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It Is Ok To Be Human

November 19, 2009
By Jamie Probst, MSW

A week or so I met with a woman whose husband just recently passed away, after they had shared a life together for more than twenty years. She told me of their vacations, and their joys and trials of raising children together. She told me of a lifetime of experiences, and what they have meant and continue to mean to her.

In the hour and a half that I met with her, I was given a brief glimpse into the wonderful world filled with loving memories shared by two people. As this woman shared these memories with me it was clear that doing so was a joy for her.

And as I asked her “how do you feel you are doing now” I watched as that joy faded into something much less pleasant, and she began to cry as she spoke with me. “Horrible”, she replied. She spoke of the waves of crying that hit her, and how difficult it is to get out of bed each day.

She also spoke of how much more difficult everything is now than it was a short time ago, when her husband was still alive. Her memory and attention span, she told me, is non existent…much like her ability to handle “the small things”. She told me of all the things that she should be doing better by now, a month after her husband had passed away.

When someone we care about has died, we need to forget everything we thought we knew about how we cope with obstacles in life. This isn’t losing a job, or being late on a car payment. This is the permanent physical loss of someone we love, and it will likely cause pain the likes of which you’ve not felt before.

So why are we so hard on ourselves, expecting that we will be back to normal in a month…when our lives are so far from it right now?

Everything has changed over night. You need to have patience with yourself, and lower your expectations of yourself just a little bit. Rather than setting the bar at getting through the day without crying, set it at being able to get out of bed and put your clothes on. And if those clothes actually match, well consider that a plus. Nothing is simple now, and you will find that most things are more difficult than they usually are.

Being able to concentrate, having energy, and being able to smile are things that may not be in the realm of possibility for you at this time. But know that you will regain them in the future, just not right now. You may have to do a great deal of faking and acting at this point as you get through the day, and that’s ok.

This isn’t figure skating. There is no panel of judges that is grading you on how gracefully you get through this period. So if you find yourself tripping over your own laces, know that you’re not going to get kicked off of the ice. I am giving you permission to be human. And if any of you need that in writing, come on down to my office and I will gladly write you up a formal permission slip.


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