Ask Dr. Giles: How do I go on?

Charlene writes:

My husband died 1 week and 1 day ago. We fought this cancer for 3 long years. How do I go on? My soul is dead. All I feel is agony every waking moment. I don’t know how to verbalize what is happening to me. My family just tells me to be strong, it takes time. My sister said you seem to be doing better today. I told her I was the same, just hiding it better. I’ve found out no one wants to hear that I want my husband back, that i’m lost and confused without him, that my heart is broken and that I wish I was dead so I will be with him again. I know I have to live to be able to see him when my time does come but I’m hurting so much. please help me stop hurting.


This must have been a terribly difficult time for you–particularly through the holidays! Grief is like a river of fire which burns as it flows. We sometimes feel as if we want to protect ourselves from the heat so we try to block the river. Sometimes we are OK with the heat but others can’t bear to see us struggle, so they attempt to block the river for us. The truth is, it is important to allow that river to run its course. That is the only way to heal from the loss. We are meant to grieve the loss of those who were important to us–to celebrate our relationship with them and mourn the void which has been created by their passing.

We allow that river of fire to flow by talking about how we feel. Your feelings of agony, confusion, and heartbreak are normal and understandable. Sometimes we have close friends or family members who can sit with us as we process these significant feelings. Sometimes our grief is greater than the capacity of those around us to deal with it. Under these circumstances, a good alternative is to find a competent therapist who can help us through the grieving process.

A good place to start in your search for a therapist is to talk with those you know who have been to counseling. Ask them about their experience and whether they think their therapist might be a good match for you and your grief. If you have mental health coverage with your medical insurance, call your insurance company and ask how to access your mental health benefits. They may have a list of therapist from which you must choose–and there might be a preauthorization process before they will pay for your counseling. Most therapist are happy to speak briefly with potential clients over the phone to explain their services and answer questions so the potential client can decide how they want to proceed.

Please do not wait any longer to seek counseling. Grieving is difficult enough without having to do it all by yourself.