Excerpt from The Tender Scar by widower Richard Mabry, MD –
The loss of a spouse causes us to change many things. This should include making an effort to change the way we think about ourselves.
I discovered more of Cynthia’s papers in a nightstand the other night. Included were notes from a grief seminar she attended at one of her nurses’ meetings. The discussion of the initial states of shock, emotional lability, depression, guilt, resentment, and anger are followed by the notation “hope arrives.” Then in capital letters she wrote, CHANGE YOUR WAY OF THINKING! I’m trying, but it’s not easy.
As I go through the house, straightening and cleaning, everything reminds me of her. We did so many neat things together over the years, and part of my grief centers around the fact that she isn’t around to share with anymore. I look at the sunset and turn to comment on it, but she’s not there. I hear a bit of news, and think “Cynthia would like to hear that”, but she’s not there for me to tell. I see an ad for a movie, and think, ‘Maybe we’ll see that.’ But there’s no more “we”. (Author’s journal)
The world is made for couples. You never think about it when you’re part of that world but, now that you’re single again, you see that you’ve become a “fifth wheel”. For a while after your bereavement, friends invite you out to dinner or to other social functions, but these often are uncomfortable situations. How many times in the past in similar functions did you depend on your spouse or companion for rescue from conversations that were boring or uncomfortable? Now you’re stuck. And you sense (often correctly) that the folks engaging you in such conversation would probably rather be talking to other couples but feel it’s their duty to cheer you up. No one wins in these situations.
And, in the midst of all this, is the unexplainable feeling of guilt at having somehow departed from the norm, for being less than is expected of you because you’re without a partner.
There’s no need to belabor the point—your status has changed. The important question is, What do you do about it? The answer is simple to say, hard to carry out: change your way of thinking. Change the rules you’ve set for yourself. Be prepared to ignore the rules you’ve come to accept from society about single persons. Change your priorities to include making yourself happy. Begin to think of yourself as an individual, not as part of a couple. Is this disrespectful of your departed loved one? Think about it. Would he or she want you to perpetually mourn and sequester yourself from society, or would your spouse be pleased if you once more found happiness in your life? You know the answer.
In other words, begin to think in terms of “I”, not “we”.
Will you ever be part of a couple again? It may be too soon to think about that. Whether you continue to live alone, or once again become part of a couple, your current task can be described very simply: CHANGE YOUR WAY OF THINKING. The rest is in God’s hands.