Sandland Press, LLC by The Reprint Company Publishers/2010
“Widows and widowers and those going through a significant loss cannot think in sequence Our minds are constantly in a state of “chatter and clutter,” and our thoughts wander behind or ahead. Being in the moment is painful, and most of the time, not doable. I often thought I was losing my mind, and countless times I told my friends, ‘I’m just not right in the head.’ Thank goodness for the many friends who were quick to remind me that I had not lost my mind—I was grieving.”
Kathy and John Sheppard were very happily married for 33 years. On November 8th, 2009, her big brother Chris called to tell her that he had been diagnosed with ALS more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. On November 9th, Kathy and John celebrated John’s 56th birthday. Four days later she received the phone call that her husband had died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Her life was spinning out of control and she had no idea how she was going to do something that she had never done before – take care of herself all by herself.
As far as finances were concerned, Kathy knew only that John had “flippantly told me that I would be better off with him dead”. She had never been on a budget in her life. The only budget she had ever known was for her husband to tell her not to spend any more money that month. Even though her brother and her financial planner both assured her that money-wise she should feel secure, she struggled constantly with believing them. All those “what if” questions were scary and unsettling.
Her brother Chris wrote Kathy a letter shortly after her husband John’s death telling her among other things that he would continue to support and cheer her on, hopefully for more than 2 years. Her anticipatory grief on top of the grief of losing her husband was very, very difficult because her dependence on John had transferred to her dependence on her big brother.
Kathy talks about how she learned that “my” friends became different than “our” friends and how it took her awhile to realize that she couldn’t control what people say about her, but she can control what they say TO her. She shares that it was a hard lesson to learn and continues to impact her life.
Some of the statements that were made to her in the first weeks after John’s death were not consoling at all:
Statement: He is in a better place.
Mouth Answer: I know.
Heart Answer: Well, I thought John was happy here. I thought we had a good marriage, and I thought he was enjoying life. John told me he was happy, that he was looking forward to retiring and traveling, and that he wanted to spend more time with me. He promised me that we would grow old together. And he was really looking forward to being a grandpa someday. A better place?
Statement: Let me know if you need anything.
Mouth Answer: I will.
Heart Answer: How do I know what I need? I am on a journey that I didn’t plan or pack for. Do you have any idea how much effort it takes ME to pick up the phone and actually call? You tell me what you want to do and then do it.
Three deaths in one year – her husband, her mother, and her big brother Chris. I understand the grief that this author feels because I lost my husband, my mother, and my father all in 4 months time. But what makes Kathy’s story important to me is that she made it through her grief and was able to come out the other side with joy. It gives me hope that I, too, can make it.
I thank you again, Kathy, for letting us know that we aren’t losing our minds in the midst of grief.