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My name is Rachel Rumbelow. My husband died suddenly last year and I have learned how to love life through my grief. I'm doing amazingly well for only being 14 months out because of a few processes I use. Ask me anything!

Rachel Rumbelow
May 14, 2017

Grief is a harrowing experience for anyone. The pain and torment that felt unending in the beginning have turned into a new zest for life and a new relationship with my husband and myself. I am currently working on several grief books and have started sharing my experience: www.rachelrumbelow.com 


Update (May 14, 11:17PM EDT):

Rachel Rumbelow says:

Thank you, everybody, so much! I appreciate how open you all were and how thoughtful and good your questions were! I hope we helped somebody feel a bit better or at least validated in some way.  

I will definitely be doing another one very soon about the paranormal series my husband and I did with our film company. Hope to see you there! 

Important links from the AMA: 

Know Sepsis Symptoms like the back of your hand! www.sepsis.org/sepsis/symptoms/

My blog where I discuss my grief and my new life: www.rachelrumbelow.com

Preorder my books here:  www.patreon.com/rachelrumbelow

Soaring Spirits International (a Nonprofit that helps widow(er)s): www.soaringspirits.org/

The film company my husband and I ran together: www.renegademotionpictures.com

Reason you believe this topic would be a great choice for an AMA:
I feel that I have a unique approach to grief and it may not help everybody but could help some.

Reason you believe you will be a great host to speak on this topic:
I have been dealing with the grief of my husband since February 27th, 2016.

Have you ever hosted an AMA before?:
No

May we contact you via phone?:
Yes

What number may we reach you at?:
647-343-1415

Comments are locked

Conversation (142)

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Hi, I admire your strong heart :) What do you think is the best cure for loss? I've lost someone, but not actually dead. It's just too hard to cope up with longing.

May 16, 10:45PM EDT1

Thank you. 

I know that longing and that yearning. They can just consume you. What helped me most with that was to go over what I still had in my life that I was grateful for. I would also let myself just let it out, I would look at his pictures and watch videos of him. I would write him emails and text messages. In your situation, you might try just typing out an email and saving it in drafts but not sending it. You have to get that yearning out, otherwise, it will stay inside of you and fester. I hope you find peace soon. xoxoxo

May 18, 12:15PM EDT0

Do you find writing about your experience to be therapeutic?  

May 15, 2:12PM EDT2

100%. Writing gets those thoughts out that can drive you crazy. It captures the thoughts you don't want to lose. It helps you clarify things to yourself and others. The therapeutic side effects are endless and life-changing. 

May 15, 10:20PM EDT1

Sorry about your loss, my question is, Doing this AMA is helping you at all or are you trying to help others?

May 14, 11:30PM EDT1

It's both. The more I talk about it, the more it helps me and I hope that talking about it also helps others. Every time you tell your story, it becomes part of the community you're telling it to and you become less alone with it.

May 15, 1:07AM EDT0
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Did you both have any legal documents like living will or a will so sudden issues did not disrupt your life dramatically?

May 14, 10:56PM EDT1

Some things we had in place and others we didn't. I advise that everybody get everything like this in order for their families because sorting through paperwork while you're grieving is like trying to grab a glass when your hand is asleep. 

May 15, 1:28AM EDT1

Do you believe life after death?

May 14, 10:47PM EDT1

I do, yes. I'm not sure exactly how it works but at the very base of it, we know that energy never dies. We also know that our body is animated by all types of energy. So, when our bodies die, that energy still lives on somewhere. The question is, does our consciousness go with it? I believe it does. I really do. I can't explain how but I've seen too many things to believe otherwise. I don't necessarily believe in ghosts but I do believe that husband's energy is out there somehwere, wherever that is and his consciousness is intact. 

May 14, 10:52PM EDT0

Did prayer help at all?

May 14, 10:07PM EDT0

I'm agnostic but in a similar vein, meditation helped quite a bit. 

May 14, 10:11PM EDT0

How did you find out about your husband's passing?

May 14, 10:00PM EDT1

He had been in the hospital for about 4 days with sepsis. The doctors and nurses were very confident that they had gotten to it in time and told me that when he was released that I was going to have to take care of his IV antibiotics, which he would need for at least a month if not longer. So I would go home every night to get some sleep. 

They were so confident that they got to it in time that the schedule of tests on his wall had a stress test scheduled for the Monday after he died. He died on a Saturday morning. February 27th, 2016. It took a long time for me to enjoy Saturdays again. 

So I was home and got a call from the nurses that they were doing CPR on him and to come in straight away. Even then, I felt confident that they had revived him and the thought that he was dead never crossed my mind. 

I was panicked though and got my friend to drive me. I rushed up to his floor and ran into the nurse's station out of breath letting them know I was there to see my husband. 

I expected that he would be laying in bed, embarrassed or at the very worst in a coma. When I said his name, the nurse looked at me with sad eyes and pointed to a woman behind her. 

This woman had different scrubs than the rest of the nurses. They were bright and cheerful. She had short gray hair and kind and compassionate eyes. I knew immediately that she was hospice. She didn't even have to say anything. 

