Living Daily Life Without Guilt

“But John can’t laugh.  He cannot eat. He can’t breathe.” I sobbed to my sister as she again listened to my broken heart. I wonder, can we hear a broken heart?  Does it beat differently than before a loss? Can the toll of losing our loved ones change its rhythm the same as our daily lives? Thoughts to ponder on a rainy day.

When we talked that day, it had been about three months since John’s death. I had returned to work on a part time basis and had actually gotten through the morning. Then like a tidal wave, these thoughts crept over me and left me tired and sad. I could not get home fast enough.

During the first year, I found peace in being able to leave tough situations. Maybe power is a more appropriate word because the release of not staying in that moment helped. When I got into my car and drove away, I found strength. I recommend that to all who are experiencing their first year living without their husband or wife.

This morning, sixteen years after the death of John, I was sharing a poignant moment with my neighbor.  While describing the last weekend of his life, the tears welled up in my eyes, my heart moaned and I suddenly experienced the time, as if it was yesterday. That is the strange part about grief. Sometimes the feelings return but perhaps not as intensely as in the past.

sunrise2Grief is an investment in a relationship.  There is no time, no price, and no limits as to how long I could react this way. I think because love is the main ingredient in a couple’s marriage, the long-term grief should be expected and accepted. Those are key points for those around us who observe our daily moments. I emphasize this in the book in Chapter 15.  Because grief is often swallowed up in other emotions, our friends and family need to be aware and watchful and…accepting.

So where does guilt enter the picture?  I think it is normal to feel guilty at times. I think if you love someone and they die and you keep on living there is guilt. Questions could loom in your head and in your heart. “Why not me?” could be a comment. “It is not fair” is another commonly used phrase.

The guilt that I experienced lasted only a short time. I think that because John loved life so much that alone kept me “unstuck” in guilt. He would have been the last one to wish another person died instead of him. I believe in the final moment of his life, he willingly reached out his hand to God who gently removed his spirit and they soared together into heaven. That word picture is permanently implanted in my memory bank.

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

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