Even before I became a widow, I had battled with depression. I had grown up with an abusive father and had to overcome many things as I progressed to adulthood. Some of which, I am still working through today. Twice, in my life, I had actually sunk far enough into depression that I tried to leave this earth.
So, when Bob passed, my family immediately went on alert. They thought that I would revert and try again. However, this time, there wasn’t just me to think about. I had to think about my children. When I realized what my family was doing, my response to them went along the lines of: “God didn’t allow me to leave this earth before when I tried, what makes you think He would let me succeed now that I have 3 kids?” As torn up as I was, I realized that suicide was not an option. As much as I wanted to join Bob, I had kids to raise. I had to stay.
Family members contacted my Doctor who called me in for a regular “checkup”. She immediately assessed my state of mind and I was placed on 2 types of medication. I stayed on this medication for many years, but as I progressed, I was able to completely remove one and then reduce the dosage of the second until I was able to remove it from my life altogether. Still, if I felt that I needed the assistance again, I now know what to do and that, in itself, is comforting knowledge.
For us, Bob’s death was the start of a series of events. In the 2 years that followed, I lost 14 core people in my life. It seemed that I couldn’t even begin grieving a death when another one would hit. At one point, it got so bad that when the therapist asked me who I confided in, I simply looked at her and said, “Nobody,...they are all dead.” I wasn’t trying to be morbid or flippant. It simply felt like everyone around me was leaving this earth. I was afraid to go by the funeral home in fear of seeing the name of someone else that I knew.
Additionally, Hurricane Ike hit the area. I never thought that, living in Indiana, we would suffer from a hurricane. Yet, there we were, with a flooded house from that storm and we lost over half of our stuff and had to completely remodel portions of the home.
Other things that happened included health issues for me that left me in a wheelchair for about 6 months. These items were just the tip of the iceberg in my life in the aftermath of Bob’s death. Just breathing took extreme effort. Facing the day and whatever was to come seemed to get harder and harder.
Even so, I had 3 kids to raise. I had to be both mom and dad. I had to work and be home when needed. Even with the support and help of others….it was overwhelming and drained on my emotions.
I was alone. I was sad. I had to function. I had to go on. I could barely move some days. Breathing alone took effort. Often, I didn’t want to get out of bed.
Bob had died in late November. I had been a member of my Alumni Association and was scheduled to receive one of their highest awards that year. In fact, my husband had laid out the clothes he was going to wear to this event the day he died. In the 20+ years that I had been a member, he had never attended any alumni events and this was going to be his first. Many of my colleagues joked that I wasn’t married...I had just bought a ring and changed my name. I had been looking forward to this night with him for many months. 8 days after I buried him, I traveled with my mother instead to accept the award. What should have been one of the highlights of my career ended up being a test of endurance. I remember people (who hadn’t yet heard) walking up to me excited to finally meet my husband. I went to the restroom at least 3 times to be ill. I barely remember receiving the award.
My youngest was a member of the choir. The school choir was going to have a Holiday concert that was not only a concert but a dinner. I desperately tried to convince the teacher that we were not up to the concert. I couldn’t even imagine celebrating at the time. Unbelievably, the teacher forced my child to participate in the concert and we purchased tickets for the dinner so that we could support her. I had asked the teacher how long the concert would be and she told me 2 hours at the maximum. We sat at a table and ate dinner while the upperclassmen sang and the underclassmen served the tables. After 2 ½ hours, I still hadn’t heard my daughter sing and was cracking emotionally. Thankfully, another teacher who was aware of our situation, realized my frustration and emotion levels. She sought out my daughter and we snuck out.
During this time, I began eating...a lot. I would have times where I wouldn’t eat. When the kids went to their friends, I would spend the entire day in the bed and not care. Just getting up took a great amount of energy. I tried to regain my passion for life. I tried to find the me I was before Bob left. I couldn’t. She wasn’t there. She had passed away with him. I was now on a journey to find the new me….and I was lost. I felt like I was in the middle of the jungle with no hope of finding my way. I had no map (and my Bob would have told you that the map was of no help to me...I am navigationally challenged--he used to say that I would only use the map to write “Help I’m lost” on the back), there were no directions.
I searched for groups on the internet and found none. As the years went by, I began to have some good days among the bad. I even laughed sometimes. I searched for normal. I searched for happiness. It took me many years, several friends, family and a few therapists...but I am happy again. I have also realized that I will never be who I was….
I have found a new me.
This new me may struggle with depression again, but, in this journey, I have found new tools and new ways to cope. It is my hope that my journey will bless your journey and make your path a little easier.
During your journey it can be helpful to get support and help. Read more in our article about When to ask for help. If you have Thoughts of suicide - Get help immediately - call 911 or the US. National suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255
In the next posting, we will discuss acceptance. For now, let’s just sit with this part of the journey and sink into the reality of grief, bereavement and depression related to our losses.
Want more information about grief, stages, support? Check out our Resources page or send us an email.
May you find Peace as you journey through this path.
Jeni & Teresa
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