By fellow Imperfect Mum: Marie Kenyon
My beautiful husband, Russ, tragically lost his life on June 4th, 2014.
He was my world, my very best friend. I am a better person for having had him in my life, even if it was for only the shortest time.
Funny, when we married only 6 weeks prior to his passing, (together 6 years) I thought to myself, "Wow, 6 years, it feels like a lifetime." But now that he's gone, it's not even close to being long enough.
Our love and relationship was like nothing I've witnessed before.
I'll be forever grateful for what he has taught me.
You should never be with anyone who isn't your best mate as well as your partner, lover, co-exister.
That life doesn't have to be serious, or hard or stressful. That happiness is important and having someone who wants you to be happy is bliss.
I'm also so grateful for what he's taught my girls. That it's so important to be fair to one another and to be with someone who brings out the best in you, because you deserve it. That life isn't to be wasted and people aren't there for you to judge. That respect and love should be expected and you should give it in return.
People have said to me, "He loved you so much!" and I just tell them that I know. I knew without a doubt, that he loved me - madly, truly, deeply. He told me so daily, sometimes hourly even.
Don't get me wrong, we drove each other mad, but we loved each other hard. We were passionate and feisty but laughter made everything ok. Life is too short for bs, just be happy! Happy was easy with him.
I couldn’t wait to get home to him everyday, he was my very favourite person.
Russ was the most fun and genuine person I've ever met. We laughed and played constantly. Our house was a great place to be and now.... Well now, it's sad, it's quiet and the kids and I are devastated because he was so much of what we were as a family unit. He breathed life and sparkle into every corner of our lives, something that was foreign to us up until then.
I had never met anyone like Russ before and chances are, I never will again. He was a unique blend of crazy fun, witty intellect and real heart and soul.
He was the guy who'd give you the shirt off his back, his very last dollar, help you out if you needed him and then pay you out with some light banter that made you laugh. He was everyone's mate and people were drawn to him.
How lucky was I to have his heart?
It hasn't been long, those first few weeks are still fresh and raw. At the time of writing this, he has been gone 15 weeks. 15 looooooong and agonizing weeks.
It already feels like forever but yet it feels like yesterday too.... I wake up every morning and wish it was just a dream and that my awesome husband was back here with us. It's so unfair.
The following are some guidelines on how to be a good support person to someone who has recently lost their beloved.
THINGS TO DO -
* Bring meals around and fill their freezer. Healthy, well portioned meals that can be heated up in a snap. I personally completely lost my appetite but my children still needed to be fed.
* Shop for groceries for them. I had people brings bags and bags of practical things, like toilet paper, soap, tissues, washing up detergent, plus easy knock up meals that the kids can make themselves, like Mac & Cheese, Noodles etc. Stuff to get me 'by' without much thought in those first few weeks.
* Do something helpful when you go to their house. Washing up, washing, vacuuming, taking the bins out.
* Mind their children. Take them out for the day, help keep them entertained or offer to drive to and from school. I struggled to parent at all in those first few weeks.
* Discreetly collect money amongst friends, if you can. Money is a funny topic with people, but more often than not, these days, we live in two income families. A sudden drop down to one income (plus the time off for the remaining income earner) can do some serious damage. Do it discreetly, and definitely DON'T do it at the wake. Friends of mine collected money amongst themselves without my knowledge and gave it to the kids and I. It has helped immensely and I'll be forever grateful for their generosity. It helped me pay rent and bills while I wrapped my head around the horrid new world we were living in.
* Let them cry. You don't need to say anything. You can't fix them by saying the 'right' thing (though the wrong thing is a whole different story). Just listen. It's ok to tell them you don't know what to say to them. They don't know either.
* Hug them, physically comfort them. Did you know that hugs release endorphins that make us fell better? Don't be offended if they pull away quickly though, no doubt they've been hugged a lot and they really only want a hug from their love.
* Let them talk about their spouse. The talk may make YOU uncomfortable but if they need to talk, let them talk. If they need to feel slightly more whole by saying "[Husband/Wife] loved that sort of stuff" or "[Husband/Wife] and I did these things together", let them do it and keep your discomfort to yourself. It's not about you, your discomfort is nothing compared to their pain and aching for their other half.
