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Minny9

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  • Date Widowed
    12/12/2016
  • Name of Spouse
    Rhonda
  • Spouse's Age
    49


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  1. As a young(ish) widower, and the only one in my extended circle of friends, acquaintances, and past co-workers to lose his wife before the age of 50, I have always felt (and continue to feel) so alone in my experience. Even now, more than 3 years after Rhonda's passing on December 12th, 2016, I'm still regularly confronted with new and unexpected feelings and emotions, to say nothing of the all-too-frequent moments of self-doubt and uncertainty of whether I have made any meaningful progress toward reconciling her death, and accepting all the resulting changes to my life. To be truthful, I question these emotions and feelings of bewilderment constantly. And I do this, honestly I believe, in a two-fold effort to try to make sense of everything, and to ultimately let her go - whatever that eventually comes to mean. Many of you will agree that, over time, the "sensations" of grief change and transform. They are still never comfortable, but at least now, 3 years on, I recognize them for what they are -- momentary "sensations". In the first several months, by contrast, the grief was so raw, and her absence so painfully tangible and "in-my-face". Everything, absolutely everything, seemed hollow without her, and in these early days it was the simple, little things I missed most of all: her voice, her mannerisms, her presence in our home, her affection. And because I had just lost her, all of these things after 23 years together were able to be recalled in perfect detail. I spent endless hours desperately trying to cling to my memories of all the distinctive things about her that I loved. I also struggled to get past the horrific memories of her last weeks in hospital and palliative care. It took many months to rid my mind of most of them and to be able to remember her more often as she was when she was healthy and, well, herself. It affected my sleep, and gave renewed rise to those feelings of helplessness and uselessness that I experienced while at her side in her final weeks (Rhonda died from an aggressive cervical cancer and its complications only 8 months after her diagnosis). In those extremely difficult first months, as I've come to learn, insufficient time had elapsed to prepare me for the larger, more complex "sensations" that lay ahead: the anniversaries and birthdays, returning for the first time to those favorite places we always enjoyed together, or the university campus where Rhonda worked, ran, and studied, all places that now serve only to remind me of her. With time, I suppose I've gained perspective, and eventually as the disbelief of her loss lessened so did the outward expressions of my grief. I cried less often, and was able to enjoy playing hockey with my friends again, and feeling capable of participating in the "witty banter" that typifies a beer-league hockey locker room! Even inadvertent mentions by others of their wives or of their shared vacations, for example, no longer felt like a stomach punch. But it's still not easy - certain music still has a way of making me crumble to my knees (figuratively speaking, mostly). Here are some of the things I have noticed recently that I find troubling, but at the same time give me pause that maybe I'm actually somehow, however slowly, letting Rhonda go. - my memories of her are less specific, less detailed. I remember her now more in the abstract. Is this normal? - I can't recall with the same certainty how she would have reacted in certain situations; I've lost that sense of familiarity and predictability that I treasured about our relationship. - since nothing ever stays the same, I feel less connected to her as things change, even mundane and seemingly unrelated things such as new buildings or restaurants make me feel distant from her - I no longer always think of telling Rhonda first whenever something of interest comes up; I think it's part of accepting the solitude and silence that comes with living alone now, but is it more than that? It's a long journey, one with direction but without destination. What are some of the indicators that lead you to believe you're allowing yourself to let him/her go? Steve
