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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 66 - Beyond Death

We're linked up with Wedded Wednesday on the superb Messy Marriage site.

Despite what the title may suggest, this isn't a continuation of the last installment, Heaven Bound.

This is about some things that you the caregiving spouse, may face in the weeks and months after the battle ends.

Your Emotions - you're likely to be a wreck, even if you don't know it. Some individuals process their emotions in real time, so to speak; they face the pain and heartbreak as it's experienced.

Others lock it away to deal with the practical aspects of the final stages of a terminal illness, and seem - and feel - strangely, calm, almost OK.

They're not.

Even if the relationship wasn't terribly close, the end of a shared life, and a world takes a toll. It's like suddenly moving to a new house; the light switches aren't where you expect them to be, and you bark your shins against the furniture, in the dark. Or, if you prefer, it's like having the brake and accelerator on your car switched.

You don't know if you're coming or going, and you have to accept that this will happen. And, for the majority of widows and widowers, it will pass, but in the initial stages you'll not believe it.

Don't try.

Instead, make sure you have friends, now, who will be there for you. Let the people close to you know that you're going to need help.

And sometimes you'll need an accountability partner, on the days that you won't want to get out of bed, or shower, or shave, or eat.

Your Friends - Thta point about having friends and accountability partners takes some thought, because many of the 'couples friends' you may now have are likely to drift away. Partnerless, you don't really fit into the milieu...and partnerless, you may be regarded as a threat to the other marriages in your social circle.

It's terribly unfair, but it's true.

Many churches now have caregiver support groups, and bereavement support groups, and this is a place to develop relationships you may find sustaining, but use some care, particularly if you're a woman.

You're vulnerable, and there are predators out there. There are men (and a few women) who will happily use the opportunity to take advantage of loneliness and pain for the thrill of 'conquest', or for the opportunity for some sort of financial gain.

During the year that Barbara and I were divorced, I attended a church-sponsored divorce support group.

In spite of the best efforts of the pastor, it was a de facto singles' club, and there were horror stories. I didn't stay there long. It was worse than useless.

Finances - First, if you're not the one paying the bills, at least shadow your terminally ill spouse. Know where the checkbook and the bills are, and know the passwords for online bill paying.

Know the due dates that go along with each obligation.

Don't take the job away, unless you have to (or your mate asks you to take over). It's often one of the last things one can do to feel like a contributing member of the family (that's where I am, in case you were wondering).

But know the financial structure. Many organizations will cut you some slack if you let them know that your mate's in the last stages of illness (or has just died), but don't count on this.

Second, be aware of any insurance policies that may be in effect, and be familiar with them. If there are going to be 'uncovered' medical bills, don't let it hit you as a surprise when you're fragile.

Know about life policies, and when death occurs, try to have a friend (or a hired financial advisor) help you set the payment process in motion.

Finally, if there is a significant insurance payout, please resist the temptation to do anything major...like taking an expensive vacation (that some well-meaning people may advise to make you feel better) or moving (unless that's absolutely necessary because of a diminished income).

You won't enjoy the vacation, if you take it. It's be a place of shadows, and tears, and you'll want to share experiences and stories with someone who's not there to hear them.

Wait a bit for that, please.

And moving...it may be tempting to try to get away from a home that's suddenly haunted, but you can't. You'll carry those unquiet ghosts with you.

And you'll imagine the place that you abandoned, somehow wondering why you're gone.

A house can't think, or feel, but atthree in the morning, when you're alone, you can think funny things.

If you're going to move, let the process come naturally.

It sounds like tough-guy talk...face the loss...but it's really the only way.

There's some real wisdom in Steven Spielberg's recent SciFi film Super 8.

"Bad things happen. But you can still live."


  1. the practical stuff matters and taking care of business can be overwhelming in the midst of grief. a close friend or family member that gently but confidently comes alongside can be a huge blessing and a great big necessity.

    i've seen my husband do this for more than one person. it's a beautiful gift to give to another ...

  2. I can tell that you've thought through every possible scenario in an effort to prepare your lovely wife, Barbara, for the inevitable. And in sharing your wisdom here, we are blessed with the practicality that is so necessary but often so daunting to wade through in a valley like you're going through, Andrew. I'm grateful every time I visit, by your unwavering love for your wife and for your words of wisdom for those not long for this life.

  3. So, so helpful Andrew. Especially that one about the 'haunted house'. After a while it can be a comfort, to still be in the place where the tender memories were made, but it's not at all like that in the beginning. Best to be ready to resist our crazy instincts to run from the situation. Praying as ever... may you both know peace and grace for every moment.