Am I Losing My Mind

Hospice Foundation of America

Question: Since my husband's recent death, I've been doing strange things. I cry for no reason whatsoever as I wander aimlessly around the house. Sometimes I set an extra place for him at the table. When the telephone rings I think that he is calling me. I've become so absent-minded that I renewed a subscription for his golf magazine and I don't even play the game. I listen for his footsteps, especially in the evening, when he would normally return from work. My thinking and judgment seem so impaired that I feel like I am falling apart. Am I going crazy?

Answer: These symptoms are not a sign of mental illness; you are not alone. Many grieving people experience similar indications. When asked to comment on her adjustment widowhood, the late-distinguished actress Helen Hayes remarked, "I was just as crazy as you can be and still be at large."

It is natural to be overwhelmed when your husband has just died. Your mind is naturally preoccupied with your devastating loss. Confusion, aimlessness, and constant weeping are all indicators of your pain and despair. When absence becomes the greatest presence, you have transformed the past into the present. By wishing and daydreaming, you have attempted to bring your loved one magically back to life.

Your brain has not been damaged. You are emotionally and physically depleted. Death has wounded you. There is probably no crisis more stressful than the loss of life of someone you loved.

Forgive yourself when you are not as reliable and responsible as you once were. Give yourself permission to be inconsistent and unpredictable without punishing and criticizing yourself. Develop an acceptance of the brief periods of irrational feelings and chaotic bewilderment.

If it would ease your mind, you might consult a grief counselor or seek help from a support group. In most cases these strange actions and thoughts are temporary. They gradually fade and disappear as you continue your journey through the mourning process.

Incidentally, Helen Hayes, who was "as crazy as can be and still be at large," later returned to acting. She brought new life into the theater for decades.

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