Q My husband and I have been together for 50 years, we were childhood sweethearts, and we’ve just found out that he has cancer and has been given three months to live. We never had children and maybe that makes it worse, or better – because they’d also have the pain of losing such a good man. I am numb, and I don’t know how to function. What can I do?
A I can offer only a few words of advice for you. What works for one person might be the opposite of what someone else needs, wants, or would find helpful.
All I can say is that this big shock and life-changing transition will take time to get used to…if you ever do get used to it.
Time is both your friend and enemy now…the precious time you have left with him is limited, and yet your time ahead without him may seem endless.
One small grain of comfort for some is knowing that they can prepare for their beloved’s passing – something that is denied to the bereaved when death is sudden and unexpected. Perhaps the only guarantee in life is that we will all die, and most people don’t know when that will happen.
You now both have a choice about how you will spend the rest of the time you have together.
Don’t focus upon the calendar – many medical prognoses are inaccurate and people live for much longer than predicted.
You are both blessed to have loved one another for so long – so continue to cherish your love and joy, and celebrate your relationship and the many great and funny experiences you’ve had together.
I would encourage you to decide what you both want to do and enjoy, for each of the days you have left together – in whatever way you choose. Creating a ‘bucket list’ of desired experiences will give you both something to plan and focus upon. This might include friends and wider family members too.
Getting things organised for his passing will be a big challenge too, but he’ll probably feel relieved to have this all in place for you.
I wonder if there are any local services or groups that you could both now access which could help you with this big transition.
It might also help your husband to know that you will have people to speak with who’ve experienced some of what you are going through and can support you after his death.
From a more spiritual and holistic perspective, life and death are the ebb and flow of creation – like the tides and seasons. You are both entering a new phase which is unknown and unwanted, but inevitable.
I can only offer my heartfelt wish that you continue to live each day as an expression of your love – until the end of this phase of your time together.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)