By Nancy Cozart
Coping With Grief
When we are born, we are not given a roadmap to help guide us through this journey called life. Each one of us is special and unique, and we all develop our own coping mechanisms. Through our lives, there are twists and turns. Our expectations of how we think our lives will be might not be the same as the reality that we experience day to day. Although we may not be prepared for the ups and downs and twists and turns as we meander down the path called life, each one of us is capable of coping with and overcoming challenges in our lives. Overcoming a challenge may not be easy. It may not be fun. But nobody ever promised us a rose garden. In this journey called life, we encounter obstacles and roadblocks along the way. It is up to us to navigate, circumvent, jump the hurdles, and get through the obstacles the best way we can so we can continue on this journey.
One road block that I have found to be the biggest challenge of my life is the road block called grief. Grief is like a tidal wave. Just when I thought the waters were calm, grief came upon me like an enormous tidal wave, enveloped me and knocked me off my feet. I tried to swim and stay afloat, but this overwhelming tidal wave grabbed ahold of me and sank me to the depths of despair. When life knocks you down and you have hit the very bottom, all you can do is try to make your way back up so you can catch your breath again.
Coping with grief is not easy. Nobody ever said it would be. For anyone who is coping with grief or has coped with grief in the past, they might tell you that this is the most difficult challenge in their lifetime that they have had to cope with and overcome.
How to Cope
How do you cope with grief? There is no timeline for grief. There is no magic wand to make the grief go away. There is no magic shovel to dig through the grief that you are buried under. There is no magic door to walk through and leave the pain of grief behind you. There is no magic bus that can take you away from the grief. For each of us, the journey is different. But for all of us, the pain we experience is the same. It is a challenge to overcome the grief we are facing. It may seem insurmountable at times. But we really have no choice but to move forward, one step at a time. Grief is like a large boulder in front of us, preventing us from moving forward on our pathway. But if we take small steps forward every day, we may be able to side step around the boulder and get around it to the other side. Once we get to the other side, we can take a deep breath and know that we have just circumvented the largest hurdle we have ever faced. It gets easier from there. There are good days and there are bad days. There are days of endless tears. There are days of memories that bring a smile to our face. There are days of loneliness. But there are days, minutes, and seconds in our life that get easier with time.
When Grief Knocked Me Off My Feet
It was 2012. We had just been on vacation in Branson, Missouri and everything was going well in our lives. The previous year had been difficult.
My husband had Spinal Fusion Neck Surgery. He had gotten laid off from his job because the job he had required him to do heavy lifting and he could no longer do heavy lifting. So he was out of work. I had helped him with his job search, and I helped him find a new job.
He loved his new job and everything was finally falling into place. Life was finally good for us and we were in a good place. My husband’s birthday and my son’s birthday were just two days apart.
We went on vacation to Branson to celebrate their birthdays. My husband never told me he was not feeling well. He never complained. The Spinal Fusion Neck surgery was not entirely successful and he was still in pain. He took Aleve for the pain. He was on other medications, too. He had a history of high blood pressure, but he took medication for it. He rarely complained or told us he was not feeling well, so we assumed he was doing okay.
After being on vacation for a week, my husband went back to work. The night before he died, he took our son to the Cardinals baseball game. Our team was in the playoffs. According to the medical records, the day before he died, he had been to the doctor. Apparently, the doctor had changed his medications. Maybe he was having side effects from medication and wasn’t feeling well, but he never mentioned it to me.
The next day, he went to work like any other day. I went to work that day, like any other day, too. Our kids went to school that day. It was a day like any other day. But this day ended up being the worst day of my life. The worst day of my husband’s life, too.
I received a phone call in the afternoon. Apparently, my husband collapsed at work. An ambulance was called and he was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. I immediately left work and went to the hospital in Illinois that my husband had been taken to. When I got there, I discovered that my husband was in a tremendous amount of pain.
