I joined this a few months ago and I wanted to post this discussion to get some advice/support.
My husband passed away 5 months ago in March very suddenly. He just turned 31, I had just turned 30 (birthdays one day apart from each other). We were on vacation and I found him, already passed away in the morning. He died of cardiac arrest due to atherosclerosis (at age 31?!). Anyway, as you can imagine, it's been a terrible, traumatic experience. I am widowed at 30. Oh, and we didn't even make it to our one-year anniversary (although we were together for 10).
One thing I am finding with myself, in addition to my grief, crying, depression, debilitating anxiety, etc. is that I am chronically fatigued all the damn time. I have days where I have more energy than others, but most days all I want to do is lay on the couch, or in bed and watch TV. I force myself to stay active somewhat by walking a lot, gardening, doing things to soothe my soul, etc. but I am just so tired. Socializing is extremely difficult. Of course, at night, I don't sleep well at all. I wake every 2 hours, restless dreams, etc. so I am sure my body is just trying to heal from all the trauma its been through and catch up on sleep. My therapist also assures me its normal for me to feel so tired and fragile due to what I've been through. I guess I just never thought after 5 months I would still be so unbelievably tired all the time. I used to work full-time, but now I am a full-time grad student and took the summer off to heal. Oh, and my work also had to cut my position (and others) due to funding like 2 months after he died. I had been working there for 7 years. There went another major part of my life and identity.
Today is one of those tired days. I feel sleeping pill-level tired today. My friend described it perfectly when he said, "Yeah, when you are grieving its like you are hungover 24/7." On point.
Anyway, I just wanted to see if anyone else experienced crazy exhaustion most of the time in the months following the death of their loved one. I apologize, I am not trying to have a "pity party" on here but I figured I'd just unload a little on my quest for advice. I am probably going to go to the doctor/psychiatrist soon and see if I need to be on meds or something. I don't know. I just hate feeling this way. Any advice or whatever would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you everyone!
Thank you. When did you lose your spouse?
Kaela ... My deepest condolences for your great loss. Your husband was far too young to have passed away and I won't even say I can imagine how you feel. My husband Ernie passed away April 27, 2011 of pancreatic cancer and he was 65 years old. We'd known each other 45 years and just missed our 40th Wedding Anniversary. No children and I was left with two dogs and a cat and between them forcing me to go for walks and just being there and this wonderful forum of great people (my angels) I managed to keep it together and knew I wasn't going crazy.
It is very normal for you to feel very exhausted; the brains way of absorbing the shock of your spouse's passing and grief of a close loved one has been dubbed now by some doctors as PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) which I am sure you are going through because of the ages you and your spouse were when he passed away and how he passed away. Let your body do as it wants; cry when you need too, talk through your tears to family, a loyal friend and so happy to hear you are seeing a therapist and please, just post what you feel on this forum as no one judges you and you'll be so surprised at the help you will receive back. Symptoms going through the first year or so of grief (depending on the individual) can be insomnia, frightening dreams, waking up at strange hours, headaches, aches/pains and sometimes panic attacks or anxiety. Foggy memory, can't think enough to read or concentrate on much of anything. I promise, in time although you will never forget your beloved husband that these symptoms will go away. I know every so often even now I can feel over-whelmed at times (not as often as I did) and it's like I've been drugged.
Here are a few tips that may help you. For a short time sleep on the couch with the TV on low and try to get out for a walk in a peaceful place because it does help settle your nerves. Talk to someone and cry if you have to while doing so. I did what you did and got out and gardened, walked the dogs and it helped and as time went on it helped me even more.
YOU ARE NOT HAVING A PITY PARTY! You have every right to feel as you do no matter what age our spouses were. It's a shock and especially in your case with your spouse being so young, then problems at work. Don't worry as things will level off eventually.
I am sorry to hear about your husband. Here I feel so disoriented after 10 years together, and I can't imagine how disoriented I'd feel after 45 years together.
