Conversations in Grief Blog: Grieving Well
I met Mark after his wife Jane died under Rainbow Hospice Care. Jane was relatively young and her illness was relatively short, less than a year from diagnosis to her death. I asked for Mark’s permission to share his story because of how he has embraced his grief and sought what he needs to honor his wife and his own grief. (I did change their names to protect their privacy).
Mark describes Jane as his soulmate and lifesaver, someone that he “misses the hell out of.” He has been intentional in the ways he remembers his wife. He showed me a series of pictures of her that record how her countenance transformed and how she lost her smile as she neared the end. He pays attention to how she declined and he pays attention to his own response as he watched her weaken and as he grieved for the “old Jane” even while he cared for the “new Jane” in front of him.
Mark is aware of and grateful for the close relationship he and Jane enjoyed and intentionally reflects on how he experienced Jane’s decline and her death.
Jane died on a Sunday. The Rainbow chaplain was scheduled to visit early in the following week. The chaplain called to cancel the visit and Mark asked him to come anyway and he expressed to the chaplain both his sorrow and his love for his wife. Some of the couple’s poker friends attended her funeral; Mark asked them back to his house to watch football and spend time with him. He reached out to his therapist at the VA due to his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and resumed counseling. He has reached out to his spouse’s family and made socially distanced visits with them. Mark also accepted my bereavement support and has asked me to check in every couple of weeks, where I continue to bear witness to how he is mourning his loss.
Mark reaches out to people and asks for what he needs. This is a courageous act because he risks rejection but understands the importance of support for himself.
Jane’s cremains were interred in April; the date he chose intentionally, honored, as close as possible, the date of her surgery the year before, which marked the beginning of her end.
Mark knows dates are important. He knows that timing her internment with the anniversary date of Jane’s initial diagnosis is a vital part of his grieving process.
Mark has been thoughtful with Jane’s possessions, offering keepsakes to family and friends, donating items to charities that give donations to people who need them. He cherishes their vacations through the mementos they purchased. He has created a shadow box that holds their wedding invitation, picture, and wedding rings.
Mark is using Jane’s possessions as linking objects, that is, ways for him to stay connected to Jane and also giving items to family and friends thoughtfully so they can stay connected to her as well.
Mark said recently, “I don’t ever want to get used to not having her around.” Megan Devine, the author of It’s Ok That You’re Not Ok, would validate Mark’s sentiment. She explains that the bereaved learn to live inside their loss and that they learn to “carry what cannot be fixed.” Mark understands that there is a vacancy in his life, a Jane-shaped vacancy, that doesn’t need to be filled but needs to be honored.
As you read how Mark is coping, what surprises you in his healthy coping? How has he inspired you as you grieve your loss?