“I could see him in his hospital bed at night and it haunted me”
Between the timeframe of October 2015 and April 2017 the life of my husband and I was forever changed. I had lived in Austin, Texas for close to 20 years and Tracy was born and raised in Texas. Yet raising two young girls, along with the challenges of living in Austin (a housing market pushing us out of the center of the city, lack of seasonal changes, and overwhelming population moving into the city), pushed our decision to relocate to Atlanta in Winter of 2015. My parents and oldest brother never left Atlanta, and to tell you that I moved home at the best possible time is a complete understatement. My husband and I were both unemployed when we moved, no built-in network to speak of, and the real life challenges began.
Michelle talks about her UNCrushed Experience
My two dogs died within six months of one another and that felt like losing family members. Then, when my oldest brother Mark took his life on August 31, 2016, everything changed. At 52, Mark suffered from a life-long struggle with depression. As we were mourning Mark, we bought a beautiful home. Yet only after nine days of the purchase, I had an impromptu intervention with my husband. Two days later he landed in the hospital intensive-care unit, pod 6. He died 50 days later from liver failure on March 27, 2017 from excessive alcohol abuse. Did I marry an alcoholic? If I did, I did not see it. Yet in the time we lived in Atlanta, he became a situational alcoholic and died because of it. Watching him die slowly was an incredibly painful process and for months after I had a hard time falling asleep. I could see him in his hospital bed at night and it haunted me.
I am approaching the two year point of my husband’s death and I believe that my daughters and I have found our rhythm, found our way working together as a new family, all while trying to be respectful to what their daddy would have wanted for them. In the first year, the fog of grief was thick and it was hard to see past it. I tackled legal needs and pushed through navigating two young children on my own. In year two, the grief became stronger and my mental health was challenged like no other time before. I overate and overslept on a regular basis.
Now, two years later, I am seeing the fog lift. I look forward to events in a more honest way, and have a handle on our family and its needs.
Here are some of the self-care tools that have worked for me:
Stop worrying about the small things- What if the dishes and laundry pile up more than they normally would? I remind myself that it’s okay and I will find the time to putting them back in the cabinet. I cannot do everything every day.
Find a new hobby- Television and movies bored me and cluttered my head with stories that were not real enough for me. I had to return to my younger self and purchased coloring books and pencils to keep me busy once my two daughters went to bed. Since it was hard to fall asleep—this was a great trick!
Let it out- Talking to my friends and letting myself be heard was vital. My partner was gone and not there to talk to in the evenings. Some months I needed space and other months needed my friends as an outlet.
Ask for help- One of the hardest things was learning how to ask for help. For someone in the grief process, asking for help can be a monumental task. Yet, if someone offers to make my family dinner, I started to say yes to the invites.
Remember to take time for myself- Again, another challenging decision yet key to my mental health to ensure I was still Michelle. Not always mom or the new widow.
Be kind to myself- Writing down my thoughts and feelings to get them out of my head and onto paper was a big step and the ability to go back and read where I was (even if only weeks prior) to where I am today is therapeutic.
I have grown into my own adulthood based on the challenges our family had to face. It takes a lot of digging down deep to tackle such life events and honestly live one day at a time. Just take it one day at a time and always have something to look forward to. Whether it’s a movie with a friend or a phone call with a cousin. Life is meant to be long and there is so much life left to live. I intend to make the most of it.