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How to move forward 
Started by Nailz
04 Apr 2022, 9:15 PM

I've been handed more than would I would consider my fair share of lemons in my life, and I have always been a positive, up-beat person; but losing my wife has broken me.
I appologize if this is a little long, but I need to vent and I believe some of the background is important in setting the stage for my story.
I met Elizabeth in 1990.  We immediately knew that we were meant to be together and moved in together 3 months later.
In 1991, a brain tumour took my dad from me.  I was sad, but moved on.
Elizabeth and I got married in 1998 and had our first daughter in 1999. 
In 2001, we we happy to have been blessed with another pregnancy; however, Elizabeth's water broke after only 4 1/2 months and our second daughter was born via emergency c-section.  A team of experts were flown in from Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital, but Ariel was simply too pre-mature and passed away after only 9 hours.  We were devastated, but we moved on.
We almost never fought and friend often commented that we were the perfect couple.  We had our share of setbacks over the course of our lives, but we always persevered and always had a positive attitude.
Fast forward to 2021.  In May, I had an unexplainable pain in my right shoulder and forarm that would come and go at random times.  It had been bothering me for a couple of months, but one night the pain in my shoulder was so intense it woke me up in the middle of the night.  I chatted with a "video doctor" as my family doctor is part of a teaching program, so you need to plan to be sick about 3 weeks in advance if you want to see her; anyway, After a brief chat with the video doctor he suggested I go to the emergency room at the local hospital.  I was a little unsure as to why I should go to emerg, but when I told my wife what the doctor had said, I wasn't given a choice.
The emerg doctors weren't sure what was going on, but after some bloodwork they told me that my "T-Levels" indicated a heart attack, but after numerous tests, they couldn't find any  other indication of a heart attack.  Turns out I had a 70%-80% blockage in 2 arteries and they inserted 4 stents and sent me on my way.
Not being able to do much of anything for a month while my wrist/arteries recovered sucked, but fortunately I have an amazing group of friends who immediately stepped up to help out around the house, doing spring cleanup, cutting the grass, and anytyhing else that needed to be done around the house.
Following doctors orders, I quit smoking after over 40 years.  Despite the obvious stress, perhaps the one positive thing in this story, 11 months later and I'm still a non-smoker.
Around this time, our beloved 12 year old Rottweiler/Lab mix, Roxy started limping and one of her legs swelled up so bad she was having a hard time walking.  We arranged for a mobile vet to come and check her our and found out that she had bone cancer and there wasn't much that could be done other than to give her some pain medication to keep her comfortable.  The meds help and although still limping, she was able to carry on.
Sadly I came downstairs one moring in July to find our beloved dog had passed away overnight.  We were heartbroken, but having lost other pets previously, this was not new to us.  We moved on.
Elizabeth had been complaining about a pain in her hip for months and I was finally able to convince her to see a doctor in July (Nightly massages can only ease the pain for so long...) and to our horror we found out that Elizabeth had Stage 4 colorectal cancer.
Elizabeth had been through more than her share of pain and suffering throughout the course of her life, from spending 2 years in a body cast after having herrington rods put in her back to correct scoliosis as a teenager, having her gal-bladder removed in her 20's and shattering her ankle falling down a flight of stairs just before her 50th birthday and of course losing our second child, but she was such a positive person, nothing, and I truly mean NOTHING was going to stop her from enjoying life, so with a smile on her face, she instructed the doctor to throw whatever they could at her, she could handle it and she wsa going to take cancer on and she was going to beat it.
The doctor decided Chemotherapy was best to start with and if it shrank the cancer cells, they would move on to radiation or other forms of therapy, so Elizabeth started chemo immediately.
I believe it was a bit of fate and luck combined in that a very good friend of ours had decided to take the summer off from her job as a Personal Support Worker due to the stress the job was causing her.  She became Elizabeth's personal caregiver, coming over to our house daily to help our, clean up, cook, drive Elizabeth to doctor appointments or whatever else needed to be done.  This allowed me to continue working (from home) and keep paying the bills.  Sharon was a godsend and I honestly don't know what we would have done without her help.  Naturually, this took the friendship that Elizabeth and Sharon shared to a completely new level.  Thick as thieves, or as they liked to refer to themselves, Sin Sisters.
The first chemo treatment hit Elizabeth much harder than anyone expected.  She lost her appetite and had a hard time swallowing, so eating anything was difficult and to make things worse, the chemo gave her what can only be referred to as explosive diarrhea. 
