Dear Heather: My husband passed away and I feel so alone. Please help.
I’m sorry to hear of your loss. When my dear Sig left me I wrote a letter to him the day after the funeral — as you probably realized, it is the most difficult day because all the guests are gone and you are suddenly faced with the reality that you are all alone and this is your new normal. It helped me release some of the grief. I have been writing him ever since.
It’s OK to grieve and it’s OK to write your husband and preserve the memories you have in letters. And if you wish to share your letters with us, I would love to read and share them to others. For all you know, it will help someone else going through the same experience.
Allow me to share my letter to Sig:
Everyone’s gone now. The house is still and quiet and you are gone from me now. I feel so sad and numb. Going up those stairs tonight to an empty room, without your presence, will be one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. Forty seven years of sleeping next to your and now, an empty bed awaits me. I loved bumping into you every night. I even loved your snoring because it meant you were there! Many of my friends complained about their husbands snoring but I never did! I loved you every minute of every day we spent together from the first moment I saw you.
We had bird-dogged each other for months! You lived around the corner from me and you’d be coming home each day from work just when I was waiting for a bus to go to work. That day it was pouring down rain and you offered me a ride downtown. I had never taken a ride from a guy before, but I knew I had to say yes, and that was the beginning of our lives together.
After we talked to the doctor twelve weeks ago and we’d been told you had terminal lung cancer you hung up the phone, held me in your arms and said, “Heather, this is my diagnosis not yours. You and I are going to run until I can’t go anymore,” and that’s exactly what we did. It was an amazing three weeks together until your energy level dropped to almost nothing, but we crammed in as much as we could. There wasn’t a day during our marriage where you said you didn’t feel like going to work. But just before your diagnosis I remember you saying you could have another Sunday.
It as wonderful when Alisan, Kurt and Petty came for the weekend. We laughed and we talked about anything and everything, and you loved every minute we all spent together. One of the funniest things you said that weekend was when we were all sitting together and I asked you if there was anything you wanted to do that you’d never done before. You said, “Well, I’ve never smoked marijuana!” It was a riot! We all laughed at the thought of you doing something like that. During your illness, you never asked why this was happening to you and you never lamented even once.
The first day when you told me you didn’t want to tell anyone including the kids what was going on, I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do. I thought for one day and agreed about not telling friends, but I knew the kids had to know so, so I over-ruled your request. They were all overwhelmed by the news, but all of us made good use of the time we all had together.
For several months before your diagnosis, I noticed that you came downstairs five minutes later each day. You had mentioned you felt tired and sat most of the day at work, but you weren’t concerned enough to see the doctor. Even if you had gone to the doctor earlier, the cancer had progressed too far to be operable or reversed. You didn’t want any treatment at all. You said, “I’ve had a life with you, I had life because of you, and I’ll be here for as long as I am able. I have no regrets; all of our dreams have come true.” How many people get to say those things ever?
That Sunday morning a day after we talked to the doctor and found out that you had lung cancer, I went downstairs at the usual time. I ate and went up around 8:00 to dress and you were sleeping. I got dressed and went downstairs. When you hadn’t come down by 9:00 am, I went upstairs. You got that look in your eyes and it’s amazing how fast I got naked that day! After we made love, you asked me if I thought that would be the last time we’d make love, and we both answered at the same time, “We hope not!”
The next 12 weeks we spent every waking hour we could together. I remember jumping up in front of you every time you got up to go to the restroom. All I wanted was another hug from you. I felt like a squirrel trying to collect as much love for my winter that was coming much too soon. I remember us eating together, sitting on the couch, holding hands, watching old movies and running on the weekends until you couldn’t go anymore and that day came too soon.
It’s eleven o’clock now and I’m very tired. I’m going to bed now. I’ll see you in my dreams.