Losing Jim and Violet, two of my closest friends who died much too young, has been heart wrenching. As I wrote in a recent column, I feel deeply for their families, especially their spouses.
I also feel frustrated. I wish could provide wisdom to Jim’s wife Mary Ann and Vi’s husband Art that would be consoling, but I realize I can’t say or do much that will assuredly bring them comfort.
Even though I can understand their losses, since my wife Susan died from cancer 19 years ago, I know all too well that each of them has to work through their grieving and find their own ways to move forward with life.
When Susan’s funeral was over and everyone went home, I understood for the first time how quiet and hollow a home can be – alone, after a person who was a life companion is no longer there and will never be there again.
I remember driving home from work one Friday three weeks after Susan had died and saying to myself “Hooray, the weekend is here,” only then to realize I no longer had my wife to share the weekend with. I felt as though I had fallen off a cliff.
I can’t give much advice to Mary Ann and Art about “moving on with life,” because life moved in slow motion for me for a long time, and I often had a hard time focusing. I’d like to say that time will eventually heal their wounds (although the scar will always remain), but it took a long time for my wound to heal.
I could say to them that after Susan’s death I cried more frequently and easily. I could say it was much harder for me to keep my house up, since the person for whom I kept the house was gone. And I could add that even when friends asked me over, I often found excuses to decline the invitations because it didn’t seem the same without my spouse. I’m not sure any of these thoughts, however, would be very consoling.
Maybe I could share with Mary Ann and Art a few thoughts that helped me. C. S. Lewis, who had written many books on religion and faith, was stunned when his wife Joy died. He was angry with God for a long time.
Lewis felt his wife’s death was so unfair that he wrote a short book (under a pseudonym) honestly expressing his raw feelings. If C.S. Lewis could acknowledge these strange emotions, maybe I and other grieving spouses could, too.
I could share with Mary Ann and Art advice from Morrie Schwartz in the book “Tuesday’s with Morrie.” He advised those dealing with grief to follow, as he did, a therapeutic mental routine each morning.
Allow yourself to acknowledge your grieving, he suggested, and let yourself be immersed in the emotions of grief. Then let it go – let your grief go and live the rest of the day with as much courage as you can.
Several friends told me that Susan would live on resoundingly in the lives of her children and grandchildren. I found this to be absolutely true, but I think Mary Ann and Art already know that.
Many people of faith reminded me that life does not end at death but is simply changed, and that Susan lives eternally in the light and love of God. This I believe wholeheartedly. But there’s no need to tell Mary Ann and Art this, because they believe it, too.
Many widows and widowers told me they felt their spouse’s spirit guiding them and their families. This I know, and I think Mary Ann and Art will also know it.
My father-in-law Jack, who had lost his wife Irene, told me, “Don’t close all the doors to a different life.” That was hard for me to absorb soon after Susan’s death, although later I recognized the wisdom of his words.
Maybe the only thing I can say to Mary Ann and Art is to allow yourselves to grieve in your own way and give yourselves the time and patience to move forward with your life, but eventually move forward.
I can’t assure Mary Ann or Art they will discover wonderful doors opening, as one did for me when I connected with Sandy two years after Susan died and realized that I’d been blessed with a second amazing love in my life. It might be a completely different door that will open for them, but somehow I feel some door will open – in some way still to be discovered.
Maybe the only thing I can say now is the most important thought: “My heart continues to be with you.”
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.