Her second treatment made things even worse.  She couldn't eat solids at all and even getting liquids into her was nearly impossible.  Her hair had started falling out (as expected), so Sharon shaved her head for her as they both believed it was less damaging mentally to just get rid of it, rather than see it come out in clumps every coulple of hours.  The doctor decided to give her body a little extra time to recover, so instead of the normal 2 weeks, they decided on a 3 week period before her next treatment.
During the 3rd week, some of her strength returned and she was able to eat small amounts, and even the diarrhea (with the help of some additional pills) almost came to a stop.  She was feeling so good one day that we went on a bit of a shopping trip, bought a couple of wigs and had lunch at a favourite spot.  Later than night we had some friends over for drinks around the firepit and Elizabeth felt well enough to join us for a couple of hours before becoming tired and heading off to rest.
After her 3rd chemo treatment, the diarrhea returned, she couldn't swallow or eat again and generally felt like crap.  Although obviously in pain and distressed, Elizabeth was determined to beat cancer.
Sharon came over to help out on September 29th and we agreed that Elizabeth was not doing well and seemed even more "out of it" than usual.  We believed that Elizabeth should go to the hospital, so we called an ambulance, but when they arrived, Elizabeth sat up and said you're not taking me anywhere, I'm staying here, I'll go to the doctors office if I don't feel well.  We all knew she really should go to the hospital, but as the parimedics said, they can't force somebody against their will, so they left with a promise that they would reach out to arrange for in-home care as it was obvious that what Elizabeth needed was more than Sharon or I could offer.
The next morning, September 30, 2021, Sharon came over to help Elizabeth clean up as she did many mornings, knowing that it was almost impossible for Elizabeth to get to the washroom by herself (or even with my help) and especially considering how weak she had ben the day before.  When Eliabeth woke up and we tried to help her to the washroom, we noticed that the entire right side of her body was black & blue and there was puss leaking from several blisters.  Elizabeth saw her body, uttered the words "Oh F_ck" and didn't argue when we suggested that we call an ambulance and take her to the hospital.
Due to "Covid Protocols" I was forced to wait in the waiting area at the hospital until the doctors and nurses had done their initial assessment and finally after an hour, the doctor called me in.  Elizabeth was concious, but obviously in a lot of pain.  The had her on medication and after half an hour of trying were finally able to get an IV line into her arm.  She was so dehydrated that it took 6 different nurses before they could find one who was able to get the IV line in.  
The doctor said they had her booked for a CT scan and there was not much else they could do until then.  Despite the obvious pain that she was in, Elizabeth said to me, "I'm sorry you have to go through this".  And that's exactly who she was, always putting the needs/wants others before herself.  I could only reply, "For better or worse, I said it and I meant it".
When they wheeled her off for her CT scan, I called our daughter who is in University 600KM away to let her know that we were at the hostpital and phoned a few other friends and family members to give them an update.
About 20 minutes later, they wheeled Elizabeth back in to the emergency room, she looked at me, smiled, and then her eyes rolled back in her head and she became unresponsive.
The nurses immediately went to work and the doctor looked at me and asked if I wanted "heroic efforts" to which I numbly said yes, but he looked at her, then back at me and said, there really wasn't much that they could do and in less than 2 minutes, she was gone.
My entire world collapsed.  I was numb, I couldn't breathe, I didn't know what to do next.
A friend's son happened to be in the hospital as he was training to be a paramedic, so he came and sat with me while I called our daughter to tell her that her mother had passed away, I called my mother and sister and then called Sharon to come and get me.
It's now been six months since Elizabeth's passing and I'm still struggling.  I truly am blessed to have an amazing group of friends who are even closer than most family members, with Sharon being at the top of the list.  She has been my rock, my voice of reason and my confidant.  My closest friends are part of a family oriented motorcycle riding club that I joined shortly after moving to the area 6 years ago.  We're a small, but tight-knit group and at the core there are 7 "couples" and one single guy...well now, I guess it's 6 couples and 2 single guys.  I don't know what I would have done without them over the past few months.
As is fairly common from other stories I've read, my friends were by my side almost 24/7 initially, but eventually the visits become further and further apart.  We still get together as a group every couple of weeks and I still get together with "the boys" every week for a games night, dinner, drinks or what have you, but with my daughter off at university, and the fact that I work from home, it's mostly me in a large empty house with 3 cats (who are starved for attention as Elizabeth was the 'cat person'), which makes my house feel like a prison some days.