The ER doctor told me that a blood test revealed that he was suffering from pancreatitis. The ER doctor called my husband’s primary care physician. The primary care physician advised that my husband should go by ambulance to the hospital that he practiced at and the primary care physician would take it from there. Unfortunately, the ER in Illinois had not run tests to get an accurate diagnosis. I guess they thought that the hospital in Missouri would run the tests.
When my husband got to the hospital in Missouri, the primary care physician put my husband in a routine hospital bed with no monitors. I pleaded with the doctor to put my husband in the ICU, to run tests and to put my husband on monitors. I told the doctor that my husband had a history of high blood pressure and he could be having a heart attack. The doctor told me I was an over anxious wife and I should listen to him and he would not listen to me. Unfortunately, the doctor in Missouri did not put my husband in the ICU and did not put him on monitors like I asked him to do. Meanwhile, my husband’s condition worsened.
The doctor was in a hurry to get to the Cardinal’s baseball game….he had playoff tickets. The doctor left the hospital and went to the game instead of putting my husband in the ICU, putting my husband on monitors and running tests like I asked. While my husband’s primary care physician was enjoying himself at the Cardinals baseball game, my poor husband went into cardiac arrest. Because he was not on monitors like I had asked….the medical team was not alerted at the time he went into cardiac arrest and apparently he was code blue and unresponsive by the time the medical staff found him.
A team worked on him and administered CPR and they were able to revive him and they were able to get a pulse. My husband was in a coma. The medical team put my husband on life support and placed him in the ICU hooked up to machines. The next day, an EEG was ordered and performed. I was then told that my husband was brain dead and he would never come out of the coma. Apparently, when my husband went into cardiac arrest, the medical team was not alerted. By the time the medical team found him unresponsive, he had not gotten enough oxygen to his brain. This was because the doctor had previously refused to put my husband on monitors and he had placed my husband in a routine hospital bed despite my pleading with the doctor to put my husband in the ICU and put him on monitors.
My husband did not make it. I stayed with him in the hospital until the very end. I hired an autopsy doctor to perform an autopsy so I could find out what really happened to my husband since my husband’s primary care physician refused to tell me the truth. My husband’s primary care physician was condescending and rude to me. My husband’s primary care physician was very defensive and belligerent to me. He was not apologetic or kind to me. He did not offer me condolences in my time of need. He did not admit that he had made a mistake or a judgment error. He did not want me to find out the truth about what really happened to my husband. He denied any wrong doing. He told me my husband had suddenly gone into cardiac arrest. He did not connect the dots for me and he refused to tell me what really happened to my husband.
Since the primary care physician refused to tell me the truth about what happened to my husband, I hired an autopsy doctor to perform an autopsy so I could find out what really happened. An autopsy revealed that my husband suffered from cardiac arrest which was precipitated by acute hemorrhagic necrotizing pancreatitis. My husband had a life threatening condition. He had been bleeding internally. Yet he had been placed in a routine hospital bed instead of the ICU. He was not given the emergency treatment that he needed that could have saved his life. The primary care physician had not run the tests to correctly diagnose him. The primary care physician was in a hurry to get to a Cardinal baseball game, so he did not take the time to run the tests. As a result, my husband died. He might still be alive today if the primary care physician had listened to my concerns and taken them seriously.
I went through a traumatic experience when my husband suddenly and unexpectedly became ill, went to the hospital, went into cardiac arrest, went into a coma, and subsequently died. I felt like I had been hit by and run over by a tractor trailer. I felt like I was hit by a tidal wave that suddenly crashed down upon me, enveloped me and carried me down into the depths of despair.
In addition to struggling with grief, I also struggled with being upset with the primary care physician. My husband was only 52 when he passed away. I was only 48 when I became a widow. When the death of a loved one is sudden and unexpected, it feels shocking. It feels like there was no time to prepare. If feels like there was no time to say goodbye.
Finding a Way to Cope With Grief
It is never easy for anyone to cope with grief. It is one if the most difficult challenges that anyone can ever try to overcome. After crying every day for a year, I finally came to the realization that I needed to find a way to cope with the grief instead of continuing to suffer.
