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Posts: 4
Joined: Apr 2010

My husband died April 27 after a nearly three year journey with tonsil cancer. My heart is broken - we have two children - 18 and 20 who have been simply wonderful through all of this. I realize that I am being very hard on myself - I know this grief is very new and raw - but I'm impatient with how terrible I feel and everyone says "Take care of yourself" but I really don't know how to do that. Nothing much seems to help.

I can get through what I need to do. I'm perfectly functional - but it's so hard - it's like being in a terrible fog all the time and when I do emerge from the fog, it'st just to feel that terrible, piercing pain that cuts through me like a knife. Things are complicated because I'm a pastor and my church is full of people who think somehow I should work out this private grief in front of them. I am perfectly capable of doing my job - I went to hospice today to visit a dying man - that kind of almost clinical thing isn't hard for me - but I can't bear 200 people asking me "How are you doing?" every Sunday morning.

He had been having a really good remission, so we made plans for a big 25th anniversary trip to the Bahamas with our kids. So we leave Tuesday morning - the three of us are still going to go because why not? It's way out on a quiet island where there won't be anything but sand and water and sun but oh, I had to call the airline finally this afternoon to cancel his ticket and that has plunged me into that deep sorrow again.

He died so quickly. Until the end of March, he'd never been in pain, never had any kind of symptom - all his physical problems came from the chemo and radiation. But all of a sudden, the good remission turned into a monster - the cancer came back everywhere and he died literally as they were transferring him from his hospital bed to a gurney to go to the hospice inpatient facility. His doctor says he thinks my husband chose when he wanted to die- that morning he was sitting up eating breakfast, and 12 hours later, he was gone.

I need to know that someone out here in the universe knows what this horrible grief feels like.

grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

Sadly, many of us here on these boards do know the pain of grief. I lost my husband of 42 years in Oct. 2009 after a 6 year battle with colon cancer. Even now, 7 months later, I am still trying to find my way. I still have some really down days. This is hard. Evenings and meal times are the hardest for me. Little things set me off. Although my husband was not diagnosed until August, 2003, he had his first symptoms on Memorial Day of that year. I rushed him to ER, but they couldn't find the the source of bleeding. They admitted him to the hospital, did tests, and missed the cancer. That all came back to me today. I guess what I am trying to say is that you are right. Your grief is raw and new. Mine is still raw, too. Time does make it a little easier, but I know I am going to need a lot more time.

My husband and I belonged to a very caring community of faith. They took the journey with us, and many shared in our family's sense of loss and grief. I'm guessing that your congregation just wants to be there for you. Have you tried telling them that you need some personal space to grieve, that you know they care about you and you appreciate their prayers, but right now you just need to process your grief in your own way? Is there someone in the congregation who might share this with your members while you are away? I know our denomination has peer counselors for pastors. Does yours have something like that? Just as we lay folk need help sometimes, so do pastors. I'm glad you are going on the vacation. Our family is taking an Hawaiian cruise this summer. I hope both of us find some healing.

I do think we must have some ability to choose our time. We had just returned from a short trip to Yosemite, and our two sons strongly believe that my husband waited until I was not in the room. Who knows?

I don't know if any of this is helpful. I have no words of wisdom. I know you know all about the grief process, counseling others through that process, and helping others move forward. It's not the same when it's you. It is so much harder than any of us thought. Fay

Posts: 4
Joined: Apr 2010

That's so true, Fay. I've done this work for 25 years, and it is so much more terrible than I imagined. And I think very scary for other people. I do know that most of my congregation is very well intentioned, but boundaries are always hard in pastoral ministry and often, the people who cross those boundaries the most are the ones who won't hear when someone tries to talk about them. If that makes sense. But I do have some retired clergy in the congregation who might be able to help some with this - you are right - I am not be as helpless in this as I feel.

Oh I'm so sad.

Thanks for responding. It helps to know there is somebody else out there who has a clue how awful this is. That's the worst. It's so isolating. As much as people mean to be kind and helpful - most people really don't want to know what a pit of sadness and despair this kind of grief digs.

