Speaking out for the first time since the death of her husband Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi says her loss has become "an animal all of its own" and that the sadness is "on a cellular level."
"When the grief takes you, your body's not your own," she said Tuesday during a roundtable discussion on Grief, Healing and Resilience at the Women's Conference 2009 in Long Beach, Calif.
In the past, she said she "never knew what to say to people that have lost somebody. I have a really good idea about it now."
She told the panel - which included Maria Shriver, Elisabeth Edwards and Susan St. James, among others - how "Ghost" was on television recently. "I sat there for about 10 minutes saying, 'Do I have the courage to put it on that station?'"
She also recalled another instance after Swayze's death when she began to have "a full blown panic attack." So she called a girlfriend, which she said "is really hard for me to do - but the act of picking the phone up and call someone, helped me."
"I think that's a very important thing for people to do - sometimes just the act of reaching out connects you back to life and love," she added.
After being married for 34 years, Niemi couldn't answer whether she sees herself now as a "widow" or still as a "wife." "Gosh, both," she said. "I've spent two-thirds of my life with him. Even if I hated his guts, I may be having a very hard time, I've been living a certain way for 34 years."
Even though Niemi told Swayze many times every day in his last month that she loved him, she said, "My regret is I didn't tell him I loved him enough over that 34 years."
Still, she said she is "so grateful for what I had and my connection to him. "I feel part of me believes that I will see him again. I'm just going to have go on until then," she said.
"It's been a tough last year and tough lasts however many weeks," she continued. "I suddenly realize from everything that everyone's telling me, if I don't show up today, when do I? I have a feeling I'm going to feel this way quite some time."
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