Thinking back to those early days, I remember getting smacked by triggers while out in public. It was embarrassing to burst into tears in front of people and it happened more often than I care to remember.
Living in a small town with a population of 1500 people, going to the grocery store was always scary. The question was not, “Would I see someone I knew?” But rather, “Who was I going to see this time?”
My first encounter was about a week after Kathy died. I had made my purchase and was exiting the store when a familiar couple caught me at the door. All it took was for one of them to ask me how I was doing and the massive avalanche of tears began the uncontrollable tumble down my face. They did not know what to do and just scrambled along leaving me there with the tears flowing. I felt bad for them, me and the strangers that witnessed my meltdown. That was just the beginning of many awkward moments to come.
Looking back, there were many people who had openly offered me help. It was almost always in the form of “just call if there is anything I can do” that seemed sincere but very noncommittal. The offers seemed generic at the time and I had no idea what help I needed. And as for shopping, I was physically able to go, but emotionally I was dead and buried with my late wife. In this case, I needed emotional help in the form of grocery shopping.
Regardless the offers, I definitely did not have the mental energy to call anyone for help. All I could think was that we needed supplies and wondered how fast could I get in and out of the store before I had another embarrassing meltdown.
I am happy to say that I survived the grocery store. I may have filled a few mop buckets with tears during those early visits, but I survived. Each visit made the next easier and before long the grocery store was not so scary. I hope that as you navigate through those early days, you find ways to ease the pain of public triggers. Do not forget those offers to help you. They can become quite helpful in your healing.
It has been eight and a half years and I still vividly remember my last night with Kathy. It was a Monday night and we had stayed up until 10pm practicing a trumpet/piano duet for church, where we were scheduled to perform the next Sunday. Our music was echoing throughout the house and keeping the kids awake as they lay in bed. We were on our Christmas vacation so there was no need for an early bedtime. We practiced for a bit and then headed to bed happy that we were able to get a good practice completed.
That night I remember Kathy rolling over in bed at exactly 2am and pressing her back up against mine with a feeling of love that I will never forget, as that was the last moment that I had with Kathy alive. At 6:30am I was in a state of sleep where my eyes were closed but I was aware of my surroundings. Kathy had made an exhaling noise that sounded exceptionally weird.
I abruptly opened my eyes and tapped her arm just hard enough to see if she would respond, but not hard enough to wake her up. I just wanted to verify that nothing weird really happened. No response. I tapped a little harder but she still did not react. Then I pushed her to wake her up and it felt like I was pushing dead weight. Panic struck and I jumped out of bed so that I could see exactly what was happening!
Immediately I noticed that her eyes had a glassy look to them and she definitely was not breathing. I grabbed the phone to call 911, then picked her up and placed her on the floor to begin CPR. It only took the ambulance 10 minutes to get to my house and the first responders continued CPR for over 30 minutes until Kathy’s heart began a soft beat on its own. At that point she was transferred to the hospital where she never gained consciousness and did not survive through the next day.
I stumbled through life over the next few weeks feeling like I was a glass window, shattered by hurricane winds, and was being blown in every direction. Being left with five young kids forced me to keep the daily schedule mostly intact, but internally my heart was paralyzed from grief. I was referred to the previous young widow forum and I found a sense of comfort from my new club members. Night times became more tolerable as I read through posts and realized that I was grieving normally.
Through this forum I have met many widow/ers, several of which became my lifeline while I was grieving the hardest. It is my hope and prayer that you find this forum as comforting and helpful as I did.