On August 27, 2017 I lost my husband George. He fell off a stone wall onto concrete. On February 14, 2018 I lost my daughter Anne to suicide. Both died within 7 months of each other. In September, 2018 my father died at the age of 94. Three weeks later, my mother died at the age of 92. My teaching friend died in September as well. All these people who I loved died within a little over one year. Grief overcomes me like fog that covers lakes. It blinds me, I cannot see, feel, or know which way I am headed. My mind continually is thinking, death, death, loved ones dead, gone, out of my life forever. I cannot touch them, hear them or me listen to them.
And yet, every minute of my life goes on like it normally did before this grief occurred to me. I need to function as usual like I did every single day before this nightmare of grief entered my life. I cook, shower, wash clothes, vacuum, daily routine housework. Plus now I am planning a funeral, what clothes he will wear, what is to be said in the funeral announcements, the Pastor calls and wants to stop by so he can see what George’s favorite verses in the Bible were. My casserole I was baking is now in the oven too long and the cheese on top is burned a little. The phone keeps ringing, the funeral man wants to know if I have his clothes ready, what music do I want played for the viewing, and the UPS man is knocking on my front door holding a package I need to sign for. My cat is meowing for something to eat as she hasn’t eaten since who knows when. Yet, I am trying to go through this day like any other day in the past.
I know nothing about paying bills. Now I am being asked by my children do you know anything about what you owe? Nope, so Bobby my son begins to go through paperwork and files to see what bills need paying and how much. I’m making a salad for supper and keep being interrupted by question after question. The funeral director is on his way to pick up clothes etc. and I need to make a final decision by time he gets here on the music and when the Pastor can talk at the viewing. I cut my finger on tomatoes. Tears form in my eyes. George did most of the cutting of vegetables for that very reason. I miss him. I want him, I need to talk to him and tell him what is happening to my world. Where are you when I need you most? It hits me like a slap in the face – he’s not here. I’m dreaming.
Someone wake me up. Church friends are bringing food in, and talking to me. I see their mouths moving but am hearing nothing. Where is my mind? Why can’t I hear them? I answer yes and give out hugs and hope that is enough to show for their kindness to my family and me. The fog deepens around me. I am numb. I think I could stab myself and not feel a thing.
Bobby continues to write down the monthly bills he is finding. Anne is writing down on a sheet of paper my friends are bringing food to my table. I think I need to switch-the laundry around. Nothing in the dryer, washer is finished so I put clothes in the dryer. I go back to the salad. It looks done to me. Saran wrap and in the refrigerator it goes. Anne is asking what she can do for me. I just look at her like she is speaking a foreign language. The funeral director is here for the stuff. Anne says “come on Mom” let’s get his things. He loved the Beatles so I hand over the tapes. Anne gets everything else. He tells me he will see me tomorrow. Okay I said.
I want to make something else, Anne says no. There is plenty of food already in the refrigerator that friends have brought. Get the plates, forks, etc. and let’s eat Mom. Eat! Eat food? At the table? Where George use to sit with me eating? Can’t eat without him.
Phone is ringing, knocking on the front door, cat still meowing for food, and the dryer was never turned on. Clothes still wet inside. Anne finds the salad I made in the oven with the burned cheese casserole. I just stand there and watch. Not even a thought or feeling. Numb!
What I want is someone to hold me tightly and tell me I am not losing my mind. I am not going insane and I am not going to die too. What I want is someone to take the reins for just a little while until I can focus on reality of what is exactly happening. My husband has died and I need to go on now and function along with grieving his loss. I need many breaks, I need people to help me read the electric meter so I can calculate the monthly bill and send them a check. I need someone to drive me to the bank so I can retrieve so money. I just need my family to be by my side and tell me what to do at each turn. At least for a day or two or three.
That would be comforting to me. To get some relief of trying to do it all on my own. What do I do with all the flowers? I take them to the hospital and nursing homes so people can see how beautiful they are. The church, the casket, the people, the cemetery, I stare in disbelief but go through the motions and tears fall quietly. My children hold me on either side. They want me to take a pill so I will remain calm. Lunch at the church – everyone looks at me as I walk through the door as if I had two heads. I want to run and hide yet I can’t. They lead me to the table and I just sit staring back at them. No thoughts in my head. Blank as if I did not have a brain. Anne fixes me a plate of food and tells me to eat. She hands me my fork. I think is she going to feed me? Confused. Where is George, I need him. Oh yes, he died I am told again and again and again. It can’t be I say to myself. George would never leave me like this. So sudden, so fast, we haven’t been together for a lifetime yet.
People tell me they are sorry. They will pray for me. If I need anything to call them. Call them. Not comforting at the moment as I don’t know what I need. Tell me I am here with you. I will come to you tomorrow and I will work alongside you or we can sit and talk. I will do whatever you want or what needs to be done at your home. I will call people if need be and tell them of George’s passing so you don’t have to do it. I will make your bed, I will wash your dishes, I will help you think as I know you are not and that is understandable.
