I have had several regular readers of this blog reach out to extend their condolences on the recent death of my beloved husband. I appreciate that.
Some people also offered information on how they handled similar situations when their husband or long-time partner died.
Concerns described to me about “trigger points” for grief made me realize just how I am benefiting, oddly, by…
1. The pandemic.
With concerns about spreading Covid-19 and its real potential to cause serious illness and death for people like my husband (age / health) and me (chronic and serious long-term health disorder), in March, we changed our behavior like most other people did. We stayed home.
I became the only one to go out for essential errands, such as shopping for groceries or trips to the pharmacy, so I got “used to” shopping alone and not with my husband (or my “senior pals.”) I did not visit any brick-and-mortar stores of any kind that were open.
I needed some essential supplies at a big box retailer that I will refer to as “big orange.” I went there once at 6:30am. The store frightened me with so many people shopping there (even that early) and some refused to keep their distance and wear the damn mask. I never returned in-person again.
Also, we never shopped at Walmart or Costco or stores like that anyway.
99% of things we needed were ordered on line.
Because of this, we did not travel any more, either.
So as I go about grocery shopping after my husband died, it has been customary that I was the only shopper.
Yes, there are things in the store that I bought for my husband and do not eat or buy for myself. If I see those items on store shelves, I just walk by. For some reason, seeing bottled water or hummus or gluten-free (anything) does not trigger an emotional response. I’m fine with tap water at home, and leave humus in the compost pile in the back yard.
2. I have always been “the cook.”
I have posted often on this blog that I love to cook and always prepare home-cooked meals, every day, every week. We never ate out or ordered in. I bought ingredients to prepare and make fresh meals, and still do that today.
It IS different that I am not cooking the restricted-diet meals that I used to make for my husband to accommodate his needs.
My current home-cooked meal selection includes more things than I used to eat, but did not when my husband could not eat certain things. For example, my husband could not eat beef, green salads, or most fruits. I now have added these foods back to my pantry and fridge. (But still can’t stomach cauliflower, kale, or Brussels sprouts. Blecch!)
I kinda miss preparing my famous 5-gluten-free flour waffles as I made for my husband every day for ten years. But then again, I don’t. Those waffles were an “acquired taste” and I never did like them, but made them out of love. Regular waffles are fine for me, as are pancakes, scrambled eggs and omelets, and so forth.
My breakfasts, lunches, and dinners actually are more varied than they were before.
While it is lonely eating alone, I still enjoy cooking, so I continue to do it every day, every meal. (Okay, I eat canned soup for lunch once a week; forgive me — I like Progresso!)
3. Picking up his chores
Since July of last year, my husband did not have the energy to do his share of our household chores. He usually did the laundry and most of the vacuuming, dusting, and a lot more.
I picked up his chores to give him a break and rest. Since I have been doing all of the household chores (including my own) as a routine now, it is not something that triggers emotions. Only exception: when I can’t figure out how in the world my husband operated the vacuum he brought home from his mother’s house. That thing is a nightmare to use!
4. My husband and I led a very private “homebody” lifestyle.
I have said often on this blog that my husband was the world’s #1 recluse. He hated socializing. “We” did not have friends. I have many friends. My husband had none. No one. Not a one, except me.
Considering the hubster’s reclusiveness, we did not go out to dine at restaurants, go to parties or family events, etc., for at least the past 15 years. Not that we couldn’t afford it — it was just that my husband really hated, just hated, going out.
We also never had guests visit and never entertained in our home, with the exception of our former annual pot-luck Thanksgiving Feastivals. My husband would help me set up for this big event every year, but would hide in the basement on the day of the event. He would “re-emerge” once the last visitor left.
I continue to prefer to eat at home. We had no “regular restaurant” or other social occasions where “we” were recognized or expected. Therefore, I have no grief-triggers by going to a restaurant or other place where someone might ask me, “where’s BB? How’s he doing?” No one… no one knew him. Not even my family (except for a few siblings that the Spouse would tolerate a visit from.)
Now this does not mean that I am not sad, lonely, or cry at the silliest things. For example, a light bulb blew out, and THAT triggered wails of tears because my husband was always the light-bulb-changer. Things like that continue to happen as I rattle around in our house.
I am adjusting. Slowly. It’s a process. My therapist, bereaved spouse support group, and my large and wonderful family (both blood and community), continue to “be there.” I am grateful and lean on them for support.
I also just finished writing a book. Yeah – 173 pages-worth to describe the heartache, fear, anxiety, and actions from June 2020 to January 2021 in caregiving for my husband. I wrote a journal almost every day during that time. I exported the content of that journal into MS-Word, then worked with a friend who is a professional editor. A book came out. I am now figuring out what to do with it and how to get the story — our love story in caregiving — out there.
One boot step at a time.