Book Helps Widows Deal With Loss
I Lost My Husband, Not My Mind
By Kathy Sheppard
Sandland Press, 2008, $19.95
Five years ago I DID lose my husband and for awhile I DID think I'd lost my mind.
I began sleepwalking (something I'd never done in my life), developed allergies and couldn't concentrate long enough to remember a phone number if I hadn't written it down. I discovered grief is an awfully demanding housemate.
Of course I read every book I could find related to grief. Nothing helped. The books were either silly, too sweet, sentimental or riddled with religious clichs. There was nothing practical in them. A grief support group was a life saver. That and friends, and work. Blessed teaching and writing.
Now along comes the book I wish I'd had five years ago. Kathy Sheppard was married 33 years when her husband, John, died suddenly in 2003. That same year she lost her mother and her only brother. Triple whammies.
How does one go on?
According to statistics, in the U.S. alone, this year there will be over one million new widows and widowers. Loss is loss, and pain is pain. Somehow days become weeks and weeks become months.
Sheppard writes of "firsts." Her first Christmas alone. The first Valentine's Day with no valentine. And of course the anniversaries. They hit you hard. Then there is the first time you have to check the box marked "widow" when filing out a form.
When you take off your wedding rings and put them away? When do you clean out his closet? And what do you do with mail that continues to come in his name? It's a lonely journey going through the country of grief, and as Kathy says, "you search for life after death for the living."
She writes of "widow time." Time that alternately stands still, moves fast or creeps. Some days seem extra-long. Or short. Nights are the same way. Any task takes too long. You can't focus.
House cleaning becomes "constant stress and pressure to do" but Kathy can't make herself do it.
"What does it help or hurt if I don't do this or that?" And the answer is "It doesn't." So you don't do it. But you do have to pay bills and taxes and keep the car serviced. Changing light bulbs and fixing door bells, garage door openers, blocked drains..so many small household things you never did before, never noticed before, suddenly you are responsible for.
Kathy Sheppard formed a group called the Society of the YaYa Widowhood and finds support. She makes you wish that kind of thing had been available to everyone who has ever lost a mate.
Today Sheppard works with individuals and is in the process of developing a grief and loss recovery curriculum for a wellness retreat center in the South Carolina foothills. She also has become an inspirational speaker for those in grief.
"I Lost my Husband, Not My Mind" is, as I said, the book I was looking for five years ago and one I'm going to recommend to friends newly widowed or just dealing with personal loss. It's well written, all the tears wrung out and full of hope and courage.
Ruth Moose is a creative writing instructor at UNC Chapel Hill and is a longtime reviewer for The Pilot.
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