The Games I Play

by Ralph Pena
(New York, NY)

I just passed the sixth month. Is it any easier? No.

A couple of months ago, I was able to hold it in. I’ve been taking anti-depressants since February, which I resisted at first, but which has proven to be a life-saver. I’m pretty sure it was the meds that allowed me to function. Two weeks ago, that changed.

I sank deep into depression. I cry every day, more uncontrollably than I did immediately after the death. I still go to work, but I break as soon as I enter the house. Then I sit paralyzed for the rest of the evening, until I force myself to sleep – and I can’t. I’ve been going on three hours of sleep for the past month.

No, it doesn’t get easier. Six months isn’t really a long time. At least, that’s what everyone says – those who’ve been on this grief journey. “Oh honey, you’re very early in your grief.” I can understand that. I can understand numbers. My question is, “early” as a portion of “how long?” Two years, three, seven, ten? I know life will never be the same. How can it be? But will I ever see the point to living?

Some days it feels like an eternity. Some days it seems like it was yesterday. Most days, I don’t know what to feel. I just keep saying “I miss you.” Out loud. To the walls, to the couch, to the cat, to the plates, to the door, to the fridge. “I miss you.”

Last week, I got some good news. A project I had been working on for two years is finally going to launch. All the people involved were beaming, back-slapping each other. I was happy, too. Then I went home – and it meant nothing to me.

I used to love to cook. Not’n’more. We collected pots and pans and all kinds of cooking widgets. I can’t stand looking at them now. I took all the photos from the mantle and boxed them. All the photos of our travels, our families, our life – out of sight. I rearranged the furniture. I bought a new couch. I re-oriented the bed, so I don’t have the same view of the window. I made the house grief-proof.

These are the games I play.


Comments for The Games I Play

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Aug 06, 2012
Boy, do I relate.
by: Anonymous

I am right at the 5 month point after the death of my husband to complications of lung cancer. We were together nearly 26 years, married for almost 13 of it. I was doing well, but was busy with taking care of business, remodeling the house (my husband smoked a pipe for many years and there was brown gunk on the walls.) I am blessed with many friends who have kept with me. I am very close to my husbands daughter, we have been spending a lot of time together to help each other grieve. But recently, I've been needing more time to myself. But I tire so easily and seem to need more sleep. My walls are freshly painted, but the furniture is still a mess. I know this just takes time, but it sucks. Reading others stories helps.

Aug 03, 2012
Thank you
by: Ralph

Thank you all for reaching out. I read everything you wrote, and I'm sad to learn about your own losses, but relieved to know I'm not alone. Thank you, Rosa, Doreen, Hope, Carroll, Ted, and Judith. And to the Anonymous poster, thank you, too. If you would like, please contact me at

Ted, your story is a rewind of mine.

Peace to us all.


Aug 02, 2012
I know what you mean
by: Rosa

Ralph, so sorry for your loss. As I was reading what you wrote, it hit so close to home. Its been one year,2 month,3 days since my son died &like you, I used to wonder how long it would take me to heal. I did seek help, which has done wonders for me. According to her, most people were able to cope & go on with life in about 2 years, with help. I used to feel that was a long time. But my faith in God has helped me so much. Alot of things that you are going through, I too went through. I too moved furniture around about 5-8 times in just the 1st- 4 months since my son died. I moved the futon he slept on, into the garage & eventually gave it away. I put his clothing in bins in the garage because I would break down crying. I have letters he wrote that I read over & over & I would fall apart, but now I read them & I'm ok. They sometimes bring a few tears but I'm ok. The help I have gotten has helped me heal plus my faith in God has done the most healing. I was expecting 2 years before getting healed but am surprised at how much sooner its happening & yes it is getting better every day. My son died on the street, from gun shot wounds, one house away from ours, so I have the constant reminder of his death but still I am healing. Unfortunately there is no way of setting a set time on how long will take to heal because its different for all of us. I feel the sooner we start getting help to deal with our loved ones passing the sooner we will start to heal. You say you packed away all your life (out of sight), I got great advice one day, "don't hide the memories of your loved one, instead create a memorial. A specific place where there are pictures of your loved one, things that belonged to the person. A place where you can go to and talk to your loved one and remember the good memories." We have done this & am so glad we did, because I used to feel sad and bad that I was putting him and everything that had to do with him away, hoping it would take away my pain but it was only making me feel worse because I was kind of pretending he didn;t exist. Now that I have his pictures & some of his belongings out, I now see him in the picture & hold a conversation with him. I can guarantee that if you allow yourself to heal, you will one day be able to function well until you see your loved one again. I know that that we will never get over our loved ones deaths but we will be able to deal with them. Which means that we will always remember our loved one, we will from time to time hurt immensely but after healing we will not stay on the hurtful feeling. We will from time to time cry but we will be able to cope and go on with life. We will one day again be able to laugh, to smile, to still remember our loved ones but with a different outlook. If you would like more info, my email is: Ralph, please don't give up, with proper help, you will be ok.

