Frank and I met when I was twenty and we have been together for the last 41 years and married for the last 3 ½ years. We are both retired and both of us in our early 60’s. In early May I thought it would be nice to go on a road trip, to break up our routine. I could tell Frank was ready to go somewhere, but we could not because our cat was going on 20 years old and having a rough time. We knew his end was near and just didn’t want to leave him. The night of April 6th we came to the decision to have him put to sleep the next day as he could hardly stand. That night he died in Frank’s arms.
I usually put together our vacations so I put together a two week road trip to Florida leaving May 6th. We stopped to visit friends in Myrtle Beach and then continued on to Fort Myers Beach for several days. After that we crossed the state over to Hollywood Beach where we rented a small house that had a nice private pool. It was very close to the Hollywood Board walk which we discovered on our last trip to the area. We had a wonderful time and I think it was our best trip yet. In heading home, we planned stop in Savannah. We got in early, took a little nap, showered and then called an Uber to take us downtown Savannah. We had a nice dinner at a restaurant we discovered on our last visit there too. After walking around a little we called an Uber to head back to our room. We got back at midnight and put our comfy clothes on. I got on the lap top and Frank started watching a movie and played on his phone, as he always did. We turned in about 1:30. Sometime during the night, I woke up to hear Frank snoring in a very wield manner. I have to say I had never heard anything quite like it before. I thought he was snoring and having a dream. I didn’t think any more about it and just rolled over and went back to sleep. I woke up early, around 6:20, so that we can get a jump on the free breakfast before everybody else. I turned over to wake Frank and he wasn’t responding. I got out of bed and he wasn’t waking up. He died during the night. I called the manager and they called EMS, but it was to late. Unbeknownst to me during the night, is that I woke up in the middle of his being in cardiac arrest. The weird breathing was his body trying to get oxygen causing what is known as agonal respiration. He was laboring to breath and gasping for air. God woke me to attempt to save Frank and I did nothing but roll over and go back to sleep. Even though a person surviving cardiac arrest in extremely low, it eats at me that I didn’t recognize a problem and try CPR. I feel I failed Frank. I feel so guilty! I always looked out for his well-being and I let him down. I learned later that morning, after looking a Frank’s phone, that while I was on the lap top, he was doing a Google search on “throat pain and heart attack symptoms”. He didn’t say a word about it. He failed me. I was in a strange area, alone and Frank was dead. EMS and police were in our room. After the authorities were done I was permitted to go back into the room. I sat with Frank on the floor for a while, holding his lifeless hand, waiting for the coroner to come. It was Sunday May 21st, so it was longer than usual. Frank was turning blue and his body already starting to deteriorate. I watched as they placed him in a body bag and it was the worse day of my life. After they left, I was all alone. I made a few phone calls. One to our local funeral home and another to a family member. It was so awful packing my suitcase then his. It was awful packing the car then getting into an empty car and driving home for 12 hours straight. I couldn’t stop, I had to just keep going. I made it home at midnight. It was the worst moment of my life again walking into an empty house. I couldn’t believe that I would never see Frank again. That whole week was spent making arrangements ending with calling hours and a brief service. I physically could not eat for a whole week. I lost 12 pounds. Since then my life has been numb. I’ve cried every day for the last 41 days. I put our satellite service on hold. I stopped the newspaper. Nothing seems to be important anymore. Our home, which was our labor of love now is unimportant and is just plain labor. My plan at this time is to eventually sell it. It was ours and I can’t be here without him. I feel I won’t be able to rebuild my life if I stay here. I have half good days and half bad days. Mornings seem the worst. If I start out depressed I seem to stay that why. I hate being here alone. Even if I am with someone else. It may temporally take my mind off things. But, I am still alone in my head. The loss and loneness is so great. Some days it’s unbearable. I have been reading bereavement books, journaling, visiting websites and spending hours on the phone with family and friends. I think it’s helping. But, on some days I keep falling back into the grief pit. The pain feels like it’s never going to end. Frank was my life.