The house I'm in is large and sits on a large property.  It is honestly too much for just one person.  Although financially, I can stay here for a while, I know that it's not feasible long term, but at the same time, this was Elizabeth's "Dream House" and we added a pool, hot tub and a large patio with a good section of it being covered to make this house "party central".  Elizabeth loved to entertain, and this house gave her the perfect venue to which she earned the nickname "Twinkie, The Hostess with the Mostest" whcih she absolutely loved.
I know the "smart" thing to do is to sell the house and downsize to something better suited to "just me" (and my daughter, although she says she plans to stay in Ottawa, even after university), but the memories and emotions tied to this house are making that a difficult thing to do.
Before Christmas, a couple of the ladies suggested that it might be a good idea for me to seek professional help.  I reached out to the local hospice that the folks at the hospital had let me know about and I met with one or their councellors for 4 weekly 1 hour sessions that were suppopsed to be a "grief support group", but due to covid and other circumstances, it ended up being just me and the counsellor.  The sessions were more of an introduction to grief and what it is, so it was confirmed that everything I was feeling was normal.
Overall I don't think it helped me at all, other than getting out of the house for an hour once a week.
Over drinks one night, an old friend from high school suggested that we look into learning how to curl.  I checked it out, found out the local curling club was offering a learn to curl class that ran for 8 weeks and signed up.  My buddy backed out on me at the last minute, but I went on my own and absolutely fell in love with the game.  This past Sunday marked the last day of the season for this year, so now I won't have my Sunday morning curling sessions to look forward to any more.
Riding season is comeing up and hopefully the weather will cooperate and the street sweepers will be out soon to clean all the sand off the roads, but until then......
I went out on the weekend to look at a few "open houses" and came home depressed.  Looking at homes that are essentially considered "Starter Homes" around the $1 Million dollar mark, I know it's not "fair" to compare them to what I have now (I've been told mine would sell for a minimum of $1.5 Million, and likely much higher than that), especially as "the smart thing" for me to do is downsize, but it's hard not to compare them.  I saw old houses that need lots of work, places I consider tiny, and rooms that you could barely fit a bed in, let alone a dresser or anything else.  It was truly depressing, and to make matters worse, all of my friends were busy or otherwise pre-occupied Saturday night, so I came home to my empty house, sat in front of the TV and cried (not at all for the first time)....
I talk to Elizabeth every day, asking her for guidance.  She sits in a beautiful urn on the mantle she made us install when we first bought this house, but so far, she hasn't responded.
I have so many things that I need her guidance on.  What do do with the house, how I'm going to be able to help our daughter stay in University for another 2 years until she graduates, how to be able to move on and not break down in tears pretty much every day everytime I think about her or come across something that I know she would have liked or laughed out loud at, the concerts that are now beginning to happen again now that most of the Covid restrictions are being removed now and the endless lonely nights of me in front of the TV.  I know I'm smart and have always had answers for everthing, but I've had Elizabeth as my sounding board and voice of reason for more than half my life and I just feel completely lost without her.
The ladies are again suggesting that I should seek professional help.  They may be right, but I have no idea who I sholud be looking for.  My benefits plan covers Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Social Workers, but how would i know which of those would be the right person to talk to?
I konw that a lot of the decisions that I need to make can only be made by me, but I'm completely stressed out and although I know she would be there for me until my last breath, I don't want to burden Sharon (who happens to be one of my closest friends wife) any more than I have to.  I know that Sharon's husband and my wife had a special connection that went beyond the fact that they were both originally from Newfoundland and that he has been absolutely nothing but supportive, especially of me occupying so much of his wife's time, but at the same time, even I can recognize the danger of relying too much on Sharon.
Has anyone done the "therapy" thing?  Who did you talk to?  I konw everone is differnet, but what helped, what didn't?  I believe the ladies are right in that I need to talk to someone.  I've done all the stage of grief a few times and currently sit somewhere between the anger and don't really care if I don't wake up tomorrow phase.
Any and all suggestions are welcome.  And thanks for taking the time to read this novel.....
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06 Apr 2022, 12:53 PM