  2. As you may recall from previous posts, my wife Rhonda died in December, 2016, at the age of 49 from an aggressive cervical cancer. Her unexpected loss and the disbelief that accompanied it are the reasons why I first came here - and why I keep coming back. So many stories so similar to mine have helped me feel less alone and more able to carry on in a world I never imagined. Through the hurt and sadness has come a sense of comfort and solidarity that can only be experienced, I've found, with others who have similarly lost the most important person in their life. For me, my wife will forever be that person. Of that, I am convinced, especially now.... On October 28th, my mother passed away after a long illness. She was an amazing woman who, after her divorce to my father when I was just 7 years old, raised my sister and I on her own and never remarried. We were her life. I have told people that, in less than two years, I have lost the only two people in my life who dedicated theirs to loving and caring for me. It's a stunning realization that has set me back a bit in my grieving process. But it's true - the only two people in my life who dedicated theirs to loving and caring for me are now gone. This is not to say, however, that each loss has been equally as devastating. I need to share how very different the two experiences have been for me, especially considering how close together their respective deaths were. First and foremost, my mother's death was expected. She was 80 and had suffered with COPD and had been on oxygen therapy for 8 years. Her death was logical. My wife's death, on the other hand, will never make sense to me. It was not expected and I was completely unprepared for the myriad of changes there would be to my everyday life. To that end, Rhonda's diagnosis and death 8 months later was not logical. But is that the only reason why I find my mother's death infinitely less difficult to accept and process than my wife's - because she was old? I still have yet to really cry since my mother died, whereas I still lose it from time to time with Rhonda. And sometimes I feel guilty about that. They both loved me unconditionally, and both shaped and molded me into the person I have become. I owe so much to my mother for everything she had done to raise me, and for all the sacrifices. So why is her passing not been as hard on me emotionally? Again, where is the logic? I sometimes tell myself that I'm just all cried out, that the tears and sadness for my mother's loss are still to come. Perhaps they will, but I remind myself of something I often told people in the months after Rhonda died, especially those who haven't gone through the loss of a spouse. Regardless of what you or others may expect of you, there is no instruction manual for how to feel and manage all the emotions experienced in grief. "You feel what you feel", and do your best to cope. You feel what you feel... On the one year anniversary of losing my wife, I confided to my family that the overwhelming fear and uncertainty I experienced for several months after losing Rhonda had lessened to the point I was almost undaunted by whatever might happen going forward. It was partly an acceptance of what cannot be changed, but also of knowing even then that there will never be anything more painful the rest of my life. And now that I've just lost my mother, I can now hold that to be true. Thanks. Steve
  3. Only recently in all this time since my wife's death in December, 2016, do I feel I'm able to have a less purely emotional and reactionary outlook on many of these same supposed reassurances. In their place, I am finding the ability, or the capacity, to be more receptive and contemplative towards those who, as PaulZ said, "don't get it unless they've been through it". This is not to say I always want to hear what they're telling me. But I chalk it up to ignorance on their part, all the uncomfortable and awkward attempts to "say the right thing". Instead, I try to just accept their concern for me for what it is - a genuine desire to see me reach a better place. That being said.... I am the only one in my family who has not been divorced. My sister has been married twice; my father 3 times. My sister's first husband, as did my father, went on to marry the woman he cheated with. By contrast, my late wife and I were together 23 years, and married for 19 - she was the only woman I've ever loved. I take much pride and find solace in knowing that we were happily committed in a way that eluded others in my family. I get that people make mistakes and that things don't always work out as they'd hoped. But in my family I remain the only one who is a widow/er. How is that fair? It infuriates me, even as a witness to it in my own family, that anyone could be so disrespectful of and inconsiderate towards his spouse to seek out the company of others when I would give everything I have to be with my wife again for even another hour. I suppose, now that I'm able to more reflective, that their seemingly empty reassurances and promises of new-found happiness come from what they know. For how can they ever truly be expected to "say the right things" when these same people either never have done, or ever had done to them, the "right thing"? I'm grateful for this website. Steve
  4. Minny9