Immediately after my husband passed away, I joined a grief support group. The first group I joined did not work out. I was kicked out of the group because everytime I was asked about what happened to my husband, I burst into tears.
The second grief support group I joined worked out better. It was a small group of widows and widowers. Most of the group attendees were in their 70s and 80s. I felt like such s\an anomaly as a widow at the age of 48 years old.
After a year of crying every day, I decided to take steps to cope with the grief and get back on track with living my life.
How I got back on track :
- Zumba Classes – I went back to Zumba classes to take my mind off the grief and get back on track with fitness.
- Line Dance Lessons – I started taking Country Line Dance lessons because it forced me to concentrate and pay attention to the dance instructor’s directions and it diverted my attention away from my grief.
- Trivia Group – I joined a Trivia Group. I found that it distracted my mind and took my mind off my grief. I needed to concentrate and focus on the trivia questions and answers, so it gave me some relief from the grief I was experiencing. It gave me the opportunity to make new friends and to be around other singles. I even made some lifelong new friends. I found a new best friend, too!
- Trivia Game on my cell phone – My nephew Noah recommended an online trivia app. When I was concentrating on the trivia questions and answers, it diverted my focus away from the grief.
- Dining out – after a year of suffering from grief, I decided it was time to go back to dining out in restaurants again. I started taking my son out to dinner again.
- Calling friends and family – by reaching out to family members and friends, I was able to develop a support network. Unfortunately, my extended family does not live near me, but I was able to reach out over the phone.
- Going for walks – I found that going for walks and hiking was a great way to boost my moods, get back on track with my fitness routine and take steps in the right direction.
- Watching comedy movies and sitcoms- I found that by watching comedy movies and sitcoms, I learned to laugh again. It took my mind off of my grief and helped me to cope with grief. Laughter felt better than tears to me.
- Hobbies – by finding hobbies you enjoy, you can find a meaningful way to spend your spare time and do something constructive and enjoyable.
- Start a blog, a journal or a diary. By starting a blog, journal or diary, you can express your feelings, sort through your emotions, and help yourself to get back on track with your goals for coping with grief.
- Join an online group for widows and widowers. I searched Facebook groups and found a Widows Group. This is a great way to feel supported and feel that you are not alone. You can even help other people who are newly widowed.
- Joined a local Widows and Widowers group. Through Meetup.com, I found a local group for Widows and Widowers in my area. I was able to make new friends and get together for social gatherings with other people who had been through similar experiences.
- Started a Facebook group for local Widows and Widowers in my area. I am inviting other widows and widowers in my area to my Facebook group so we can all stay connected.
- Became a co-organizer for a Widows and Widowers group.
- Joined a gym so I could exercise regularly. In addition to working out regularly, I started taking water aerobics classes and started swimming laps again.
- Initially, I went to counseling to cope with grief. After awhile, I stopped going to counseling and started going back to the gym to work out.
There’s No Magic Wand
Although there is no magic wand to make grief go away and there is no one-size fits all method for coping with grief, there are ways that you can get your life back on track.
If you are suffering from grief, remember that it will get easier in time. While grief never truly goes away, you can take one step at a time and learn to cope. In time, life will get easier again and you will be able to get back on track.
Remember that you are not alone. I felt like such an anomaly when I became a young widow. I now realize that I am not the only one and there are many other widows like me.
Coping with the loss of a parent
Two years ago, my dad passed away. That was a very difficult time in my life. Last month, my mom passed away. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my mom and dad and miss them.
When trying to cope with the grief of losing parents, it is important to try to focus on the memories. In time, it will get easier. While grief is difficult to cope with, you can get through the grief by taking one step at a time.
Coping with grief is not easy, but there are many strategies for learning to live with grief and get back on track with daily activities.
If you are struggling with grief, remember that you are not alone. Reach out to family and friends for support. Get back on track with daily living.
Honor the memories of your loved ones and cherish them. Your loved ones would want you to be happy. They would want you to go on living a happy life.