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Posts from the ‘Bereaved Spouses/Partners’ Category

Your Wife Has Cancer, Now What?

by Carson Boss

Carson and Cindy

Carson and Cindy

Upon my wife, Cindy’s, diagnosis of breast cancer in early 2011, I began to reach out to other husbands I knew whose wife had gone through cancer. I started writing down the counsel they gave me, and other bits of information I gleaned from my own research and pamphlets we received early on. It dawned on me after I had accumulated about 40 pages of notes and directions that it would have been nice to have been given a book dealing with all of that information at our very first appointment. Read more

“Because You Were There”

Letters to my late husband in the first year following his death
by Sally Dalzel

sally_1When my husband died I thought I was ready to face what was to come. He was many years older than me and he had experienced deteriorating health for the thirteen years leading up to his death.

He had suffered awfully in the last year of his life, determined to hang on to the life he loved so much and had lived so well, despite complex medical issues. We had struggled in the last two years with grossly inadequate community care and an appalling lack of communication between the various services involved. More than sixteen emergency ambulance admissions for acute conditions in an eighteen month period provide some indication of how deficient community and health care cooperation had been in his case. By the end we were both exhausted.

Despite this he had an indomitable will to live and determination to enjoy life. In addition to his suffering, for which on many occasions I could do nothing, one of the hardest things to witness was the loss of dignity and interest in who he was by many of the professionals involved in his care. He simply became another old man with a series of conditions. Read more

Twenty Years

by Dorothy Gillon

Editor’s Note: I met Dorothy, Charlie and their children in 1984 when our family relocated to Martin, TN. From the very beginning, I knew that the Gillons were a special family; warm, loving and caring. Although many miles separate Dorothy and I today, I am honored to share her story with you. Many hugs, my dear friend.

In MemoryWhen Peggy asked me to consider writing an article for her newsletter, I thought what do I have to say about grief that would be helpful to others. But after thinking about it for a while, I thought I have a lot to say about grief and how our family got through it—actually still getting through it. So bear with me as I give you some background about our life.

Charlie and I were married on August 13, 1972. We had a pretty wonderful marriage, easy most of the time, even with our moves to Micronesia; Carbondale, Illinois; Philadelphia, Mississippi (where our son Jamie was born in 1976) and finally to Martin, Tennessee (where our daughter Kathleen was born on our anniversary). We experienced loss along the way with both of our fathers dying very early in our life together and my Nana Dora a little later. We held each other when we cried and remembered our loved ones very often by reminiscing with stories. Read more

wife has cancerYour Wife Has Cancer, Now What?: What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens
by Carson Boss

When your wife is diagnosed with cancer, there is a lot of information to read and review. You get overwhelmed with pamphlets, books, and binders that discuss her type of cancer. There are support groups, hotlines and other organizations to assist her. But what about you? Written from the experienced perspective of someone who went through his wife’s cancer Your Wife Has Cancer, Now What? provides a practical overview of what you, as husband and best friend, need to know. Your Wife Has Cancer, Now What? includes information on how to overcome the shock and fear of diagnosis, how to talk to your family, choosing the right doctors, where and how to give support, the transition of normal household duties and how to manage those, the real costs of cancer both financial and emotional, how to continue and nurture your romance, how to manage your full-time job and other long-term issues that are critical to know and navigate.

chemo therapistChemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage
by Mary Potter Kenyon

When Mary Potter Kenyon’s husband David was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2006 she searched libraries and bookstores for books on cancer and the caregiving experience. What she discovered was a plethora of technical and medically-oriented books or those written by a caregiver whose loved one had died, a scenario she refused to contemplate. While serving as David’s companion during Wednesday chemotherapy treatments, Mary began journaling about their experience as a couple and parents of young children as they navigated the labyrinth of cancer. It soon dawned on her that she was writing the very book she had searched for upon David’s diagnosis: one that goes beyond the cancer experience to give hope and inspiration to the reader. Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage is a moving testimonial of a relationship renewed by the shared experience of a life threatening illness.” Initially, after David’s diagnosis, I would cringe when I read books or articles by cancer survivors who stated that cancer had been a gift in their lives. How could all that David endured be viewed as a gift? The invasive surgery, the weeks of chemotherapy and radiation: a gift? Yet, after the cancer, David would often reach for my hand and say, “If it is cancer that is responsible for our new relationship, then it was all worth it.” And I’d reluctantly agree that cancer had been a gift in our lives. We’d both seen the other alternative: patients and survivors who had become bitter and angry, and neither one of us wanted to become that.

refined by fireRefined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace
by Mary Potter Kenyon

“Where is the handbook for widows?” Mary Kenyon lamented as she planned a funeral for the beloved husband whose triumph over cancer she chronicled in Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage. During the ensuing weeks, as she attempted to make sense of his untimely death, she filled two journals, blogged, and read the inspirational writings of others who had gone down the road of grief before her–authors like C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle. She eventually found herself studying grief and bereavement in her quest to unearth answers to alleviating the pain associated with profound loss. In the process, she discovered a strength and emotional reserve she didn’t know she had, along with an evolving faith that helped her face the impending loss of an eight-year-old grandson.

“In the midst of the darkness of loss, I found light. Admittedly, in those first weeks, it might have been but a single small spark I sensed deep inside of me, but that spark guided me in the twisted, dark journey of grief. As I stumbled over the roots of hopelessness and despair, that light grew to illuminate my path, a path I sometimes felt very alone on. At some point in the journey I’d turned around, and there was God. That is grace.”

life happensLife Happens: How to Maintain Family Strength and Unity in the Face of Adversity
by Teresa Clark and Taralyn Clark

It happens to every family. Things are humming along smoothly when suddenly they realize that life is not just a bowl of cherries. An unlooked for event, crisis, or trial threatens to upset the balance of all they consider normal. How will they ever survive and how will they ever get things to return to normal? Is it even possible? What if constant change and adaptation is what “normal” really looks like? In Life Happens Taralyn and Teresa Clark explore life realities and provide much-needed information gained from decades of experience to survive and ultimately thrive in spite of life challenges.

Going the Distance

by Benjamin Allen

The death of Benjamin’s wife and two children through an HIV infection became the watershed experience that reshaped his life. Lydia was infected in 1982 at the birth of their first son, Matt. Three months after Bryan’s birth in 1985, the family discovered Lydia and the children’s HIV+ status. Bryan was 8 months old when he died in 1986, Lydia died in 1992 at the age of 38, and Matt was 13 when he died in 1995.

man and seaI wanted to go the distance. At the beginning, it was quite clear what that meant. When he died, distance became different, less clear, a nebulous path of a tenuous life.

Almost three years passed from Lydia’s passing to Matt’s. Bryan died four years before Lydia. From the moment we found out that they were going to die in that thirteen-year span, I wanted to go the distance.

I wanted to walk as closely to each one as I could before death parted us. I wanted to hold all of them with all of me. I wanted to emotional lean into every moment and not turn away. I wanted to place my hand on the flame and not run from the pain. I wanted to be there. Wherever they went I wanted to be there.

Matt and I were very close from the beginning to the end. When the pain of my love reached apex after apex and I wanted to run, I leaned in even further. I needed to go the distance because I knew the distance grows more distant. Read more

Until Death Do We Part

by Sydney Vickers

Sydney and Peyton Vickers

Sydney and Peyton Vickers

When I think of Peyton, I see his dancing blue eyes and dimples.  I see him doing what he loved most – helping others be their best.  I see him wearing his University of Miami football shirt and celebrating a win.  I see us walking hand-in-hand exploring a new city. I see him on the golf course. I see him at the grill and reading his paper on the patio.   I see him at my side, always at my side.

When I think of Peyton I try not to see the cancer that took him in 24 months.  I try not to remember hearing the diagnosis of esophageal cancer and the subsequent rounds of chemo, radiation and brutal surgery.  I try not to remember a stranger telling me that the cancer had spread to his bones and that he had six months to live.  I try not to remember Peyton’s face when I told him the news.  I try not to remember when we were told to call Hospice.

When I think of Peyton I want to always be grateful for his worry over me and the way he wrote lists of things for me to do after his death.  I want to thank him for his little book called the AP Book (After Peyton) with names and phone numbers of plumbers, electricians – anyone I might need to help with the house, finances or life in general.  I want Peyton to know how much I appreciate how hard he fought for life, celebrating our 28th anniversary just a week before he died. Read more

Shannon’s Gift

by Nate Bennett

Nate Bennett

Nate Bennett

In September of 2011—just about a month after our 26th wedding anniversary—I lost Shannon. We were just weeks into being empty nesters, having recently dropped our younger son off at the University of Colorado. Shannon had waited until our son was settled to schedule routine shoulder surgery. Post operation, the doctor came out to tell me the procedure was a success and he sent me to get the car. In those few moments, Shannon collapsed and never regained consciousness. Shannon died, and I went from being half of a couple, anticipating the joy of time and travel with an amazing partner, to a person struggling to find a way back into the light.

