Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

When the Chaos Begins to Finally Lessen

Monday, January 4, 2016
Posted By: 
Sheri Hickey

I have had a very long 12 years.  For the first four years, Tom and I navigated the parade of doctors attempting to figure out what he suffered “with” and “from”.  It was 22 doctors, but who is truly counting.  The amount of medications tried and the opinions offered were so many and varied that I believe I have purposely forgotten all of those details.  However, when at last a plausible diagnosis was made, it was not at all what we imagined.  It had that feared terminal word that stops one in its track and casts a veil of doom that is palpable every moment of every day.

I had thrown myself into finding the diagnosis and now that we knew, I was throwing myself into how to live a lifetime in a short time with my husband and our children.  Since so much was and remains unknown of his disease, we had no idea how long he would live.  We only knew that every day he would die a bit more and his neurological abilities would continue to degenerate daily.  For us, it was another four years after the diagnosis was given.  So, it was my job to race through life while caring for him and attempting to find ways for me not to fall apart.  This meant physical exertion to beat my anger and frustration out of defenseless tennis and golf balls, and the occasional pillow alone in the dark.  During this time, I also put on a happy façade to allow my children some sense of normalcy while they went through adolescence.

When Tom died over 3 years ago, I still didn’t have the time to focus on the chaos around me since it was only me to do everything.  My exhaustion became almost unbearable.  Yet, I still had no time to stop and dwell on the big picture of what to do with the rest of my life.  I knew the things that Tom wanted me to do for him when he passed, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life as a single person.  But being surrounded by chaos, I didn’t wish to take the time to decide what I wanted to do now that I was alone. 

Of course my immediate job was to now raise our kids with me as Mom and Dad.  Being a widow, I felt this enormous pressure that I was to make sure that the life lessons that Tom and I would have both been teaching, would still be an important priority in our family.  But now that it was my sole responsibility, the overwhelming feeling added to the chaos. 

Our marriage had been very traditional with Tom as the “breadwinner” and I the “domestic engineer” (much nicer than the 1950’s homemaker title).  After we married, I had always worked very part-time as a nurse.  However, medicine is changing and my college degree is becoming obsolete.  I knew I had to return to school and obtain a master’s degree.  I finished my education a few weeks ago and walked for my graduation before Christmas.  I feel such relief to have finished.  It was a mountain I never wanted to climb and one I never saw myself ever accomplishing.  For the first time in years, the pit in my stomach is lessening and I am starting to feel relaxed!

I acknowledge that I was not the only one miserable being back in school.  My children were miserable that I was constantly stressed (aka… crabby) with the course load and all of the household responsibilities.  I hated the countless hours spent doing homework and I cursed every minute spent reading boring textbooks.  But now that I am done with school, I was struck by a realization that surprised me.  I found that chaos has actually gotten me through a horrendous time in my life.  I found that the passage of time helps to heal the loneliness and the wounds of “widow-dom”.  It allowed me the unconscious practice of living without the love of one’s life and I survived.  Some may argue that I learned how to flourish in the face of unimaginable sadness and heartbreak. 

As we all know, this is not what we chose and it is certainly not what our spouses chose.  But, no matter what we desire, life marches on in chaos and in serenity. 


Hi Sheri :) great post and I couldn't agree more. In fact I think it's almost easier, like a coping mechanism to stay really busy and spread ourselves so thin that there is no time to think about what is missing. To others we appear strong and resilient to be capable of so much during these hard times but in reality, slowing down is way harder. I'm hoping that racing through these first few years will lessen the pain enough to make it bearable when I do work through the grief. But until then, bring on the chaos.

Add new comment