This is the fourth and final installment of “Surviving” by Susie Clark. I don’t know of a braver person.
My husband and I fell into our new lives pretty well. We made some wonderful friends and enjoyed being near family. After a few years, we had finally been able to feel genuinely happy. My husband was now branch manager at our local bank. We were very involved in our community, church and family. But, as had happened in the past, when we thought we were living our dream, life handed us another bombshell. Howard was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer.
How could we get past this new grief? The loss of what we had worked so hard to build. We had just finally allowed ourselves to think of our altered future with happiness. No children or grandchildren, but we had each other. We had become so deeply entwined, we were completely dependent on each other. I always joked we shared one brain, and my husband was usually the one using it. We had the kind of relationship of people who have survived a terrible natural disaster. We had endured an experience nobody else we knew had ever known. We had a bond that was indestructible.
So began the process of anticipatory grief again. However, this time, I was going to be alone. I knew my husband felt he was letting me down by dying, but he had no choice in the matter. I am so glad throughout our entire married lives, we had always had an extremely strong faith. That had held us up throughout the dark times. Because of this, my husband told me once he had no fear of dying, but he didn’t want to leave me alone. However, I was angry at God. After all we had endured, how could He allow this to happen to us? After all I had already lost, how could He possibly take my true love from me?
My husband was so brave throughout his treatments. He didn’t give up, even though he was so terribly sick. Again, work was his escape. It was his “normal.” I hated missing out on the time he spent at work, knowing the hours were numbered. He said if he didn’t continue to make it to work, cancer had already won.
The grief over knowing my husband was dying was different than the grief of losing a child. Not easier or harder, just different. My husband and I had a very special, very close marriage. We had been each other’s strength during the loss of our children. Now, we had to change our roles. He turned his strength inward to try to fight the demon called cancer. I slipped back into the caregiver role. Without the other to lean on as we had done when our lives were in turmoil before, it was so much harder to survive.
The doctors had estimated he had three-to-five years left. He actually survived 10 months from diagnosis until his death six weeks after his 57th birthday. I always maintained that his heart died when our children died. Because of me he had tried to rejoin the living but never truly did. When cancer attacked him, he just didn’t have the strength to keep fighting. Cancer didn’t kill him, he died of a broken heart. I didn’t blame him. I was actually angry and jealous. Now he was with our beloved children and no longer in emotional and physical pain. I was left behind.
Now I have to start my grief journey all over again. However, this time is so much harder because I have to find my way alone. There is no one to hold me who absolutely knows how I feel. No one left who had been right by my side in this journey since day one. How can I possibly survive any more mind-numbing grief? Because I’ve lived with grief for so long, I now know that it will never go away. It will diminish, and be tolerable, but I will never truly be whole again. My wounded heart will heal, but that wound can be reopened easily.
But, I will survive.
Contact Curt Swarm at firstname.lastname@example.org