Robin Roberts made made me grieve but, strangely, it was a happy grief

Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America made me grieve and sob Monday when she accepted the Walter Cronkite Excellence in Journalism Award. Strangely it became a sort of happy grief.

Roberts has navigated the same journey as my wife Jean–cancer and then a Myelodysplastic syndrome blood disorder (MDS). Roberts survived. Jean did not.

Grieving spouses I have talked to candidly tell me “I found it hard to hear about people who made it.” I admit I initially had the same feeling. I was often incredibly jealous when I heard someone had survived cancer or an MDS. I also found myself doing a slow burn when I would see a happy couple in their 60’s and 70’s. I just couldn’t help but ask “why did they make it so long and I will never see a 40th wedding anniversary.” I am ashamed to admit those feelings but I would be surprised it it’s not a pretty common characteristic of grief.

Yet, as Roberts told her tale of triumph I cried for Jean and felt joy and happiness for Roberts. Roberts survival has clearly meant so much to her fans with her platform and her inspirational messages. She has done a lot of good. She tells her fans she has been molded by the three D’s taught to her by her parents. “Determination, drive and da Lord.” She is a clear believer and the crowd noticeably buzzed when she advised “When fear knocks, let Faith open the door.”

I had a chance to say a few words to Roberts in a private conversation. I told her that Jean’s journey was similar but she had lost. Roberts was generous enough to say “but her journey had value too.”

That is a hard message to appreciate because my wife is gone, but if  I am honest with myself I think it is true. I have been struck by the number of people over 60 who have told me that Jean’s death provoked conversations between spouses about the possibility of losing each other. That makes me proud. It’s a small victory if  Jean’s passing and my grief have forced couples to confront hard questions about their future, but it is a victory.

The other emotion that overwhelmed me as I listened to Roberts inspirational words is that life is for the living and I must make the most of every day.

I am certain I heard Roberts Monday in an authentic way which I would have been incapable of 30 days ago.

6 thoughts on “Robin Roberts made made me grieve but, strangely, it was a happy grief

  1. Take heart.You to are on a journey too and by sharing it with others through this blog and in candid conversations you provide comfort and hope.

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  2. Thank you for your honest sharing of common and normal emotions that we tend to resist acknowledging in ourselves–at least I do until my commitment to self-awareness and emotional honesty force me to admit to myself that, “darn it, I am jealous, envious, or whatever other emotion I don’t want to see in myself.

    Your openness and authenticity benefit me and will help many to navigate their grief in life in healthier ways.

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  3. My wife died of brain cancer at 54 years old 1/15/14
    I feel same way
    I won’t give a damn dime to cancer research ever again..
    Nothing.
    When she began to lose her battle and lost her cognition these people dropped her like anchor potato
    And made me make the final decision to end her treatments so that it would be on me.

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  4. Talked with a widow of 5 years the other day….she wonders when she will stop crying over the loss……I think she felt she should not tear up so much…..I replied that for me 5 years was still in the crying stage and I just could not help it…….10 years down the road things are better, much better…..but a significant loss is going to be significant for a long time and there is no right or wrong way to feel or express the sorrow.

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