|Mark E. Gunnison||www.MGCPA.com|
June 19, 2002
It has been three months and six and a half days since Lyuda, my wife and best friend, passed away. I'm doing OK although the pain of losing her is unbearable. I pray that God will take the pain away but at the same time I'm scared of losing it. I've learned that only time will help and that grieving is something you can not prepare for or explain to others.
I have decided to keep a journal and post it to the web to help me and others who may be going through something similar. My feelings have been so different form that I had expected. I'm sure each person greaves in their own way. I'm also sure if I was to loose another spouse I would not have the same grieving process. Grieving is such a mixed up process that I don't see how it could possibly be the same for everyone. Keep this in mind as you read on.
Lyuda was not the first person in my life to die. I lost a neighbor who was much like a grandpa when I was a child. While in highschool several friends died in separate car accidents. Not best friends but close enough that I had visited both of their homes. As a young adult in my 20s I lost one cousin to cancer and another to a gun. I lost my grandma on mom's side of the family. She was one of the strongest, sweetest and wisest people I have ever known. I also lost my grandpa on dad's side of the family. He was an extremely smart interesting man who I enjoyed spending time with but never knew as well as I would have liked. And of course, I have lost pets that I loved dearly.
My wife Lyuda died of cancer so we both had time to prepare each other for what we knew would eventually happen. Hospice provided us with literature and personal support. I felt I was ready the day Lyuda left. I was not.Before Death:
We learned that Lyuda was terminal in the doctor's office. I can still see the cute innocent look Lyuda gave the doctor when she asked how much time she had left. I could tell she was trying to spare him the pain of having to deliver the news. I think we both knew well before the appointment that Lyuda's days were numbered. That point in time when Lyuda asked the question is when everything changed. (The world seemed colorful before than point and a bit greyer from that point on.) We didn't cry as we left the hospital. I do remember crying as I drove the two us home but only for a moment. I don't remember seeing Lyuda cry that day.
From that day on I believe I cried every day while driving to and from work. I don't remember crying at home or at work but I do remember having to clean the tears from my glasses after every commute. Before this experience I was not a crier. My mother and sister once commented that they didn't remember seeing me cry as a child. I'm a believer that men don't cry. At least not in public.
I'm sure God helped me through that period of time and having Lyuda around made things bearable. Although I was sad from time to time I would not say I was depressed. I knew Lyuda was going to go to a better place and that God had other plans for me. Everything happened so quickly. The doctor gave Lyuda eight months - she passed away after only three.The Dying Process:
Everything changed three days before Lyuda passed away. It was hard for her to talk. She was sleeping in the livingroom in a medical bed. She could not walk to the bathroom. She was no longer the Lyuda I fell in love with. Her body was dying. I could see the woman I loved in her eyes and I could still hold her hand and lie next to her. But everything else was gone. Two days before Lyuda passed she asked me to fix everything and put her back where she belonged. When I asked her what she meant, she said she wanted to be in our bed in the bedroom with just me around her and not have any pain. It was so hard to tell her I could not fix everything. (She was always amazed how I could fix anything.)
The last few days were filled with tears. Lyuda had a way of talking with her eyes. She had large beautiful eyes that she had somehow learned to show emotions with. Whenever she would say something with her eyes tears would flow from mine. I tried not to cry so Lyuda would not get too stressed. The last full sentence she said, the evening before she passed away, was "I love you."
