Letters to my late husband in the first year following his death
by Sally Dalzel
When 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. Continue reading ““Because You Were There””→
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.
When 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. Continue reading “Twenty Years”→
As I write this, I am preparing for a journey back to the home of my childhood where I will mark the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death. I was with her throughout the week before she passed away and had the privilege of shepherding her through that transition—a moment I had been preparing for since I first became a hospice physician. I knew many years ago that I would be with my Mom on the day she died and that it would be one of the most important days of my life.
Her death itself was actually joyful, though it was a process that took a great deal of inner work on her part, which has also been true for many of my hospice patients. Mom had been ready and waiting to “go home” for the previous 5 years and was relieved that her time had finally come. So as she took her last breaths I had to celebrate on her behalf, that her struggle was coming to an end, even while my heart was breaking as each thread of our physical connection slipped through my hands and I confronted the enormity of that loss. Continue reading “Something From Nothing: A Path Through Grief (bereaved adult child)”→
In grief, the heart is traumatized. Everything it knew for sure is thrown up in the air, unanchored, grasping for familiarity. The mind is also traumatized. It looks for answers, for sureness, for the past, for right and wrong. This confusing and tumultuous time is what people who are grieving experience moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month. It is exhausting, constantly changing, overwhelming and frightening. This may seem “dramatic” to someone who hasn’t experienced a significant loss. Many people find it strange that the griever is “still” grieving after all this time, and the griever may feel those same feelings. People want to help and there are various ways to do that. One of the simplest and most profound ways is listening. Continue reading “Listening Is An Act of Love”→
Don died on D-Day (June 6), 2011. He would have found that fitting as he was a true WWII buff. The day was sweet, with a close friend or two dropping by. They brought a strength for Don, me and our two grown children. Hospice made it possible. After several weeks in the hospital, Don came home for a while. His first words on waking were, “Wow, I’m home!” It made cleaning out the dining room, looking out to the patio, a fine place for Don and others to spend time.
Not much, however. He left gently, in the early morning just two days later.