How to Reconstruct Your Life After a Major Loss

I titled this post as if this is something I’m doing (I’m not). Or that I know how to address in a didactic way (I don’t). Some of you may know that my partner died recently. “It hasn’t been long,” you say, a little over two months. And that’s true. “Go easy on yourself.”

I returned to work three weeks later. Was that too early? Within the first two days I was faced with e-mails and deadlines and meetings that were overwhelming, and the assumption was that I was operating at normal capacity. Far from it. I couldn’t (and still can’t) handle stress very well. I’d go home and cry, which would only worsen my grief.

Or maybe it wasn’t too early. Having structure and routine and simple tasks and a low stress environment might be a good thing. Although I’m finding it nearly impossible to keep up with the workload, I have accomplished a surprising amount. “Your resilience is inspiring,” a kind and supportive co-worker said, but they don’t see me when my grief is intolerable, because I stay home those days.

It has been exceptionally hard to write, and this has been true for over a year. My partner was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer on October 4, 2017 and died on October 2, 2018. “It was a long goodbye,” said one friend. Until it wasn’t.

My partner’s decline was precipitous and unexpected, or at least not predicted by any medical professional at the hospice. One nurse even said it was a gradual decline, which was clearly not the case, according to close observers. You see, a major issue was that we didn’t live in the same city. Although I traveled there five times in the last two months, I ended up plagued with guilt because we were supposed to have weeks together on my last visit. And we didn’t. Nothing went as planned (or at least, according to the doctors’ vague prognostic indicators…).

The National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), part of NIH, has issued an important funding opportunity on End-of-Life and Palliative Care Approaches to Advanced Signs and Symptoms (PAR-19-045). I’ll write about that in another post. I know, I know, “out of scope” for this blog.

Grief make life seem pointless. Why go on? Why care about that grant I should be writing? It’s meaningless. When you lose everything, nothing else matters.

One thought on “How to Reconstruct Your Life After a Major Loss

  1. I haven’t returned to work yet cuz I’m still in a coma 😉 . This is grand! I will explain.

    “Work” was a Behavior Specialist for a county mental health. Before that I ran an early intervention program for kids under 5 who were at risk of having a disability. Yes, I was in charge. It served 5 counties n took care of a big piece of North California. When I went to Mental Health, I ended up as that particular county’s vice president of Early Start. (I only found 2017
    ) My county was Sierra.

    I already had a background rich in dealing with trauma. Disability is no stranger to me. You can see that my current network was full of professionals. These ppl were my friends.

    Now, how am I still in a coma?

    In 2002 I had an AVM that bled (AVM stroke). I ended up in a closed eye coma for 5 weeks. This is the coma. I never woke up! In 2003 I started opening my eyes. The govt made me Vegetative- I was just in an open-eye coma.

    I did something unheard of. I COBRA’d my work ins n used my Social Security to make the COBRA payments. Do what u have to do n I did. I skipped all my bills n used the private ins to go to rehab. I did a 2nd experimental surgery at Stanford. The govt never recognized this. That should have been when I “woke up.” I think it’s funny. If u ask the govt what happened to my AVM, what will they say?

    So do what u gotta do. “A major loss”…I’ve had a big one- if u say me dying was the biggest. I just keep plodding forward. I keep telling myself to think about it later. We know those thoughts are the downfall. Dwelling on the past leads to depression.

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