Lyuda died early in the morning with me lying next to her holding her hand. Her favorite aunt and my mother were also standing by her side. She was coherent enough to ask for water shortly before passing away. The last few minutes of her life were stressful as she struggled. She looked like she was trying to do and say something but I could not tell what she wanted. (She sounded like she was praising the lord and she looked like she was trying to remove her nightgown.) After about fifteen minutes she quit struggling but continued breathing then after a few minutes she stopped breathing. The moment she died, it was almost as if I could see her soul leave her body. Her eyes/face no longer looked anything like Lyuda. I can still see that moment clearly in my mind's eye. I miss her.Shortly After Death:
For some reason I didn't cry that much after Lyuda died. I was probably in shock. We had arrangements to make and people to visit. I had gotten so little sleep the week before Lyuda passed that everything seemed a blur. I just wanted everyone to go home and for the funeral to be over. I knew living alone without Lyuda was going to be painful and I wanted to get on with it. I didn't want to have to keep waiting for the pain. Although it was nice to see relatives I also wanted everyone to leave so I could start my life all over again. It took about a week before the funeral was done and everyone had gone home. I was finally alone in our home.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed getting cards and notes. Cards would sometimes come from people that I didn't really know. It felt good to know that they were thinking and maybe even praying about me. I have always felt uncomfortable sending condolence cards to clients or people I am not that close to. I was afraid it may come across as marketing. I can see I was wrong. I didn't feel that way at all. In fact, each of the cards meant more to me than any of the senders will ever know.
That whole period of time is a blur to me now. I can only remember bits and pieces. After the funeral Lyuda's family had a large dinner for close relatives. That was extremely helpful. I can not describe how good to felt to know I was still part of their family. It was also helpful to here stories and talk about Lyuda.
Once everyone had left and I was all alone things were not as bad as I thought they would be. I missed Lyuda but at the same time I was glad she was with the Lord and no longer in pain. I was probably in shock.The Long Pain:
I'm blessed to have a job where many of my clients feel close to me. I must have told the store of Lyuda's passing at least one hundred times over the next two months. Each time I would tell the store telling it would get a little easier. I know I must have looked sad as I talked about Lyuda but I felt better. Since Lyuda's death I have not once not wanted to talk about her. I wish I could tell everyone about how wonderful she was. (I guess that is why I'm doing this now.) One thing I have learned from this experience is that it is good for someone who is grieving to talk about the person that is gone - it is not a subject that should be avoided.
I filled the two months after Lyuda passed looking for things that would make me feel better. I tried everything form doing activities Lyuda and I used to enjoy to purchasing a racing motorcycle. Eventually I learned that only time will help. (The racing motorcycle was a good idea because it gave me something to do that would take my mind off everything else. It helped that the bike was something Lyuda and I had decided on before we learned she was terminal. Although it helped to take my mind off the loss, it did not reduce my pain.)
The pain has gotten much worse over time. It is not that I'm lonely, I just seem to have an extreme sadness/pain that will not go away. I'm having a tough time working and I've noticed I don't interact as easily with other people. Considering everything, I think I'm doing OK. I just didn't think it would be this hard. I now know how people feel when they say life is not worth living. I would never consider suicide. However, given the choice I would choose to end my life without hesitating. I'm sure people who have not lost a spouse will not understand that statement. I don't want to die and I have not lost hope or faith. It is just that life does not makes since without my Lyuda. Just like it is hard to comprehend that Lyuda is gone it is also hard to comprehend life without her.
I've noticed that after a few months everyone else has moved on and most of them assume I should be doing the same. It is not as if they have forgotten about Lyuda. They just seem to be moving forward and probably don't realize that things are getting harder for me not easier. About two months after Lyuda passed a friend sent me a card and then a week or so latter cooked several dinners for me. She said she was slow with the card and meals because she knew I would have plenty of support shortly after Lyuda passed but probably less support later when I needed it the most. Her simple gesture meant more than I'm sure she will know.
I'm sure very few people have noticed, but after three months I still cry daily. I try to hide it. It is hard when tears start to drip down my face as I'm sitting at my desk, standing in a checkout line, attending church, or driving down the road. I'm not a crier, I don't understand where the tears come from. Although I'm looking forward to the day the tears don't come. I'm also frightened of that day.
So what should I do now? The pain of not having Lyuda in my life is eating away at me day after day. I don't feel like I need professional help. In fact, I feel as if I'm doing OK. I feel like dying was something Lyuda had to go through and living with this is something I need to go through - I guess. I know things will bet better. I know God has other plans for my life. I just don't know how I'm going to make it through the next ten minutes, five hours, two days, next week, next month, next year...
