How The Death of A Spouse Can Be The Worst Thing and The Best Thing That Happens to You

In a prior post (March 8), I talked about the dual nature of the world and how to reach neutrality. Following along with that vein of thought, I am now able to make the following statement:

My late husband’s death was both the worst thing and the best thing that ever happened to me.

I realize that for many of you who are just at the beginning of your grief journey, it may be difficult to believe or understand that statement. It is also necessary for you to know from where I came to see how I got to where I am.

I met my late husband when we were both teenagers. He was my first boyfriend, and, as fate would have it, he turned out to be the only one I would have for the next twenty five years. We came from similar backgrounds, and, since we met when we weren’t fully formed adults, we approached each new experience together. We were a team, and it made for a very harmonious life, for we basically saw eye-to-eye on the majority of subjects. For the almost twenty years we were married, I would tell anyone who would listen that he was as close to perfect as a human being can come. He was beloved by his family and friends, who all had him standing high up on a pedestal. He was a good son, brother, husband, father, and friend. He was sane and rational – always willing to give thoughtful advice when asked. Doesn’t quite seem like the profile of someone who would take his own life – does it?

We both had solid upbringings upon which we built a fairy tale life. Most everything to which we aspired, we were able to obtain, as long as we put forth the effort. Here’s the downside (and reflective of the duality of life) to having such a good life ~ you never get to develop the hardcore coping skills to deal with disaster. Moreover, when you are placed atop a pedestal by others, there is lots of room for (self) disappointment and the fall can be a long way down.

After his death, I found myself alone for the first time since I was 15 years old – a single parent with my life in major disarray. Within two months of his death, it was also necessary to move out of the home in which we had lived for the past ten years and where our younger son had been born. Along with moving, I needed to look for a job and care for my children, all the while grieving the love of my life, as well as the loss of my life as I had known it for the past twenty five years.

All this messiness was just the situation that allowed me to start my life anew. I, alone, was the master of my fate and could decide how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

After having lived through this tragedy, what surprised me was that so many good things happened next. I suppose it is has something to do with attitude and how you look at life. Even though I did go through stressful times and obviously something terrible happened to me, I still felt positive about life -- almost lucky. Immediately after my late husband’s death, I felt the most incredible outpouring of love and support from close friends, as well as people I hadn’t spoken to in years. It was amazing to me that all these people took time away from their busy lives to help me. It truly made me believe in the goodness of mankind at a time when I did not have much hope. This hope gave me the strength to push forward.

Over the years I have had personal and job related successes. I found a vocation which I enjoy, and I was fortunate to find another love of my life.

I have seen first hand how short life is and work hard not to let the little annoyances in life bother me. When I see people taking life way too seriously, I just want to shake them and tell them to stop and smell the roses before it is too late. Unfortunately, I think that’s a lesson you have to learn the hard way. I wish I didn’t have to learn it in so brutal a manner, but I’m glad I learned it at a young enough age to take full advantage of that knowledge.

I would have been content traveling along the path of my “former” life. However, that option was snatched from my grasp by the worst thing that ever happened to me. From those depths, I was forced to carve a new life that has brought me much satisfaction, a new love, and a spiritual rebirth. My late husband’s death was the springboard for this new life, so it became the best thing to happen to me too!

Ellen Gerst, a Life Coach who specializes in grief and relationships, is the author of A Practical Guide to Widow/erhood. Born out of Ellen’s own experiences as a young widow, "A Practical Guide" provides "how-to" information to help a griever re-adjust each aspect of his/her life without his/her loved one. Her newest book, 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief, is an easy-to-read reference guide filled with suggestions for every day use on moving forward through the grief journey. Ellen has also written Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story, a step-by-step guide on how to redesign your life to include a new love connection after the loss of a mate. For more detailed information on products and services, visit her website.


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Comment by audrey gil on December 1, 2010 at 12:28am
my husband shot himself in the head with a 357 outside the bathroom door which was occupied by me at the time,he opened the door,i couldnt see him he stod back and said baby im sorry and i love you then i saw a flash and he fell in the door,back of his head gone,i didnt get to say i love you too,i had no idea,i was just using the bathroom like always,it has been the worst 10 days of my life they had to cut a hole in my bathroom floor,take out my curtains,linens,carpet,i have partixcle board on the floor now,i am going to sleep on our mattress tonight for the first time since november 21 tonight,i miss him so much,i keep talking to him,i think i am going crazy...any advicde???
Comment by audrey gil on December 1, 2010 at 12:28am
my husband shot himself in the head with a 357 outside the bathroom door which was occupied by me at the time,he opened the door,i couldnt see him he stod back and said baby im sorry and i love you then i saw a flash and he fell in the door,back of his head gone,i didnt get to say i love you too,i had no idea,i was just using the bathroom like always,it has been the worst 10 days of my life they had to cut a hole in my bathroom floor,take out my curtains,linens,carpet,i have partixcle board on the floor now,i am going to sleep on our mattress tonight for the first time since november 21 tonight,i miss him so much,i keep talking to him,i think i am going crazy...any advicde???
Comment by Lela on June 30, 2010 at 10:00pm
Ellen, I am joining this group to connect with yourself and others who give me hope life does go on after the death of your spouse the following is "my story"

My husband died on June 25th,2008 to suicide, I have been struggling
daily with this. What is really hard is the fact that he did not struggle with Mental Health issues before this, he lost his father when he was 21 and his mother (whom he was very close) when he was 35,
looking back now I believe he never truly dealt with their deaths, there was times when he would get down,( probably mild depression), we had a good marriage,and two great kids, and anyone that knew him were shocked that he chose suicide as they all knew how much he loved us. We would have been married 25 years in August of that year, we went away for a week-end every year on our anniversary, and that year we were going to go away for a week in the fall when the kids returned back to University.

He was so proud of both kids, my son who was 21 when Allan died, was completing his 3rd year at University and our daughter who was 18, was finishing her 1st year. When our daughter went off to University, both of us shed a few tears, and I remember he once said "it is the same feeling as when Mom died". He would be waiting at then end of the driveway when she came home for her breaks.

As you can tell he was a very loving father and husband, which is why we are so confused
and have so much pain. He was under ALOT of STRESS over the last 3 years dealing with a legal
issue where a neighbour stole some of their family property ( cutting down trees etc), Allan was such a man of his word and did not do well with thieves, so he was very passionate to bring this person to Justice, which unfortunatley cost alot of money and was very hard to prove, the day that he took his life he was told by a lawyer that he could lose all the land if he continued to take this to court. I guess this was his last straw so to speak. I had tried unsuccessfully to get him to talk to a counsellor/priest etc before this as I knew he wasn't sleeping and under alot of stress.

It is so difficult to think that he chose to leave us for that, I know deep in my heart that he was obviously beyond and he did not even think about us at the time or he never would have done it, or maybe he knew how
much this was hurting us also and he thought we would be better off without him, regardless there are so many "what ifs and should haves".

I am sure if you asked anyone they would say how stong I am but as you know, I am broken inside, there are times I wonder how do you go on? I have to be strong for my children, my daughter is the most fragile in all of this she was such a Daddy's girl. The pain of the thought of their University graduations, wedding days , grandchildren etc etc...

Thanks for allowing me to share my story.

Lela

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