I’m a grief group dropout, attending three but dropping out of two.

There is no one right way to grieve. And no one can tell you if you should attend a grief group or not, or if you choose to, what kind of group to attend. Knowing this, and having a curiosity about grief groups, led to my online search for the ones I found.

I found I like interaction with other group members, not structured canned programs with happy faces narrating videos. I found I like seasoned leaders, not newbies. I found that I like groups limited to loss of spouses, not including losses of other relatives or friends.

My best and lasting group was run by two social workers at the hospice that cared for my husband and me. It was only four meetings, but it was nicely broken up by the leaders giving information, and the surviving spouses sharing stories. It amazed me how quickly our small group of six to eight bonded over particular aspects we missed—our cooks, handymen, housekeepers, companions, lovers, confidants.

Even the testy times several of us experienced as our spouses became more ill and less able to do for themselves. I loved when one woman said her husband got “sassy.” I thought that word was a lovely euphemism for crabby. So, when I think of Marv not appreciating my driving skills of his SUV, I’ve just reframed his instructions on how to park in our garage as being a bit sassy.

Sassy sounds much better than the way the scene unfolded the few times I had to be his chauffeur towards last when the brain tumor took over his reasoning skills. I called his SUV a semi-truck compared to my 2000 Beetle, and hoped he’d understand why I couldn’t see the sides of the semi when I was trying not to scrape off a side mirror on the side of the garage, or, forbid, scratch the sides of my beloved Beetle. But one thing he hadn’t lost at all was his ability to see all sides of the semi and all sides of my lack of skills. I finally relented and said, “Honey, you know I’m hopeless. You know I’ll never learn.” And then he would chuckle and say, ‘Yes, you are and no you won’t.” And we’d smile and take our packages into the house.

mail piles up

It’s the tender moments, as well as the sassy ones that sometime preceded, that pop into my mind now as I think about the three months that have passed since Marv died. The time has simply disappeared. I’ve done a HOST of paper work and encountered a few legal challenges, dripping windows, dying evergreens, and ever-growing mountains of Marv’s third-class mail (over 25 calendars, plus hundreds of free return address labels). I have no one to blame my messes on—the dishes stack themselves in the sink, the washing overflows the hamper, the kitchen bar sports piles of just my accumulations, and I forget to change the sheets.

I have no routines yet. I get up and do what has to be done. It seems like I have no control because there’s nothing normal yet about my days. There is still so much to do. For example, it’s taken about ten hours the last two days just to get Quicken from Marv’s desktop to my laptop. Even after all the tutorials and online help, I still needed support personnel at Quicken and my financial institutions.

All this frustration after Marv suggesting over and over I would want to use Quicken, and he would help me get it up and running on my computer, but no, I KNEW I’d never want to use it. Clearly, I knew nothing and now I can’t even apologize to him for my bullheadedness. He’d just grin, though, and probably work hard not to say, “I told you so.”

So, now I’m thankful I have a few new friends from the grief group to share these first months of being on our own. We’ve decided to keep on meeting and maybe become a little sassy ourselves. For sure, we have lots to learn from each other as we swerve around or jump over the obstacles we encounter on this unknown path toward living alone.