My support systems in grief: Friends & Family

I found a few things to cling to that helped me get by. And believe me some days I am barely getting by. I was hoping I could explore each of these in separate blog posts (some I have previously like EMDR and some to come soon).

  • Friends and Family (a very small circle that grows smaller still)
  • My Dogs
  • Yoga
  • The words of my husband during two medium readings
  • Work
  • Resources mentioned previously like Therapy, EMDR
  • Grief podcasts/books/blogs/articles
  • Music and the creative mind

I guess when I thought in the past of support systems. I thought automatically of PEOPLE. I was surprised to see that when I was preparing this post that this was only one part of my support system. People have their own lives, feelings, grief from my husbands loss (in some cases), needs, thoughts, etc. Not everyone should or can be there for you when you need them. And people are so dynamic that you as the Widow often do not know who to even let in and when and under what circumstances.

I was on the phone w my friend we will call her S. I was telling her the latest and greatest (sarcasm inserted here) in the life of the Grief Waves Widow (aka me). I mentioned something to her about support systems, knowing who to go to when and for what and how exhausting even that navigation is. I mentioned how I would love people to come to me with their issues. I have one friend who seems to and I so appreciate the normalcy of that reciprocation of problems shared. For some reason people think Widows have lost all their faculties when they lose their spouse. I hate being babied, talked down to, placated, and overlooked. I see this happening in my volunteer work where I do not even get asked things anymore because of what happened. Anyways… S reminded me that while I was complaining about how someone does not come to me for help and I would like them to versus a one-sided friendship. I really want this person to share themselves with me too because then I feel we are there for one another. She said well “aren’t you the pot calling the kettle black”. She said that even in grief I still struggle to go to people for help and support. And as much as I wanted to say that it was not  true it is. I am most comfortable helping others. I am very uncomfortable seeking advice and getting help for myself. And as time is marching on I am getting more and more quiet.

So far my biggest need for support from people has been in two areas. First, listening/being present with me when I am sad, confused, lonely, or broken about the loss of my spouse, life.  Second, helping me care for my animals when I take a couple of days to unwind at my parents house or when I have to travel for work which is often.

The share need to rely on other people makes me uncomfortable. I am usually considered by people to be very independent. This is the first time in my life I have had to admit that I need help. I hate this. I hate that my independence and strength has turned into insecure, unsure, and worse neediness.

When my husband was alive I took care of all the finances, made the big decisions, handled the household, the gift giving, the doctor’s appointments, the dinner plans, the date nights, hiring services for the home, the home building process, the home selling process, the cars, etc. He did not like to do any of this. I think we know why now if your following the blog, depression along with the fact that he was taught growing up that no matter what opinion you have it is probable that you are going to be wrong and jumped on. He stopped giving opinions and making decisions long before me because I believe he saw that this was not well received in childhood. He made mention of this to me several times in his life. I on the other hand was looking instead for a companion to share these tasks and this life with. It was a little overwhelming sometimes to do all that but I did it to make him happy, and because I knew decision-making, phone calls, handling things created anxiety for him. Someone may say well at least you were prepared to live alone, while that is true I am more prepared than someone who does not know where the coupon drawer and tax receipts are,  I never wanted this. And while it is true that I have the skill set of home management,  after grief loss you are so tired. There is even more decisions and things to handle than before and now you do not even have someone to talk to about it or bounce ideas to.

The scary truth about relying on people

  • They too are in grief over your same loss (in some instances)
  • They have never walked in your shoes (and do not know how to handle this)
  • They have walked in exactly your shoes (or so close to it) in their own grief loss you do no want to bother them and make them relive it
  • They have a life outside of you and you are afraid to call on them and take them from their families and spouses and children.
  • People give opinions which is good and bad depending on what you need and who they are
  • People want to fix things they cannot, answer for things they do not understand, apologize for things that are not remotely their fault, take pain away that they did not cause and this is all because they are being so good to you. They hate seeing you hurting. The fact is no person can really help you grieve can they?
  • Sometimes you let the wrong person in. If someone in your support system feels wrong, is there for the glory of saving you, wants to find empathy from your spouses loss (and yes this happens), or is there to keep you down…. identify them and let them go. I cannot tell you how quick you will see through this in your new no bullshit attitude. There are people who love to kick you while you are down. Do not become their doormat. Cut them loose fast.
  • Ah and my favorite pitfall… when you find a person you feel you want to go to the most, allows you to live again, allows you to feel like maybe you are a person again. They care about your well-being seemingly and you start to care back. Someone who was really just being a friend to you, but at some point you thought maybe just maybe it could be more. A small piece of your heart breaks away because of course silly they were just being your friend. If this person was only placed in my life to wake me out of the cold despair of what felt like another life ready to be over. Then that person has done something remarkable, making me smile and laugh when I didn’t think I could again. I am fragile, I am aware, I am here. I hear you. I respect your feelings. I do not like them but I think I understand them.

