My grief counselor just told me about the Long Good-Bye and it made things so much clearer for me. I was feeling guilty on so many levels over the last month. I miss Lee terribly - you don't lose someone you spent 34 years with without missing them. But I've also been moving on with my life. I've gone on a zip line, saw an off-broadway musical, spent a spa weekend with a girlfriend and I'm doing a segway tour this weekend. But I'm also dating a wonderful man, a man Lee called the best friend he ever had. Let me tell you, the guilt between the speed of it and the fact he was Lee's best friend has created havoc in my mind. So for those of you who will judge me, you'll have to stand in line. For the rest of you, I thought maybe you could relate, at least on some level.
Lee died on April 7th, at home, with me holding his hand. We spent the last 20 years dealing with kidney failure, dialysis, transplant, back on dialysis (doing it at home, both PD and HD) and then heart failure, leg ulcers, the whole gammit. The last 2 years his walking was down to just getting across a room, and the last 6 months he was wheelchair bound. While I would not have given up that time together for anything, once the responsibility of caring for him was gone and I was past the immediate, overwhelming grief that just takes your breath away, I realized that a whole new life of possibilities had opened up for me. But with it came the guilt and this is where the grief counselor made all the difference in the world. She told me about the Long Good-Bye, a term used with Alzheimber's patients but one she thought was applicable. I had been slowly saying good-bye to my husband/partner/best friend for the last 3 years as he lost a little more ability each day - to the point where at the end he was only awake a couple of hours a day and those were spent completely focused on his care. So while he has only been gone for a little under 3 months, I've spent the last 3 years slowly mourning his loss as each day took a little more of him away from me.
So what does all this mean? I guess it means we move on at our own rate and whatever rate that is will have to be okay. For those who have judged me, shame on them. For those that may be judging themselves (harshly, as I was), know that whatever you do is fine. In the end, I know that Lee understands. He knows I was loyal to him right up to his last breath. He knows that I will never stop loving him, he will always be in my heart and in my thoughts. He also knows that life is for living and he never, ever wanted me to miss out on anything and felt so bad that his illness kept us from doing things. So I know I am doing what he wanted me to do, living life as best I can and enjoying the time with a man he felt was worthy enough to be his best friend. And it isn't too fast, or too slow, or too anything - it just is.
Don't worry, I won't be getting in line to judge you. :-) I sometimes feel like I was slowly saying good bye to Paul for about 2 years. If not saying Goodbye, I knew hr was slowly dying. ( He had Glioblastoma stage 4 .. Brain Cancer ) ...
I feel like I was loosing him to a tiny bit each day ... But I was by his side when he took his last raspng breath. ( I hated that sound ) But he is in Heaven and is himself again.
Thanks for this, Leeky- a lot of it really resonates with me. I didn't have the long goodbye you had, but it was clear that my husband Ron was failing fast in the last year or so, and he'd been diagnosed 10 years earlier with a precursor disease (polycythemia) to the leukemia he eventually developed. When you see your loved one's capabilities deteriorating, their life becomes more limited, they become more frail, and more of your life becomes wrapped up in making sure they don't fall, that they take their prescriptions, that the prescriptions don't run out, that there's food in the house that they like to eat... you're right, the grieving process has been going on for along time by the time they die. I still feel weird that, after Ron died at 7:15 AM and the hospice social worker and the morticians had left and I had called all the people who needed to know before I posted it on FaceBook, I had lunch and then I went to the gym. That was 7 months ago and I still haven't had any major breakdowns. I'm not sure if I ever will. If I could have my dear husband back in his healthy state, I'd do it in a minute, but when he died it was a release for both of us.
One of the things I really love about this group is that we realize that we're all different and we don't judge each other.
I understand what your saying. :-) I still have times where I get weepy... But most of the time I'm OK. ...
The long goodbye is a very appropriate way to describe the process and eventual event. It is wonderful that you found someone to spend time with. Judging other people for trying to grab comfort is for those who lack empathy and who have never walked in your shoes. You deserve to be happy. Take care of yourself.