Grief - a personal journey
As a counsellor for almost 20 years, I thought I knew grief. At the age 16, my mother died in a car accident. Over the years, two grandmothers died. All of which devastated me in their own ways.
In 2016 my brother in law died suddenly, followed a year later by my father. Heartbreaking.
I was no stranger to grief, but nothing had prepared me for what was to come.
Six months after my father’s death my husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and that truly floored me. I took the news far worse than my husband did. I took the decision to stop working and spend the time with him, caring and supporting him. We had a very strong marriage and had known each other since we were 13 years old.
We spent 15 months fighting it, endless rounds of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, dealing with infections, many, many hospital stays where quite often I stayed with him either squeezing into the single bed with him or sleeping on a chair. As his weight and energy dropped, so did mine. I worried constantly, all the while putting on a brave face to keep his spirits up. He seemed to have one complication after another but still, we remained hopeful. In November 2018 he was due to have a stem cell transplant from his sister but it was cancelled a week before as they couldn’t control the leukemia. We knew then that we were losing the battle.
All our consultant could offer was palliative care in the form of chemotherapy, to give him as much time as possible. The chemotherapy was hard on him, he dreaded ‘chemo time’ as it made him so unwell. There were many days he couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t eat, and had extreme fatigue.
My heart broke when he said he couldn’t take it anymore and after a long discussion, we decided it was time to stop treatment, knowing there was only one outcome.
When the end came, three months later, I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t! I went into total shock. My grief totally overwhelmed me for months. Although we had older children, I couldn’t see a life without him nor did I want one. If the truth be known I still don’t, but it isn’t my time.
For months I barely functioned, I tried to do normal things but I didn’t have the will or the energy. With previous grief, he had been my ‘go-to’ and there was no one to give me the same comfort. Friends and family tried but it was different.
Six months later I was due to return to work but I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t face ‘getting back to normal’. I had nothing to give. I finally went back after nine months and in many ways it helped, it gave my life some structure and purpose.
16 months later I still have days, sometimes weeks, where I see no purpose to my life, when I cry endless tears, don’t wash my hair or shower, force myself to eat, days when it’s all just too much effort, but somehow I pull through, the cloud lifts and I face another day.
I refuse to leave him behind so I carry him with me on my journey, I talk about him naturally in conversations, remembering good and bad times, funny things, sad things. I talk to him at home or when out walking the dogs, and every night I say goodnight to him.
I have questioned my sanity, my religion, my spirituality, I have screamed at the injustice of it all. I have tormented myself with guilt at things I did or didn’t do but have come to realise that beating myself up doesn’t change anything.
I’ve written a book about him, with photographs and contributions from friends and family, so future generations will know him.
Above all on the days when I really think I can’t endure it, I remember that he trusted me to serve his memory well, to be happy, and carry on until the day we meet again.
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