Good morning,
Welcome to the community.  Your choice of nickname spoke powerfully to me. 

Your Elizabeth sounds like a wonderful woman.  My Henry was a Newfoundlander as well - it's been close to 7 years since he died. The jagged, rough edges of grief have softened, but I miss making decisions together - I have never been very good at making decisions, I miss sharing a laugh - as you were married to a Newfoundlander you may understand that:), I miss someone knowing me - my good points and warts. Much of the first years can be a fog - sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other. 

I know that others in this community will come along to support you as well.  I wonder if it would be helpful to dip your toes into the water of therapy - a little more time has passed and it seems finding the 'right' person makes all the difference. As you are deciding, here is a link a grief support resource you may want to check out. 

Would talking to Sharon and her husband about your fear of burdening them be helpful? 

Kind regards,

When your husband, wife or partner has died

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Reply by Mark99
06 Apr 2022, 3:40 PM

A brilliant, touching, and deeply personal share here. Bravo for pulling all you've faced and felt out from inside. Once said out loud and shared feelings unfold, reflect back, and enlighten us. They begin to point direction. Gives meaning to what’s inside.  It takes the puzzle of our feelings and offers a narrative for us to see and others to see. An amazing first step. 


We all grieve differently yet much of what you shared is a Venn of my grief on so many points. I too talk to Donna daily, struggle about moving from the home she created, and more. 


I think the dipping ones toes into grief counseling is worthy. You already are sharing boldly and bravely with deep insight and love. For me as I navigate my grief journey/work. I kind of see my grief and loss this way :The pain of grief opens up your heart so your tears can fall freely to the ground, watering the soil where new life can grow through the dancing of memories we hold.



If you haven't seen this TED Talk on Grief it is an amazing set of sails for our grief journey. It can carry us forward. 


You're not alone we are here. We got you. And you got us. At the heart of our humanity is connection. 


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Reply by eKIM
06 Apr 2022, 11:51 PM

Hi Nailz

I am sorry that you have experienced this great loss.  It sounds as though Elizabeth is your true soul mate.  Keep on talking to her – that is one of the healthiest things that you can do. 

It is therapeutic and also it allows a “new and different” type of relationship to continue.  You will hear her answer you (not verbally, of course), but intuitively.  You will know what she wants for you – your happiness.

Many people benefit from speaking with a professional grief counsellor.  You could look around and find someone locally.  A professional counsellor can be expensive, but generally it is worth it.

If money is a concern, you might check with your local hospice.  The hospice that I volunteer with does not charge for their services.

People often start with a grief counsellor individually and/or in group sessions. 

Afterwards, if they would like more sessions, they are paired with a volunteer (like me) who is trained in grief and bereavement. 

We are not professional therapists.  Instead, we act as a “compassionate companion” – someone who is a good listener. 

It is a valuable resource for people who feel that they “just don’t have someone to talk to”.

Oftentimes when a person tells their story over and over again, their own answers will come bubbling to the surface.

After a number of sessions (usually 12), people can take advantage of numerous other programs offered by the hospice.

If you check out this option, let us know how things work out.

In the meantime, keep posting notes here.  You have found a group of people who care.


Ps  A book that I found very helpful is the classic book “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis who lost his wife. 

Although it is not strictly a religious book, someone who does not believe in God probably should seek out a more secular book.


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