Dear Dr. Norquist:
Recently I lost my wife of 27 years. She died of breast cancer in January of 2001. I have 2 daughters who are grown and married. Now I am alone in the house. I go to work each day, where I sit alone at a desk and push papers around, then I go home to an empty house. My life is empty and totally meaningless. I don't understand why God took my wife from me. I thought I would be the first to die. I miss her terribly. We went through everything together and now I am alone. Every day feels empty and gray. What can I do to feel better?
Dr. Norquist responds:
I am so sorry for your loss. Recovering from such a deep loss is a process that occurs over time. Slowly but surely, you need to find ways of re-nourishing your heart. This can be done through reaching out to friends and family, and engaging in hobbies, social activities, classes, and other activities that are interesting and enjoyable to you. For your own physical and emotional health, you must learn how to connect with others. Some hold on to the mourning process because it is a way of staying connected with their loved one. If this is the case for you, then you must consciously choose to accept and embrace your present life.
There are several Bach Flower remedies that might be helpful to you as you recover from this great loss. These include Star of Bethlehem, Honeysuckle, Gorse and Walnut. Bach remedies are homeopathic-like drops that can be found in most health food stores (as with all supplements and medicines, it would be wise to check with your doctor before adding them to your diet).
Tragedies and losses sometimes have the effect of opening doors and stimulating growth that would not have occurred otherwise. There are new adventures awaiting you once you move through your grief. Your wife will always live on with you in your heart. For her sake as well, you must start to rebuild your life. Life is a gift. None of us know when our time is up. Choose to use your time well. Fill it with life, laughter, tears, new adventures, warm times with friends and family and all good things that touch your heart.
Dear Dr. Norquist:
I have been married for three years to a wonderful wife and we have a six-month-old daughter. I came from a very close knit family and when I'm around my parents, I seem to be stuck in the parent/child relationship. My parents live out of town, but we see them about four times a year for about a week each time. Any time there is any friction at all between my wife and parents, like how we are raising our daughter, my inclination is to say nothing and hope everything works itself out. Naturally, my wife feels left out. I keep trying to avoid making anyone mad, but I'm making the person who means the world to me the most angry. My wife says she's sick of it and wants no part of me because she feels secondary to my parents. My parents will be visiting again next month I'm getting pretty nervous. Any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated.
Dr. Norquist responds:
One of the main tasks involved in committing to marriage and a family of your own, is that of making your marriage and new family your priority. This requires emotionally separating from your parents' needs and expectations of you and working together with your partner to establish a new family life that is in alignment with the values and goals that you and your wife hold most dear. This is easiest to do when both partners have a lot of similarity in their background values, customs, and basic up-bringing experiences. It is also easier to do when both husband and wife have been able to establish their own firm sense of identity and values, and have been willing to differ from their parents ways, if necessary, in order to follow what feels most "right" to each of them. This means being willing to incur your parents' anger or disapproval in order to be true to yourself and your new partnership. Remember that establishing your own life does not always require taking an angry, rejecting stance towards your parents, although that is often how it is acted out (especially during adolescence).
In an attempt to avoid anyone's anger, you have been riding the fence, trying to please everyone, and abandoning your wife, yourself, and your new family in the process. For your marriage to be strong, you must make it your primary alliance. Talk with your wife about this well before your parents arrive, and decide how you can work to stay allied while your parents are visiting, especially when the friction arises. When your wife can trust that you will not emotionally abandon her for your parents, the friction between she and your parents is likely to diminish.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life's stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating physical symptoms and health-related concerns. Practitioners of the following techniques are available to answer your questions: psychology, acupuncture, therapeutic and neuromuscular massage, yoga, meditation, spiritual & transpersonal psychology, Reiki, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Alexander Technique Ó 2002 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center