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I am constantly haunted by the death of my beloved wife - how can I move forward?

heart to heart Question
My beloved wife died last year at age 39 of cancer in a painful manner which haunts me constantly. I was "at one" with my wife, we were extremely close and in love and we had two young girls who I now care for on my own, aged 10 and 17. The pain experienced since her passing is impossible to describe with the spoken language. Also, the emptiness, loneliness and hopelessness, not to mention extreme anger with God has left our little family broken.

I find great difficulty in concentrating on business or writing, my days are filled aimlessly and every familiar smell or photo or piece of music triggers deep emotion within me. My visits to professionals has deepened my feelings of loss due mostly to the text book replies rehearsed from some psycho college education. In short, I do not know where my wife is in the spirit world, if that even exists?

Should I console myself with delusionary beliefs like children believe in Father Xmas, as a coping mechanism? Or do I just wait it out until one day when I no longer see her beautiful face as vividly as I do now? Your input will be much appreciated.

Maurice's reply

Maurice Turmel
Your emotional reactions to the loss of your wife are completely understandable. Accept them as they arise, even though painful, and cry them out when you need to.

The depth of your pain is testimony to the depth of your love for your wife.

You say you are mad at God, that's fine, He/She can take it. Vent your fury my friend.

Grief is an emotional wound and needs to be approached from a feeling point of view. Religious or psychological platitudes just won't do.

I recommend journaling as a strategy for relieving the emotional stress that comes with grief and loss. In your journal you can tell God how mad you are, you can tell the litany of so-called helpers you've sought how little they helped. You can write anything at all and let the stress make its way through you.

This same instruction applies to your daughters. They are watching dad to see how grieving must proceed. They are likely holding their feelings in at this time because they don't know what to do. You are their model so you must learn this fast.

Are there grief support groups in your area? If so, then join. Are there grief support groups for children? If so, then have your girls join.

My book "How to Cope with Grief and Loss" details this strategy of journaling along with other tools for relieving the emotional stress of grief. In fact the very first story in the book is entitled "What do I Do now?" and it's about a father and his 3 children at a hospital dealing with the news that mother has died. Now, that I think of it I believe your children would get a lot out of the storytelling approach used in the book. Because every story is also narrated, you could listen to them as a family.

In the meantime here's a bit of homework from Dr Moe. Write a letter to your wife and tell her how you feel. If you are mad at her for dying, say so. We only get mad at those we deeply love. Have your daughters do the same thing, write their own letter. On a Sunday, or whenever you can visit, go to the grave site and read her your letter. Bring plenty of tissues. Do this part on your own if you don't want to break down in front of the girls. Invite them to do the same thing. Make sure they each have privacy when reading their letter to mom.

This is one example of how journaling and expressing emotions safely can help you work through your grief. There is no shame in crying. And please throw out any idea that you need to be tough.

Now Dave, imagine if the tables were reversed, what would you want your wife and children to do? Now imagine what she wants for you and the girls. Your love for her will glow in your heart forever. Teach your children that you can work through grief and continue loving the person you have lost, yet still move on with your life.

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