Stress and Stressors: The Agitator of Grief

If only grief was the sole burden grievers had to carry.

But it’s not.

I found a Facebook post from five months into my widowhood which said, “My partner isn’t here to share life’s burdens. Business burdens. Parental burdens. Emotional burdens. And it sucks.”

Grief is like handing someone a 200 pound boulder and forcing them to carry it. Crushing pressure. Intense weight.

But, you know, then there’s life — which doesn’t stop and give us the benefit of catching our breath or building our strength for a couple of years. Life continues with its problems, bills, drama, relationships, hang-ups, dilemmas and conflict.

How nice would it be if there was a pause button for everything else while we healed!

Dealing with the stress and stressors of life is like throwing obstacles in the person’s way, making them climb, duck, swivel and maneuver, all the while still carrying that boulder. Every obstacle accentuates the load they carry. Every stress makes the load more burdensome. Every conflict magnifies and balloons the effects of grief.

I was left with two grieving children. I had to parent by myself. I had to help them when I could barely process my own emotions. I was left with a business in the red of which I had no clue how to run. When I say in the red, I mean in the red. Upside down, collectors calling, accounts on hold, customers leaving. I was left with house maintenance I didn’t know how to take care of. A large tax bill I didn’t know how I would pay. And a variety of credit card debt since we had just remodeled our home the previous year.

Other issues may seem small on the outside. But, any situation that I knew my husband could have easily and adeptly handled, had he still been alive, was a harsh agitator. Salt in the wound.  And, it regurgitated all the heartache.

Then there were awful revelations regarding some family issues. Heartbreaking revelations. And all of it I had to face without my life partner. All of it I had to face without his support, his counsel, his ear, his arms, his pillow talk, his abilities as a breaker to the storm.

I was left with major life decisions. My career, my daily life, my plans, my social and church life were all tied to my husband and were now gone. My future reverted to a blank canvas. It was overwhelming. There is so much subconscious stress to recreating one’s identity, refashioning one’s goals, career and dreams. It’s terrifying.

All of those LIFE issues I had to tackle while trying to conquer the GRIEF issue.

The boulder.

And the obstacle course.

Photo by Anna Shvets on

No wonder there are days we grievers just want to climb under the covers.

I’m not saying this to gain sympathy. I am merely making the point that grievers aren’t simply tackling the “sadness” of grief. We are tackling the repercussions of grief, echoing into far corners of life —adjusting to changes, some random and some life changing, produced by the loss. We are dealing with normal life problems, and not-so-normal life problems made profoundly more emotionally complex because of grief. We are processing the amputation and the relearning of everything because of the loss. Even average situations feel like they have taken steroids and now are twice the size.

The stress doesn’t stop after the funeral is planned. The stress doesn’t stop after the major dust settles in the first few months.

Because then there are stressors. The events, the situations, the relationships, the changes, the revelations … that break open the wound. Just when you feel the wound healing, just when life has gained a measure of control, a measure of routine or normalcy, wham! life brings another tear. Rip. Slice. Squeeze.

The family drama they aren’t here to help with. The pipes that burst in the basement. The loss of a pet or object uniquely tied to the loved one. The family emergency that you must handle alone. Opening the first account in solely your name.  The financial decision in which you are the only contributor.

And on and on it goes.

And every widow/er— every griever — has their own stories. Those stressful decisions that yanked the heartstrings. The positions they were left in, untrained with the swords they were left to wield. The lonely moments when life handed more heartache and they were by themselves making the grief even more loud, even more potent.

And the cycle of pain and healing continues, with its ebb and flow, its give and take. No wonder it takes a while on this journey called Grief.

1 thought on “Stress and Stressors: The Agitator of Grief

  1. Exactly. Life without the one that always had my back. That could handle anything that could happen to the house. No one to consult with, plan with, dream with. Laugh with. Cry with. And then Covid. It took away the support system that I was trying to create. It took away the few pleasures that life had left. A long painful journey, and I guess that’s why no one that hasn’t lost a spouse can really truly understand why the pain & anxiety goes on and on and on.


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