Posts: 120
Joined: Mar 2010

Hi..First my heartfelt condolences on your loss....My husband Bill passed away April 21 of this year from Lung Cancer...it was about 6wks from diagnosis to his death....but he had a good six weeks....due to hospice he was pain free and at home the whole time.
We were true loners....together we were a unit of two...he had children from a previous marriage...but other than that we really kept to ourselves...we always said that we were just not social people...and we relied solely on each other....which was fine as long as there was the two of us.
This is proving to be my biggest stumbling block....the feeling in my heart that I am now truly alone...never having children of my own and not having any family close by....I do have family in Florida...but haven't had contact in many years.
I have tried to build some sort of a relationship with one of his daughters....but thats not turning out so well....she is going though some major personal/fiancial trouble and I sense that at some level I am a means to an end for her....her issues were going on long before Bill died and we struggled with helping her or not helping her....there is no bottom to her needs and now I know I cannot help her...well other than verbal support and at times I see myself doing way more than I should to help her....and I feel that I am doing this just to keep her close...because I fear being totally alone....it was Bill and I for 32 years...I sense now that if I backed off...there would be zero contact...but lately I have been feeling that, that might be healtier for me..because I really feel that she is just using me.
I am struggling now to find myself....to be comfortable with myself...
I am a nurse by profession...but not having worked for over a year and having dealt with Bills medical issues...well I am leery about returning to the medical workforce...but your saying that you were able to to return to your work and even visit a hospice patien gives me hope....guessing I need to reach down inside and find the strenght that lives down there...
My choice so long ago to not have children is something I am now regretting....guess I just never thought I would be alone...and now I am.
I try to keep busy..but its so easy to just isolate my self..and at times being alone is easier for me..but easy is not always the best route.
Do enjoy your vacation....and know that there are many others out there going though the exact thing your going though....this cancer thing is such a massive dark place...and now that our spouse's are at peace we all need to find our own place of peace...a place to grieve...but also a place to live...but its a long and very bumpy road.

Posts: 4
Joined: Apr 2010

Oh Pat, we're really on the same timeline. I have a little time the next couple of weeks with my children, but they are both scattering for the summer, and then I'll really be alone. Although I was always more social and outgoing than my husband, we were very self-sufficient together and like you and Bill, very content with just each other. I worry about managing this house by myself - Gerry always did everything maintenance wise, and I don't know anything about plumbing, or electricity, or stuff like that.

It's awfully hard to have the complication of a step child - especially one who has a ton of her own issues.

Work is actually pretty therapeutic for me - it is distracting - and I can get into my role pretty easily. Lots of people were telling me I should take a leave of absence, but I really didn't want to do that - I thought it would be much worse to just sit around the house and stare at things and miss him. I'm trying to imagine just having six weeks from diagnosis to death - how brave you must both have been! The one thing I feel really good about is that Gerry and I got to say everything we wanted to to each other. He was very proud and independent, and it was hard for him to learn to let me help him - but our partnership really flourished when he got sick.

Peace be with you Pat - it is really a massive dark place - and the only thing that helps is to know there are other people bumbling around in it with me.

Posts: 120
Joined: Mar 2010

Hi Clare...
Thanks for the post...yes the six weeks were a blur most of the time...but like you and Gerry...we got to talk...we cried together and laughed together...it sounds weird to say but it was nice...it was as it should have been under the circumstances....hospice helped a great deal with the peacefullness of it all.
We live in an apartment complex so maintainence is not an issue thank-fully...but some of the little things around the place that he did I am now finding out how to do...like painting...ugh..baby steps!!
Bill had some issues at first with the depedance thing too....he was always telling me to stop doing things and just relax....it bothered him...but he got used to it...and even told me that had the situation been reversed..he doubted that he could have cared for me to the same degree....I showed him just how strong of a lady I was....I had to give him that peace of mind....I did a juggling act for those six weeks...but I am happy I did.
I am glad he cannot see the weepy mess I have turned into....
I am going out tomorrow and getting out some applications....its time...and you have given me the strenght to do it....we still have to live...now don't we?
Enjoy the time with you children...
"fellow bumbler"

Posts: 85
Joined: Apr 2010

I also lost my husband of 43 years on April 6th, suddenly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he was fine and we did everything right according to what they say is right, ate right excersized, took good care of ourselves, but he suddenly had a stomach ache, blamed it on our grandkids, saying that they gave him a stomach virus, and that was it. He was admitted in Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Hospital in Manhattan, and in 3 weeks he was gone. It is still pretty unbelieveable to me. I try to believe it but it is hard; I am going to grief counseling, and i also went back to work, work is good it distracts us. I have 2 sons and 4 grandchildren, but they live about an hour away and I don't get to see them all the time. I have 2 dogs that keep me pretty busy, I have a purpose in the morning, I have to feed and walk them, so it starts me going through my day. I feel like johnny is right besides me all the time, I know that he is waiting for me, and when it is my time, we will go together to where ever we go. I asked him to stay with me and I know he is, everytime I ask for him to help me with something, either I find it or i find the strength to do it so I know he is around me, I have a peace in my heart knowing this.
Take care

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