July 15, 2002 - Monday:
Some things get easier with time, and some things stay the same. I don't seem to think about holding hands with Lyuda as often as I did last month. I still think of it often and it still hurts when I realize she is gone forever. I sometimes find myself grabbing at the air - don't ask me why.
Last week for the first time in months I was able to work all week without lousing my concentration. I'm a self-employed CPA so I only get paid for time I'm able to bill. I usually work ten hour days with about seven hours of that being billable. The month after Lyuda passed away, I was only able to average about four hours of billable time each day. Much of my time was wasted due to me not being able to concentrate. Not that I was daydreaming or doing something else, I just could not get my mind to concentrate on solving problems. A task that would usually take an hour to complete could easily require a full day. As time went by, the problem seemed to get worse not better. Two or three months after Lyuda passed away, I found I would only end up with about two or three hours out of ten as billable. On week I ended up with a total of 1.5 hours. I don't know where my head was that week. Each day I would tell myself that the next day would be better. Then something happened last Monday and I was able to get a full day's work done. The same thing happened Tuesday, Wednesday and throughout the rest of the week. By the end of the week I had 34 hours of billable time! I don't know what happened last week to allow me to concentrate. I feel as if, as far as grieving is concerned, I will be able to concentrate at work from now on. I'm sure I will have days that are better than others however I feel like I have at least become a productive person once again.
I have also found myself wanting to spend time with someone of the opposite sex - not physically but mentally. I wish I had someone to go for a walk with or just share simple things with - someone to talk with.
Although I miss Lyuda terribly, I still do not feel lonely. One of the harder things about having her gone is not having someone to share the small achievements in my life. For example, my CPA firm passed our pear review today. (CPA firms get reviewed by other firms once every three years.) The reviewer went on and on about what a great job we are doing. Although friends and family would be glad for me if I was to give them the news, only someone who knows me like a wife could share in my joy. I must be a simple-minded person because my life seems to be filled with similar achievements. I miss not being able to share my many blessings with someone special.
I read an article on grief today that was written by a bereavement coordinator for a hospice association. He stated that when his wife died of cancer he thought he knew what to expect and that he would be OK. He said he was not OK and that he "was so ignorant of the grief process." He went on to say "friends and family are well-meaning in their attempts, however, they truly don't understand the depth of your loss." This coming from someone who is an expert in grief and grieving.
I still cry daily - tears hurt more in the summer, both physically and mentally.
September 1, 2002 - Sunday
I'm starting to forget details of our life together. I feel as if my memory of Lyuda is coming more from photographs than from my mind. I'm having a tough time remembering when things happened to us. She always remembered everything so I relied on her memory. It hurts to know that even my memories are leaving.
Several weeks ago I broke my collarbone racing motorcycles at Portland International Raceway. While checking into emergency, the registration nurse asked me the name and telephone number of my emergency contact person. I thought and thought and could not think of who my contact person was. I looked at the nurse and said I don't have a contact person. She looked back giving me a disgusted look and told me that everyone has a contact person. I didn't know what to say. My brother who drive me to the hospital gave the nurse my dad's number in Spokane about three hundred miles away. I think that moment in time pretty much sums up how lost and alone I feel now that Lyuda is gone.
Pinecones are starting to fall from my pine trees into the yard and driveway. Lyuda loved pinecones. She liked to use them as decorations. I can't decide what to do with the pinecones that have follen in the yard. I don't want to pick them up and bring them into the house. I don't want the neighbor kids to take them away. And I can't just leave them - I will have to mow the lawn eventually. I don't know how something as simple as a pinecone can cause so much stress in my life.
Surprisingly my house feels smaller without Lyuda. Although I have gone through the whole house many times I still find myself looking for things of Lyuda that I may have overlooked. I wish I could find a note or something else of hers that would bring back a good memory. She would always save things like rocks, shells or pinecones and say "this will be a good memory." I'm frightened to death of losing any of the good memories.
