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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Death of a Spouse

First, an apology - my health has not been good enough to keep to my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule for the past couple of weeks. I appreciate your patience, if you've come here and found the old post metaphorically curling at the edges, yellowing in the sun. I hope to be back to the usual schedule soon.

Everyone dies, but it's hard to believe that the person we dated, and with whom we fell in love, and married...with whom we built all our life and all our memories...

...will one day be gone.

It's even harder to watch that death happening day-by-day, seeing the small setbacks and the larger disasters overtake the person who holds claim to a large part of your heart.

It's like the old movie device, the pages of a day-by-day calendar being ripped away to show the passage of time.

Until there is no more time.

There's plenty of advice on how to navigate this passage, and some of it is even pretty good.

But I'll toss in my own, and maybe it will be useful...because I am dying. (Well, so they say, but there are those who feel that I'm unkillable...including me. So we'll see who wins, and don't bet on death just yet.)
  • Death happens - deal with it. This sounds harsh, and it's intended to. Today, 18,000 kids (give or take a few hundred) starved to death. That's six million every year, and they had parents and grandparents and siblings. Unless they starved to death as well. Appreciate what you've had, and don't feel singled out, because you're not. There is a price to being human, This is part of it.
  • Life is not a Hallmark card - When time's limited, we often feel we should be able to enjoy every minute with smiles and laughter and hugs and...OK, I'll stop. It's just not realistic, and it's not right to try to create an artificial "DIY Disneyland" in your house. Dying people are people, and should be treated as such. They have the right to comfort...and they also have the responsibility to participate in life's cut-and-thrust. Death is not martyrdom. It's life. Well, sort of.
  • Don't deny your feelings - There are times when you're going to be furious with your dying spouse, for any number of reasons. You may be mad because they're dying, which seems unfair...but it's really not. This person is leaving, and your 'together story' will end. You'll have to make a new story, which will take time and effort, and it'll change the life you've been used to. Sure, it's something to be angry about.
  • But don't take your feelings out on your spouse - Deal with the anger by talking with a minister, church elder, or counselor. Don't make your spouse take on any of those roles. That would be unfair, and manipulative.
  • Do things for yourself - Take time for yourself, to get away from the deathwatch. Play handball, get a massage, go to the movies with a same-sex friend. Your spouse will understand, but even if the understanding's not there, the need for rejuvenation is.
  • Don't date - A lot of eyebrows, I think, just clicked up and jammed. It's very tempting to try to ease the transition by looking ahead and at least identifying a possible future relationship. We all fear loneliness. Bad idea, though, for two reasons. First, it's disloyal, and a stab in the back of a dying person. Second, the actual death will be far worse than you can possibly imagine. You'll be emotionally devastated, whether or not you have a new 'romantic interet'. And that will probably kill your new relationship.
  • You are not a monument - Your life should not become a memorial to your finished marriage. Your house should not be a shrine. Your heart should not become a scrapbook. You don't have to date, or remarry, but you are expected to rejoin life. Again, to be harsh - You didn't die. Your spouse did.
The death of a spouse is the most stressful thing a person will experience in teir intire life. It sucks, and there's nothing that I or anyone can do to make it any better.

But what I do hope is this, that these words may be half-remembered as you sleepwalk through the motions of a shattered life, and that they will light signposts, however dimly.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.


  1. Andrew, I'm so thankful that you left a comment on my blog about submission in disability. Otherwise, we'd have not known to be praying for the two of you! This is a wealth of information here that can help others. Not many people want to take on the task of blogging about the ugly parts of life. You have done it well. I definitely plan to share this post. God bless you.

    1. Faith, thank so so much for your comment. I hesitated for along time before writing about this, mainly because I didn't want it to become a "poor me" sort of thing. There are shadows in every life - needed, because what could we ever see, were it not defined by light and shade?

  2. Wow--great insights, Andrew. I hope I don't need them anytime soon, but the odds are either I or my spouse will need them eventually, unless we die at the same time. It's not anything we like to think about, but it's a reality that we KNOW will happen eventually so it's better to listen to advice now and hope some of it sticks for later.

    1. One does hope for Rapture before earthly death...I know that we do!

      But yes, you have to be prepared. I hope it's along way off for you - and I hope the big R happens first! - but if these words can help you in any way, they will have done their job.

      As will have the experiences from which they grew.