Dear Sara Murphy……I am at my desk working on my grief recovery like I always do each evening sitting next to Frank. Music is planning by Nina Simone. Nice and slow. Actually, Frank’s ashes are behind me on a table with a candle burning. Nights like tonight I feel his presence and I feel close to him. I am going to do this until I don’t need to. It’s gotten to be like my evening job that I do after dinner. Working on my mental state and healing the pain. Today was a good day, so I likely will come across a little more upbeat. Today, I contacted the local church offering an upcoming Grief Share series. The series lasts 13 weeks. I have done everything else, so far. I think I am ready for the next step. I can cry and hug. I need lots of hugs. The more the better. I wish you were there I would give you a big hug. Unfortunately, I have to wait six weeks before it starts. I hope it’s a good fit. The moderator is a therapist and she said a normal size group is usually 10 people. I am ready to share my story face to face and put it all out there. I hope the experience blends with everything else I am doing. Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. I am getting a lot out of this group. Thank you so much for your help. Andrew
Andrew.....I'm glad yesterday was a good day for you. I'm also glad that your Grief Share moderator is a therapist. When I went, it was just a woman from the church who volunteered. She was very nice but despite her being at least 10 years older than me (I was 50 at the time) she didn't really have the education or experience to lead a group of people suffering the loss of their soul mate or child. Her only losses at that point had been her parents and she was already married with grown kids when she lost them. I'm not saying it wasn't hard on her but it's not the same. I think you'll probably get more out of it than I did and I'm happy about that. I too wish I could give a hug to my Legacy family members. They've all helped me so much. No one I know in person has lost a spouse so they don't understand the deep feeling of grief. It wasn't until I found this site and saw someone else type what was in my head and heart that I knew I found "my people", people who truly understand.
Keep doing your nightly ritual. I think it'll help you and since you can feel Frank around you, it may be helping him as well.
Dear Andrew ... You brought me to tears knowing how lonely, lost and heartbroken you are feeling right now. It takes me back to 'raw grief' and I remember feeling just like you do right now. I tried grief counseling by a Psychologist and found, that if they had not dealt with the loss of a spouse that it was 'text book jargon' and they just didn't get it. I was beside myself and in despair and felt I just couldn't go on anymore, but what to do? Then suddenly I found Legacy and I have to admit it saved my life. Still, as wonderful as it was it is human nature to be physically with people that are suffering spousal loss so I went to a church offering grief counseling. Yes, there is some religious content to it, but it's not pushed on you, but it may help if you are of a religious nature. The true thing that helped was I was surrounded by 8 other people (4 men in the group) going through the same thing I was and we poured our hearts out, cried, hugged and although feeling exhausted after the sessions more and more I began to get some strength back coupled with Legacy.
Most of us have gone through other loses, but have to admit that with our spouses passing on we had never known grief like this before. What you are going through is extremely normal. Grief symptoms for each person is a little different, but basically it gut-wrenching, denial, sometimes anger, not wanting to go on without our spouse and then reality hits us. Symptoms include: disbelief, guilt (we should have done things differently), constantly crying or simply staring into space unable to think straight or get our life together. We can't concentrate, sleep patterns are all over the place and some people either sleep often to relieve them of the anguish they feel and some have insomnia roaming around their home. Feeling or euphoria, we may even feel it's a bad dream and we'll wake up and our spouse will be there. Physical symptoms can range from feeling nausea, not wanting to eat or eating too much, some people opt out to answer their phone and may keep curtains closed in their home and going out into society to even get groceries can be more of a burden than we think. I wore sunglasses often because I would cry off and on. Feeling of 'why not me' or 'why did my spouse have to die' are two questions we seek, but never get an answer to. For some death seems like an escape to stop the heartache and anguish we feel from day to day, but happy to say that most people never do take their own lives. Believe me I too thought of it. I was angry I didn't go with Ernie and was left on this earth just to suffer the loss. It suddenly struck me further on in my grief when it wasn't so intense that I had to honor Ernie and carry the torch for him. He taught me lessons throughout our marriage and important lessons that made me stronger. With each person who touches our lives they leave an 'imprint' and most thankfully help us grow strong and confident. I knew he was near and helping me on my journey of grief. Now, I am stronger, but yes, I can still tear up, feel defeated, but something keeps me going. There are still times I feel like a ghost walking through life and around society, but the strength I've maintained gets me through it and eventually these feelings subside. The worst of it all for me at least is the loneliness. I feel like 'the elephant in the room', long-time friends just stopped calling, life goes on and everyone has issues whether it's problems they are dealing with or health issues. I am a Senior so it's not uncommon to be bombarded by calls from those friends who have kept in touch that they have health issues and sadly to say some pass away. This is where Post Traumatic Stress is often used for those who grieve and not labeled just for soldiers in war. Now there is something new that scientists have found called, 'Post Traumatic Growth.' Here is the link and a must read: http://trauma-recovery.ca/resiliency/post-traumatic-growth/ This will help all of us to reach out of our comfort zone when the time is right and perhaps volunteer (which I do) or simply help others; to make new friends to start our new life.