After she passed away, I looked for stories that might help me understand my pain. I wanted to know what to do to stop hurting. I wanted to know what to do so I could be there for the other people who were hurting with me—especially our sons Spencer and Reid. I was in a place that was completely unacceptable; I had to find a way out. What I found didn’t help cut through my haze of grief. None of it came close to describing how hopeless I was. None of it pointed me to the set of concrete steps towards the recovery I desperately wanted. Read more

I Am Not a Canadian Goose (spouse suicide, part 1 of 3)

by Barb Hildebrand
Suicide Shatters
Surviving Suicide ~ the Aftermath

Barbara Hildebrand

Barbara Hildebrand

I lost my late husband, Rob, to suicide in December 2000 right at Christmas. We’d been together for 29 years; I from the age of 14 until I was 43 when he passed. Rob was 47 when he died. So young. So much more life to live. Nothing in our many years together could have prepared me for what transpired. I certainly never would have thought Rob, of all people, would take his life.

Rob was very gifted mechanically. He was, in fact, a Master Mechanic and we shared a business together for 17 years in the automotive sales/repair arena. He’d always loved all things mechanical since a very early age, taking everything he could get his hands on apart and putting it back together to figure out how things worked. When I met Rob his big love was cars. He was always tinkering, rebuilding, repairing or improving his beloved vehicle. Having an unusual or distinctive car was very important to Rob, it somehow defined him. That love turned into our business and he had such talent and passion that it was a match made in heaven.

Things went incredibly well for many years because Rob had such a natural ability to be able to educate the customers on what was wrong with their cars. We also had a high performance clientele who came to Rob for very personalized and specialized modifications. All was well until he discovered his new and second love which was boating. It became an obsession with him. Read more

I Am Not a Canadian Goose (spouse suicide, part 2 of 3)

by Barb Hildebrand
Suicide Shatters
Surviving Suicide ~ the Aftermath

Read Part One

Barbara Hildebrand

Barbara Hildebrand

This was taking place during Christmas 2000. I knew Rob was in dire shape, but also knew I had to give my son some sort of normal Christmas. So even though we were separated, we’d agreed to go to my sis-in-law’s for Christmas Eve as we’d always done. They were German and celebrated on the 24th. Rob had said he’d be there. We’d had a suicide hotline team come out to the house on December 22nd, but they were of no use at all and we sent them on their way. I got my doctor to see Rob even though he was not her patient and she prescribed a mild sleeping pill and antidepressant, but only a few so he couldn’t overdose. We both knew it would take 4-6 weeks for the meds to take effect and hopefully help, but Rob was only on them about 3 days when he died.

Rob did not show up on Christmas Eve and my anger resurfaced because he’d promised our son he would be there. The thought had crossed my mind to call Rob that day and offer to drive up together, but I was back in anger mode and burned out and decided he could get himself there, so we didn’t speak that day. Rob’s family was very concerned; his Mom kept trying to call him and got no answer. We later found out he was still alive on the 24th as he spoke to a common friend, more or less making his last goodbyes but without actually coming out and saying he was about to take his life. Learning later the signs we all know now, this is a classic sign of those about to take their lives. He was saying his goodbyes, saying he valued the friendship, and that he hoped he had a good Christmas. Read more

I Am Not a Canadian Goose (spouse suicide part 3 of 3)

by Barb Hildebrand
Suicide Shatters
Surviving Suicide ~ The Aftermath

Barbara Hildebrand

Barbara Hildebrand

The emotions experienced after losing a partner/spouse are intense, immense, and best described as an emotional roller coaster. You can be up one moment, then down the next. You can be doing quite well for days, weeks, months and then, all of a sudden, seem to go completely backward and feel almost like you’re right back to when the loss occurred.

Please read Barb’s previous posts on this story

This was all part of my self-development work that helped me learn more about myself; what I had done in the past and what I wanted to create for myself in the future. The forgiveness exercise is one I still use eleven years later. I was not ready to forgive the women Rob had had affairs with. That was my decision and I knew it. I was at a place last December, while on an amazing ten-day holiday in Germany with Rob’s Mom, sister, and my son, that I did my forgiveness exercise one early morning. I forgave all of them! I forgave his family for all that I felt they’d contributed to his demise and way of being. I forgave myself for anything I may have done knowingly, or unknowingly, to have my relationship with my in-laws become distanced. I felt an amazing shift. The best way to describe this feeling was in my heart and I knew something had left my body. That release would propel me along my journey in a much healthier way.

The common bond of suicide can either bring people closer or drive huge wedges between relationships. I’ve seen families get incredibly close, far closer than they were before the suicide. But sadly, I’ve also seen suicide tear a great many families apart. The emotions and thoughts that go hand in hand with suicide and how each person reacts to the suicide based on their own feelings and beliefs dramatically impact the outcome of the relationships. Read more