Aug 02, 2012
The Games I Play
by: Doreen U.K.

Dear Ralph. I am sorry for your loss. My support goes out to you at this difficult time. You are facing raw grief. As if your very soul is bleeding and you want it to stop. It is unbearable. You are not playing games by changing things around to make your home grief proof. this is just your way of trying to cope. Please try a grief counsellor. You are at the stage where one would be helpful in lifting the lid on your pain and allowing you the time and space to express all that you need to. A lot of the pain would evaporate and you would not only feel better but be able to cope better with the grief. It wouldn't be so overwhelming. It would only come at times and you would eventually feel the pain less. The memories would still be there without so much pain that overtakes your life. I am in retirement so have lonely and empty days. If I had a job it would be a diversion for me. The joy has gone out of your life. It will come back. TIME is all we have. It does feel like an eternity. A MOUNTAIN to climb. We get tired of GRIEF. We get worn out with it all. Often it is too much to bear. There is no time limit on GRIEF. It is different for each of us. We want it to be over quickly. But the process is slow healing. Through counselling I GOT MY LIFE BACK. Only to lose my husband of 44years to cancer. I have to start all over again. I got my life back. My husband lost his. LIFE HURTS. DEATH HURTS.
I feel like stopping the world and getting off. You are not alone. My husband loved cooking. I have to get rid of a lot of the pots and pans. Not needed now. I was not able to put my mother's picture up till 9yrs. after her death. Steve's has gone up immediately. IT HURTS. I too can only sleep 4 hours. but I don't have to do a job. I think the way you are feeling is also a result of sleep deprivation. See your Doctor. Also don't rely on anti-depressants. You have gone down so much you need to speak to someone. This will help. You will get back to your old self. Life will have meaning again. The depression is making you worse. this needs intervention. Don't suffer alone. I was depressed for 40 years. Counselling saved me.

Aug 01, 2012
The games we all play to get though the day
by: Hope


You can't out run grief or try to put a time on it. You just plod on thinking will it get better and if so when?!! All I can tell you is I am 2 1/2 years in and I would say it is only pretty recently that I have been fortunate enough to experience actual joy and contentment.

It is not something that just gets turned on or happens when you turn some invisible corner. At 6 months your just trying to be able to sleep eat go to work and pay the bills.

I still say I miss you to the phantom door bell that rings with no one there. But I say I Love You more. I do not think that love dies in death. It is still there with no where to go.

But I like to think that the life I now lead, one of "why Not?" I do things I never had the time for and always wanted to do. I like to think that he can still see things through my eyes. Seeing Niagara Falls last June I got that old familiar pang of wish you were here...But I was able to smile and think that maybe just maybe he is looking over my shoulder thinking well, She HAS come along way.

Grief is THE hardest thing that I have ever experienced in my life.
Not only have I survived it I have managed to flourish because of it. I know it is impossible to motivate your self through the day sometimes to even get through a moment.

