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Don't abandon yourself after loss

March 5, 2018

 

 

Don't abandon yourself after loss. 

 

When my husband died I was completely lost. 

 

I didn't know how I was going to care for our two young children and how I was going to keep my feet on this earth.

 

I for sure had no idea how to care for myself right after his death. There's no manual or pamphlet that they send home with you from the funeral home when your husband dies. No manual to say....."Take care of yourself first." 

 

My main and only focus when he died was our children. They were so young, so fragile, so sad, so confused. They needed me more in those first days, weeks, and months after he died than they  had ever needed me before. They both suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Loud noises scared them. They couldn't sleep alone. They didn't want me to leave them with a babysitter or even to walk into another room in our home without them. Their entire world had been shattered and they were terrified. 

 

One day I looked in the mirror and I realized something. I realized that I was the only parent that they had left. I realized I hadn't brushed my hair in days. I had big black circles under my eyes from no sleep. I couldn't remember the last time I had some time to myself or ate something healthy instead of just picking away at the food that people had brought to our house. That day I knew something. I knew that I had to pick myself up for my kids. I knew that I had to be healthy so that I could take care of both of them. I knew the tough days of the big emotions and shock of my husband dying would start to get better eventually and I had to be a Mom and I had to be the example to my kids on how to move forward with grace, grit, and self-love after loss. 

 

How did I do this? How did I as a solo parent with huge grief start to take better care of myself? 

 

I built walls around my heart. 

 

I distanced myself from friends and sometimes even from family. 

 

I skipped parties and instead went out hiking in the woods. 

 

I ate healthier. I shut off the t.v. and I picked up piles of books about self-love, grief, death, widowhood, and more. 

 

I went to bed earlier even if it meant going to bed when my kids did. 

 

I let the phone ring if I couldn't muster up the energy to answer it. 

 

I went days, weeks, months without messaging friends back when they wrote, "Hey, how are you? Want to hang out?" I didn't even have the extra energy to write them and say, "I'm awful. This is so hard. I'm in the basement crying....Can you come over?" It was too exhausting to explain it over and over to different people. So, I saved my energy for caring for myself so that I could care for my kids. Did I sometimes feel guilty that I wasn't participating in my life? That I was ignoring people and keeping to myself? Of course I did. But I was trying to survive. Trying desperately to stay alive and figure out how to do life without him. I hoped that the people who truly loved me would understand and would be there for me again once I brought myself back to life. My gut told me that I couldn't worry about keeping up with friends and family because that was draining my already empty self. I had to focus on me and my physical, mental, and spiritual health so I could be a Mom. And if I lost friends along the way? Well, that broke my heart to think about but I had already lost so much and I wasn't going to let my kids lose their Mom too. And yes, I did lose some friends after my husband died but it's more like we just grew apart and that's ok. That's apart of life and loss....it changes you.

 

Don't abandon yourself after loss. 

 

 I pictured my own funeral after he died. I wasn't going to let that funeral happen. I had to be my own life boat because no one was coming to save me and no one that I personally knew had any clue to how I was feeling because they did not become a widow when they were 35 years old....they did not have a husband that shot himself. 

 

Don't abandon yourself after loss. 

 

It's so easy to do. 

 

I did it. 

 

I spent so many mintues, hours, days, weeks, months.......only thinking about my dead husband. Wondering where his soul was. Wondering why he took his life. Hours spent researching and trying to solve the mystery of his death. Days spent ransacking my own home for clues or a goodbye letter. I tore apart picture frames, looked in every one of his jacket pockets, and tore apart his garage workshop. Wondering if he even ever loved me. Examining in my mind every single thing he ever said to me in all the years that I knew him. Wondering if I screamed loud enough.......would they send him back from heaven? 

 

Don't abandon yourself after loss. 

 

You matter too. 

 

We all have those questions, those longings, those really rough times after loss where all we can focus on and see is the huge gaping black hole that's right next to us. All we think about is our loss....our wound..and how much we want our loved one back. All we think about is wanting to communicate with them wherever they are now.  It's all we think about. It's all we dream about. It's all we care about. 

 

Don't abandon yourself after loss. 

 

We could spend our entire lives this way after someone we love dies. We could close the curtains, turn off the lights, sit by the fire and drink our sorrows to death. But that won't heal anything. That won't bring them back and I gaurantee they want us to open the dusty curtains, let the sun hit our face, open our front door, and step back out into life and breathe new air. 

 

Don't abandon yourself after loss. 

 

Remember to take care of yourself first. You can't care for anyone else unless you do this. The plane is going down. Do you put your kids oxygen masks on first or your own? 

 

You put on your own and then you put on theirs. You teach them how to care for themselves by them watching you. If you are a widow....a solo parent....your kids need you. They need you healthy, strong, brave, and alive. They need to see you as a human too. Let them see you cry. Let them see you tired. It's ok. The days get brighter. 

 

Don't abandon yourself after loss. 

 

My 7-year old daughter recently said to me, "Mom? Thank you for protecting us after Dad died. Thank you for never leaving and for always being here for us." 

 

You got it, kid. Mom isn't going anywhere. Mom can feel the sun again because she learned that she had to let go of the why's and the what if's and stop trying to solve the mystery. She had to be ok with burying the mystery and moving forward. Mom learned that she had to let all that go so that she could take care of her children fully and completely and be present with them and not living in another world in her mind. She had to accept that he wasn't coming back to save her so she had to step back from life and friends for while so that she could become strong. 

 

Don't abandon  yourself after loss. 

 

Allow yourself to grieve. 

 

Allow yourself to heal. 

 

Don't abandon your own heart. It needs you. 

 

Drink water. Go for walks in nature. Tune out the noise of the world and all the endless advice. Sleep when you can. Get grief support if you think you need it. Eat healthy. Take care of you because your life matters and your well-being matters. 

 

Allow yourself to keep living and to open up those dusty curtains and let life and maybe even love back into your heart. 

 

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