Your response and advice is so comforting. I definitely have PTSD from the way my husband died so suddenly and the trauma of that morning. I still can't believe it happened. I have horrible nightmares about that morning and then I wake up in a horrible anxiety attack. Lately I've been starting to feel bipolar with my mood swings but apparently when one has depression you also get episodes like that.It sounds like I fit all the criteria of the first year of grief as you've listed. Today and yesterday and the day before for example I have had more energy, felt like doing things and seeing people, when just prior to those days I could barely get out of bed and felt as though I had weights strapped to my body.
Kaela....What you are feeling is very normal. It's such a trauma to your system to lose your spouse and your body and mind need time to heal. I lost my husband 19 months ago and it's still takes every once of energy just to get out of bed.......of course it's because I can't get to sleep to begin with and wake up many times during the night but that's just the way it is now. I hope that by coming here, you'll see you're not alone in these feelings and are certainly not having a pity party. It's important that you talk with people who are going through what you are and can understand in a way that your family or friends cannot. Please come here anytime and share whatever you are feeling.
Thank you everyone for your encouraging words and validating how I feel. Prior to this happening, I did not experience this. I'd get the typical tired from a long day at work but I had energy and was a happy person. I could also cope with stress very well before this. I had somewhat of a stressful job with lots of liability in a supervisory position and I managed well. This has just sent me into a cluster f*ck of mental health issues.
Something else I've noticed is that I feel like I've become bipolar. Most of the time I'm exhausted like this, and even so upset that I feel physically sick. Then, I'll have a day or a few days where I'll have a suspicious amount of energy where I feel creative and inspired to go do things, go shopping, etc. then I'll crash again. Additionally, debilitating anxiety/panic attacks that seem to go along with my "lows." For example, last night at around 4-5 am I had a horrible panic attack and couldn't get back to sleep. I felt like passing out and it took so much out of me and I essentially had to lay in bed the rest of the day and I couldn't stop crying. Again, never experienced anything like this before this happened. I just feel like I've totally lost it. I am suffering and I can't wait to see this psychiatrist on the 28th and get on some meds to help me through this (in addition to therapy). I'm a wreck.
Thank you all again for validating what I am feeling and please continue to share your experiences and mental health experiences following your loses.
Kaela.....I too had to take anti-anxiety meds when I first lost my husband which was 20 months ago. Also, the early morning hours, usually 5:00-6:00 am seemed to be when panic really set in. I assumed it was because I'd have to get up and face another day without Ken. Even now, it takes everything I have to get out of bed. I never realized until after I lost Ken that there was such a thing as feeling normal. I no longer feel normal. Nothing feels right, nothing looks right. Like you, I also handled stressful situations well. Never even thought about it, just did whatever needed to be done. During Ken's illness, he would often call me his rock. He knew he could count on me to be by his side. During periods that he was hospitalized, I would go to work in the morning, sneak out about 3pm so I could get into Boston before traffic got to bad, stay at the hospital until about 9pm or so then go home and do a load of laundry or something. I never really understood mental illness until after I lost him and could no longer function. Something flipped in my brain and it wasn't even something I had control of. I'm a little better now but I'll never feel as strong as I was before. Ken was my rock as much as I was his and without him, I no longer feel safe or secure. You are certainly not alone in your feelings.
I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through and I can literally relate so well. It is also comforting to me that theres someone out there who is experiencing the same thing. Its interesting you say 5-6 am because that is when I have the WORST panic attacks. If you don't mind, can I ask what your panic attacks feel like? I am finding mine are so physical its so terrifying. I am not sure why they happen. It could be that our husbands aren't there so our bodies freak out. Like you, I feel I cannot function and its terrifying. I feel I've lost control of my body. I am glad you are a little better, and thats all I can hope for.
Do you have any kids or other family members of friend around you for support?
Kaela......It's hard to describe what it feels like but it's just this anxiety that builds inside me and I have this overwhelming nervous feeling. In the beginning, I would take a pill and lay there for a little bit until it kicked in, then I got up and got ready for work. I didn't want to rely on pills forever so now if it gets overwhelming, it's actually better for me to just get up and go to work. Being in work gives me something to focus on.
