So, before I share my little story, let me say that everyone is totally fine and nothing bad actually happened to my wonderful husband Nick. He overslept. That is what happened. But because he overslept, he did not answer my calls or my voicemails or my three text messages that I left him, and because Im a widow of sudden death and because my husband Don left for work one morning and never came home because he was collapsed alone on the floor at work, unanswered texts from the person I love results in my anxiety going sky-high and staying there until I get word from him that he is indeed, not dead, and okay.
So each weekday morning I leave our apartment around 5:30am to go to one of my part-time jobs, and I always text my husband Nick when I have arrived to let him know I have arrived safely at work. He always texts me back around 7 am or sometimes even earlier, when he gets up. Except on the rare occasion when he sleeps right through the alarm and then sleeps another 3 hours and I don’t hear back from him at all and my brain goes haywire. After 10 years of being widowed by sudden death, my reaction to not hearing back from my husband is a strange sort of anxiety. On the outside, my heart is beating rapidly and Im trying to hold it together and breathe correctly – in and out , in and out. Repeat. But what is most odd to me is that the morbid and varied thoughts I go through during the period of time when I have now convinced myself that my husband is indeed, dead ; are not coming out of me with urgency or panic, but rather a calm and rational timeline of events sort of thing. Its like my brain is saying: “we have been here before. This is what we need to do next … ”
In the interest of sharing how the brain of a person widowed by sudden death works when not knowing why her current husband is not answering her calls, below is a pretty accurate list of some of the things my brain was thinking during the 3+ hours of racing-heart, is he dead trauma response. Hopefully this gives people a small look into the world and the very real fears of those of us who have lived with the very sudden death of our spouse or partner, and who now have a new partner. Here is a brain sample:
“Okay, let me text again. Still no response, even after my 2nd text specifically asks him if he is okay and states that Im now getting worried. Let me call too, in case he overslept and didnt hear the text, maybe he will hear his phone ring. Nope. Going to voicemail. Okay. Im leaving a message stating that Im worried and please call me. Even if he did oversleep, its been over 3 hours. He wouldnt oversleep by that many hours without waking up to pee or something. He never sleeps that long uninterrupted. So, he is probably dead. I think he might be dead. I think I might be widowed twice, just like I always feared happening. And again, just like the first time, Im going to have to call his sisters and say the words “your brother died” to them, and then call other people and say those words, and I dont want to ever again. And when Don died and I had to call his sisters, and then my family and close friends, and then I posted on Facebook because I didnt know what else to do, some people thought I was joking. I guess people see me as the kind of person who would post that her husband just died and this is the worst day of her life AS A JOKE. Well, now, this time, today is April Fools Day, so if I post on Facebook again, people will think Im joking again, and think its a horrible April Fools joke. And really, it would be just like Nick to die on April Fools Day. That is totally something he would do. Okay. Another text. Another call. Im now done with my morning shift and driving home. What will I be walking into? He might have fallen and collapsed in our apartment, and maybe I will walk into his body on the floor and him lying there dead. Or maybe he hit his head on something and now he’s bleeding everywhere and alone. Or he could have just stopped breathing in his sleep. His loud snores sometimes scare me because it sounds like he might be struggling to breathe, but it scares me more when its the snores followed by lots of silence where it seems like he has actually stopped breathing altogether. When Im there beside him I look at his shoulder or chest area to make sure he is breathing, and then I can breathe again, but Im not there now and Im in my car and when I get back it might be too late and he could already be dead because AGAIN I wasnt there to help or to somehow stop him from dying. Okay, think. Think. What will you do if you walk in and he is collapsed and dead? Call 911. I guess. I mean, if its already too late, Im not sure what good that will do, but I suppose thats what you do. Then call family. After that, I might need to just sit and stare at the wall for an hour in order to process the fact that I just became a widow, again, with zero warning, again. Where will I go? Where will I live? SHould I stay here and figure out how to cover rent somehow on just my salary? I cant see moving back in with my pjarents again – not again. Im almost 50, for Christs sakes. I just cant do that again. I dont want to think about this right now. I will take a few days or a couple months to keep living here and decide what to do next. He has so much stuff. Im going to be consumed by all the “stuff” just like before. It takes every ounce of energy trying to figure out all of their stuff. I dont know if I can sleep in our bed alone tonight, or ever. I just dont know. I love him so damn much, we JUST got married, and yesterday was our 3 month wedding anniversary, and now he is dead on April Fools Day. 10 years ago I had to live through this nnightmare and start my life over just before turning 40, and now Im going to have to start over and figure out my life again just before turning 50. I am getting really terrified that this time, I wont make it. I dont know if I can do this twice. I just dont know if I …… ”
“Hi baby. It’s me. I’m not dead. I just overslept and my phone was on the charger. I’m so sorry for making you worry. ”
Breathe. Sigh of relief. For now. He is not dead. At least not today. Not right now.
And the widow panic brain continues ….