RELATIONAL HEALTH FOR WIDOWS
I became a widow on June 1, 2018, at age 54. I knew it was coming. My husband Gary, 62, was winding down a courageous battle with throat cancer, yet his death was still a shock. I hadn’t planned for this. I assumed we would live into a long retirement with travel, grandchildren, and good times. We did do some traveling while Gary was still able. We didn’t have grandchildren yet, so if my children grace me with any, I’ll be a grandma without a grandpa. And good times? Well, life is rough when you lose your partner of 21 years. Two days after Gary died, my children’s father (my ex-husband Brad) died unexpectedly. We had time to say goodbye to Gary, but not to Brad.
Gary was no stranger to major health challenges. In the ‘80s, he broke his back and had stainless steel rods implanted in his spine. He embarked on a healing adventure and met many healers along the way. In the end, he healed his back and had the rods removed. When we met years later, I was amazed by his story and found the long scar down his spine sexy! I learned about the divine light in all of us and the power we all have to heal ourselves and others.
When Gary was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, he was confident he could heal himself again. He tried non-traditional methods and did well, but when the cancer returned in early 2017, he reluctantly agreed to traditional therapy. As the tumor grew, he needed a feeding tube as well as a tracheostomy. He endured chemo, immunotherapy, and radiation. Nothing worked. When he asked a psychic friend for guidance, she told him Spirit said he had healed himself in so many lifetimes that he’d mastered that, and now it was time to move on. He resigned himself to the fact that he was not going to pull off another miracle.
When Gary’s pain became totally debilitating, I told him I wanted him to be free and happy. He had suffered enough. In May 2018, I was headed to Berlin for work, but he asked me to stay instead while he transitioned. It was a gut-wrenching moment for us both.
In the last few weeks, as we discussed the things that we needed to discuss and expressed our love and appreciation for our life together, I asked my husband to send me signs from the other side that he was okay. I promised to look for them.
Memorial Day 2018 was bittersweet. Gary’s family came, as the original plan was for them to stay with him while I went to Berlin. As a surprise, I flew our children in and invited other family and friends. Even though Gary was at his sickest, I knew inviting people into our home to celebrate him was important. He was mad at first. He didn’t want to be remembered as a shell of the man he once was. But he quickly got over it. His energy severely sapped, he could visit only in short intervals, yet he kept coming outside to join us. One of the greatest gifts of his illness, he told me, was receiving so much love.
Friends from Holland came to hold the space for Gary and me in his last week. Another friend connected with those waiting for him on the other side. She assured him they were ready to welcome him home, whenever he was ready. Knowing that, and that so many people would love me in his place, allowed Gary to make peace with dying.
Two days after he passed, I drove to a massage appointment. While driving, I got a message in my head saying, You need to connect with TG, Gary’s daughter, who Gary had sadly lost touch with years before. I decided to connect with her as soon as my massage was finished, and guess who messaged me during my massage? TG! Gary had reached out to her too. He couldn’t voice his love here, and she couldn’t hear him here, yet he was able to connect once he passed! And she was ready to listen. The day she told me, “I think we can fix this, now that he’s on the other side,” was so profound.
If you’ve lost a loved one:
Find a grief coach who has experienced the same loss.
Let people help you.
Let friends know it’s okay to talk about their spouses and families. Life goes on, stay connected.
Educate yourself about your financial situation.
Take self-development courses.
Listen to your inner voice.
Watch for signs that may come as thoughts, animals, songs, books, or even people who suddenly get your attention.
If you hear an estranged loved one has passed:
Whether you were right or wrong, connect with their closest kin. The estrangement may weigh heavily on their heart, so reaching out is a simple act of kindness that can ease that burden. Saying, “I’m sorry I was not able to rise above my anger and send them off with love. I’m sorry I didn’t allow their voice to be heard” is enough.
Paula Meyer, widowed at age 54, is the author of Great Loss, Greater Love: The Art & Heart of Navigating Grief. She has traveled to 20 countries, some multiple times, and 42 U.S. States. Her goal is to visit 30 countries and all 56 U.S. States and territories by the end of 2025. She aspires to help other women get back in the game of life and realize there is still so much to learn and love. Learn more at greatlossgreaterlove.com.