I don't have children but my parents are still living and I have 4 siblings and friends however none of them have experienced this deep loss so they can't relate. I learned early on that it was pointless to try to talk to someone about something they can't understand. When I found Legacy, it was a Godsend to finally be among people whom I could relate to and could relate to what I was feeling. Until then, I thought something was wrong with me.
I think it is so wonderful that you are able to work. At this point I am not able to do much of anything except manage to take my classes and get my work done(currently a grad student getting my masters) but thankfully I don't have work right now. I hope I will be able to get back to it soon. I feel useless but at the same time when I feel like crap 24/7 I'm like "thank God I don't have to get up and go to work." You are such a strong person. What did you used to take for the anxiety if you don't mind me asking? Also, do you have nightmares about your husband? I am having terrible flashback nightmares all the time. Last night was one of them. I wake up and my heart races. Feels awful.
It sounds like you have a lot of people around you but I know what you mean about how people can't relate. I am youngish (30) so none of my friends have experienced this or understand why I am still so fragile and messed up after 5-6 months. To make matters worse, many of my close friends are getting engaged and married right now. A close friend just got engaged and she asked me to be in her wedding. I cried and told her I don't think I could but she said its in over a year so I agreed. Although they are supportive and they feel terrible for me and they try to help. The person who has most helped me through this is my mother in law (My husband's Mom) because she is going through it too. We were close before and have become so much closer through this. We probably talk on the phone 3 times a day and we constantly text all day. We are each other's support system and no one understands each other's pain like we do. My Mom is very understanding and my Dad tries, but again, like you said, they've never been through it.
I am getting more active on here now and I am realizing how comforting it is to be on a forum with people going through the same thing and understand. Just talking to you and and others on here validating my feelings and everything I experiencing. We are in a dark tunnel but at least we are in it together. I'm sorry you thought something was wrong with you until you found this. :-( Such a terrible, lonely feeing.
Kaela.....Working on your masters is huge so don't sell yourself short. It takes strength to put the effort in and focus. That's your work and it's probably helping even if you don't see it right now. My doctor prescribed Citalopram which is more of a long term anti-depressant and takes about a week to start feeling it. She also prescribed Lorezepam for anxiety which had immediate effects. That's what I would take in the morning to calm me. I haven't taken either in quite a while as I didn't want to numb my thoughts.
I haven't had any nightmares but do dream about him. Not as much now as in the beginning though not for a lack of trying. I do whatever I can, such as look at pictures, before I go to bed in an effort to dream about him but it doesn't always work. If I go a few weeks without dreaming of him, I'll beg him to come visit me so I can spend a few minutes with him. Sometimes I know I dreamed about him because I can feel him and get have that normal feeling when I first wake up but I can't remember the dream. Just this past April I started keeping a journal of the dreams I do remember. I write down the date and as many details of the dream as I remember as soon as I wake up and I'm glad I started doing that. Now I look back through my notes and realize if I didn't write them down, I wouldn't remember half of them.
It may sound like I have a lot of people around me but I feel like I'm on an island by myself. You are very young to be a widow. I'm in the middle......I'm 51 which is young enough that none of my friends or siblings have experienced this loss (thankfully). Everyone wants to be helpful but they can't. In an effort to ease my pain they'll say things like "Ken wouldn't want you to feel that way" which really is just dismissive of my feelings. I know how hard it is for you with your friends getting engaged now. I have incredible feelings of jealousy over my friends anniversaries. I met Ken when I was 20 and lost him when I was 50 so I lived my entire adult life up to this point with him. I got married in May 89 and my best friend in Sept 89 so right now it's killing me to see her Facebook posts about her anniversary. I truly am happy for her and hope she gets the 50 years that I'll never have but it's still not easy to hear about. Your friend may think that her wedding being a year away will be plenty of time for you to heal but she's wrong. It may be a little easier then than it feels now but grief never ends, we just learn to live with it. I'm glad you have your MIL to talk to. My mother has never been able to talk to me about Ken. It's too painful for her. She was very close to Ken. Losing him was like losing a biological son.
