The sound of silence was the most haunting for Thelma Zirkelbach on her first night home after her husband’s death.
“I’d lost my husband, but I hadn’t lost his voice, I told myself,” said Zirkelbach, who had spent so many nights the previous year at hospitals with her husband Ralph, who died not long after being diagnosed with leukemia.
“One of the things I had to learn was to find help from many people, whereas for most of my adult life I had the help of many in one man,” said Zirkelbach, author of Stumbling Through the Dark, a memoir about an interfaith couple facing one of life’s greatest spiritual challenges.
Loving couples wince at the thought of losing their spouse and may even deny the idea despite a terminal medical diagnosis, but accepting the possibility helps in preparing for the years that follow, said Zirkelbach. She offers the following tips for doing that:
Consider the best way for all loved ones to say good-bye. Ralph’s family comes from an evangelical Christian background, whereas Thelma is Jewish. Memorial services are designed for the surviving family and friends, and Zirkelbach held a service at her synagogue, which was filled with friends and colleagues. “Make sure you do all you can to best say goodbye in your own way, which may include your religion or some other ritual,” she said.
Take stock of the necessary services you’ll need to replace. In many ways, Ralph was an old-fashioned Midwesterner who was a handyman around the house, moved heavy boxes, dispensed with unwanted critters like cockroaches, and acted as a one-man security system. He also provided smaller services in which a companion can help, such as fastening necklaces. Since Ralph’s death nearly eight years ago, Thelma has hired her current handyman, air conditioning technician, accountant, financial advisor, and attorney.
No matter how independent you are, accept the fact that you may need emotional support. Soon after her husband’s death, Zirkelbach joined a support group for widows and widowers, and found solace in the company of others who had loved and lost. At one point, the group leader connected with members by saying they were blessed to have loved someone enough to mourn them. “His statement turned grief on its head,” she said.
Written by: Thelma Zirkelbach has been in private practice in speech pathology, specializing in young children with speech, language, and learning disabilities, for many years. She began her writing career as a romance novelist, publishing with Harlequin, Silhouette and Kensington. Her husband’s death from leukemia in 2005 propelled her to creative nonfiction. Source: News and Experts Photo: stock.xchng