As the difficult overwhelming pain of grief turns into a sustainable and tolerable melancholy, perspective increases. I have replayed all aspects of my wife’s illness and death and one of my great discoveries is that my wife Jean’s actual illness started the grieving process and took a far greater toll than I realized.
Only distance and observation of the struggles of other people who have grieved, and are grieving, have allowed me to appreciate that I started grieving months before my wife Jean’s death in June of 2014.
I wish now that I would have recognized the fears and tumult I experienced as Jean struggled with countless blood transfusions and long-shot medical treatments were really a part of its own kind of grief.
It it now clear to me that the powerlessness, guilt and total frustration I felt was indeed grief. And, I was even more unequipped to deal with that grief than I was with the grief brought on by Jean’s death.
Not too long ago a friend told me his wife was chronically ill. It was as if a spear lanced my heart. I actually started to cry because I suddenly remembered that’s when my life and perspective changed. When we found Jean had cancer I was frightened, but when we were told she was chronically ill my world started to slide into an abyss. In retrospect, I can clearly see that is when I started to grieve. Somehow I was rocked by that observation more than I was by the cancer diagnosis.
Within six months of that observation Jean died. I know that some people live several years with that chronic designation with the same sad result. My heart bleeds for them.
I write this not to frighten, but to gently suggest that those people dealing with a seriously ill spouse may be fighting grief without appreciating it and should consider finding someone to talk to about it.
I have written about the immense value of a grief counselor as I dealt with Jean’s passing. In hindsight, I would now advise someone dealing with a chronically ill spouse, where death is a possible outcome, to also seek counseling.
I belief it would have made me wiser, a better husband and far more peaceful.
Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance