I've been following the saga of irishwitch's husband's heart attack and all the issues surrounding that. Because of some of the parallels between her situation and mine, it's triggered some strong grief reverberations in me. I didn't want my reactions to intrude on her experience, and wanted only to offer her my support in her diaries, so I'm speaking of my own reactions here. There are also some profound differences in the two situations, and I want to address some of both.
Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey
and a special welcome to anyone new to The Grieving Room.
We meet every Monday evening.
Whether your loss is recent, or many years ago;
whether you've lost a person, or a pet;
or even if the person you're "mourning" is still alive,
("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time),
you can come to this diary and say whatever you need to say.
We can't solve each other's problems,
but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
Unlike a private journal
here, you know: your words are read by people who
have been through their own hell.
There's no need to pretty it up or tone it down..
It just is.
In late 2011, Andy had been having trouble breathing and thought maybe he had pneumonia. Turned out it was a kind of angina: Problem was his heart, not his lungs. Specifically, badly constricted coronary arteries.
One of the things you have to understand about my husband, was that, despite his experience as a volunteer EMT at an earlier point in his life, he had a deep distrust and even dislike for allopathic medicine. He'd had a number of allergies and chemical sensitivities that he felt traditional medicine had shunted aside and not taken seriously, in his case. Even the sheets on the hospital bed, when he had his angiogram done that demonstrated how serious his coronary artery disease was, had irritated his skin sensitivities enough that the idea of having to spend a significant amount of time in the hospital on them, when he'd struggled so long with skin reactions and infections from those, was one he was highly resistant to. He didn't like the prospect of having his chest "cracked" open and the months of recuperation he envisioned ahead of him, had he gone ahead with the bypass surgery they were strongly recommending to him.
He didn't allow me to accompany him to his appointments with the cardiologist to discuss his options, though I offered more than once to come along. I suppose I should have insisted, but we didn't operate that way in our relationship. So, it was unsurprising that he chose to pursue non-surgical options instead, with the naturopath who was his primary care physician, in consultation with a different cardiologist. I cannot tell you how many times I have wished, in the days and months after his death, that he had accepted the surgical option! As frightening as the financial burden that confronted us would have been, (and you also have to realize that my husband had suffered garnishment of wages from prior unpaid bills, as well as losing his house, which had been our marital home, to foreclosure, to understand just how deep that fear ran) I would a thousand times have rather dealt with that, than the shock of first, being unable to communicate with him for several days while far from home visiting my younger son, then, having my older son, at my urgent request, go and check my house to find my husband's body there in his office, where he'd fallen asleep in his chair and evidently suffered his fatal heart attack.
He was alone except for his elderly cat, whose hind legs no longer worked well and who often missed the litter box, at that point. I'd warned my husband that he'd better have the mess from her box and the misses cleaned up before I returned home, as I frankly couldn't stand the stench in his office and didn't understand how he could. So much for that. Amazingly, she still lived, though she'd been without fresh food and water for days, before my son got in and was able to see to her needs. When he took her to the vet to assess her condition, the vet's recommendation, given her overall physical state and the fact that her kidneys were failing, was that she be put down. When my son asked me what I wanted to do, (before he told me what the vet had told him) I replied that given her condition and the fact that I knew she'd be unhappy without Andy, I felt the kindest thing would be to put her out of her misery. So, my kind-hearted son, who shares his apartment with his girlfriend and her (at that point) two kitties, (one of whom, the sweet, big orange boy, Jed, has also gone over the rainbow bridge with kidney failure, since then) compassionately saw the little kitty who'd been on Andy's father's deathbed when he died, and with Andy when HE had, on her way to join them over the rainbow bridge. After all, Andy's oldest sister told me the Fuffster was 20 years old! Relative to the life span of her species, she had a much fuller one than my husband was able to enjoy!
It was quite a transition to go from a house which had held a husband, a cat and a dog, (the return of said dog to his owner, my younger son, being the reason why I was not home when my husband died) to come back to a house with a hole in the floor all the way down to the visqueen underneath it, the carpet torn up all the way down the hall into the living room, and our bedroom stuffed to the ceiling and the door with big black plastic trash bags full of the stuff that had come out of my husband's office room, (so that I could not even get to the clothes in my dresser or closet to unpack) and no one to occupy that house but me, when I returned! I spent the first few weeks in my older son and his girlfriend's spare room in their apartment, until we could get access to the kitchen, a bathroom and a place where I could sleep, cleared to the point that I could live in my house again. And as much stuff as we all got rid of, in those days and weeks after I returned from my younger son's home in Florida, to my house in Oregon, there is even yet stuff that remains to be gone through and disposition of decided. Much has been thrown out, my husband's sisters took some, and some has been donated or sold. Eventually, I will get through it all, but that's still going to take considerable time into the unforeseeable future.
So, this is the point at which I currently find myself, over a year and a half after my husband's death, and a year after I first discovered The Grieving Room, here at DKos, and joined, in order to have a place where I could grapple with processing my husband's sudden and untimely passing, while far from home. I was again at my younger son's place, for the winter immediately following my husband's death. My younger son's intentions had been all for the best, but the situation was not exactly ideal, as I indicated in discussion following the initial diary I posted at DKos and TrueBlueMajority kindly re-published to The Grieving Room on my behalf, at that point.
This winter, due largely to the fact that my son is in transition to a new duty station, as well as budget limitations, I stayed in my own house, by myself. That actually wasn't bad. I was able to pretty much ignore all the usual seasonal hoopla, listened to exactly as much holiday music as I wanted to, and no more, and didn't fall into the depression I feared I might, given the circumstances. That I wasn't able to spend any of the time that I had hoped to with the new man in my life, (who is not exactly "new," given that he was one of my husband's best friends) due to his recovery from a surgical procedure and infection that developed subsequent to that, was a disappointment, but not an insurmountable one. I am pleased and happy to report that things are going very well between us. He, who is learning trust with me, after having so many past failed relationships of his own, is helping me recover from my loss, so we are actually helping and healing each other. He's a couple of years older than my husband was, so I'm well aware that I may be going through another painful loss, some years down the road. Since we can't predict the future, it's equally possible, of course, that he might be the one to go through the loss, but he's already been through the death of both his parents and serious illness of his twin sister, so he's no stranger to grief either. He's not a dancer, as my husband was, due to physical issues, but his heart is as big as my husband's was, and that's saying a lot. Though I haven't yet secured an employment situation that works for me, I'm hopeful that will come, and feel I finally have the energy to take that challenge fully on. At this point, "change," in a more positive sense, and "hope" have become my watchwords for 2014. I know that there will be more "downs" to come, as well as "ups," and I will never forget, nor stop missing, the loving presence of my late husband, but I'm still here, going on and hopefully forward to meet whatever the future brings.