She didn't even have to say anything. I knew from the look in her eyes. I fell to my knees and started saying "no" over and over again. Somehow she had a hold of my hands and helped me up. I don't even remember walking but the next thing I knew I was pacing back and forth and begging with the doctor that he could still be saved somehow in a conference room next to the nurse's station. 

May 14, 10:18PM EDT1

"She didn't even have to say anything" - that is very powerful, thank you for sharing your experience, one day, sadly, I will have to remember your words.

May 15, 11:19AM EDT1

Time heals they say, True?

May 14, 9:50PM EDT1

I mean...it does get better but I think it would be more correct to say that time builds endurance to the pain and helps you find a different perspective. That's when you start feeling what some would call relief and that's when you can start building a positive road forward while still nurturing the grief in the background that will always be there with you.

May 14, 10:02PM EDT0

When did it sink in?

May 14, 9:49PM EDT1

That's a good question. I think it was a gradual thing for me. Even still today sometimes I will sit here and all of a sudden be filled with this incredulity that he's dead. Like, how can he not be here? But that is nothing like it was at first. 

I remember in that first week especially but also in the first few months, I had this feeling that somehow I could still pull him out of the sky. Like it felt like there was something, somehow I could do to bring him back. Or that it was all a dream and I would wake up with him next to me in bed.  

It felt like if I could just think of some way to work my way around physics, he could come back. You really do believe that in a way. I mean, logically you know you can't, but emotionally, there is this sliver of belief that there is some solution to bringing him back if you could just find it.  

I would look at pictures of him and try to will him to come out of the photograph. I really had this feeling that it could be possible if I willed it enough. Eventually, that feeling dissipated, dissolved. But it was never a single moment where I feel like it sunk in. It was something that happened in the background as I grieved and now it is an accepted fact of my life. He's gone. But I still have our love and my memories of him and I am actually able to enjoy those memories now. That's incredibly valuable. 

May 14, 9:58PM EDT0

How important is family when greiving? Should we ask them for help or greiving alone is important?

May 14, 9:33PM EDT0

I think both. Sometimes being around people made me feel more alone. It depends on your mood and how your day is going, I think. What helped me most was a balance of friends and family and seeking out other widow(er)s (who eventually become friends). Having that mix of people gives you a choice when you don't want to be alone but also don't know if you can handle being around people who don't understand (by no fault of their own). 

May 14, 9:59PM EDT0

What do you do for a living now?

May 14, 8:52PM EDT0

I am trying a few things. I am a freelance writer, I just opened a raw pet food delivery business in Ontario and I make jewelry on Etsy. I think writing is my main goal right now but I do enjoy my day being divided into different things. 

May 14, 9:03PM EDT0

In your opinion is grief important to experience for Humanity's sake?

May 14, 8:42PM EDT0

Yes. I 100% think this is a correct assertion. It's a horrible experience I wouldn't wish on anybody but also, it makes you see the world differently. That can be good or bad or both, really. But it has been at the heart of some of the most beautiful writing/art/films/music. If we didn't grieve, life wouldn't have as much meaning. 

May 14, 9:04PM EDT0

Were there things that your husband took care of that after his death you had to deal with and kept you confused and lost? TIA.

May 14, 7:05PM EDT1

Yes, we ran a film company together (www.renegademotionpictures.com) but he was the face of the company and did the more complex stuff. I was more admin and web stuff, which is where I am most comfortable. I have since had to take over his role to get the scripts he left behind made and it is a really scary feeling to not know exactly what I'm doing and if I'm screwing up his work that he left behind. Luckily, I am working with some really good producers in California who respected Steven and who I share a mutual respect with and I know that they have my back and they have been such a big help. I am so incredibly grateful. 

May 14, 8:53PM EDT1

What an amazing story Rachel, thank you!

May 14, 9:19PM EDT1

It must be hard to move on, finding a new companionship. How do you communicate this desire to your children and how did they take it?

May 14, 11:12AM EDT1

I don't have any biological children of my own. My husband was a bit older than me, though we did talk about the possibility. However, I have INCREDIBLE stepchildren who I still very much consider family and who have been so loving and supportive. I cherish them. I haven't really discussed the subject much with them but when the time is right (or if they're reading this haha) then I will. I know that it will probably be a bit awkward but they are such good people, they will ultimately be happy for me. 

May 14, 8:55PM EDT0

What kind of activity helped you cope afterwards?

May 14, 9:48AM EDT0

Yoga was one of the biggest things activity wise that helped me. Meditation, writing and reading other widow(er) experiences also helped me a lot. I would scour the web for every blog ever written by every widow(er) ever. Haha. It was a good way to get to the next moment. 

May 14, 8:56PM EDT0

Have you made any major changes to your life after your loss and if so, what were they? Thank you for your answer.

May 14, 6:05AM EDT0

Yes, I have changed careers, I am now a freelance writer and doing a couple of startup businesses including a raw pet food delivery company. 

I eat so much healthier now and do a lot more yoga and meditating. I used to take a lot of things personally and I don't have time for that anymore. If somebody has a problem with me, I try to let it be their problem, not mine (it's still a process but I'm getting better at it all the time). I say what I think more.  

I push myself past my fears and try new things like a True Story Open Mic Night at a pub down the street from me. I get up there once a month and tell a story. I would have been petrified to do that before.  

