Grief A Year Later … What Helped & What Didn’t

Grief A Year Later … What Helped & What Didn’t

I write in a journal to Lou (my husband) since he has been gone and it has been very therapeutic. When he was alive we talked all the time about everything. I’ve found that writing to him has helped appease that need for conversation, so I write.

When you experience a death of someone very close, your whole life changes. So much in the day-to-day was incredibly painful. Slowly, I found ways of dealing with challenges that started to help. I think many people experience the changes I faced …

Here are some things I allowed to get me down at first, and a few things I found helpful:

6 Things That Got Me Down:

1. Being alone too much: To suddenly be alone at 67 years old took time to adapt. At first I hated it and went around in a fog. Now after a year, it is getting better, more enjoyable and allows me to accomplish things.


2. Meals alone: My friend insisted I come for dinner several nights a week for the first few months. What a blessing! I helped with groceries and did dishes and it was great.

3. What to do with weekends?: Working the week with all my emotions stuffed often made the weekend not much more than a time of tears. I was kind to myself and accepted the pain, and it has gradually diminished.

4. Making all the decisions: The cars broke down, the computer crashed, the printer died, the wiring to the electronics went bad, the roof in Michigan leaked, I forgot to pay bills, one of the dogs died, and on and on. How to handle it all???

5. Not enough sleep: I dreaded going to bed, then couldn’t sleep. Too little sleep made my emotions worse.

6. Too much to do and only me to do it: At first I did not accomplish much. Now I make lists and do at least one thing a day.

10 Things That Have Helped:

1. Journaling: Writing out my concerns to Lou and then sleeping on it helped me come to the answers I needed often right when I woke up.

2. Prayer: I look to God to heal my heart and to give me purpose. Things that are too much for me, I give to Him in prayer.

3. Walking: Making myself go for a walk with the dogs clears my brain. Often it seemed to be a safe place to cry and talk to Lou while I walked and came back refreshed.

4. Accepting all invitations at first. I took every opportunity to socialize and be with others. Even if I didn’t feel much like talking, I absorbed the liveliness around me and it lifted my spirits.

5. Remembering to eat: When I forgot to eat or ate poorly I felt worse. When I ate more nutritiously: salads, vegetables, meat and fruit, I coped better.

6. Music or Television. Background noise comforts. Unless I am reading, praying or meditating, I usually have music going.

7. Spending time with family: My daughter is very thoughtful to plan family time that includes me. This grounds me and helps me realize I still have a family.

8. Have a goal: I decided to attack the lofty goal of paying off the mortgage. It is daunting, but I put every extra dollar towards it and it gives me purpose and direction and keeps me from overspending.

9. Hugs, human touch: When I needed a hug, I gave a hug. When I needed to hear “I love you”, I said it to a family member or someone I was close to.

10. Remember: I have allowed myself to remember. I have embraced the pain. I stood out in the dark beneath every “Annie’s Moon” for the past year and probably always will. I watch the videos Lou left me. His chair is still on the sidewalk. I still go to Dana Point when I can and sit on our bench with our dog Bella. We even celebrated his birthday last month with a party.

I’ve decided that grief over losing your spouse is like trying to recover from something you don’t totally want to get over.

You want to feel better, but not if it means losing any of the memory. You have to do positive things, mindful, productive things to move into a healthier place. You have to want to become useful again to yourself and others.

And yet, since Lou’s “Babe” is who I was for 73% of my life, it will never be something I can forget or lose. So I try things, see what does and what doesn’t work. I mostly try to be kind to myself. The one thing Lou said repeatedly in the short videos he left was: “Be Happy! Do it for me, Babe”

So, that is what I am trying to do.

|| what do you think?

Can you relate to any of these good or bad?

Has your journey differed from mine? What has it looked like for you?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.


  1. Becky Finch Lomaka says:

    Before I could even respond to you, I first needed to forward these beautiful words of yours to my sister-in-law. I could not help but think of her grief and the many ways it parallels yours as I read every word.

    Your ability to be so open and honest helps others realize that, they too, may begin to see how they can not “recover” from grief but find “renewal”. The most powerful words for me are when you talk about how grief is like trying to recover from something you don’t totally want to get over. The fear of not remembering can be stifling. I remember someone close to both you and I sharing with me that one of his worst days on his grief journey was when he realized half way through the day that he had not thought about his son who had died the year before.

    Thank you for sharing; thank you for being honest; thank you for helping us realize that we don’t have to have all the answers and that “trying” is the best thing to do sometimes.

    You are a blessing!

    • Anne says:

      I really hope what I wrote can help your sister-in-law. I do have a desire to help others even indirectly.
      I thought I was done writing about this, and then realized “NO!” there is still a list of things. If we have someone who just lost their husband or wife, we need to realize, they don’t like it when it is the time they always did a certain thing with that loved one and everyone goes off and does their own thing. And there they are…alone. They may not have the courage to go do whatever it was “alone”. Maybe a call or an email waiting for them is just the thing that will carry them through that weekly time. Also, contact them on the anniversaries. Even if you have to calendar it, realize what days might be hard and plan to connect.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Hi Anne!

    This is quite an undertaking that you have taken on. I admire the strength that you have and share in your journey of writings, feelings and actions.

    Writing, itself, in the right time and place, when time is still and emotions are quiet, is very healing and therapeutic. When we write, we are immersed, engaged. We are involved physically, mentally, psychologically, and, if done well, emotionally. We are absolutely committed and we have the pleasure of acknowledging that we own this moment. We are in charge. We have something to say and no one can tell us that our thoughts are not important. The action and place of writing, if done well, is a comfort action; like eating meatloaf and mashed potatoes is a comfort food. (For me, I like Libby’s Corned Beef Hash and a good stiff drink…appetizing…huh?)

    The place..the action…the moment…and then you realize..yes, indeed, you are in charge.
    You are in charge… of the moment, your house, your routine…and why not? your life.

    You, Anne, show us every day your willingness to move forward and take charge.

    And…as your friend…I rather think it’s time for you to hurry it up and spread your wings a little more….your love, Lou, is watching…and so are we.


    • Anne says:

      I asked God today…who will give me that daily hug when Greg is gone? I know you will soon move on to other horizons, but someone better step up, is all I can say. If Lou were here, he would say “Thanks, Buddy. I approved.”
      Writing my journal helps put me back in charge. It takes time, but when I do it, I sleep better.
      And you are right: I AM willing to move forward. The steps back are disconcerting but the forward motion is all good. I had some this past weekend. It was good.

  3. Anne,
    I love your honesty & the courage that you’ve summoned over this last year to face these great fears and pains and struggle through them in such a way that you emerge with wisdom, compassion & a heart full of understanding for others in similar shoes.

    Having experienced grief on a smaller scale I cannot fathom the different world that faced you without Lou. Your approach seems so honest & real to me – there’s the excruciating pain and then there is also hope and finally a striving for balance. But it’s precisely that balance that I believe is the hardest path to find. Like you said, we don’t really want to recover because that seems like it means we forget – it’s one of the most painful parts of the process.

    Thank you so much for writing this blog, I have no doubt that so many will benefit from your experience & your willingness to share it.

    Love, Molly

    • Anne Anderson Collins says:

      Thank you, Molly. I have to say the graphics you added show such insight and that you “get” what I was trying to convey. I love the creativity gifts you bring to our little blog.
      Balance is what I need now. I feel like I am finally seeing a bit further down the road than at first. Hopefully, that will help me grow in all the areas where I need to spread my wings. Slowly, but surely… and hopefully able to help others with their losses, if only to listen with understanding.

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