I'm glad you're feeling more comfortable here. I know it's been a comfort to me to know that my feelings are normal and I can say how I feel without being dismissed.
Thank you for reminding me to not sell myself short and that I am doing more than I realize.
Yeah, I have reservations about going on meds but I just can't take feeing like this anymore right now. I hope to eventually be like you be able to get off of them and be able to work through the rest of my grief. Therapy has also been helping me get tools to cope and stuff, but of course everything is a drop in the bucket.
That is beautiful you look at pics of your husband before going to sleep at night. I still am not able to look at pics of Brian. Like I feel physically and mentally sick if I try to look at pics of him. It sucks. That is wonderful you dream about your husband and are keeping a journal. I should start doing that. I had a few nice dreams about him at the beginning but now when I dream about him and see him vividly I'm in that nightmare of he's unconscious and I am trying to do CPR over and over (I'm not sure if I wrote on here about how he passed away). I wish I could see him vividly in a nice dream. I know what you mean though about that feeling of normalcy when you first wake up. Its as it for half a second we forget, and then we realize we are still stuck in the nightmare.
I know you feel like you are on an island by yourself despite the people around because no one understands. Its such a lonely feeling. 51 is still very young to have this happen to. We were supposed to grow old with our spouses. I got really angry at a co-worker friend because she said "I'm sure Brian wouldn't want you to feel sad." I know she meant well, but it made me feel like breaking things when she said it. I didn't show my anger to her though, but it really upset me.
I definitely understand the resentment you feel when your friends are celebrating their anniversaries and posting about their happy lives on Facebook. I actually had to get off all social media for a few months because it was making me too upset every day. It actually helped a lot to not be on social media. I'll probably get off of it again at some point because I still get upset, but now I just unfollow all the happy posts I see or if needed unfollow different people. I can't take all the engagement pics and wedding pics and pregnancy announcements. Can't.
When you say you've lived your entire adult life with Ken, I can also relate to that. Even though I wasn't with Brian for as long, I was with him from age 20-30 so I feel I essentially grew up with him. We met as kids in college just starting out on our own and ended as more mature adults, embarking on our next chapter of our lives together.
I know I won't be done grieving in a year, or ever. Sigh. I just want to be there for her and her fiancé, who is also a good friend. They've both been such wonderful friends to me and are constantly checking in on me to see how I'm doing. Her fiancé also understands a bit what I'm going through because over a year ago his dad died very suddenly, and he's struggled with depression and anxiety like me. I just wish I could feel normal again and do whatever I want. Ugh.
I am sorry you aren't able to talk with your mother about Ken. It sounds like she was never able to confront a lot of the grief like you have tackled. Like it was so painful she put it away and closed the door.
It is wonderful to say whatever we feel and have people understand. We don't have to put on a smiling face and pretend to be happy. There's a poet named Mary Oliver who wrote a lot of poetry about death after losing her partner. Her poetry has helped me a lot and I find it comforting. My Mother in law read one of her poems at Brian's memorial. There's a line from one of her poems that says, "You don't have to be good." That's basically my new motto and mantra in life. We don't have to be good.
Dear Kaela ... Please don't feel you are having bipolar episodes. When we grief our brain as I said before absorbs shock and mood swings certainly can happen, but it's normal. I remember shortly after Ernie's passing, I didn't want to get out of bed, had the blinds closed, refused to answer the phone and tried to sleep and not deal with the reality of it all. Then I'd have days where I was full of energy, wanted family or friends to visit, opened my blinds to let the sunshine in and answered the phone. My brain actually had tricked me into believing Ernie was away fishing with his best friend. I suppose that's the brains way of letting a little reality of our deep loss of your beloved to heal. Yes, we do heal through grief, but, we will always love our spouse, have the good/bad days, but not so intensely. I am so proud of you for seeking help from a therapist, but also getting up and getting going as I know it's not easy. You're going to make it just fine Kaela. Go with the flow and don't suppress your feelings. We're all here for you!