Life without Lyuda seems to be getting harder not easier. I keep thinking life will be easier next week but next week never seems to come. I do think I'm learning to cope but the pain I feel inside has not changed and I still find myself crying almost every day.
November 2, 2002 - Saturday
Life seems to be getting easier as apposed to harder - finally. Living without Lyuda is still harder to bear than anything I thought I would ever have to endure. However, the pain is no longer increasing. Even after all this time I don't think my mind has realized that she is not coming back. I still feel like I can call her. Or maybe if I could just change something, she will come back. I know she will not be back but for some reason it feels as if she will. It is as if my mind just does not want to realize that it can no longer talk with her. Grieving is a mixed of process.
Lyuda and I talked quite a bit about me finding someone else after she passed away. She didn't want me to be alone. She told me how lonely she was before I entered her life and that she didn't want me to endure the same pain. She even selected several women that she thought would make good replacements for her. I know we will not live as husband and wife in heaven so the idea of looking does not make me feel uncomfortable.
Over the past few months I've been out on a few dates with several women. I was surprised on my first date to find myself interested in the other person. When I agreed to go out I was only looking for someone to spend some time with and share my feelings. However to my surprise, I found myself attracted to my date. It felt good to know that I could find another woman attractive and that someone else found me to be attractive. I do not feel guilty dating; however, it did feel uncomfortable to be having a good time after so much sadness. I would recommend not postponing dating to someone who may be suffering like I am. I can't explain why - I feel as if it has helped.
I felt alone for the first time several weeks ago. I was sitting in my living room late at night reading a book when I looked up and realized I was all alone. The room felt cold, empty and strangely bright. I have no idea why it took so long for me to feel alone. It was not a bad feeling just a strange feeling.
March 21, 2003 - Friday
It has been a little over a year since Lyuda passed away and I'm doing a little better each month. Although I feel much better, the level of pain I experience now is what I had expected to feel shortly after her death. Before Lyuda passed I truly had no idea how hard this would be. I think one of the harder things about loosing a spouse is not having that spouse to help cope with the pain. I'm embarrassed to say it however I still shed a tear regularly although I'm able to control it now.
I was afraid the one year anniversary of Lyuda's death would be a hard day for me. To my surprise, March 13th ended up being a regular day. In fact it was kind of a relief. From everything I have read I knew the first year of grieving would be the hardest. I knew after the first year had passed I would have experienced one whole year of emotions, special dates, seasons and holidays without Lyuda. Now that that year has passed, I don't have any grieving goals left. It is almost like I have graduated without learning anything and now I must go out into the world on my own.
Although I still hurt from the loss, I can see that I'm going to be OK.
July 23, 2004 - Friday (My 40th birthday)
It has been almost two and a half years since Lyuda passed away. Although it seems like just yesterday, I'm doing much better. I still miss her (and would do almost anything to have her back even if only for an hour) but have returned to a pretty much normal life. I've been dating someone for about a year and am thinking about marriage. I find it much harder to understand my feelings this time around. I've decided grieving is a process that just takes time. I feel blessed to be dating someone who seems to understand.
Grieving the loss of Lyuda has been by far the worst experience in my life. At the same time, it has changed my life in ways I can't begin to explain. Although life has become harder, much in life seems simpler, I have grown closer to God, and, I believe my outlook on life is clearer. The following statement may sound strange to someone who has been grieving for less than two years or someone who has not lost a spouse, however, I feel blessed to have had this experience in my life. God has shown his grace in ways I could not have imagined before.
June 7, 2015 - Sunday
It has been over ten years since my last post. I ended up marrying the women I mentioned in my prior update - Nadia. I loved her dearly and with Nadia's help, I was able to work past the pain of losing Lyuda. Unfortunately, about four years ago we discovered that Nadia had breast cancer. And after a little over ten years of marriage, Nadia lost her fight with cancer. So, once again I'm learning to deal with the loss of a spouse. The pain is not as painful this time but I'm still struggling to work through the grieving process. I miss Nadia so much...
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