    The second year seems harder.

    I've not posted for a while, but I felt it necessary to add to this thread as I, too, endeavor to find my way in Year 2. My wife died exactly 20 months ago today, and tomorrow (Aug. 13th) would have been her 51st birthday... We did not have children, so I am alone in our home. I've gotten more accustomed in Year 2 to the empty house, and being on my own. What I've found hard to accept now in Year 2 is that many of the people we shared our lives with have moved on. For me, it's no less difficult in Year 2 grieving alone on important days like her birthday. All I wish for is to know that these same people are also remembering her -- even if they're not remembering me. That simple knowing would give me a real sense of comfort -- and, even more so, to be told that she is not forgotten and that others are keeping her memory alive in their own ways. But I realize this is less likely to happen in Year 2, and probably less so in Year 3 and beyond. Dare I say, such is the distinctiveness of the experience of losing a spouse: no one's day-to-day life is impacted and altered (hell, shattered) more than ours. In the end, we're largely left to our own devices. I pray every day that I can discover that balance between moving forward and not forgetting. Must they be mutually exclusive? It's only in Year 2, that the realization I shared in an earlier post has become easier to accept: "Until very recently, almost all my energies were spent desperately clinging to everything that I loved about her - about us. In my mind, no thing is too small. The most simple mannerisms or subtle nuances of expression are what I miss most commonly - things that are rarely captured adequately in a picture or satisfactorily recalled in a memory. But as I have come to understand, and am only now beginning to accept, it is impossible to hold on to them all. I believe, fatalistically, that the only reason we can move forward with life and not feel the pain and sorrow so profoundly is that we simply and inevitably forget - or, perhaps more accurately, are no longer able to recall." - Steve
  5. Let's try this again.
  6. I never had been a believer of predestiny or fatalism in general. Or to think that there is a course already marked out for each of us that we are unwittingly intended to follow. Really? Honestly? Well, okay, perhaps - on some level. Maybe those things that happen to me, but not because of me. Maybe... Considering all I've experienced in the time since my wife's cancer diagnosis in April, 2016. and her death just 8 months later, maybe I'm starting to come around. Maybe this was all meant to be after all... In the final six weeks of Rhonda's life, despite knowing in my head she was dying (though unable to fully comprehend what that really meant), I didn't cry all that much. Of course I did, and I suppose as the realization began to hit me, I did even more. But one time in particular really stands out. I was with family and a few close friends in a small room on the palliative ward separate from my wife's room. The palliative staff were awaiting Rhonda's decision whether she wanted to visit our home one last time. If so, they needed to make arrangements for transportation and staffing, and were concerned that waiting too long she wouldn't be physically well enough to go through with it. Although the decision was hers, I was terrified. At every turn in the course of her treatments and hospitalization, nothing went as hoped for or as planned. Procedures underwent failed again and again - if they were undertaken at all. On more than one occasion, she was wheeled down to a "holding area" only to be told that a procedure was too risky and had to be cancelled. It was my greatest fear that this goodwill offer to bring her home would instead end up in tragedy, or, at the very least, be so emotional for both of us that the scarring would outweigh any possible enjoyment that might be derived. When word was finally passed along to us that she had chosen not to return home, I lost it. I bawled inconsolably for several minutes. I'm certain it was the release of weeks of emotional stress and frustration, of being unable to help her - of having no control over what was happening to her, and to us. Which takes me back to my original notion that maybe there is something to all this predestination business... About 8 months after she died, I found the courage to dig out that box in the back of her closet that contained her journals. Among them was an entry I've attached here from way back in 1995. It really hit me hard when I first read it, and haven't forgotten it since. As you'll read, she recounts a dream where she observes a shadowy figure in her room and "...there were huge areas of red in it. The red moved all the way through the shadow like blood flowing through a body but the red was cancer cells..." Did she know of her fate all those years ago? She had lost her Mom to cancer in 1992 when Rhonda was only 25, so I could understand her deep-seated fear of the same thing happening to her. I may never be able to completely understand how this has all came to pass - but if I can at least accept it by considering the possibility that it was predestined, I might be able to let go of the anger and frustration that I continue to carry with me. Thoughts? Steve (NOTE - the pages below are out of order. The first page is actually page 3)
