Dear Counsellor: Can't Stop Visiting Dead Husband
Q: I have visited my dead husband every day for the last month and a half, at the cemetery. I take fresh flowers every week. I find it meaningful to show respect, love and compassion for him. I feel a connection when I visit him by his graveside. We were happily married for 23 years. He was a good man; honest, hard-working and faithful. He cared for the less fortunate and was kind to a fault. We travelled the world. I have so many pleasant memories of these countries. He pampered me. He handled all the finances and I was comfortable. In the last three years of our marriage, he was very ill. We employed nurses to care for him, but they did not do a good job while caring for him at home. In fact, he developed bed sores. For the last year and a half, I quit my job to care for him. We spent great times together and he was improving and on the way to recovery. In fact, when he died, it came as a shock.
Our only son, who is already married and lives overseas, says it is time I get over his death. He believes that visiting my husband every day is too much. I have not changed anything in the room. His clothes are still in the closet. I have not touched his study. I did try to give the library his books, but they said they had no need of the books because they were outdated editions. I do not allow anyone to sit in his chair. I miss him dearly and I love him. Is our son right in saying I need to move on?
A: The death of a spouse can be very stressful, especially since you were married so long and had a wonderful marriage which climaxed with you being around him every day for a year and a half. It is possible that you are trying to hold on to that experience by going to the cemetery every day. It is obvious that you loved your husband and cared for him in sickness and health. You do not have to prove to anyone that you truly loved him. It is clear that you find visiting the graveside every day helpful, but even you must realise that you cannot do this for the rest of your life. You need to heed the advice of your son and plan a strategy to move to the next phase of your life, which does not include your husband's physical presence. You can start by visiting the cemetery once a week to take flowers and, after a while, once a month and then on special occasions like birthdays, wedding anniversaries and the anniversary of his death, until you no longer have the need to visit so often.
You need to realise that you can have recollections of your husband's words and actions without going to his graveside. Death removes him physically from you but as you have learnt, death cannot remove him emotionally. There are many other ways to show your respect for your husband while engaging in other fulfilling activities.
Another thing that can help is for you to engage in charitable activities. This will take up your time doing good deeds, which is also carrying on the legacy of your husband. In addition, you should visit your son's family overseas as part of your grieving process, which would also mean you cannot visit the graveside every day.
You should always treasure the memory of your husband, in whom you found true love and a wonderful marriage. You are entitled to mourn the way you best see fit even as you recognise that it is not sustainable to visit your husband every day at the cemetery as you go forward.