Everyone’s experience of grief is different and deeply personal. For me, I know the grief I experienced at the deaths of my mother and husband began many years ago. Throughout much of my life, I carried an innate level of anxiety and fear about death.
I was introduced to the notion of walking in the direction of my fear when I first started reading Ralph Waldo Emerson in my twenties. “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.” This concept was reinforced with books I read on Buddhist philosophy. I believed that the only way I’d ever get over my fears was to walk in their direction and go through them. No matter how messy it became, I said “yes” to this process. I’ve lived my life this way for many years.
When we struggle and suffer alone, we are locked in a box. When we ask for help, in the very act of asking, we are acknowledging that we are not alone. We are saying, ‘I need you and you need me. I need you to help me open my tightly closed box. When you respond with your giving, know that the gift is in the giving. Mutual healing occurs. – Phyllis
When I was 50 years old, I still couldn’t imagine life without my mother and my husband. I knew that was not healthy for a fifty year old woman. Thus, I began my journey of facing death and loss more directly. I began to do a lot of reading about death and dying. It was a way for me to prepare for my mother’s death and begin to face the difficult issues in my own life. I was attracted to eastern philosophy and spirituality and read a lot. The more I read about death, the more affirming my life became. It was an odd paradox that I didn’t understand at the time.
My mother died in 2002 at 95 ½. She lived with Alan and me for eleven years. Toward the end of her life, when she was a hospice patient, but still residing at home, the hospice social worker visited us. She recommended that I read “Mid-Life Orphan.” I got the book and only read part of it. I couldn’t yet relate to the loss of losing my mother. She was still alive even though our roles were reversed, and I became the “mother,” and she depended on my care. As soon as she died, I was crushed with the grief of losing her. I became the mid-life orphan.
When my husband became sick toward the end of 2011, I came face to face with this roaring fear of being alone in the world. I experienced tremendous anxiety and many sleepless nights. My biggest nightmare was actually going to occur. From the time I was seventeen years old, I had a partner by my side. Now I had no partner, and no family members living near me. I was terrified. I was going to be alone in the world with no one to protect me. With these sentiments, I began a new journey toward a freedom that I had never experienced up to this time.
When you let me give to you, I feel so given to. Unless there is someone to receive, no one can give their gifts. That is why in the giving there is receiving. They go hand in hand. – Phyllis
In spite of all this fear and anxiety, I had to rise to the situation and be my husband’s advocate so he could have a peaceful death on his terms and not have to live into the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It took him 9 ½ days to voluntarily stop eating and drinking. This website contains information about his transition and all that it encompassed. Even though fear had a strong grip on me, I was able to remain competent and navigate through all the details that needed to be taken care of on his behalf. I received emotional support from close friends as well as a therapist.