The positive side of relying on the RIGHT PEOPLE:

  • They only want what is best for you
  • They are rooting for your success
  • They are contacting you because they want to be helpful so continue to let them in
  • They truly hope that from tragedy you will find resiliency and love again
  • They know you were dealt a raw deal becoming a young widow and that you are shocked (in many cases they are too)
  • They may say things wrong sometimes but they are trying
  • People who walked in your shoes do get pained by reliving their grief loss story but they are willing to walk with you because they know what you need (selfless)
  • You have a small thread of hope (really tiny almost imperceptible because you were told no) that maybe by some chance that friend could see you as something over time. And this small thread means you have considered living, maybe even using your heart that you thought was black, and possibly finding love again. Hopes, desires, dreams are not completely lost after-all. A few months ago you thought it all died with your husband.

Thank you to my brothers, parents, and close friends (old and new) because even with all that said about the potential pitfalls above the fact is PEOPLE are very critically important to the grief process.  I am forever grateful. I am humbled by those of you who act as my driftwood keeping me afloat in the waves of grief. Some of the inner circle are those I would have expected to be there in tragedy and some are those I never would in a million years think would be there.  To each of you I will be here for you always and hope that you know that. Please start coming to me with things because I do not like being the Grief Waves Widow that no one brings their issues, happiness, and life to.

I will try to learn to ask for help without feeling weak or needy if you will try to let me help you too.

4 thoughts on “My support systems in grief: Friends & Family

  1. “When my husband was alive I took care of all the finances, made the big decisions, handled the household, the gift giving, the doctor’s appointments, the dinner plans, the date nights, hiring services for the home, the home building process, the home selling process, the cars, etc. He did not like to do any of this. I think we know why now if your following the blog, depression along with the fact that he was taught growing up that no matter what opinion you have it is probable that you are going to be wrong and jumped on. He stopped giving opinions and making decisions long before me because I believe he saw that this was not well received in childhood. He made mention of this to me several times in his life. I on the other hand was looking instead for a companion to share these tasks and this life with. It was a little overwhelming sometimes to do all that but I did it to make him happy, and because I knew decision-making, phone calls, handling things created anxiety for him. ”

    My relationship with my husband was exactly the same. He too learned ‘learned helplessness’ in his childhood. He could not manage the simplest adult responsibility. He could manage to hold down a job though thankfully, but that was about it. I also did not have a whole lot of foresight that this was coming. We had a handful of conversation 6 months before about depression and anxiety, and I noticed his anxiety seemed to tick up a notch. But he ALWAYS had anxiety, no reason to think he’d do that. It was crazy, so unexpected. Noone expected this to happen. It sucks.

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  2. You know this got me thinking. With people like our husbands, who had ‘learned helplessness’ (which is an actual thing: https://www.britannica.com/topic/learned-helplessness https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness ) I am thinking they would be more inclined to suicide. It is almost a perfect recipe for disaster. When people WITHOUT ‘learned helplessness’ notices they are becoming sick or depressed, they would reach out for HELP; by talking about it, seeking out doctors, medication and therapists. When a person with ‘learned helplessness’ becomes depressed they are the exact opposite; they are unable to talk about it, unable to look for help, unable to make the decisions to get HELP, because they have learned from deep childhood that they can not do anything about their situation and to just shut up. It almost makes perfect sense. In that sense the only ‘logical’ solution to them is suicide.

    I mean it reflects in their lifestyle where they can’t make decisions, have any opinions or handle any responsibility. In some ways, I feel like I may have ‘enabled’ him with his ‘learned helplessness’ because I took care of everything, he never had to learn to become independent, which may have stunted some emotional development.

    But also, I know from my experience with him, there is only so much I could do to help him. I could pay the bills all day long, but when it came to helping him change, I had very little to NO control at all. When he became an alcoholic and started driving drunk, I would beg him to stop and to stop drinking, but there was NOTHING I could do to get him to stop or to help himself. NO amount of talking, begging or reasoning would change him. He had to make that decision himself.

    In this matter of suicide, I think it is the same. There still would have been very little we could have done to help them. Especially when they weren’t looking for help, or talking about it, or speaking up about it. We can’t MAKE them ask for HELP. And since they learned from childhood to be ‘helpless’, they never would ask for help.

    It’s a perfect storm and shows how destructive an abusive/negligent childhood can be to people. Especially one that teaches helplessness.

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  3. Here’s a good article with examples of the behavior:

    https://www.verywell.com/what-is-learned-helplessness-2795326

    “What Is Learned Helplessness?
    Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape.

    Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

    While the concept is strongly tied to animal psychology and behavior, it can also apply to many situations involving human beings.

    When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may also begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change.”

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