* Allow them space if they request it. It's ok for them to be alone sometimes. It's vital actually. Those moments where people allow me to just be in my own space with no one around are where I do my most intense and raw grieving. I don't have to worry about anyone, only myself. I can ugly cry and fall apart and do whatever makes ME feel better in that moment.
* Continue to check in. Not everyone can spend months and months grieving right along with the widow/widower. We know that. Just continue to check in though. Lots of people forget that while their world has just gone on, the widow/widower is still living in the pits of grieving hell. My friends send messages all the time. Sometimes I respond, sometimes I don’t have the energy. It's been wonderful having people that have continued to do that, and not get offended when I don't respond.
* Organise to spend time with them (and don't be put off if they're not ready or not up for it) After a few weeks, it's good to get out of the house. They may not be much company. They may struggle to get through the activity but doing things helps. My girlfriend took me to a comedy show; it helped me forget slightly, if only for a second. That's me though; your friend may like something different.
* Rock up at their house and assume that it's ok for you to stay for an extended period of time. It's not.
* Go to their home and start to throw things out. You're not "helping". Something as simple as a jar of honey or an empty beer can hold significance that you know nothing about.
* Wash any clothes of the person who has passed. Their smell will and does help with the grieving process. Leave them be.
* Clean up the house removing evidence of the person. I was very sensitive about things being moved around and stuff not being as it was when he left us.
* Rely on them to help you get through your grief. Their partner may have been your friend, you may also be devastated but they have nothing to give you. Nothing.
* Smother them. It's hard to explain how contradictory grief is in what we need. They may need it but they may not. Don't hug them to make yourself feel better. I needed hugs, physical contact but in a split second I could want complete distance from everyone. I call the space around me my "bubble" and penetrating it is unpredictable. My friends asked if they may come into my bubble. It made it a little more light-hearted, took the pressure off.
* Assume that they'll go back to normal soon. They will never be the same person. Their heart is broken. A part of them died when their partner did. Perhaps in time, they will be ok, but they will never be the same. Certainly not in the months following the death. The flipside to that is that there may be days where they seem to grieve less, laugh more, have the ability to think properly. Don't assume that one good day means they're ok. It's just one moment in time. One small moment of reprieve. Allow it. It doesn't mean they're fixed and done with that journey.
* Discuss your relationship woes with them. They would rather being having your woes than dealing with the loss of their partner.
THINGS TO SAY -
* I can't possibly imagine what you're going through. Unless you've lost your other half, you can't. It's that simple.
* I don't know what to say to you, but I just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you.
* I know you're not capable of reaching out right now, so I'll just check in every so often and check how you're going. Then make sure you do.
* Ask them if they would like anything done for them now, and offer suggestions of what you can do to help.
THINGS NOT TO SAY -
* NOTHING. Nothing is worse than something, always.
* Tell them that their beloved has gone "to a better place". What kind of place is better than here, with their surviving spouse (and children) who need them and love them? You don't know where they've gone, don't say that.
* Tell them they can "always find another/ a new husband/wife". You'd be surprised, people say this sort of stuff. The widow/widower is not interested in another partner right now. They want the one they had back. A partner is not a car, or a bike. Their heart is shattered, into a million tiny little pieces and it feels impossible to them that it will ever heal. They feel like their world has just exploded around them and that frankly, life isn't really worth it. Think before you speak.
* Tell them they have to move on. They don't have to move on or move forward for now. Their only requirement is that they take one breath after another and put one foot in front of the other.
* I know exactly how you feel, my grandmother/dog/next door neighbour passed away recently. Not the same. Not even a little bit the same. Stop it.
* You’ve just got to be positive. Seriously? No.
Grieving a beloved is a process. It could take months to be ok, it could take years, and some may never move forward from it. I'm at 3.5 months and I'm not ok and I can't imagine a time that I will be, so I know this is going to be a long process.
I am part of a group for widows and widowers. Some have been without their love for many years and are still in the throws of grief regularly. Some have hit a point a few months down the track and gone on a search to find someone to help them live this life happily. Whatever they choose to do is fine and normal.
Being a young widow/er is an unnatural process, something we don’t expect and certainly not something we are prepared for. The reality of it is incomprehensible and soul destroying.
It’s what we do with the experience that matters however and so I wake up every morning and tell myself that we’re going to be ok, because we are…
By Marie Kenyon (Russ's Wife)