I'm making my life fuller and richer because my husband was my everything and I don't regret that. Not in the least. But now he showed me how short life is and how easily it can be taken away. Knowing that, I know it's all worth a try, even if you fail, you win.  

May 14, 10:09PM EDT0

with all its pain and sorrow, death is unfortunately inevitable. Maybe what we need to do is always prepare, live every day as your last, every new as your first?

May 14, 3:49AM EDT0

This is something I have learned since my husband's death and why I am doing things like this. I am making myself overcome fears, try things that I thought I would never be able to do and just love life and see the beauty in it brighter than I ever have before. However, it is has been a process and to think that you can be prepared for this kind of loss is a precarious thing. I don't think anything can really prepare you for it. You just have to get through it and then try to learn from it as you make it a part of yourself. I fear going through it again, but I know I will get through it and love life again if it does. 

May 14, 8:58PM EDT0

Losing a loved one.. What do you do about coming home to find an empty home?

May 14, 3:07AM EDT0

This was one of the hardest parts at first. C.S. Lewis wrote the famous line in his book, A Grief Observed - highly recommended - "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." It's the absolute truth. 

Your heart beats with pure anxiety and you feel like you might have a heart attack. You lose your breath, I can't tell you how many times I almost passed out. It is torturous. 

A lot of things would fill me with that feeling but the ones that filled me with it the most were going grocery shopping and coming home, knowing he wouldn't be there but still having that feeling like he should be. The empty home, you can't avoid it. You just have to keep reminding yourself to breathe. 

May 14, 1:55PM EDT0
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Do you know if support grief groups exist in your area? Have you attended one? Great questions by the way.

May 14, 1:40AM EDT1

I attended several support groups, yes. I highly recommend doing that to anybody who is ready for it. I needed it. I reached out for support groups in the first month because it was too painful. I needed to share with others who understood. I did a formal support group and an informal one that is a local chapter of the organization, Soaring Spirits.

Both helped me immensely. It brings a lot of relief to know that most of the things you are experiencing in your grief are normal. Validation is such a powerful tool with grief. I have also made lifelong friends who are also a part of why I'm doing so well so quickly. 

May 14, 1:58PM EDT1
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How do you know the difference between grief, depression, and frustration?

May 14, 12:45AM EDT1

Having experience with both lifelong depression (my husband was actually a huge part of me getting to a better place with my depression) and the grief of my husband, I can definitely tell you that you know the difference. A lot of the feelings may have the same descriptive words; sadness, anguish, melancholy, numbness, anxiety, etc., but they 100% feel different. 

To start, there is a deep, gut-wrenching, painful yearning with a loss like a spouse that nothing I have ever felt compares to. It is a yearning that is hard to describe. It's in your bones, it's in your cells. Every single part of you is yearning from the depths of despair to have your person back. My husband's absence filled every part of me. 

Also, the anxiety is different. This one is harder to put into words. The anxiety for both is definitely earth shattering and I am not saying one is worse than the other but with grief, there is this sort of a mind altering aspect to the anxiety. You feel like the grid is starting to unravel. It leaves you breathless and feeling like your heart could easily pump out of your chest. 

Both depression and grief are absolutely horrible to experience but they are definitely different experiences. 

May 14, 6:51PM EDT1

You put in words what I could never have done, and thank you for that.

May 14, 8:11PM EDT1

What was going through your mind the first day, first week, first month after your husband passed away?

May 13, 11:03PM EDT1

The first day, the only thing I could think over and over again was the word, "no." Nothing seemed real. Everything moved in slow motion and saying goodbye to my husband's body was and still is one of the hardest, worst, most gut-wrenching things I have ever had to do. If my friend hadn't been with me, I might still be there. I just couldn't leave. I would leave his hospital room and that feeling of absence and separation was so strong and heavy and painful that I would just turn right back around and bawl by his side, petting his hair, willing him to open his eyes (he just look like he was sleeping and could wake up at any moment). Walking out of that hospital, my legs have never been shakier. 

The first week was all family and funeral stuff. I was just trying to get through and I'm glad they were here. I had my breakdowns and screamed at my mom. I didn't know whether I was coming or going. It was a whirlwind. I actually didn't have much time to think. Or, I think I tried not to. Everybody should really have their funeral arrangements done by the time they're 30 so that the family you leave behind doesn't have to go through the planning of it. Dealing with the car salesman like attitude of the guy at the funeral home was horrible. I know he was just doing his job but it was the last thing I needed. 

The first month was pure, relentless, unending pain. It was nonstop. A lot of guilty thoughts went through my mind. I could have been nicer to him the first few days at the hospital (he died of sepsis, the doctors thought they caught it in time, so the idea of him dying wasn't even on anybody's mind). So many things come back to you that you could have done differently. That happened a lot in the first month. The first month is also when I set up my first blog www.survivingwidowhood.blogspot.com

May 14, 7:03PM EDT1
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Is there really such a thing as “closure" ?

