Last year on July 31, my wife died. After 33 years of marriage, and fighting stage 4 lung cancer for 33 weeks, she passed from this world with a smile on her face to meet her eternal reward. On the other hand, I was left here to pick up the pieces. The first days and weeks were a blur of arrangements and decisions against the backdrop of sheer anguish and complete numbness. I could not believe she was gone. I looked around me at the shattered remains of my life and wondered how I would go on. Where would I find the motivation? What purpose did my life have now? All around me, people went about their daily lives as if nothing had happened. When it took every ounce of strength I had to get out of bed in the morning, everybody else was carrying on as normal. Of course, they would, their world hadn’t just crumbled around them. But mine had. I often felt joy that she was no longer in the excruciating pain she had lived with for months, and absolute anguish that I would never again see her smile, or hear her voice, or feel her caress. I was feeling these feelings AT THE SAME TIME. It was very confusing. I came to realize that I now lived in the land of conflicting emotions. Waves of emotions would wash over me, triggered by the smallest and most obscure sights, sounds, smells, and memories. While the height of the waves has subsided somewhat, they continue to pound the shoreline of my soul. I think about what a friend whose son was murdered told me several years ago, “I will never get over it, but I will get through it.” I have been searching for ways to get through it. Walking, swimming, pushups, ballroom dancing lessons, hiking, board games. On Sunday I am going to Kentucky for two weeks with God’s Pit Crew to help build a house for a family whose home was destroyed by a natural disaster. This past weekend I was in Tampa for Camp Widow, an event held by Soaring Spirits International. Walking into a room with over 200 people who are on the same journey of loss and grief that I am was nothing short of transformational. Stories were told, tears were shed, and somehow being around others carrying the same burden made the load a little bit lighter. I came away refreshed and transformed, with fifteen new friends from all over the country. We have a group text and plan to stay connected. I hope that none of you reading this right now are part of this club I find myself a part of. But if you are, please find a community of others who are also members. Lean on each other, cry together, carry each other’s burden, and generally, show up for each other. I recommend it highly. Don’t try to go over, under, or around your grief. The only way through it is to walk through it. I plan to start a local group of widows and widowers to provide a safe place to walk through this valley together. If you or someone you know is on this journey please call me at 540-556-0650. I would love to connect with you and share our journey together. You may notice that this column runs together without separation of paragraphs. I did this on purpose. In this grief journey, everything runs together. It is, after all, the land of conflicting emotions. Call me and we will walk this journey together.
in Aging in Place published 03/27/23