7 months later I am adjusting to life without George and a bomb drops on me and I lose my daughter Anne to suicide. Now it starts all over again just like with George. Only this time there are no answers to her death. She didn’t fall off a stone wall and break nearly everything. Yet the feeling I think is worse than it was with George.
Now I relive each and every minute of the day as a failure. I had no clue she would ever take her life. She was a trauma surgeon. A doctor, a doctor in my eyes does not take their life. Bobby, Amanda, Aidan, Asher, my brothers are all in shock along with me. Oh my GOD….this can’t be happening again…..I want to die myself. I scream, I cry, I run outside at 3:00 in the morning screaming at the top of my lungs No God, No God, she can’t be gone.
The horror continues. My friends rush back to my side and sits in my living room asking what they can do for me. I just sit and stare at them like I did at the lunch table when I buried George. I see their mouths moving yet I hear nothing. I am in a fog, a deep fog that wants to sallow me up. I shake inside. I can feel my blood shaking as it moves around my body. My fingers are numb, my head hurts but it is a different kind of hurt. I want to vomit. I want to run away. I want to live another life now. I want to go to sleep and never wake up from this nightmare. I want Anne back. I need to talk to her. I need to find out why? That question will haunt me as long as I live.
A year later I am grieving for 2 people. On September 10th, I did my first suicide walk as it is suicide month and the very same day a year ago we buried George. I found myself walking saying to myself, who do I cry for? Both of you I guess. I am sad. I am hurt. I will never be the same Barbara Jeanne Shea I was before these two deaths. I will never be the happy, laughing, outgoing, always doing things for others again. These deaths have changed me.
For the past year and half, I have been seeing a Christian therapist through Lutheran Social Services in Sioux Falls. I see her every week. I have cried, I have laughed, and I have been up and down with emotions like water running from the Nigeria Falls. These emotions turn my life upside down and inside out many times during the week until I see her again the following week.
There are so many firsts in living alone now. I once loved snow. I hate it now! Know why? I have to scoop and make sure pipes are not frozen. My responsibilities that once belonged to my George have now passed onto me. Outside responsibilities are numerous to mention. I need to start his truck every so often so the battery doesn’t die. I need to make sure the sub-pump in the basement is not overflowing and running outside smoothly. I need to check on outside faucets insuring they are turned off and do not freeze. Scared, afraid, never having to do any of this before frightens me. No time to mourn. No time to grieve. Pat, my therapist prays with me but I tune her out sometimes as my own thoughts come into my head like a merry-go-round; so much for me to do by myself. George I need you! I’m all alone! Never in my lifetime did I think I would be going through this right now at this point in my life. I feel robbed of having less time with my George than I had planned on; getting older with him. Pat continues to pray and I just sit there like a dunce. We talk about the current issues at hand and what I can do to elevate some of the tension she senses when I talk. It sounds good. When I leave and drive home I feel the same. Rotten!!!
I found GriefShare on Facebook. I started looking at comments from the people who answered a question. Then, GriefShare said, if you would like to find a GriefShare close to you click here. I did! Hence, I am enrolled in Mitchell every Friday from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Now, I do not go and see Pat. She has done pretty much all she can do for my head….now it’s time for GriefShare to heal my heart! I enjoy attending, I love looking up scripture and relating how this scripture fits me in my grief walk. The others in the group are hurting for mainly the same reason however, we are all at a different level of grief in our journey. Commonly, we want healing. We want happiness again, not like we had before but a happiness to go on with life and not feel guilty.
My friend Sally who lost her son to a heart condition many years ago and her husband to cancer has been a life saver for me. I can call her anytime day or night and she will talk me through whatever grumbles inside my head like a cement mixer mixing cement to pour. She straightens it out like a straight walkway and once again I can breathe. Joan is my other friend. She lost her husband three years ago and also helps Sally with me. They both spiritually feed me baby food with verses and prayers easy ones so I can comprehend what they are saying as my head at times is like mushed bananas ready to make banana bread. I thank God for them in my life.
My church friends are here for me if I need them. Bobby and Amanda are my rocks. My grandsons are my life line. I am grieving. I am learning to live with grief. It has a place in my body and mind yet I do not know where or how to put it in my body yet. I will learn. I want to learn. I need to learn. I need to be happy without grieving and feeling guilty. I want to live not the same way as before but a new way with new memories.
My family and friends are helping me on this new journey of mine. They continue to ask, what can I do for you Barb? Anything? Yes, let me rest without grief, without pain, without my mind spinning like a child’s top they play with. Let me see with my eyes and know feel in my heart a little sense of normalcy. Just for a moment!