I think one of the most infuriating things that a widow can hear is, “Don’t you think you should be getting over this by now?” Which kind of implies that widowhood is like having a cold. A few boxes of Kleenex and two days off work and you should be fine, right? Wrong.
It’s a little more challenging than that. Widowhood is generally acknowledged by psychologists as the single most devastating life event that there is. Two boxes of Kleenex ain’t gonna fix it, I assure you of that.
Why? Why can’t you just get over it? Well, I’m glad you asked. You can’t just get over widowhood because it affects almost every aspect of your life. It’s not a cold, it’s not the flu. It’s not something you did, it’s something that happens to you. It’s something that changes everything in your world. Everything changes, right
My sister used to have this T-shirt with an upside-down cow, the thing was lying on its back with its legs straight up in the air and the caption said, “Really, I’m fine.” That’s what widowhood is like. Death knocks you flat on your back in shock and then everyone leans in over you and says, “How are you doing?” and you say, “I’m fine. Really, I’m fine.”
You’re not fine, you’re in shock. Shock is what happens during a major life event. If you were to be seriously injured in a car wreck for instance, you’d go into medical shock. Shock is a life-threatening medical condition.
If you were injured in that car wreck, here’s how the EMTs would know you were in shock: You’d have low blood pressure, rapid, shallow breathing; cold, clammy skin; a rapid, weak pulse; plus dizziness, fainting, or weakness. They wouldn’t give you 2 boxes of Kleenex and tell you to call someone in 2 days. Heck no. They’d transport you to the nearest hospital, sirens blazing, Shock is a medical emergency. It would be crazy to deny it was happening to you.
Well, guess what? Something really big did happen to you. Your spouse died. The shock of this event shakes up your whole world. How can you tell if you’re in emotional shock?
Well, emotional shock can make you feel jittery or physically sick. Your mind might be foggy, and you might have trouble thinking straight. You may feel an almost out of body sensation or your chest may feel tight. There’s a disconnection from what’s happening, like you’re watching a movie unfolding rather than actually being in your life .
Shock can give you other sensations as well. You may feel anger and want to scream and yell or you may feel like you want to run away and hide. And all of that is normal. All of it is normal.
Widowhood is a life-changing event. So the first thing you need to do is be kind to yourself. If your arm was cut off and bleeding you wouldn’t even pretend to be okay, right? So don’t pretend to be okay now. Your world is upside down and it will take you a while to get it back to some semblance of normal. That’s just the way it is and it will never be the same, ever. It’s going to be okay, but it’s going to be different.
Most grief experts agree that the devastation of the death of a spouse has a three to five year recovery timeline. Grief is cellular and you can’t rush it. Emotional shock is a real thing and memories of your spouse can trigger it months or even years after the death.
So when those well-meaning people ask if you shouldn’t just get over it say, “Well, actually, it’s going to take me quite a while to get over my husband’s death. It’s been devastating and I was in shock for awhile.” Just tell folks the truth. It’s a great way to honor yourself and what you’ve been through.
The Widows Recovery System gives you a coat of armor to help you get through the stuff that comes with death. I want to help you get through it and be stronger after you do. Email me and let’s talk about how the Recovery System will help you.