RELIEF WHEN A SPOUSE DIES - 1010 Park Place
— Relationships —

RELIEF WHEN A SPOUSE DIES

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Yesterday I called a friend whose husband died two months ago after years of numerous and serious medical problems. When I asked how she was doing, she said, “I’m going to be candid with you. I’m relieved.” I understood, all too well, what she meant. I also wondered if there are those who might judge her and find her truthful admission to be shocking and inappropriate? If so perhaps it’s because they haven’t been there… or maybe they’re not allowing themselves to be honest. 

It doesn’t mean we don’t love and miss them. Just that we’re relieved… for both of us… that it is over.

My first husband and I were married for 17 years. The first six years were storybook glamorous and exciting until he inadvertently went cold turkey on a prescription drug. My beautiful brilliant husband was no longer the same man, and it scared him and rocked his confidence. He began self-medicating and a few years later, he’d developed a serious drug and alcohol problem that forced me to jump out of a second story bathroom window in the dark. I went from loving and idolizing him to fearing him. 

By the time he was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer I was in permanent survival mode. I functioned at a high level of awareness—at all times—and could never let my guard down. For years there were nights when I didn’t feel safe to go to sleep, and when I did, it wasn’t a sound sleep. 

And when it was over I slammed my fist into his closed casket and said, “Damn you!” 

After he died I was relieved, and I resumed my life, never stopping to think I’d been traumatized all those years. Now I would be diagnosed with PTSD. While I did see a therapist, it was for my sleep problems, and I never told him the truth about what really happened in the House on the Hill. (I’ve never written about it or my being “taken.” Both are in the memoir I’m writing.) 

For the next 10 years I gravitated toward life-threatening, adrenaline pumping situations because it was all I knew. At some point I found a therapist who helped me tear up and throw away the destructive script I’d been using to live my life. 

Don’t do what I did: If you need help healing, don’t go on with your life, ignoring that being a caregiver to a dying spouse or a parent and/or the secrets you’ve been keeping takes its toll on you. Think about talking to a therapist about what you’ve been through and deal with any unresolved feelings as opposed to going on with your life as though nothing happened. If the first therapist isn’t the one for you, find another one.

When we heal emotionally and psychologically, we let go of anger. We see people and situations in a different light and release them from our emotional grasp. If we don’t heal it can later manifest itself in serious physical, mental and emotional ways. Focus on taking care of yourself and make room for joy and a healthy new phase of your life.

Love, Brenda

31 Comments

  • Reply Donna October 19, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Brenda, you write from the heart. I am looking forward to your memoir. While I have not lost a spouse to death, I can relate to what you are saying. My three brothers were ill for many years before they passed. I sure miss them and hated to see them go but wouldn’t have wanted them to continue in their current health.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 19, 2019 at 12:27 pm

      Donna, Watching someone we love suffer, in any way, is painful. Most of the time we can only offer them cursory comfort which is so frustrating. Three of your brothers? I know that took a toll on not only them but your whole family. I’m sorry. My memoir… It’s a long and involved process. I’ll be glad… excited… when you will be able to read it. Thank you! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Janelle October 19, 2019 at 8:13 am

    I can sympathize with your post this morning, Brenda. I too lived with an abusive husband. Fortunately, I had the good sense to leave and declared I would never put myself in that position again. But many times women don’t have the courage and suffer through the unimaginable. What we would tell our 30 year old self would be astonishing.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 19, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Hi Janelle, I’m sorry you know what it’s like to be in a dangerous marriage. If you read my memoir when it’s finished and published, you’ll see I stayed because I was afraid he would self-destruct in a terrible way. I also didn’t understand the power of addiction so I kept hoping because he was so brilliant, he would “see the light” and turn things around. By the time I realized that wasn’t going to happen, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I couldn’t leave him. What we would tell our 30-year-old self? LOL! In my case, make it my 60-year-old self! She wouldn’t have believed me! I hope you’re doing well now. Thank you for sharing. It’s always helpful to know we’re not alone in our experiences. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Donna October 19, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Good post, Brenda… and really great advice! A therapist can be the very best way to heal, learn, grow, and live fully again – or, in some cases, for the very first time! I love and respect mine very much.
    I, too, am looking forward to your memoir, and would enjoy reading little “sneak peeks.”
    XO

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 19, 2019 at 12:36 pm

      Thank you, Donna! The right therapist can be a Godsend can’t it? In 2020, I’ll be posting little snippets and sneak peeks of my memoir. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Joanna October 19, 2019 at 11:13 am

    My take on her response was Not that she didn’t love him but she Did and so, was Relieved he was no longer Suffering. She didn’t have to Live that Life every day any longer. Yes, I can understand how One would Feel that way. I think she trusts you and would not have said that to just anyone.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 19, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      You’re exactly right, Joanna, about how she felt and that she trusted and knew me well enough to tell me that. Because I understood how she felt, I realized there might be other women who needed to hear our stories and for those who might be shocked that we “were relieved,” I wanted to give them food for thought. Thank you for adding to the conversation. Awesome! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Taste of France October 19, 2019 at 11:26 am

    You have really been through the wringer, and yet you have emerged so strong and such an inspiration.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 19, 2019 at 12:41 pm

      I appreciate you, TOF! So much! Thank you for your comment. They give me strength and purpose to continue writing. xoxox, Brenda