May 13, 9:09PM EDT1

Not in my experience. Closure, to me, represents a sense of finality or an ending. No, grief like this will always be with you. However, what can happen is that you can accept that grief and make friends with it and acknowledge it so that it evolves and grows with you, ensuring that there is room for other things like hope, joy, excitement, etc. And even when you start enjoying life again, there is always that sense of loss in the background. And while there is still pain, it is far less painful and more like an empty echo. In a lot of ways, it makes life richer because you are seeing things from a deeper part of you. There is more depth to everything. That's as close as you can come to closure. 

May 14, 5:33PM EDT1

I know some widows that lost interest in their hobbies, even family life.. do you feel that happened to you?

May 13, 8:44PM EDT1

Yes, absolutely. Especially at first. One of the reasons is that the pain is so overwhelming that you develop something called grief brain. Your brain can only handle so much and the pain of grief is so vast that parts of your brain just shut off. There were times I would be about to walk out the door and realize that I didn't have a shirt on. I just completely forgot. Other widows I know have said they caught themselves walking out their door without pants. I have worn two different shoes before. It decimates every part of you, including your focus, attention and memory. It's hard ti concentrate on anything for very long.  

Then there is that aspect of some of those things reminding you of your spouse. Or of a time or ritual with your spouse. You do start to regain interest in some things but not others, it's weird. Like I was able to start trying to play my violin again but I still can't watch sci fi or horror, two things I have always loved way before I met my husband, since childhood, but he loved them as much as me and it was something we loved sharing with each other. I have no interest in it anymore. 

May 14, 9:10PM EDT0

Grief can be hard on your health, how did you take care of yourself? Thank you for doing this AMA!

May 13, 7:14PM EDT0

This is a great question and also one of my processes. Now one thing to remember is that grief is experienced differently by everybody. No two people will have the exact response to a healing process. I am going to clarify this a lot because I want to make sure people don't think everybody can do the same things to heal. 

Having said that, there are a lot of similarities and a lot of people do benefit in similar ways from similar things, so they are always worth a try but nobody should ever beat themselves up if it doesn't work for them. Ever. We all have to do what we have to do to get through so much pain. 

So, the first two months for me were the absolute worst and I could barely eat. I lost 20 pounds in that two months, my stomach wouldn't hold much in and I had no energy to do anything. This definitely affected me in a lot of ways. I lost a lot of hair, which is growing back slowly but surely and I developed cystic acne all over my back. Something I had never had before. I knew I had to do something. 

I started forcing myself to eat. Since I wasn't hungry and had no cravings, I used that to my advantage and made myself eat only healthy things. I started doing yoga every day, every single day. A really spiritual yoga called kundalini. Both of these things began having a powerful effect on me by the end of the third month. 

I also started to take vitamins and supplements and meditate every day. It's all hard to keep up with, even still today but I know how valuable it is and I push through so that it stays a habit. 

May 14, 2:30PM EDT1
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What books and blogs inspire you these days?

May 13, 12:03PM EDT0

So, I want to answer this with books/blogs/articles that helped in the beginning and what I turn to now.

In the beginning:

Books:

Widow to Widow: Thoughtful, Practical Ideas for Rebuilding Your Life - Genevieve Davis Ginsburg

Widow to Widow: Thoughtful, Practical Ideas for Rebuilding Your Life - Genevieve Davis Ginsburg

Seven Choices: Finding Daylight after Loss Shatters Your World - Elizabeth Harper Neeld

I Can’t Stop Crying: Grief and Recovery, A Compassionate Guide -  John D. Martin, Frank D. Ferris

I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One -  Brook Noel, Pamela D. Blair

Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief – Tom Zuba 

C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed

Blogs/Articles:

http://misadventuresofwidowhood.blogspot.ca/2012/01/widowhood-day-one.html

http://www.refugeingrief.com/blog/

 

http://www.opentohope.com/death-of-a-spouse/

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/in-grief-try-personal-rituals/284397/

 

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/grieving/features/2011/the_long_goodbye/the_long_goodbye.html

What I read now:

I got away from reading so much about grief as I took in all I could in teh beginning. So now I read things that make me feel good. I like Neil Gaiman a lot, the transcendentalists (Thoreau/Emerson) are always comforting to me, Chuck Klosterman makes me laugh and I actually read a lot of reddit. Haha. There are people on reddit who can make you laugh and then there are those who can make you cry. It is full of talented and wonderful people as long as you stick to the parts of reddit they go to. :) 

May 14, 10:41PM EDT0

HAve you gotten drunk since, in a good way or a bad way? ;)

May 13, 10:39AM EDT1

Yes, absolutely. I got nicely drunk at my husband's celebration of life event, mere days after he died. I know it is risky and can become a bad habit if you let it but alcohol was a way to escape some of the pain at first. I would always be very careful not to let it become a habit, though sometimes I probably did veer on the edge a bit but it was just nice to feel that slight euphoric numbness that just made you feel kind of human again and brought forth the humor of things more than the pain.

I would raise my glass of vodka to my husband and watch stand-up comedy. When I eventually started going out with friends again, it felt good to numb myself around people and pretend I was one of them. 

You have to be very careful with it, very. But it can be a good escape. 

May 14, 5:37PM EDT1

Very csreful for sure, it can take you to dark places. It's not for everybody, some people react to alcohol totally different than others.

