I lost my wife of 23 years to pancreatic cancer on Nov 1st 2018. The grieving process has been 'interesting'. I have realised that I started to grieve shortly after her diagnosis 2 years ago. Being knowledgeable about cancer, it's treatment and prognosis, it was no surprise when we were told the treatment would be palliative. We lived and loved as much as was possible, hoping for a break through in treatment. She was hospitalised two weeks before she passed and then moved to a hospice for what turned out to be her last hours.
I believed that the moment she passed would be the worst moment of my life but it was actually two weeks before when I could see she was in distress and couldn't help her. I kept pushing until I got her admitted to hospital.
Being the strong woman she was, she had her passing planned. She said goodbye to her parents and sisters and managed to sign her Mom's birthday card. Then when it was just us and our children in the room she said "Let's get the mushy stuff out of the way. I've loved being your Mum, it's been a blast." Our youngest then fed her mum an ice lolly while we all laughed and joked as the close family we were/are. She sent our children home and tried to get rid of me.
We chatted until about 8 that evening at which point she had a stroke. She knew what had happened and vocalised her annoyance at not being able to communicate. She then fell asleep, her brow would twitch every now and again until 9 when she passed quietly. With her last heartbeat I felt calmness envelope me. She was no longer in distress.
When I started to arrange her funeral to answer the questions, I turned to my wife. I asked myself what she would have wanted. We had a day that she would have appreciated.
Christmas was a nonstarter, none of us had the energy to go present shopping. We watched films, ate lasagna and drank hot chocolate.
Two things have helped me. The first is the poem 'To love is not to Possess' by James Kavanaugh. The second is the knowledge that my wife would be distressed to think that I was sad and alone for too long.
This morning I removed my wedding ring.
I lost my husband of 42 years last February. We struggled for 20 years of that time to beat back the terminal diagnosis of Wegeners Granulomatosis. He first lost his lung capacity after repeated bouts of pneumonia then his endurance, then anything that took energy including a job he loved. This sums up the first 10 years of his diagnosis. Eventually he lost kidney function, started dialysis (which I learned to do at home because the travel to/from was so hard on him) and then the circulation in his extremities. He passed when his strong heart could not take any more strain. I was in the grief process for what we were losing from the first time he had pneumonia which kept him in hospital for over a month.
I felt devastated by the weight of the things we had lost from our marriage and relationship for so long before he actually passed that when he took his last ragged breath it was a relief. He was not in pain any more; he was not frustrated by the simple process of daily functions that had become too much for him. He was an amazing man that I will always love and I know that he is glad to be done with this world.
Before he passed, he told me to start my life again. He wanted to give me back those lost years of life that we had spent at doctors and hospitals and treatment appointments. He wanted me to find someone who could make me laugh, and love and be happy. AND I wanted that too.
I grieved alone for 6 months and then I joined a couple of online dating sites where scammers we're more plentiful than real people. But one of those real people found me. And I'm not looking back, even though I miss him terribly. I want toove on, I've spent enough time grieving my losses. It is time to live again and if I can't live the life we envisioned together, then I'm going to give what I can to living another dream where I feel alive.
I, too, was comforted when my wife was beyond the reach of her suffering.
My neighbor across the street just lost his wife to pancreatic cancer and the end game was about the same ... he had to insist she go to hospital, where they determined her cancer had spread, and then she ended up in hospice and lasted about 2 days. Her death was just before New Year's, so his grief is still raw, but as with you and I, he'd also done some of the grieving between the diagnosis and the end of her life.
If it can be said that anything good came out of my wife's suffering, it's that it taught me how to be present for someone like my neighbor, and helped me accept that death is a part of life, if not always on the schedule we'd want it to be.
The two best pieces of advice I got from friends after my wife's death were:
I think (1) is probably more universally good advice than (2), but (2) was very helpful for me, also. I entered my first serious relationship about 2 and a half years after my wife's death, and that was about right for me. My now-wife was only 6 months out from her husband's death, and that was about right for her (she was basically in the middle of a split from him anyway when he managed to drive his car under a truck).
Everyone's situation is different but giving yourself lots of time and patience is always key. You have almost 3 months under your belt, and you will probably find your emotions all over the place for at least another year, if not two ... just allow for that and be leery of "rebounds".
Thank you for sharing this account. As I read it I was reminded of elements of the story of my wife passing away in 2002. (March 7,2002 7:15PM but who keeps track?). Others have pointed out that only someone who has been there can really understand, and even then your grief is your own and unique. I don’t know how you feel, only how I felt at that moment. Sorry for your loss.
Very sorry for your loss. I had to stop reading several times as the tears in my eyes got in the way. I lost my husband on June 22, 2018 and feel like I've been in a fog for the 6 months he's been gone. Thank you for sharing your very personal grief with us. I haven't been able to remove my wedding ring just yet.
Thank you sir for sharing this report ....I also in sympathy for your spouse losing her life....has it been 9 weeks since the funeral ? Many of us are here to share both your grieving and the celebration of love parenting and your future. ...be well Noldea....Larry Carter Center hoping a Churchill quote is of some amusement : " Americans and British are separated by a common language " viva LA difference
“To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one's self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one's self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another--and to one's inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon's own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child's scars
Or an adult's deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are--and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.”
I totally understand - my experience was much the same.
people have asked me about how the long slow loss compares to the sudden loss (say a heart attack) - not sure there is anyway to quantify the loss for the extended period but it does allow time for important discussions
You are very brave sharing this with us so soon, but you are doing all the right things to adjust to the sad fact that she has gone and life has to go on for you without her. That is much the same way that I dealt with the loss of my husband Peter, by rationalising that I knew he would be unhappy to know that I was not moving on with my life and trying to be happy again. We have to try and think the positive thoughts of how fortunate we were to have them in our lives for so long, rather than the more negative ones of sadness and grief at their loss. Hold onto the memories of the happy times, but never let them get in the way of your future happiness...you owe that to yourself.