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 20, 2019 at 7:44 pm

      TOF, I shouldn’t have survived an RhNegative blood factor and premature birth, so I think being tenacious and having the desire to survive has always been part of who I am. I was also determined not to play the victim card like my mother. We rise to the occasion when needed. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Carole Fletcher October 19, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    I understand completely, you do love your husband but the constant slow death is full of anxiety and misery. My husband suffered for so many years that some days I just wanted to escape from reality. I loved him so much and it was a relief when he passed 8 years ago. Now I enjoy my days and fill them with the things I want to do and enjoy my family.
    I admire you Brenda after all the things that life has thrown your way, you are an inspiration to so many, your blog is the first thing I look for in my inbox. Carole

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 20, 2019 at 7:51 pm

      Thank you, sweet lady. Walking with someone we love as they suffer and then die is strewn with emotional landmines. I’m happy to hear you’ve recovered and are living your life and making the most of it. Such a beautiful compliment you’ve paid me about my blog. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate you, Carole. Love, Brenda

  • Reply Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski October 19, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    I so relate to this. When someone is I’ll it’s so hard on the caregiver. You never know what will happen from one day to the other and it’s isolating. I went through that with my husband and am going through it now with my sig other. He had a drinking problem that eventually turned into cancer. Even though I never had to jump out a window his being ill stopped him from drinking so he’s easier to be around.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 20, 2019 at 7:56 pm

      Rebecca, I know you’ve been through a lot as well. For the most part we walk this road in silence. At least I did, never telling anyone what was happening. I’ve never been one to lean on others or ask for help. Even now. I’m having cataract surgery on Thursday and was planning on taking a taxi to and from. When my surgeon heard this, he said he wouldn’t do surgery unless I signed on the preop papers that someone I knew would bring me, be there the entire time and take me home. Blessings and xoxox, Brenda

      • Reply Laureen Satabe October 21, 2019 at 5:06 am

        Brenda, do you have someone to take you to and from your cataract surgery? If not, I’ll be glad to be your “taxi.” Know that mindset but have learned there ARE times to allow yourself to ask. Friends are MORE THAN GLAD to lend a hand. Call me & let me know.

        • Reply Brenda Coffee October 21, 2019 at 4:42 pm

          Laureen, Thank you, dear friend. I have someone from my church who’s taking me… But there’s always the “other” eye, and I would love your company! I’ll let you know… Will also text you now. Love, Brenda

  • Reply Sheila-Merle Johnson October 19, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    What an important post. Thanks for sharing this. I hope many will heed your advice and go to as many therapists as they need to to find one that will work for them.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 20, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      I hope so too, Sheila. Thank you for leaving me a note. Are you still active on Instagram? I look for you but haven’t seen any recent posts. I hope you’re okay. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Christina Daggett October 20, 2019 at 4:40 am

    Wow, you’ve been through so much. That must be why your posts are so inspiring and help so many people. Thanks for sharing another great post!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 20, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      Thank you, Christina! I’m grateful and blessed you find my posts inspiring because all of YOU inspire me to write. Thank you so much! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Mithra Ballesteros October 21, 2019 at 11:10 am

    You speak for a lot of people, Brenda. I admire that you never shy away from the more complex nuances of life. Very much looking forward to reading more! (And aren’t you doing a nice job of building some excitement for your big project! Kudos!)

    • Reply Brenda Coffee October 21, 2019 at 4:40 pm

      As always, your comments and input means a lot to me. Thank you, Mithra! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Catherine October 23, 2019 at 6:38 am

    I, too, have been in a marriage where I didn’t feel safe. It took me 17 years of being single to trust again and fall in love. Therapy might have made the healing happen quicker. I think your memoir will help a lot of women.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 23, 2019 at 4:01 pm

      Catherine, Oh, sweet lady… That must have been awful. Just that it took you so long to trust again tells me a lot. I’m sorry for what you went through. I hope my story has helped women who read my blog and those who will read my memoir when it’s published. While abuse is abuse… When women read my memoir, they may or may not understand why I stayed. I’m so happy that you’re in a good relationship now. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Carol S. October 23, 2019 at 8:28 am

    I nursed my husband through 1-1/2 yrs of kidney cancer and it was a long, slow good bye that I’m grateful it wasn’t a sudden ending. Yes, there was relief and I found resilience that I’m not sure everyone understood. I had a choice of laying in a puddle on the ground or keeping my chin up and honor my spouse by moving forward in my life. So far so good, sweet memories of an imperfect but loving 30 year marriage…and now engaged to another widow and enjoying life again. I do enjoy your strength and wit in your posts, thanks Brenda.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 23, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      You’ve lifted me up, Carol, with both your comment about my blog and knowing you’ve found love again. I’m thrilled for you. Yes, the long, slow goodbye… while difficult for sure… when all is said and done, it is far easier than a sudden ending. Everything is ripped out from underneath you; families break apart; questions are left unanswered and grieving… at least for me… was almost unbearable. Brava, sister girl!! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply LA CONTESSA October 23, 2019 at 10:47 am

    I GET IT as I had the same relief when my MOTHER went…………she was so unhappy with LIFE!
    Honestly Brenda,your STORY gets MORE AND MORE FASCINATING!!
    I cannot wait TO READ YOUR BOOK!!!!!!!
    HUGS TO YOU,
    XOXO

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 23, 2019 at 4:11 pm

      Elizabeth, I felt the same relief when my mother died of dementia. She was so thin; her body curled and she hadn’t walked in several years. Death for her was relief from her mental and physical prison. Here’s hoping you and I die in our sleep as happy old ladies who have all of our faculties. Thank you, friend. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Vickie H. October 24, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    What Sheila said: an incredibly important post! Your friend is brave and so are you! God bless you both and thanks for sharing; can’t wait for your memoir!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 28, 2019 at 2:48 pm

      HI Vickie! I appreciate you and that you took the time to read my blog and leave me a message. Thank you! I hope your week is off to a great start. xoxox, Brenda

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