get you. There are resources out there from websites to grief groups to podcasts that can help. Because I live on an island, there are limited support groups near me. I was lucky enough to find them on social media. Then, as though it were fate, I discovered The Widowed Mom Podcast. When I listened to the first episode, I felt like I was home. Krista St-Germain is a Master Certified Life Coach, grief expert, widow and a mom. She has been there and knows just what I need to hear. When I joined her coaching program, Mom Goes On, I knew I could find a way to live again. Grief can be a very personal, private and lonely journey. Find the people who can help you through.
If you have lost someone you love, I am deeply sorry. Be gentle with yourself. It isn't easy. It's okay to laugh once in a while. It's normal to have hard days. You're stronger than you know. You can do this. If you are supporting someone who has had a loss, be patient. Try to just sit and listen. Bring food. Provide hope. Do the dishes. And nothing says I love you like cash.