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I’ve been widowed twice, first in January 1999, losing my wife Jean of 18 years and 9 months to congestive heart failure after a 10 year battle with an autoimmune disease, Stiles. The second time, I lost my wife Carolyn of 14 years and 2.5 months to cancer (melanoma) on October 7, 2014 after first being diagnosed in February 2007.

 I feel as though I’ve “won” the lottery from hell twice.  After my first loss, I was the single parent to our 3 children ages 17, 15, and 12. I felt their loss as well as my own. I felt as though I was living in a nightmare and if I could only wake up, life would return to normal. It was like I was in a dark deep hole.  I was able to get the three kids into therapy and saw a therapist for a while myself and joined a spiritually based support group. In time, I began to see a little light amongst the darkness and began to think life could be good again.

 After 14 months, I began to date. The first few women that I went out with were divorces.   It wasn’t a good experience, I remember one women being very angry and another wondering if she had ever really loved her husband. Being a widower, you never stop loving your wife. I couldn’t relate to their previous marriage experiences and I couldn’t relate to theirs.

 I joined an on-line group Singles with Scruples which was where I first made contact with Carolyn in December 1999. It was good just to have to talk to who had shared my experience of losing a spouse and was still young. We met in person at a Young Widowers Group (YWOW) in Virginia Beach VA in February of 2000. Carolyn and I began dating in April 2000, it was so nice dating someone who understood me so well because she had my same sad walk through grief. We fell in love and were married on July 29, 2000. She brought two kids into their marriage and I brought my three. We almost had the Brady bunch minus another daughter. Life was sweet again, we experienced so many things; two of our kids marriages, birth of 4 grandchildren, many wonderful trips to many beautiful places. I had her support when my parents passed away. We were there for each other in the good and bad times of life. We understood that even in the happiest of occasions, we still were a little sad because our first spouse’s weren’t there to experience the joy.

When I married a second time, I thought I had to have an immunity badge against losing another spouse any time before I was eighty, certainly not at the age of 57. Certainly God wouldn’t take another wife from me. Well, I was real wrong. She was first diagnosed in February 2007.  She actually had 6.5 years where the cancer was now where to be seen only to re-appear in July 2013 in her groin lymph nodes and later found to be in her stomach. She was hospitalized a number of time, each time progressively worse. It was particularly hard to see her lose her memory. She was never home again after August 11th, 2014. She was hospitalized, went into a nursing home, back into the hospital (ICU), into a rehab center, back into the hospital at the end of September where I was told she had 2 weeks to live. We tried to get her into hospice at home, but the pain was too difficult to manage at home, so she spent her last week in the Hospital Hospice, losing consciousness her last week because of the pain medication she had to take.

So once again, I am facing the despair of losing someone I can’t imagine living without. It’s true you never get over losing a spouse, after I lost Carolyn I had often relived in my thoughts and dreams losing Jean. I felt as though the very thick scab I had over the wound I had from losing Jean was ripped off and I was bleeding all over again from my first loss.  It’ s as though after losing one spouse I was treading water in the grief pool with one brick and now I’m trying to tread water with two. I’ve outlived two women who were both a far better person that I can ever hope to be, Jean had been a NICU nurse and Lamaze instructor before she got sick and Carolyn had been a high school chemistry teacher who had such a positive impact on so many kids lives. I suffer from survivors guilt, why am I still here? I have to take yet another splinter out of my heart.  I am now the only surviving parent to 5 kids. The youngest, 18 year freshman came home one weekend from college in tears after her mother because she had to fill out a form that said she was now considered to be an orphan since both her birth Dad and Mom had passed.

 I know from having gone through this before that I have to make some new friends. We were very blessed to have a great group of friend’s support us through Carolyn’s fight with cancer and I still seem them from time to time. But the relationships we had have changed. I am not the same person, I am still trying to put the broken pieces together and find some new pieces that now fit who I am. I am sure my friends cannot truly understand what I am going and I hope that they never do.

Being experienced in some things in life is great, but  being experienced as a widower is not one of them.

