After you meet the love of your life and you discover life without them is just not possible you begin to talk about the future. How many kids will be born to this union, the dream home, the careers, vacations and the list goes on. The conversation that must be had most likely never comes to mind until it happens…..I know my husband and I did not think to have this conversation. No one wants to have the conversation where the topic is how to plan your funeral, how to fulfill last wishes, and to move on without your best friend.
Planning a funeral for your husband (spouse or partner) will be one of the hardest times in your life. It is a time where you will go through the motions while trying to maneuver through a fog – it is damn near impossible. When I was planning my husbands funeral I wished there was a list I could go down and check things off as I had completed them. Most likely I would have forgotten to carry a pen or pencil with me to mark such things off the list.
There are a number of things that will take place after your loved one passes that you may not realize and there are additional stressors that take place in the days, weeks, and even months after your loved one passes that will make you feel and believe you are going crazy. I have approached post many times and pushed it away because I just was not sure how to write it. What do I write, what do I cover first, what if I leave something out or the opposite what if I put too much in? What I do know is if you are reading this because you are faced with planning a funeral I am sorry. Your life has been turned upside down and inside out. You are numb and hurting at the same time. You feel like you are in a nightmare and you want out of it. You feel any moment you will wake up and life will be as it should be. Now, if you came across this blog by chance I hope you have many years with your loved ones before you need this post.
This post is going to be in parts because there is so much I want to say. I will break this up in what to expect after your loved one passes, how to plan the funeral and what will help you get through, links to help figure out the Veterans funeral benefits application and where to find grief support.
Here is what I know:
Shock Shock can sometimes be your best friend. It keeps you from feeling all the pain when faced with trauma. Shock can also be your enemy because you will not be able to remember a lot if anything at all. I just passed the one year anniversary of the husbands passing and I am just now remembering only tiny bits and pieces of the day he passed. I remember everything around me was in slow motion and when people spoke to me it sounded like I was trying to hear them while under water. I also remember when I was escorted to the Trauma room before my husband was taken away I felt like I was floating – not walking. It was by the grace of God that I was able to walk for the rest of that day.
Organ Donation Within the hour of your loved one passing you will receive a phone call from a tissue/organ donor organization (in Oklahoma it is LifeShare of Oklahoma). You will be taken off guard, even though I am telling you right now this will happen, because why in the world would this happen right after your loved one passed! Well, it happens because they are in the business of saving lives (of all ages) and they have a short window of time to do this and get things in place. I am not making light of what they do. Just know the representative on the other end of the phone is kind, patient, and willing to explain everything. You will have to answer personal questions about your loved one so when you get this call if you need a few hours to try and pull yourself together they are more than happy to do this. I did this. Be prepared to answer questions such as: did your spouse do recreational drugs (oral or IV), had same sex relationships, test positive for any STD or other illness, did you loved one travel to other countries where they came into contact and etc. Finally, the tissue/organ donor organization arranges everything and there is not additional cost. So, part of your conversation must be – does your loved on want to be an organ donor?
Anger: This is in addition to the different stages of grief. This anger comes from seeing that people around you a living life link normal when your life stopped. The anger is coming from not being able to control what has happened and what you are feeling. You could also have a feeling of being left especially if your loved one died due to an accident or self-neglect or self-destructive behavior. It is important to not keep feelings in. It is normal to aske someone going through grief how they are doing and we are brought up to not bother others with our problems therefore we replay that we are okay. When honestly we are broken, hurting, and lost. Long periods of stress can be detrimental to your mental health. Please seek help if this happens to you.
During this time it is easy to not take care of yourself especially if you have children (mine were 2 and 6 at the time their daddy passed). It is critical you take care of yourself by staying hydrated, eating, exercising, and resting every chance you get. In addition allow others to help with wherever you need help and have a “buffer”. The buffer can be your best friend, sibling, sibling-in-law or other family member. This individual mostly likely will be by your side for the most part of the day. They will answer your phone, door, accept food baskets or plants that are dropped off. Mostly, and this is important, they will keep the toxic family members from you.
Pain is mental, spiritual and even physical Not only is the heart broken and your faith possibly on the fence but you could experience physical pain that was not felt before. Grief can impact you in so many physical ways and if you ignore them the pain can only increase and eventually cause more harm. The GoodTherapy website states that a study in 2014 found that older adults experiencing grief, especially due to the loss of a spouse, could not maintain a stress hormone balance. Because of this they experienced reduced neutrophil function. This translates to few white blood cells being produced leaving them prone to infections. Most grief suffers have complaints of body aches and pains, digestive issues, unhealthy coping mechanism, lowered immunity, headache, fatigue, and sleeplessness.
Widow’s Fog I am more familiar with this type of memory loss than I want to be. It’s no pregnancy brain, nor is it the loss of memory due to age or multitasking. Widow’s Fog is an entirely different monster that interferes with the prefrontal cortex (Executive Brain (EB)) of the brain. Simply put your EB is connected to the other parts of your brain and can be labeled as the “command center”, receiving, processing and sending information throughout the rest of your brain. Now add the stress of losing your loved one and basically this part of your brain is overloaded and exhausted. A brief definition for widow fog is a disconnected, autopilot state of mindless motion. The duration and intensity varies from person to person. Symptoms of widow fog are:
- Not able to focus on a single thought
- Inability to organize
- Compromised ability to recall, reason, or plan
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Exhaust easily
- Not able to think rationally There is so much to understand about widows fog that it cannot all be explained here in one post. I will continue to include widows fog in the parts to follow.
What you need: I discovered the day my husband passed that I needed to make sure I had items in hand, or close by, at all times. I also discovered the following days and even weeks I would be adding to this list.
- Notebook and pen: This notebook needs to be with you at all times to write down everything you need to remember. I wrote in every notebook I could find wishing I had kept just one with me. It was not until later that I started carrying a notebook with me and a designated pen.
- Binder with sleeve protectors: A binder will make carrying all certified documents easier for you instead of several ripped envelops. You will find you will need to carry with you: certified copy of death certificate (get several the funeral home you choose can assist you with this), birth certificate, marriage license, cause of death (typically not needed but there will be that one time), loved ones social security care, drivers license, military ID, tribal ID (military and tribal ID does not apply to everyone), military active or discharge papers (if your loved was currently in the military or a veteran), and children’s birth certificate.
- Tissue: Make sure to have a box in your car, home, and your purse. The tears will come unexpectedly and fast (I call this my ugly cry).