Overcoming the Guilt and Denial of Losing a Spouse

During the first days after Ron passed, I was caught up in the preparations for the funeral. Without realizing it, I was in a state of shock. I went through the motions surrounded by family and friends who helped me organize and kept me busy.
But after the funeral was over and my family went back to their normal lives, the reality sunk in. I was alone.
I heard the creaks of the house settling and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
Everyone else had a life with commitments. Mine felt like it should be over.
I sat for hours in one spot. I cried. I breathed. I felt sorry for myself.
Why did everyone else have something to do and I had—nothing. Would this be my life from now on? Endless hours of blank pain?
Grief is a natural and normal reaction to losing someone you love. I knew that. I knew there were five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
During the initial days after Ron died and during the days of funeral preparation, I was in denial. I knew he was gone, but it wasn’t real. I saw him in the casket but he was still here…at least his body was with me. Until the casket was closed and I sat at the graveside staring at the box that held the one I wanted to hold. I believe this was one of my anger stages. It wasn’t a lashing out at anyone or even God. Anger fueled the grief. I would not lay eyes on Ron again in this life. Death isn’t fair. I was angry at death. At how death could steal the life from me, scooping out my insides and leaving me raw and empty.
Then I slipped into guilt. Could I have done something differently? Those long days when Ron lay in the hospital on a ventilator and the nurse fed him through a tube in his stomach? I sat and watched as his body deteriorated and he couldn’t speak. He was kept sedated and probably in a fog and not understanding what was happening.
Should I have known he was having a heart attack when he had difficulty breathing that morning? It seemed like all the other mornings when the breathing treatments gave him relief. It was only when he told me he couldn’t breathe and sat in his recliner with his inhaler that I worried this was something more. He was such a strong man and never admitted pain. He didn’t like to go to the doctor, and hated going to the hospital. His pain tolerance was off the scale and he rarely complained about anything. But he looked pale and when I asked if I should call 911, he agreed. Only then did I know he was in terrible distress.
Why didn’t I realize this sooner? If I had, would the heart attack have been prevented? He was so strong. He died in the ambulance, but they were able to revive him. Then at the hospital, the ventilator breathed for him. His poor heart had been through too much and it couldn’t work without help. Was this my fault?
As I write these words, I’m sobbing because the pain never goes away. I remember bargaining with God when Ron became very ill in 2009. I prayed so hard for God not to take him. I told Him I wasn’t ready yet. And God answered that prayer…until 2013. I often wonder if the ten days in the hospital before he died were preparing me for future days of coming home to an empty house.
Little did I know when the ambulance raced away to the hospital that day, Ron would never again enter our home. Bargaining? I don’t think I’ve done any bargaining since his death. I’ve done a lot of praying. I’ve prayed for Jesus to take away the pain. To stop the tears. To show me what I’m supposed to do now. There were times when I withdrew from life. I curled into a ball and hugged the pain. I beat myself up with “what ifs.” I cried. I hurt.
In one of the pamphlets I received, I read about a blessing jar. The more I thought about it, I wanted to start one. I didn’t have a jar, so I made a “blessing basket.” I wrote small slips of paper each time I received a blessing and put it in the basket. The blessing might be seeing a pretty flower. A phone call. A visit. On days when I felt depression moving in, I read the notes in the blessing basket. And I kept going because I had family members who loved and needed me. I had friends who loved me. And Jesus wasn’t ready for me yet.
Depression is the opposite of faith. I did have faith. I believed I would see my husband again. Through prayer and tears, I crawled from the pit of depression into the light again. Life would never be the same. I learned to accept that. The pain will never go away. I’ve accepted the losses in my life. Since his death, I have slipped in and out of different stages of grief. I’ve had days of being despondent, and days filled with joy.
Each day brings a new beginning. And each day God smiles at me through the beauty of nature, through a phone call, a note, or a kind word. Life goes on.


Overcoming the Guilt and Denial of Losing a Spouse — 5 Comments

  1. I lost my husband in 1997 after fighting a brain tumor for three years. You have stated so well the feelings and emotions I dealt with and still deal with.

    • Hi Ann! Life does go on, though the pain sometimes surfaces. I don’t believe we ever reach a place where it doesn’t touch us. But we can move forward, and live a good life, enjoying family and friends. It’s what our husbands would want for us. Sending love and hugs to you.

    • Life does go on. I have been so blessed with family and friends that have been there when I needed them. One of the last things told me was to keep living and enjoy life. Life is different than I thought it would be, but life is still good and I am enjoying it.

  2. I know exactly what you mean, Sis. I went a little crazy after losng Paul. Now I realize that he would want me to g on with my life. He’ll live on in my heart forever.

    • Hi, Sis. Yes, Paul would want you to go on and have a good life. I’m so glad you have a place to work part-time and have friends to help you. Our animals are also comfort. Wish we lived closer! I’d love to be able to visit my sister as often as I wanted. Love you!

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