May 14, 8:08PM EDT1

Do you have children and if yes, how are they dealing with it?

May 13, 6:18AM EDT1

I have beautiful stepchildren. None of my own biologically but I cherish and adore my stepchildren. I have heard horror stories of the stepmom being thrown aside by the family and they have been nothing but loving and supportive. They are really good people. 

They have talked to me a little bit about it but not too much. I know they miss him and I know that they yearn for him. He was a special guy and very unique. Hard to get his kind of energy anywhere else. 

May 14, 9:48PM EDT0

What makes you happy, what puts a smile on your face?

May 12, 11:16PM EDT1

My friends, stand-up comedy, Broad City, Frasier, summer, the lake at night, my two cats and dog, remembering and feeling my husband's smile. Thank you for this question. :)

May 14, 5:43PM EDT1

And thank you for sharing your story with us :)

May 14, 8:07PM EDT1

Any good suggestions for grief books?

May 12, 8:54PM EDT1

I have a few yes, there is a list somewhere, I'm going to look for it as I answer questions and get back to you. I can tell you the one that helped me the most, though. I will never forget it. It is written to be easy to read for somebody who is grieving because we don't have a lot of focus or concentration during the darkest days. I still have problem with it, to be honest, haha. Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief by Tom Zuba. That is where I first learned about setting an intention to heal. It was transformative. 

May 14, 8:23PM EDT1
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How long had you been married? I can't even think of the possibility of my boyfriend passing without a pain in my chest. 

May 12, 8:08PM EDT1

We had just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary almost exactly a month before he died. We were together a total of almost 11 years. 

May 14, 5:44PM EDT1

A decade plus.

May 14, 8:06PM EDT1

What music would you recommend for grieving death?

May 12, 7:15PM EDT0

Oh, music has been so incredibly helpful to me. This youtube video right here was one of the best things, I would play it over and over again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjJ9TDdQUdY

Also, a lot of classical is very soothing. Also, there is a lot of music from the forties and fifties that capture love and heartbreak that feels validating. 

I think it's what speaks to you the most. Those were the things that resonated with me. They pulled a catharsis out of me. If you can find that in anything you're listening to, it will be helpful. If it makes you cry, embrace it. Those tears are a release of grief. The more you let yourself release, the more it releases. 

May 14, 9:17PM EDT0

Sorry for your loss! I want to ask-- Have you found anything you didn't want to find after his death and if yes, what?

May 12, 6:47PM EDT1

Fortunately, I did not have this happen to me. Thank goodness. I have heard and read horror stories of this happening. Everything I have found of him since his death is exactly what I knew of him. 

May 14, 9:19PM EDT1

Do you have some down days and how do you deal with that?

May 12, 5:33PM EDT1

Yes, and I have accepted that those are always going to be there, however, they don't last as long as they used to. I recover from them so much more quickly. For example, just this morning, I was in the subway and a musician was singing for coin and he was bellowing out a beautiful rendition of "Keep on the Sunny Side." That was one of the songs we played at my husband's funeral. At first, it was a like a punch in the gut and I felt tears well up in my eyes. 

It hurt. A lot, but I was then able to remember that we played that song at his funeral because he loved it so much. He would just sing it out of the blue all the time. And that made me smile remembering how happy that song made him. The sadness was still there but the happy memory helped sooth it to the background and I was able to push on and enjoy my day, which I did. 

Had that happened in the first 6 months, my whole day would have been ruined and full of meltdowns. Now, it is a momentary punch in the gut that I recover from quickly. 

May 14, 9:22PM EDT0

Do you think after this unfortunate experience you understand death better or worse than before?

May 12, 3:37PM EDT1

I definitely feel like I understand it better. I have never been afraid of dying but I was always scared of any kind of pain that might be associated with it. Now, I have more of a peace about all of it and I feel my life energy more. Knowing that death could happen at any time in any way makes me want to experience more and do more. I understand more bout both life and death, I would say. 

May 14, 9:24PM EDT0

When do you stop grieving?

May 12, 2:48PM EDT1

You don't, Jasmine. The grief is always going to be there but as soon as you accept that and know it, it can become almost like a companion that you don't necessarily want but you accept and allow because otherwise you would miss out on other things. 

You also build up a tolerance and an endurance to it. So it changes, it evolves and grows with you. So, yes, you do feel better and start to enjoy life again but that grief is always there in the background but that is not necessarily a bad thing. 

May 14, 9:26PM EDT0

Sorry for your loss. Question, have you already published some books?

May 12, 2:42PM EDT1

Not yet, I am just now embarking on this lifelong dream. It's something my husband always pushed me to do. I am doing it for the both of us. 

May 14, 9:27PM EDT0

Can you talk a little about the healing process, what have you done or doing??

May 12, 12:13PM EDT1

For me, the most important things have been eating really healthy, doing some sort of physical activity (I mostly do yoga but when the weather is nice also enjoy hill sprints), meditating and letting the grief out no matter what. 

Holding the grief in at places like work and important function, yeah, you have to try to keep it in. But other than that, I would just let it out. If grief overcame me at the grocery store (and it did, the grocery store is a huge trigger in the early days), I would let myself cry and explain to the cashier that my husband died. If it hit me on the subway, I wouldn't care what people thought, I would let those tears out. 

