Monday, September 17, 2018

In Grief: Acknowledging A Need for Support

[Reviewed and updated July 30, 2021]

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.  ~ Nelson Mandela

A reader writes: Ten years ago I lost my first and only wife of 47 years. All of them were fantastic years and we had a great marriage. She died after a two-year struggle with cancer. A lot of pain and lot of suffering. I cared for her in my home with the great help of hospice. She died in my arms. I continued to work through this time up until the last 3 weeks, but had awesome help from a daughter and daughter-in-law and many friends. After her death I was back on the job within 2 weeks or less and felt that I was strong and could handle the whole situation without any problem.
I had the peace that she was a strong believer in Christ so her destination was assured, and I likewise had a strong faith and trusting God all the way that He would see me through. It worked. 

Two years later at what I believe was God's plan I married a friend of ours whom we knew through the church for many years. She had lost her husband a couple of years before by a heart attack. We were married and had an awesome marriage from day one. Two years ago she developed cancer which is normally treated and you can survive for several years. She was treated and it went in to remission than it came back and this time they did chemo. She had negative effects from each of three treatments with the last one infecting her lungs. We discontinued the chemo and for 8 months she was at home on oxygen and battling the infection. We only called in hospice one week before she died, and again like the first one she died with me holding her. 

This time I have not handled the loss well at all, had some medication that has helped to a degree, but this week I started counseling with the hospice bereavement director and I thank God I gave in to this. In our first visit she determined that I probably had not really dealt with the loss of my first wife and now I am grieving over the loss of two wives. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is really difficult at the present time. It is good just to now write this out and I know that sometimes we just have to speak the truth to start dealing with the truth....and not just hold it all that is what I have done tonight by writing to you and I thank you for reading this. 

My response: My friend, it took great strength, determination and courage for you to “give in” and acknowledge your need for help in dealing with both these losses, and I want to honor you for that.

Sometimes we have such a misguided notion of courage; we label as brave the soldier who is the first to march into battle, and we think of courage as the capacity to be strong and silent when we’re in pain, or as the ability to handle sorrow and woundedness all by ourselves, without ever seeking outside help or intervention.

But real courage is the willingness to take a risk, to face something very difficult without running away from it, to embrace our pain and learn to cope with it. You said it so well: Sometimes we just have to speak the truth in order to begin dealing with it. As you are discovering now, my friend, the truth will set you free.

I am both humbled and grateful that you chose to share your story with me, my friend, and I thank you. My hope is that reading about your experience may inspire others who are struggling with grief to seek the support they need and deserve. Mourning is some of the hardest work we will ever have to do in life, but it's important to know that help is available and we don’t have to do it alone. I am honored that you wrote to me, and I wish for peace and healing to your broken heart.

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