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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

A year ago I was taking care of my wife Carla in hospice. She had 11 weeks from diagnosis to death. Breast cancer. Diagnosed March 28; hospice started April 14; she died June 12 at home in our bed. She never even had a hospital bed, it was just our regular bed. She was 56 and I was 46. We had been together 17 years.

Last fall, I turned 47 but she did not turn 57 and she never will.

The hospice staff said I was tough as nails. I just had lunch Friday with Carla's hospice nurse (I became friends with him afterwards) and he told me that the whole staff was so impressed with me, that I was like a fully trained nurse right from the get go. I was so capable and un-afraid.

Yet I was very afraid, just able to compartmentalize well. I had to be present for Carla. My number one goal was to keep her comfortable, well fed, and out of pain. And for her to feel safe and calm.

These days, I'm having anxiety attacks. Not the immobilizing kind, but hard. A year ago I was thinking so clearly and functioning so well. Now, I'm feeling all the feelings that were not at the surface then.

It's like paying back a loan, with interest. 

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Comment by Anna on October 16, 2017 at 8:08am

Nancy-- yes EXACTLY.

Comment by NancyD on October 16, 2017 at 7:50am

I can understand what you say about compartmentalizing.  I went into a "just do it" mode once my husband began to get really sick at the end of his cancer battle.  I was efficient and took good care of him, managing his meds, his comfort, etc.  It must have looked like I had everything together.  I, too, wanted him to feel safe and calm.  I even coached our kids not to fall apart in front of him because I believed it would cause him more pain to see how sad we were.  Now, looking back, it all seems pretty surreal how I was during that time, how easily I slipped into that role and how misleading my behavior must have been to those around us:  it looked like I had it all together.  Now, the loneliness and grief incapacitates me.  Where did that "efficient" me go?  (Not that I want her back.  If I could have anything back I'd like our life before the cancer diagnosis!)

Comment by Anna on April 28, 2017 at 10:13am

Thank you Steve. What you said really resonates with me.

Comment by Steve on April 28, 2017 at 9:32am
Hi Anna, im so sorry you are experiencing this anxiety, but i think its part of this journey none of us wanted to take. I still do too.
As we continue to face our new life, we face challenges we hadnt faced alone before, lonliness, fear, anger, resentment, things our spouse always did for us, or we always did together, its really tough.
I understand. Be patient and kind to yourself, get support where you can, and continue to talk about it. It helps.
I know that i get very embarrassed, mad at myself when i feel anxious about something, that it seems others have no problem with. I still have a horrible time doing my taxes, it makes no logical sense to me, but i literally cant sleep for days before, vomit on the way to the tax accountant, i have no idea why, other than, its a chore Mike took care of for our entire 30 yrs and maybe deep down inside it still makes me sad or mad i now have to do this. Another big one for me is going to the doctors. From the time Mike was first diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, we were told no worries, everything would be ok, 98% cure rate for stage 1, each time we did recommended treatment, to cure him, his cancer did opposite, and moved to stage 3, then 4, then passing. The extreme trauma of going to doctors proud of ourselves, completing radiation treatment, chemo rounds, so on, then doing scan, expecting cancer to be gone, finding out, its not only not gone, but now its spread during treatment, and is now worse. So many times we got bad news, and when leaving drs office, having to hold myself together for Mike, even though breaking inside, having to keep positive attitude, loving support, i had to be his rock. Now everytime i go to doctors, just for check up, im terrified. I shake so hard, i can barely walk or hold onto a beverage. Cant eat, sleep for days before, or during wait time for test results. Maybe your anxiety is different, but, just sharing in case it helps. There were also traumas that bothered me from his last days, but thank goodness i was able to come to peace with those from talking here, and some therapy. Take care and sending you (((hugs)))
Comment by Averysmom on April 25, 2017 at 5:42pm
I think that's a very good analogy for your delayed reaction. It is unfortunate but it seems the longer it takes for the true reaction to set in, the more difficult it is. I am so very sorry for your loss and for the difficulties that you've begun to experience.

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