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We Were Supposed to Grow Old Together

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It takes more than time to heal after the death of a partner or spouse.

Q: "I lost my partner, who was also my best friend and the love of my life, on May 20, 2009. It is over two years and I am still paralyzed. We were together for 16 years. I don't go out of the house except to get the mail and then I am back in my bedroom staring at the ceiling trying to figure out what is wrong with me after this amount of time. I am lonely without him. He was sick for quite some time before he died and I was at his side and never left him for more than 5 minutes at a time. I am also a Registered Nurse and was able to attend to every need he had, but I was still not ready for him to leave me. We were supposed to grow old together ... Why should it take me so long to recover from this? I have to keep living and telling myself that he died, I didn't. I feel so empty and alone. Thank you for being there for me to open up and express my feelings  Everyone else thinks I should be further along than I am. At the end of the day, I do thank God for the time we had and the treasure of experiencing unconditional love. Some people never get to have that and I know that I am blessed. But it's still very dark and lonely without him at my side."


Are you grieving the loss of a partner or spouse? Find comfort in our grief support group.


One of the most common questions we get revolves around the amount of painful emotions people still have a substantial time after the death of someone important to them.

Of the six major myths we outline in all of our books and lectures, perhaps the most pernicious myth of all is that “Grief Just Takes Time,” or, “Time Heals All Wounds.”

Time can’t heal an emotional wound any more than time can fix a flat tire. In either case, repair or healing, or emotional completion, as we call it, is the result of actions taken within time, and not as the result of the passage of hours, days, weeks, months or years.

One of the compounding elements—and this would be almost predictable to us—is that as you struggle in the absence of your partner, and at chronicling dates along the way, like 6 months,1 year, etc., the people around you start saying or implying that you should be over it by now, as in, “…everyone else thinks I should be further along than I am.” That is just another variation on “Time Heals,” or Time Should Have Healed” you. It’s also possible that you, yourself, have put that onus on you because you were socialized in the same world we all were in which the myth of time is prevalent.

Becoming emotionally complete in the aftermath of the death of someone tremendously important to you is achieved by taking a series of small and correct actions that lead to recovery or completion. Go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of "The Grief Recovery Handbook." Read it and start taking the actions it outlines. As you do that, you'll immediately begin to feel a shift. You'll recapture some of your lost energy, and you'll begin to want to participate in life again.

Among the probable results of taking those actions is that you'll have fond memories not turn painful; you'll be able to remember him as you knew him throughout the past 16 years and not be stuck on the ending of his life; and you'll be able to have a life of meaning and value even though he is no longer here. We know that those goals are what you would like, and we trust that since you’ve written asking for help, you’ll be eager to take actions that will help that happen.

From our hearts to yours,

Russell Friedman and John James


© 2018 John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at [email protected] or by phone, 800-334-7606.


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