A Guide for Friends and Family for insight on a Grieving Widower. Part 1, month 1.
First I’d like to state that this is from my own personal experience, as there is no right or wrong answer. Every person grieves and mourns in their own way. I’ve also found the responses can be quite different from a male point of view vs a female’s way of dealing with losing a spouse. I have read a lot from other blogs and posts from the experiences of both, news articles, books, listened to various psychologists, and doctors, as well as factoring in young widows vs older widows, it’s all different. So this is from me, and keep in mind, your bereaved friend/child/parent is still in there somewhere, same kind of spirit or personality, just completely shattered, disjointed, cloudy, and very messy. I think of using the analogy of your bereaved loved one as a bridge. Maybe they are classic and historic, maybe they are modern and can cross lakes carrying a freeway. Whatever bridge they were, it has suddenly been blown up and destroyed, with pieces and debris everywhere. It is the desire of everyone, especially the widower, to have it put back together and be rebuilt. The reality is, not only will this take a long time, but it will never be back like the original, it could be needed for a new design, it may need all different materials, whatever the case may be, it is not going to be the same.
For me the first month was entire shock and disbelief. My mind froze, went into auto pilot, and was completely broken. Don't be surprised if the person is making jokes like nothing ever happened. Don’t be shocked if they hide somewhere and lock the door. Some never say a word, some need constant company, some need just the right company. Nothing short of tearing all their clothes off and and putting a gun to their head is to be expected. They do not care about you, or your advice, words of wisdom, survival, anything. They may operate or sound fine, function like a soldier, but make no mistake, they have completely lost their mind and are struggling to breathe on the inside. For me I was dismayed and shocked by the constant concern for my little girl, who wasn't even 3 years old yet. Her brain wasn't even remotely equipped or had the ability to understand what all this means. She is a sweet little silly heart, needing to play, have someone to play with, care for her with all the basics of a toddler. Eat, sleep, have someone to hold, etc. I was constantly reprimanded to become an instant robot, put all feelings aside and just be a parent. Because to so many that is what a parent is. There is no you anymore, and thats the way it is. Thats absurd to a level I cant believe. The adult is the one who is fully aware of what has happened and what is to become, they need all the support in the world. Asking how a toddler is doing concerning the sudden loss of a parent is like asking a toddler what their feelings are on string theory, it hasn't processed at all. The best one can do is explain Mommy had to go to heaven. That is all that can be done, and for others to keep as much of a routine as possible. Small children are very resilient, it’s all they know, and may or may not carry memories of anything into adulthood. To me it was far more serious, as I lost the mother of our child, my companion, the one and only that created this child in her womb. Naturally it is all mothers who believe and think like this, and I understand it. To a mother the most important person in the world is their children, more than a spouse or parent. I would have to say that most all men don't carry this view, we didn't carry them in our body, give them life, feed them from our body. The closest a man feels to this is the connection to his mother, then later in life to his wife. To me my wife was everything, and all my desire to do everything was inspired from her. As the old joke is known, when a woman marries she immediately acquires a child, before having more children. Now days much can be different, for instance, I was the stay home Dad raising Penny from a baby, so we naturally have a bond further than other Dads who are the sole bread winner. Beth had a good career and didn't want to lose her status. So I had already become somewhat acclimated to this life of a parent. And at the time I thought I was doing a good job, 50/50 with the house and all responsibilities. I didn't realize how wrong I was until Beth was gone. She worked so immensely hard at being such a good Mom, wife, best friend, and companion that it cant even be put into words. Now I am all on my lonesome, with no one to share all the amazing moments, and changing thresholds with. It’s all on me now, with all other mothers eyes watching, judging, opinions, and all the advice that goes along with it. I know this is a big side tangent, but my point being becoming a single parent totally alone is its own severe hardship. And yes, many mothers seem to do it or even choose to do it, alone if they have to. I would have never wanted to do it alone, ever. I would have never paid for a segregate mother or adopted a child just to experience parenthood alone. There are just a great many things that is traded off in a companionship. In short, this was a lot of my first month. Get your business together for your child, toughen up, welcome to the club of motherhood, thats the way it is, take joy in your little one. Like as if my little one is a companion, a best friend, a lover, has my back in a corner. No, I’m a parent, they are my child, who needs constant care and guidance, it might be good rewarding busywork, but it is no replacement. And knowing that Beth was such a one of a kind and totally irreplaceable person, fearing all the years to come made it all the more dismal and terrifying.
Another odd thing that seems to happen, is shown in movies and books, and when the normal one sees or hears this, becomes shocked and disgusted by such a notion. It is the insane unnatural horniness for the first 2 or 3 weeks. For me it was so primitive and insatiable that I couldn't hardly function. You want to love everyone, make sense of it somehow, and it is somehow a very primal, bizarre way of overcoming or dealing. I felt like a wounded animal, begging for a home anywhere. I bring this up because for anyone on the outside to see or hear this, would be totally confused and dumbfounded by such a thing. Well yea, your life is still moving on as normal, to the one that just lost an intimate lover forever, so suddenly, they are nothing short of a time bomb of emotions. There is no room or form of a logic inside. Everything is purely exposed nerves pressing on ice blocks. So keep your judgments at bay. They are still in severe shock. They may talk of anything under the sun. They may scream obscenities at you and tell you to go die yourself. Truly anything is possible. To that person they are going through torture, imagine yourself being chained to a chair and having your limbs being slowly cut off, how would you act? Life goes on, act normal, keep calm? I very much doubt it. I remember talking to family and others in such a way that I have no idea what was right and wrong. Again, remember totally broken brain, failed mind, the circuit board has blown. For some, the greatest genius in the world can become a village idiot in 24 hours. Remember how I stated that the person you knew was still in there? But totally shattered? I myself am a pretty passionate caring person, a hopeless romantic. So that me did come out, but in the most raw way possible. I was kind and logical one minute, then an unhinged beast another. I speak of this to illustrate the true need of keeping all ideas and advice to yourself, as it will fall on deaf ears. So most important, if you really actually want to help your friend or family member? FOLLOW their lead. It is really that simple. If they want to do nothing but talk about the person that just passed? Then do it. Talk of stories and your memories of them together, positive ones mind you, and for all things good and holy, do not turn the conversation to yourself and your experiences of your dog or grandparent dying. If they cant say a word and want to go to the bar and drink themselves into oblivion? Go with and watch over them, drive, and care for them without judgement. Care not what others think, what is more important? Strangers opinions or the love and care for your friend or loved one. They may want to go through their room or clothes, then never go to again for a year. Just follow their lead, without judgement or advice. I cannot stress this enough, no matter how well put together that person was or acts, constantly tell yourself over and over, this bereaved person now has severe brain damage and a completely broken heart. What would you expect from a person that was just clubbed in the head with a hammer? They may talk in circles and desperately seek a comb and some cake.
Don't become shocked, because that is what they are in. For a month or 6 months, as everyone is different. Avoidance and ignoring the bereaved after all is said and done, is actually the worst thing you can do. In my opinion anyway, from the type of person I am. I would rather have someone come and visit and bug me and tell me all the wrong things, then to ignore calls, texts and hide.