I hope I have helped you Andrew to realize what you are going through is normal and not forever. The major pain of grief will subside although you will never forget your spouse. Remember, every morning you get up is making you stronger and believe it or not YOU want to live! Take baby steps, cry when you want to; sleep when you need to and try to eat. Comfort yourself with a pet, keep coming back to Legacy and try to join a Church Group that offers grief counseling. You'll know when you have gained enough strength when to stop going to Grief Counseling.
So my dear friend hang on; grief is a necessity of life, but the intensity isn't forever. May I suggest you try to keep in touch with a loyal and trusted friend where you can go for walks, perhaps dinner or just talk. It helps.
Love & Hugs
Dear Marsha H……I don’t mind going to a church. I am actually ready to explore my spiritual side. Since this all happened, I have become obsessed with death and dying. It’s the only thing I am interested in reading these days. Currently, I started reading Life After Life. It’s about near death experiences. I just have to know what’s out there and that Frank is okay. I have to know that God is watching over him. Thank you for sharing how you thought about suicide. I’ll admit, I had the same thoughts. But, that is not a solution and isn’t something that can be undone. I would never want to end my life’s journey like that. I’ve come to far. I liked what you said about honoring Ernie and carrying the torch for him. Frank showed me by example how to be kind and giving. I always loved him for that. He was the most thoughtful person I know, next to his mother. She was a saint. That’s why I chose him. He made me a better person. I want to continue his legacy and stand where he can no longer stand. It’s funny you mentioned volunteering. My sister mentioned the same thing yesterday. It’s a great idea when the time is right. Something like that will provide meaning and purpose. I don’t know what form it will take. But, I’ll recognize it. I got a lot out of your post and thank you for sharing the link. Andrew
Andrew.......I'm running into a meeting now but want to share that I too have become obsessed with life on the other side. I'm currently reading a book by Sylvia Browne who was a famous Medium and she details every step of life on the other side. It's helped me so much to know that Ken's soul is still alive. We've all already come from Heaven so we go back Home to our lives as we know there. We work, have hobbies, houses etc. I've asked Ken to make sure he gets our house ready for me. He knows I've always wanted a Farmer's Porch so that's what I've asked him to do.
Dear Andrew ... I am so glad my post did help you. I realize right now in your raw grief they are only words and what I've said will come clearer a little at a time. It is very normal for people to search out answers about death. While with our spouses we seldom gave much thought to death touching us; some perhaps had parents or relatives pass, but not our spouses. I searched and researched and I found the best books to read are the Near Death Experiences. It gives us hope from the people that have been on record stating they had passed away and came back. I've known since the 1980's that many hospitals had nurses taking notes from the dying and research has gone much further than that. If you haven't already you will feel Frank near you. It's a feeling peace and comfort as if they were standing or sitting right next to you. It's difficult to explain. I've had many experiences and two validated by my friend and once by my own dogs. I must tell you that story when you are up to it.
I volunteer for a dog shelter where poor little souls are taken off the streets and provided a home with a wonderful woman that cares for any medical needs, food, a safe place to stay and most importantly, love! She runs a large shelter and brings so many dogs into the pet store for adoption and I help her out. I've learned much from the dogs themselves. Many of these poor creatures have been abused yet they look at us with trusting and loving eyes and cuddle up to us to be held, petted and I can't help it, I cry. It does reward me in many ways to see these dogs placed in a good home with loving owners and the dogs sure know it. LOL It has given me a reason to live and to also help save these gentle creatures. In the 3 years I've been volunteering I have never been bit once and many of the dogs being street dogs are wary. I have learned so much from them. I also go to Bible Study which gives me great comfort, but unfortunately, they are not meeting throughout the summer and will start up in September. I feel peaceful there and the group has so many nice people. One widow other than myself and the rest are in couples, but, that's OK. Volunteering and taking things off yourself is a great healing process and I know you will find something you enjoy when the time is right.