But I promise you, it will get better just take it one breath one step one day at a time...
P.S I always keep my promises

Aug 01, 2012
I am there 2
by: Anonymous

Hi, I am at the almost 6 months mark also. What a messed up deal this is.. Getting threw the day with the help of anti depr. and therapy. try melatonin apr. 3 mg for sleep. I have found it helps me most of the time. I was better awhile ago even laughed with friends but went back down the wormhole and it feels even worse than before. I dont work, took care of husband and am on workmans comp. get panic attacks at the thought of having to be somewhere everyday and hold it together while I work. I give you kudos for making it till you get home. went to cemetery today, looked at his area still void of a headstone(financial), and left, denial today works for me, maybe tomorrow. wishing you peace

Aug 01, 2012
oh Ralph..sooo sorry for your sadness
by: carroll

Ralph, I am so sorry for our sadness. I am @ a little over 3 mo's now. I feel similar...@ home in the evenings I seem to get paralyzed. I watch TV to keep the pain away...I record on DVR so the mindless commercials can be fast forwarded I do not have to stop and think about Tony again. Just keep going one day @ a time. Try to find some outside interest that lets you help someone or thing. I joined a dog volunteer group to help get puppies adopted. The puppies soothe my pain some. Thank GOD I have 2 dogs @ home to also ease the pain. Little Bit was Tony's dog and has now taken to me since Tony has gone. I hear your despair and wish you HOPE and Peace.. Everyone I know is so over listening to my pain...It seems to never stop for me..just eases some when I am busy Please take care and keep writing here also..maybe it will help to know you are not alone. Peace out.

Aug 01, 2012
I hear you
by: Ted

It's been 4 months since I lost my companion and life partner, and in reading your post, so many things were as though I had written them. It is so very hard to come home to an empty apartment - nothing moved from when you left in the morning - no "hey babe, how was your day" from your companion - or to say to your companion. I shed some tears every night over the silliest things (nights and weekends are hell); sometimes in private in my office during the day. Three hours of sleep at night is becoming the norm - but that's not good. I will lay in bed for 5 minutes and then get up and go back to the chesterfield with the tv on until I know that I will fall asleep if I lay down in the bed. Last night I had anxiety about Christmas and New Years (5 months away!) that will now be celebrated (??) - more like observed - by myself as last year's was so special and held so much promise as we toasted with champagne to our future hopes, dreams and plans together - now gone, shattered, never to be realized. I know it is hard to move on, and I know my companion would want me to, but it is so difficult. One of my fears is that he will not be remembered as I remember him, mourned as I mourn him, understood as I understood him, loved as I loved him. Perhaps that is being unrealistic as our relationship was unique and one-of-a-kind and I shouldn't expect anyone else to have the same feelings as I do. But I will always try to remember and respect the fact that he did have an effect on a great many people and the way they deal with their loss is in their own way and on their own terms. However, as the one left behind, I have to regain my confidence in myself as an individual because, as hard as it is to admit, there is no longer an "us".

Take care and know that you are not stuggling alone through all this...

Aug 01, 2012
It's How We Get By
by: Judith in California

Ralph, I'm sorry for your loss. Six months is early. It's been almost 23 months for me after loosing my husband of 35 1/2 years. I cry less but still yell out I miss you from time to time. there is no time limit Ralph so please don't rush it. Let grief take it's time and take you on that roller coaster ride of emotional turmoil until you are spent. I truly believe we grieve a long time even tho we begin to grieve less. In that I mean that we will be okay for a while then BAM! something will remind us of them and we cry all over again. I do this when I re-decorate soemthing in our home and wish he were here to say how nice it is. I daily say "Oh Chiuck" several times a day when I think of him and soemthing we or he used to do.
One thing is Ralph, I think you put the pictures away way too early. It's all that is left physically to look at of them and why shouldn't we sit and look at them as we remember the life we had. I went out and bought new frames for a few of his pictures and put them out so as to honor him and anyone who comes into my life will have to be mature enough to understand the pictures will always be up. I don't want to pretend he never existed or we didn't have a life. He will always have a place in my heart. You may want to reconsider that.

I still have his clothes to give away some day when I'm ready. It's like once I do that it's final. It's the last thing I will do when I can let go. I have donated some thigs but his clothes are so personal .

Anyway, I hope you will come to the peaceful and accepting side of this horrible roller coaster ride called grief.

Talk with God often .

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