I also listened to a lot of music and watched so much comedy. Watching comedies was a huge comfort to me. Another thing that is mentioned in another comment here is going through my gratitude lists every night before bed. That was definitely soothing. 

Support groups and meeting other widows was also hugely helpful and even though it was difficult and sometimes felt worse than better, dating helped a bit once I was ready for that. 

My friends and support system are invaluable to me and my two cats and dog give me so much unconditional love and cuddles. I take it all in and let it all out. 

May 14, 10:27PM EDT0

What scares you?

May 12, 10:59AM EDT1

Losing somebody else. This is the worst thing I have ever gone through and I admit that I am scared to go through it again. 

May 14, 8:08PM EDT1
Show all 3 replies

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

May 12, 10:57AM EDT1

I see a completely different person who I don't recognize anymore but I am getting to know her and I'm really starting to like her. 

May 14, 8:09PM EDT1

Love to hear that, stay strong and positive!

May 14, 8:16PM EDT1

What are your grief books about?

May 12, 10:45AM EDT1

I answered a similar question earlier, so I hope you don't mind, I'm going to cut and paste: 

My first book is about the first year of my grief after my husband died suddenly from sepsis. It's called, I Hope They Have Email in the Afterlife:Musings, Texts, Breakdowns, Emails, Poetry and Social Media Messages from a Widow in Her First Year. I have been working on it since the New Year and it will be ready to publish in mid July. 

I am also writing a fictional book called The Widow's Clock about a widow who travels back in time after a broken clock that belonged to her late husband starts working again. She uses this new gift to try to save her husband and learns about life and death in the process. This is my passion and I hope to have it out by Christmas. It's a project that I have been nurturing for almost a year. 

May 14, 9:43PM EDT0

If you could turn back the clock and have your husband by your side..?

May 12, 10:06AM EDT1

In a second. In a bloody second. That's actually what my second book is about. It's called "The Widow's Clock" about a widow who discovers a way to travel back in time after a busted clock that belonged to her husband starts working again. The book was born out of my yearning to bring him back. To do things differently. I just knew if I could go back in time, I could stop it. 

May 14, 8:11PM EDT1

Can't wait to get my hands on your book ;)

May 14, 9:23PM EDT1

Hi Rachel, you're a brave woman! Would like to know, what would you have done differently if you knew then what you know today?

May 12, 9:15AM EDT1

Ha, I just answered something similar. There are a lot of things. I don't even know where to begin. Once you start thinking like that, though, you go through a wormhole that is hard to come out of. I learned after a while not to go there anymore. However, it did inspire me to start writing a book called "The Widow's Clock" about a widow who discovers a way to travel back in time to save her husband. There is a lot learned about life and death along the way. It was all born out of realizations I had. 

May 14, 8:13PM EDT1
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If you don't mind me asking, what happened?

May 12, 9:13AM EDT1

He somehow had an infection that we had no clue about and it went septic. Apparently, this can happen very easily. Many people both healthy and not so healthy (my husband was a bit older than me and had suffered from horrible arthritis in the last few years of our marriage so he was on a ton of medication that impacted his immune system). Since his death, I have learned quite a bit about sepsis and sepsis awareness. I try to spread the info about warning signs as much as I can because not even doctors and nurses are that well-versed in it. http://www.sepsis.org/sepsis/symptoms/

May 14, 8:29PM EDT0

How's life different today than it was when your husband was around?

May 12, 8:27AM EDT1

It's a lot quieter in our apartment. Haha. There was always at least one time every day that my husband would have me on the ground laughing with my stomach hurting. That doesn't happen anymore and I really miss that. 

I still laugh a lot and I watch a lot of stand-up and comedies (Broad City is my life!). I find laughter whenever I can but I haven't had a laugh as deep and sidesplitting as I did every day with my husband.  

Also, I do different work. We ran a film company together, http://www.renegademotionpictures.com and while I am working with some producers in California to produce scripts he left behind, I mostly concentrate on my freelance writing career. It's a different kind of life for sure but I'm not sad about it. I'm chasing more of my solo dreams as opposed to chasing a dream we had together. There is a sadness to that but it's also exciting.  

I also eat way healthier and have slowly made changes to our apartment to a point where it feels more like my apartment now. That also helps. It feels cleansing in a way.  

I don't need things to be as perfect as I used to and I care a lot less about what people think about me. Those are things that my husband would be so happy about. And maybe he is. : ) 

May 14, 3:19PM EDT1

"There was always at least one time every day that my husband would have me on the ground laughing with my stomach hurting. That doesn't happen anymore and I really miss that. " That really is telling the story, I feel like I'm there with you. Thanks for sharing.

May 14, 8:05PM EDT1

Have you gone on dates since? I hope not dates from hell :)

May 12, 1:01AM EDT1

I have actually and yes, I did have a couple of dates from hell. I'm glad, though. I learned a lot from them. I eventually started dating somebody who surprised me. I was not expecting to feel like that with anybody so soon. He couldn't be more different from my husband but I see that as a good thing. I wouldn't want to replace my husband, he is irreplaceable. The new person I'm seeing is as well, in a different way. I feel incredibly lucky at the moment with that sadness and loss in the background. It's a weird world. 