  7. Heather, what you've experienced and endured leading up to and immediately after losing Chad are eerily similar to what I've lived through, although it's been 18 months now since I lost my wife in December, 2016, after battling a rare cervical cancer for only 8 months. Rhonda was just 49 when she passed - we both were. The horrific final weeks/days of our spouse's lives do not define them, though the memories so early after losing them are so raw and unresolved. For weeks I had trouble getting to sleep because I could not get the memories of her time in palliative care out of my mind. It wasn't by choice. In those darkest days, my life had been singularly focused - every day spent just being there with her, not caring about anything else, whatever that might otherwise entail, nor thinking ahead to what happens after... As you know and have expressed so bravely, you do whatever you have to for your best friend and soulmate as they reach their final days. In my wife's case, early on in her treatment she developed a blood clot after her very first brachytherapy procedure (an internal radiation treatment that is performed under general anaesthetic) which required daily blood thinner injections. She was terrified of needles and this one was big. I had to do it for her, injecting into her abdomen - and it stung! To ready herself, she would keep repeating "here come the bees, here come the bees", as she likened the sensation to that of a bee sting. Again, you do what you have to. By the time she was admitted to hospital after the wound from her radical hysterctomy surgery wouldn't close due a reduction in blood flow to the area caused by the over 30 radiation treatments (don't get me started), we already had received the pathology results and knew the cancer had resisted all treatments and had spread. Despite this, she was still so upbeat and brave - I could not have been more proud to be her husband. As the days in hospital turned to weeks, and included a move to the palliative ward, she developed ascites (a fluid buildup in the abdomen caused by metastatic cancer) and a bowel obstruction, the latter of which required a nasogastric tube to be inserted to release the bile that would build up in her stomach. As a result of the obstruction, she received no nourishment the final 6 weeks of her life and quite literally faded away. You think, understandably, that nothing could be harder than watching your spouse die. I would say the emotions and overwhelm you have been and will continue to experience are equally as traumatic. I will offer you this, Heather - with time the haunting memories of your husband's final days will lessen, both in frequency and in intensity. They will lessen and be replaced more often by memories of happier and healthier times. If I may, I encourage you to read a great article that was published only 4 days after Rhonda died in the Globe & Mail newspaper. It will resonate with you, I'm sure. the Widowhood Effect: What it's like to lose a loved one so young Finally, in regards to your comment: I struggle with this a lot. Please see my earlier post about this very topic here. Take good care, Steve
  8. Thanks for that, Rudi. I would challenge anyone to listen to "Don't, This Way" and not be moved to tears - it's that powerful, to say nothing of the hauntingly truthful words and despair so passionately expressed in his vocals. On a side note... For a long while I was uncertain whether to share my stories here. Surely no one would find my tales of loss and misery worthy of their time - or so I was convinced. But, as a young(ish) widower, I've learned this is a safe place with so many others facing similar challenges I've often thought could only ever be understood by me. The post above is my most personal yet. I miss my wife every day in every way. It has only been 18 months since I lost that "treasure" that was her spirit and love of life. Steve
  9. I met my late wife in 1994 when we were both 26. It was an awkward time of self-realization and discovery, at an age when you haven't lived nearly long enough to know exactly who you are or who you'll become, but long enough to think you do. We fell in love, and married 3 years later, just before we turned 30. As it invariably does, music helped define us in those early days. I recall fondly evenings slow dancing at her apartment to Seal and to The Cranberries, and even to U2 (of the early 90's). It wasn't long after that I introduced my wife to a favorite band I had discovered shortly before we met. I took strange satisfaction in knowing they were largely unknown and obscure. But maybe because of it, this artist's music would become "ours", and, even more profoundly, become the anthems of our life together - from beginning to end. My wife had lost her Mom to cancer 18 months before we met. Another self-defining experience, to be sure. One particular song by this band ("Don't, This Way" by the 77's) I immediately found to be extremely powerful and moving. I played it for her a couple of times all those years ago, but did not tell her it was about death and the desperate sense of hopelessness that follows a loss. I will never forget looking over at her one time while driving and seeing the tears slowly running down her cheeks as it played. In the liner notes, the songwriter asserts: "Maybe the saddest song I’ve ever heard." And to this day, I believe him. And nearly 23 years later, as my wife neared her own death, this song played in my mind incessantly, in particular the last verse: "Don't leave this way, so many words unsaid Don't lie this way, stretched straight from Feet to head Don't look this way, closed eyes, unmoving lips Don't feel this way, cold hands and fingertips" Another song by this artist became the song we danced our first dance to at our wedding ("The Treasure in You" by the 77's). Again, it wasn't a song anyone else likely knew, which was perfectly fine by us - it was "ours". Recently I listened to this song for the first time in a very long time. And aside from the expected sadness and sobbing, I also felt a real, tangible pain. We always steadfastly believed the lyrics were perfect as our wedding song. Yet what I'm now struck with, ironically, is the realization that the lyrics seem to have prophetically foretold her death: "Two lives, two faces intertwined Something so down to earth and so divine Is mine, and I.... I never want to lose it I never want to lose it I never want to lose it I never want to lose the treasure in you And though one day baby I'll have to set you free I'll still have all the love you left deep inside of me, and I... I never want... I never want to lose" Thanks for letting me share. I suspect I'm not the only one who finds music to still be a painful reminder of our loss. Steve (NOTE - full lyrics and music for both songs are found at the highlighted links above)
  10. Minny9

