Grief recovery, loss of child, healing after death & loss 

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Michelle Shelton 480-577-8272
Home Articles by Michelle Learning to Care Again

Learning to Care Again

25 Years of Marriage

My husband Paul and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the 22 of November, 2014. We went away for a few days and stayed in a cabin. We worked, ate, drank and relaxed. We went thrift store shopping and antique shopping and tried a few restaurants. It was a fun little trip. It has been difficult since Phil died. We are often quite tired and these little trips have become our escape from the reality of our life without Phil.

How we got Married

While we were together we discussed how our lives had taken such a turn of events with the loss of our child. Phillip was who really brought us together. We were young and frivolous and didn’t date long and I became pregnant. Believe it or not, I was fairly old fashioned and when Paul mentioned living together, I was not happy. I think I said something about being good enough to sleep with but not good enough to marry.  He was taken back by this. I was okay with raising a baby on my own. I certainly didn’t want him to feel trapped or marry me “just” because of the baby. I adored Paul and saw the potential future we could have together.

My Father was not Happy about the Marriage!

At that time, Paul assured me that I was good enough to marry and that he was simply afraid of marriage. His brothers had all had failed relationships and he was a bit frightened by the lifetime commitment. He must have given it some serious thought because a few nights later, he proposed and I said yes. My father was mortified. Who was this guy who had swept me off my feet so quickly? What did he have going for himself?

We Made it Through the Tough Years

Fast forward 25 years. When I look at the overall picture of our marriage I can say, I am happy with it. We struggled through some rough times when we were married around the 17-18 year mark. We both had become very victim. We struggled with Phil and his drug use. He was a bad example to the other kids, a challenge for us as parents. He had run away and we spent a fortune wanting to save Phillip from himself. We attacked and blamed each other for how the other parented. We felt helpless during those times. Not a good course for a marriage to go. Around this same time we started participating in a lot of intense personal growth classes and we somehow muddled through those dark years and came out on the other side, much stronger, responsible and proud of the longevity of our time together.

The Weight Gain and Emotional Eating

I have noticed that when couples are married a long time, they take on each others habits.  Especially exercise and eating habits. Paul and I began to discuss this over the weekend. We both have gained a tremendous amount of weight since Phillip died. I personally have packed on the pounds at an alarming rate. Everyone keeps saying, don’t worry you will take it off later. I have never been a very good later type of person. I even went to my doctor and his solution was to put me on anti-depressants. I gracefully declined and packed on another five pounds. I want to be thin and healthy and yet, thin takes work. It really does. Once you are thin, it is conscious eating and drinking habits to maintain. I was thin when Phil died and I felt good and my clothes fit well and I knew what was going in my mouth the majority of the time. I was operating from choice. So why don’t I just stop eating like this? My brain is so preoccupied with the grief, my eating has gone back to the autopilot it knows. I told my coach it was like I had a grief app open in my brain and running all the time in the background. It requires so much energy that it simply drains my mind and body

Wise Comments from my Husband

While discussing our personal goals for next year, Paul said, “My biggest problem is I have to figure out how to care again.”  For those of you who have not lost a child, you might not understand this. It is easy to give up caring and just walk numbly through the day. The struggle is to keep going and push through the pain each and every waking moment and look for the blessings of life. The new grandchildren, Ava Rose, our children’s successes, our marriage.

So many people have compared the loss of Phillip to the loss of their dog or a parent. I certainly don’t want to diminish anyone’s loss. I simply have lost both parents and several pets including horses and dogs who were great companions, and it is just not the same. As a matter of fact, for me it is not the same at all. I knew when I got a pet that I would most likely outlive them. I didn’t have hopes and dreams for my pet. They were a pet.

As for my parents, they were older than me and from the time I was a small child, I pretty much figured they would be gone before me. I didn’t have hopes and dreams for them either. My relationship was complete with them. They had lived a long life and would get old and die…that is exactly what they did. It was the normal cycle of life. Did I miss them? Yes of course. Did I grieve their death? Yes I did and it was not like that with Phillip.

With Phillip, something inside me died. There is a deep ache to hold him, to talk to him, to love him. I want to see him get married and chose a career. I want to hear his laugh. When I tell this to my friends they tell me to talk to him. Well of course, I do things like that and yet, it is not the same, it will never be the same and my husband is right, I have to figure out how to care again. I simply don’t give a shit about taking care of myself.

The Slippery Slope of Giving Up

As you can see, this is a slippery slope. If I do this for five years or ten, where will I be? I am already 40 pounds overweight. I eat too much, I drink too much and have completely stopped exercising. I say I want to kick griefs ass and yet based on results, most days, I am tired and simply can’t reach down into that part of my spirit that cares. Just getting up and muddling through my day is what I can do, it’s all I can do for now.  Some say I am depressed, others want to save me from myself. They have thrown me ropes and I would rather sink in the quicksand. Is this a victim mentality? Perhaps. Why would anyone want to suffer? I would say because it is normal.

The problem with people wanting to save me with a story about their pet is, they have no benchmark. They have their children. They think they can compare the loss of a dog to the loss of my son because it is the closest thing they have to connect with me. I appreciate the gesture but the best thing one can do is not talk about the loss of their dog. It isn’t the same and it is difficult when in a weakened emotional state to hear this comparison. It’s a dog.

The Body’s way of Dealing is Autopilot

It is normal under pressure for humans to go on autopilot. This is what I have done with my eating habits. I have found that I don’t operate from choice now. I operate from habit. I am medicating my emotions with food and this tells me I have some work to do. Not only emotionally but now physically too. It is going to take discipline and diligence to get the weight off in the first place and then I must act consciously choose my food wisely. I have to make it fun because right now, it isn’t fun.

The mind is a powerful thing. The wonderful thing about the mind is I have the ability to change my life. I can change my thinking and my life will change. I have been looking for the blessings in Phillip’s death. Yes, you heard me. There are many blessings. If Phillip were still alive I would not have developed the amazing relationship I have with my son Sam. I am excited about this relationship as Sam is an amazing young man. So today I choose to thank Phillip for giving me the opportunity to love my son Sam like I never could have if Phil were still here.

As for the weight, well, after Thanksgiving I am ready to tackle it. Right now my focus is on caring enough to get through today and to look for ways to get out of the quicksand.

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2 Comments  comments 

2 Responses

  1. Joanna Booher

    This is so spot on…. and Paul’s comments echo ours. Learning how to care again…. thank you for sharing from your heart. We understand…. and like you, we just keep swimming.

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