May 14, 8:31PM EDT0

How important do you believe gratitude is when grieving a loved one?

May 12, 12:58AM EDT1

This is another one of my processes! I cannot tell you how much it helped me! My husband and I used to go over gratitude lists before bed and I remembered how much that helped so somewhere in the third week, I started going through a gratitude list before bed. It really did soothe me. I still had so much left in my life and it is really, really hard to see that with such a big loss. You really have to force yourself in a big way but if you can, it can be incredibly helpful. 

May 14, 3:10PM EDT1

Great answer, thank you.

May 14, 8:03PM EDT1

Hey Rachel, you're so strong. I'd like to ask you, have you tried writing poems to cope with the loss? If so I did that go?

May 12, 12:44AM EDT1

Thank you! I have! And I will be showcasing them in the book I'm self-publishing this July called I Hope They Have Email in the Afterlife:Musings, Texts, Breakdowns, Emails, Poetry and Social Media Messages from a Widow in Her First Year. I did publish one on my the blog I posted in my first year here http://survivingwidowhood.blogspot.ca/2017/04/writing-to-get-through.html but I'll also copy and paste here for those who don't want to leave the conversation. 

The Pain of Dreams

There is a place 

Where you are

With your smile, that smile

Eyes gleaming like stars

You have been waiting for me

I collapse in your arms

There is so much you want me to see

Oh, how I have missed your charm

We dance and laugh and make love

I never want to leave

You are all I ever want to be a part of

I take in all of you and I believe

We can be together forever, again

You are my soul and I am yours

But then I feel you pull away as you grin

I know what this is and everything blurs

"One more night for us." You whisper gently as you fade away

My tears turn to sobs as I feel you go

"But I need forever!" I wail

It's too late and once more, the world is hollow

May 14, 8:38PM EDT0

I love your website, the clean look and feel. Did you design it yourself?

May 12, 12:21AM EDT1

Thank you, Courtney! Yes, I did do it myself. It was a labor of love. I have been wanting to do this for a while. My first blog in the first year was kind of an anonymous venture. This was all me, out in the open and I wanted it to represent me as much as possible so that is a huge compliment. 

May 14, 8:41PM EDT1

Can you tell us more about your books?

May 12, 12:19AM EDT1

Yes, thank you for asking! 

My first book is about the first year of my grief after my husband died suddenly from sepsis. It's called, I Hope They Have Email in the Afterlife:Musings, Texts, Breakdowns, Emails, Poetry and Social Media Messages from a Widow in Her First Year. I have been working on it since the New Year and it will be ready to publish in mid July. 

I am also writing a fictional book called The Widow's Clock about a widow who travels back in time after a broken clock that belonged to her late husband starts working again. She uses this new gift to try to save her husband and learns about life and death in the process. This is my passion and I hope to have it out by Christmas. It's a project that I have been nurturing for almost a year. 

May 14, 8:42PM EDT1

what are the steps to grieving a loved one?

May 11, 11:45PM EDT1

I don't think there are any steps, per se. I do believe that eating healthy, meditating and doing some sort of physical activity is hugely important but I also know how hard it is to motivate yourself to do those things in grief. But if you can do it, those things have a big impact. 

Another thing is to let it out. Let all the grief out as much as you can. Even if that means doing it in public sometimes. Don't hold it in. Want to know why? Because it doesn't go away. It doesn't dissolve or disappear. If you don't deal with it, it will wait patiently for an opening and come out another way. 

That could mean physically, in some sort of illness or in emotional ways that you would never feel was connected, like how you handle customers at work or your children or people on the street. The more you let it out, the less it stays in and that will be helpful down the road. 

May 14, 9:42PM EDT0

So sorry for your loss Rachel. My question is, how did you balance grieving with family holidays and celebrations?

May 11, 11:17PM EDT1

The word that comes to mind when I think about holidays is emptiness and exhaustion. Oh my god the exhaustion. I was completely drained pretty much every one of the holidays in the first year. This year I can feel that abate a bit but there is a very real feeling of absence during those times. I try to picture my husband smiling and dancing and knowing that he would love knowing that I'm loving life again and he would love it even more if I started loving holidays again. That's my next step. 

So, to ultimately answer your question, I don't know yet. :) But I do think it will be something that will come in time. Also? It will never be the same, so the balance will come once I reconcile those two things together. And I will. 

May 14, 9:37PM EDT0

Did you feel like talking about it when that happened or just needed space to cope with it all?

May 11, 11:16PM EDT1

It really depended on the day. Sometimes I just didn't know how to voice my pain and wanted to be alone. Sometimes being around people made me feel more alone. Other times, all I wanted to do was talk about my husband to anybody who would listen. All I wanted to do was talk about my pain to anybody who cared. The only thing that was consistent about any of that early grief was the pain and the fear. Everything else was just all over the place. 

May 14, 3:07PM EDT1
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Can you recommend some books which helped you to move on and love life?

May 11, 11:14PM EDT1

So, the book that helped me move on the most was "Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief" by Tom Zuba. It was transformative for me. I felt every word of it and that was when I first set an intention to heal. It was amazing how quickly I progressed in the following weeks. 