Frank's mother sounds like a real angel. Remember Andrew, not only did Frank leave you with wisdom and love, but you also returned it to him and he learned from you. You carry that torch for Frank because it says, 'Yes, I was here; I left lessons to be learned and left behind people I love ... remember me!'
When Mark passed away we were living in Dallas, TX, we moved there knowing that Mark could not hold onto a full-time job, due to the medications he was on. He was very smart and before we left south Florida he had completed his bachelor’s degree in IT Forensics in early 2008, he wanted to work in this field with the FBI, but he knew he was already over the maximum age limit and his symptoms were beginning to show.
I made sure that he had all the most up to date electronics to keep him busy while I was working, one day I came home and he was so happy, he had taken one of those emails that are trying to scam money from individuals and had successfully traced its origin. He also found a web site hosted by the FBI that allowed novice geeks to post such things to solicit help from private citizens. That got him noticed because of the amount of detail and notes he sent along, the FBI eventually enlisted him as a private intern/contractor (without payment). This was something he could do that he loved and so he was up at all hours of the day and night working just for the fun of it. Mark had something he could do and I had my job to go to each day, this kept us close and reclusive at the same time. Looking back now I see how time slipped away and when he passed away I was totally alone, we had not made friends with anyone in Dallas. I had a few close friends thru work, the ones you go to lunch with but never hang out with and my family was back in Florida. Mark’s family had long ago cut him out of their lives simply because he was gay and when he passed away I searched thru Mark’s journals, email addresses and every electronic devise of his to find any contact information about his family. To this day I do not have that information and I do not know if they even tried to find him (there were a few times over the years his mother would find us and call). The fact was that except for our dog Bella, I was alone. I had long ago given up on any religious outlet simply because of the negative messages towards anyone who was different. I called my Aunt Betty in Florida that day and she and I both cried for an hour on the phone while I was dealing with the paramedics and the police. I felt as if I was under a microscope, then out of the blue, one of the female officers kneeled next to my chair took my hand and asked me what kind of preparations I was considering because the coroner was on its way to pick up Mark to take him in for an autopsy. I just stared at her with a blank look and said he wanted to have his body donated to a teaching school and then cremated. She reached into her vest pulled out a pad and pen and wrote down a name and phone number and then handed it to me, explaining that she had a friend at the UT Southwestern Medical facility in Dallas. Give her a call and she will explain how it works and if Mark would be a candidate for their program. I hugged her and started crying again, she just stayed there until I was comforted. I called and the next day they called me back stating that he qualified, the same lady called me to let me know that she was going personally to pick up Mark and take him to the University. Two months later, Bella and I headed home to stay with my Aunt. It was now January and I was back in Dallas, undergoing everything you are experiencing today. I thought I was going to kill myself or go crazy, and yet there was out precious Bella. What would happen to her, who would take care of her. February, I started looking online for grief support groups in Dallas, all were active and in Churches of all denominations, the grief counselors were not only costly they all looked far too young to be experienced, then I looked for online groups and I found Legacy. My experience with Legacy, taking care of Bella, working each day, talking to friends at work and calling home was not helping. Something else was missing in my life besides my beloved Mark, I knew I had to find out what as if driven by something I could not put my finger on. I remembered each day and night the events of November 31st and the one thread in that day were all the paramedics and police. All of them strangers, same as the folks on Legacy, and yet each one did not show anything except compassion for me and what I was experiencing, each one in their own way taking me thru each of the questions and process, no judgment just an understanding that was overwhelmingly compassionate. It finally dawned on me that I was not alone, I was receiving help from places and people that I did not know. This eventually led me to search online for an LBGT church, I needed friends, I needed real people in my life, this would get me out of the house when not working. I found two such churches in Dallas and visited each one, the first one I got nothing but friendly nods and smiles, the second one, the minute I entered I felt the same feeling that I got from the paramedics, police and Legacy, I was overwhelmed and afraid of what might take place. I made it thru the service, I felt myself about to lose it and was headed for the exit when a dear sweat lady grabbed my arm and said, “not so fast, you have to give me a hug first”. I hugged her and burst into tears, I hung on not caring about the spectacle I was making, she quietly asked “how can I help you”. I realized that from day one I was being encircled with Angels, real ones or not still Angels all with the purpose to help me thru the ashes of my former life. And now it is my turn, my wish for you Andrew is that you will continue posting and keeping your journals, we each find our own way and we each one succeed, there is hope Andrew.