Learning To Rebuild Trust In Wake Of Husband’s Passing

This is the third of the three installments.

I had a scheduled telephone counseling appointment with Diane. Days prior to the appointment, Diane called me. She was crying and trying to speak. I let her know that she had in fact, reached me. Thereafter, I gave her time to continue her crying experience. I didn’t want to rush her. I was glad she could call me. I’m still here, Diane.

“Thank you, Mr. Greenstein, I am sorry to disturb you. I feel so scared. I feel so alone. I’m having a hard time.”

Diane, I’m fine with you calling. What’s going on now? How are you right now, Diane?

“I’ve been having problems paying my bills. My husband used to do that for us. Now, I am confused. I don’t want to get kicked out of my own home. It’s winter. Do you think I’ll get put out?”

Diane, where are you now?

“I’m sitting at my kitchen table.”

Have you been eating? Have you eaten today? Have you fed your dog?

“I haven’t had anything to eat. My dog hasn’t eaten, either.”

Diane do you have food in your refrigerator or pantry? Do you have money?

“I have some food in the fridge. How did you know I had a pantry?”

I just guessed.

Diane chuckles.

“Are you psychic? Have you been here before?”

No, Diane, I have not visited you. Many people who’ve been married for a long time have homes with pantries for food storage. Do you plan to eat today? Do you also plan to feed your dog, Diane?

“I am going to make some oatmeal. I am going to feed Charlie. He’s been following me around the last few days. He jumped into bed last night but jumped off after sniffing Claude’s side of the bed. He whined then sat on the floor at the foot of the bed.”

Diane thanks for calling me. Not to worry — you didn’t disturb me. Thank yourself for calling me. This is an example of trusting yourself.

“Thank you. I am really feeling better. I’ll be OK until our appointment. I’ll call if I need to talk.”

You’re really OK Diane?

“Yes, thank you.”

We hung up. I wrote my notes for her chart.

Several days later, I called Diane on our appointed time designated. Hello, Diane, this is Marshall Greenstein. How are you?

“Oh, hi Mr. Greenstein, I am doing OK today. I ate breakfast today. I only eat twice a day. I plan to eat soup for dinner. I’m sorry for disturbing you the other night. My nights are the worst. I can be busy up to bedtime. That’s when I think about my husband.”

Since we spoke the other evening, Diane, have you gotten some sleep?

“Not much actually. I watched some TV and tried to read but couldn’t concentrate. I got up to let Charlie out. He hates the cold weather. I have to go out with him until he goes potty. I’ve been trying to organize my bills. I kind of surprised myself. I called the bank and explained my situation about paying my bills. The woman that I spoke with was very kind. With my permission, she contacted the places that bill me to explain that I will pay. She got checks in my name sent to me. Now I can pay my bills. I am on Social Security. Claude had a life insurance set up, which helped pay for the cremation. We had some savings. That’s taking some anxiety off my shoulders. I am also starting to clean out my house. I have not dealt with Claude’s clothes, his tools and other items. I need help but I’m going to take my time. No rush.”

I am impressed, Diane. That will keep you busy. I have a thought for you to think about for sleep. Are you interested in hearing this idea?


Try coaxing Charlie to bed with you. Place pillows from the headboard, if you have one, to the base of the bed on Claude’s side. You might try picking Charlie up and talking to him about joining you in bed. Give it time. Maybe Charlie will evolve towards being your buddy. Dogs miss those who care for them. You are Charlie’s owner and caregiver – food, water, going potty outside. Charlie might also want to sit on your lap, say, when you watch TV. He and you have room to grow in your relationship. He wants to trust you. In time, if okay with you, he will love you unconditionally. How does that sound, Diane?

“Wow, it might be worth the try.”

Claude’s passing left a hole in your heart and Charlie’s, too.

“I see what you’re saying, Marshall. I have good memories of Claude and Charlie together. Charlie used to accompany Claude in his truck when he went to work.”

Diane, do you have a vehicle?

“Yes, why do you ask?”

I wonder if you might consider taking Charlie with you when you use your car.

“I never thought of that. Yeah. When I go grocery shopping, then maybe Charlie will come with me.”

Try it, Diane; bring Charlie a treat when you shop. It might help solidify your connection with Charlie.

“That feels good, the sound of it. Charlie stays home when I go shop. I’m going in five days; I’ll try it out and see if it works. Right now, with Covid, no one comes to visit me. Charlie is my only company.”

So, Diane, you’re open to new ideas that may be, remember, achievable goals? Each goal you set, like calling the bank for help, paying your bills, connecting with Charlie, eating twice daily, and improving your sleep are all great. Feel good about yourself, Diane; you are doing a remarkable job. Give yourself time to rest, to covet the small joys daily.

“I’ve got a much larger goal to set, Marshall. I need to stop thinking about the abuse I received from my father. Do you think I’ll ever get over the memories?”

I think you’re right, Diane. That is a worthwhile goal; however, you need to be patient with yourself. We can work on it in your treatment. It might take time. It might gradually reduce the emotional and mental effects. What do you say, Diane?

“I hear you. I’m a bit scared.”

I can appreciate that you’d be scared. The abuse occurred many years ago. If you want to work on it, think about a goal to set. Some long-term goals can bring small gains as you face them. I’ll be there for you. It can be a struggle with joys and rewards; one thing to consider, Diane. You are a brave woman to identify this problem from your youth and your desire to work through it. How do you feel about this, Diane?

“I understand. Maybe I’ll learn to feel good about life. Talk to you next week.”

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.


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