Having said that, not everybody will resonate with his book like that, I know a widow or two who didn't. So, I don't want to get anybody's hopes up but I do hope that you give it try just in case. 

These books also helped me a lot by providing loads of validation:

Widow to Widow: Thoughtful, Practical Ideas for Rebuilding Your Life - Genevieve Davis Ginsburg

Seven Choices: Finding Daylight after Loss Shatters Your World - Elizabeth Harper Neeld

I Can’t Stop Crying: Grief and Recovery, A Compassionate Guide -  John D. Martin, Frank D. Ferris

I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One -  Brook Noel, Pamela D. Blair 

C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed

May 14, 10:47PM EDT0

How difficult was the experience for you? How do you deal with such a big loss?

May 11, 11:09PM EDT1

It was the worst thing I have ever experienced. The worst pain I have ever felt. I always thought about what I would do if my husband died but you just have no idea how deep and raw the pain is. The way I would describe those first three months or so before things started easing up just a bit was that felt like having acid continuously poured on your skin with no let up at all. 

You can only deal with it moment to moment. Even taking it day by day is too much for a pain this deep. It really is surviving from one moment to the next. You have to,  you have no choice. I did wish to join my husband many times. 

One thing I did was watch a lot of comedies to keep the energy light and have something to focus on. I watched Bridesmaids ad nauseum and Frasier for some reason was very comforting to me so I had that on a lot as well. Stand-up comedy helped and that's also when I discovered the joy of Broad City. I will never be able to thank Abby and Ilana enough for helping me get through the worst of my grief. 

May 14, 8:48PM EDT0

I'll try to cheer you up here. What are some good songs for a grieving wife?

May 11, 11:08PM EDT1

For me, it was classical music and a lot of music from the forties and fifties. Also, Led Zeppelin believe it or not. Some Grateful Dead. It really is whatever resonates with you. Some people resonate with some things and others with other things. I think the important thing is to find those songs and that music that fills you to the depths of your soul and if it makes you cry, so much the better. That's the sublime part of grief, that's the catharsis. That's where you release. The beauty of whatever music that touches you becomes the beauty of your pain. Music is energy and when you feel a connection with it, hold on to that. 

May 14, 9:33PM EDT0

Sorry for your loss. How should friends comfort a grieving wife?

May 11, 11:07PM EDT2

Thank you. Friends are incredibly important during the grieving process but nothing makes you feel more alone than when a friend doesn't give you the validation that you need as somebody in an overwhelming amount of pain. We are not capable, in the beginning and some even longer, to see outside of our pain. It is that massive. We need our friends to understand this. 

There are several things you can do to help convey that you understand that their lives are all about their pain right now. 

1) Please do not act like their husband (or wife/spouse/partner) didn't exist. There is nothing we love more, even from the beginning than to hear other people talk about their favorite memories or things they loved about our person. Helping your friend keep their person alive is huge. (Always ask gently first, just in case because not every griever is the same but this is one that a lot of grievers do agree on).

1a) Extending on that, a lot of people think that bringing up the deceased will set their friend off but you know what? That's okay! In most cases, that is actually helping us with our grieving process. Again, everybody is different, so approach it gently and ask first, but a majority of grievers will likely agree.  

2) If you don't hear from them, don't take it personally. It's hard to reach out to people in that haze of pain. But we do like knowing that people are thinking about us. Send texts saying that you are thinking about them. Ask them to do something but don't take it personally if they say no. 

3) Bring them healthy food! Cooking is nearly impossible for most of us in those early days. It brings back so many memories of the life that was just destroyed. Most of us either just won't eat or will eat very convenient things that aren't all that healthy.

4) Ask them if they need groceries! Grocery stores are a common theme with widow(er)s. They are filled with so many memories and are incredibly difficult to navigate at first without a complete meltdown. 

5) Listen to them. Don't be upset if they cry, let them get it out. Let them talk about their pain. Let them know you are a safe place for them to say anything they need to. 

6) If they are open to it, hug them as much as you can. Hugs release small amounts of oxytocin and create a feeling of contact that is usually needed by somebody who is feeling so vulnerable, shaky and like they're an alien from another planet. 

7) It's hard seeing somebody you care about in pain, you are going to want to make them feel better. You are going to want to try to cheer them up or take their minds off of it. Please resists this urge if you can (unless your version of cheering them up includes their grief somehow, dark humor about grief can sometimes be helpful but tread lightly and don't do it in a way that minimizes or invalidates them). They are feeling so far away from human right now that those things usually only remind them of how much they aren't fitting into society right now. 

8) Finally, don't judge them for anything they need to do to survive. Sometimes reckless behavior feels good when you are grieving. Obviously, you don't want it to become a problem but try to let them let off some steam in any way that feels good to them without trying to stop them. Let them get it out. It gives us a much-needed break from our grief. If you see it become a problem, that is a different story but the less judged we feel, the less likely it will become a problem or a habit. 

It's not easy being a friend to somebody who is grieving, thank you for asking this question. I hope my answer helps. 

May 14, 2:57PM EDT1

This AMA is golden, thank you thank you thank you!

May 14, 8:21PM EDT2