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Comment by MissingCarolyn(Steve) on March 19, 2015 at 6:02pm

Cindy, so sorry for your loss as well. So sad reading about so much loss that we have all had. But also knowing that we all blessed to have someone love us until their last breathe.

Your kind words definitely brought  some tears to my eyes. After 5 months, it's still the kind words that get to me the most. I was at the gym last weekend and one of her former students told me how much she meant to him and that she had believed in him would no one else would. It definitely hit me in the heart.

Again thank you Cindy for your kind words and prayers, and  I hope and pray that this journey through grief becomes with more and more good memories with Rick and less bad ones for you.

Comment by Hornet (Cindy) on March 19, 2015 at 4:50pm

Steve, my heart is aching for you after reading this post. I am widowed after 32 years of marriage to my best friend, so, I too, understand the meaning of the words "loss", "grief", as all of us here do. But you wrote something that made me stop and re-read. You said, "I’ve outlived two women who were both a far better person that I can ever hope to be..." My Rick would often say that to me, Steve. He would say, "You are the best person I know. I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't met you." (Now, I always thought that sounded like a lovely exaggeration...but I really believe Rick was sincere when he said it.) It always shocked me a bit when he would say that to me because I felt exactly the same way about him. I would tell him that, but I don't know that he ever believed in his heart that it was true...that he made my life sooooo much better....that his love filled a void in me that no one else in the world could. And I mean no one.

Here is my point: You may have thought your wives were better people than you could ever hope to be...but did you ever think that maybe...maybe...these wonderful women thought the same about you? Could it be that you were destined to be in their lives to make them better? Obviously, you were happy during these marriages, and so very blessed to have 2 happy marriages, for sure...but surely you had a lot to do with making their lives happy as well. As hard as this must be (and I cannot imagine how hard it is), to lose these two wonderful women - Jean and Carolyn...part of your destiny was to be an important part of their destinies...that wonderful part of their lives that made them feel complete...truly cherished...truly loved...and truly cared for as they suffered near the end of their lives here on earth.

Now, how incredibly wonderful is that? To be a man who truly loved and cherished these wonderful women...what a rarity that is...and how incredibly precious you must have been to them. Please try to remember this going forward, Steve. Part of you may think somehow they out-ranked you on the scale of life...that God didn't protect you from these two tragic losses. But you must be mighty special yourself to have been blessed with these wonderful women, to have been entrusted with their precious loves and lives and to take such special care of them as you you still do. God bless you, Steve. I will send up a special prayer for you to come to the place where you never forget that the love you gave to them is the most precious gift of all...and for that, you too are just as precious.

Comment by MissingCarolyn(Steve) on March 17, 2015 at 5:09am

Thank you Dianne in Nevada and Barbie Doll for your comments.

Barbie Doll, I should clarify about getting remarried. I feel very blessed to have found another soul mate. I was probably naive to think that I couldn't lose another spouse. It's been said that is better to have loved and lost than never have been loved at all. The same holds true for having been remarried and losing another spouse. It's better to be loved a second time and lost rather than let worry and fear stop you from finding some one else to love.

Dianne in Nevada, attending CWE was definitely the hardest thing I did during my first four months, but it was also the best thing I could have done for myself. Excuse the coarse language, prior to attending Camp, I was probably emotionally constipated, that weekend, I felt like I had the emotional runs.  It's all part of the healing process, just gets to be over whelming sometimes. Having been through this before, I sometime feel like I'm a tragic Bill Murray in Ground Hog's day, but also know that I wouldn't quit and have five kids that are depending on me.

Comment by Dianne in Nevada on March 16, 2015 at 8:30pm

Oh my, Steve.   Experiencing this twice ... just hurts my heart.  I'm happy you were able to come to Tampa for Camp Widow and hope that the connections you made there - and the ones you make here in WV - will help you to find your way.

Comment by Barbie Doll on March 16, 2015 at 7:49pm

Hello Steve.  I'm sorry for all the pain you have gone through.  I can't imagine going though this a second time. I think that is the reason many of us have not gotten into a second relationship.   I'm happy you have found WV.  As you know by now there is a lot of support here and you will "meet" many people who completely understand what you are going through.  All the best to you.

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