    No One Gets It

    Well put, Jen. I'm drawn to this topic more than nearly any other - though, to be truthful, the experience of losing my wife (in my case) and best friend is so complex on so many levels. I'll do my best to stay on topic.... My wife died 18 months ago after 19 years of marriage when we were both 49. During the final 6 weeks of her life, myself, her only sister, and her closest and dearest girlfriend (her "core", as my wife referred to us), were at her side virtually every day. After she died, I reminded both of them how much my wife loved and treasured each of us - but each in her own way. I suggested that those personal aspects of our individual relationships with her would be ours alone to grieve, but that no single relationship was more or less important to her than another. Months later, and I can't help feeling like I'm lost on an island - and the search party has been called off. Her girlfriend has a busy family and loving husband; her sister has a caring husband. But I am all alone. While I know they both share the same love and appreciation for everything my wife was as a person, they can not know what it is to lose the intimacy and depth of love and understanding only experienced with a life partner, and the unspoken knowingness and familiarity that comes from spending every day with that person -- as when two people grow so close they become more like two halves of a whole. The "core" has sadly drifted apart, despite the long histories we have together. It's been tough to accept because I see them as the only other people who even remotely understand the pain of her loss. And I'm sure they do. But, as I'm realizing, her loss represents different things to each of us. Beyond this understanding, unfortunately, I don't expect an adequate level of compassion for, empathy towards, or true understanding of, my pain from either of them.
  11. Minny9

    Having trouble functioning

    On June 12th it will be exactly 18 months since I lost my wife to cancer at age 49, and 25 months since her diagnosis. Last August would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. 36 months ago I was laid off after 21 years with the same employer, a career I loved and for which I was well respected. My life in a very short period of time became completely foreign to me. As I often submit to those who ask, my life for more than 20 years was fairly simple: my wife, my job, and my hockey. Never could I have anticipated losing my career and my wife (and best friend) in the space of 18 months. Essentially, I lost virtually everything that I was and ever wanted to be... I've not yet returned to work. in fact, after her diagnosis, my job search was put on hiatus as we were determined to walk her journey through treatment together, never accepting it would lead to her passing so suddenly, if it did at all. I occupied much of my time immediately after her death preparing her memorial and ensuring all financial and legal considerations were taken care of. But in the time that's passed since, I have also struggled to find motivation. Besides, it's just me now, right? All those lofty aspirations I may have had seem so meaningless now. I'm also the youngest widow I know, and the first in my circle of hockey buddies or former coworkers who has lost a spouse. It's also difficult for them to relate because they are so invested in the daily busyness of life with their careers and families. As we did not have children ourselves, we traveled. But now my traveling companion - the woman who first introduced me to the adventure and love I found for travel - is gone. So, too, is any interest I may ever have had to travel alone, for how worthwhile is any travel experience unless it is shared with someone who cares as equally about you as the experience? My mother is nearly 80 and receiving palliative care at her home. Her well-being has given me immediate purpose, but she has a terminal condition and I know all too well where this path leads. I have completely lost myself as a result of being a constant caregiver for the last 18 months, and at times the prospect of finding and returning to meaningful employment seems so distant, daunting, and meaningless. Thank heavens for good friends - those that may not always know what to say, but who do not judge and stand by me regardless of what society might otherwise expect of me...
  12. Taurus, I empathize completely. On June 12th it will have been 18 months since my wife passed, a full 10 months longer even than I had to prepare for her loss after her cancer diagnosis. Until very recently, almost all my energies were spent desperately clinging to everything that I loved about her - about us. In my mind, no thing is too small. The most simple mannerisms or subtle nuances of expression are what I miss most commonly - things that are rarely captured adequately in a picture or satisfactorily recalled in a memory. But as I have come to understand, and am only now beginning to accept, it is impossible to hold on to them all. I believe, fatalistically, that the only reason we can move forward with life and not feel the pain and sorrow so profoundly is that we simply and inevitably forget - or, perhaps more accurately, are no longer able to recall. Until I started to accept this eventuality, I was stalled in my grief. I imagine sometimes a chance encounter with my wife all these months later. I imagine the conversation being awkward, as it might with anyone we may have known intimately and not seen for a long time. I wonder if she will be accepting of how I've navigated my life without her direction, for that's how it is without her - a life without direction. It's a an interesting exercise and I've found it to be the most telling way of measuring my progress. I can't say yet that I'll ever be content with my emptiness, but I've similarly reset my expectations about how much happiness life will yield to me without Rhonda in it. She was my everything and my one and only, lost at 49 after 19 years of marriage.

Personal Information

  • Date Widowed
    12/12/2016
  • Name of Spouse
    Rhonda
  • Spouse's Age
    49


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