WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby
After my wife (Theresa) died, after the numbness, and after the severe physical and mental pain of the first few weeks, I began to ask the question most widowers ask, “Why am I still here? Why did she go first? Wasn’t the plan that I was supposed to die first?”
Only four years before her death, we both expected that I might not survive another year or two due to a debilitating bout with skin cancer. This cancer was finally treated successfully in 2012. Suddenly I found myself healthy and energetic again; so much so that I joyfully returned to the workforce.
At this point, we both thought we were safely entering our golden years and that I just might be around and able to enjoy it with her, at least for a while. And then… that dream blew up in our faces. In 2014 she began to experience some severe rashes which the doctors were unable to help with until it was discovered that she had uterine cancer and needed surgery. This was to be followed by chemotherapy and then radiation treatment. Within a year, she passed away, and I was the survivor left standing.
For forty-five years, we had worked and scrimped and saved to build financial reserves that would insure that she and our children would be okay after I died. The life insurance policy was on me, not her. Everything we owned had been placed into a trust to make the transition smooth, with her as the primary beneficiary.
Now I was left alone, with no plan, no purpose, and lots of questions. I could find no rationale for why I was left alive. She was the one supposed to live a long life, with time to participate in the lives of our children and grandchildren, with time to enjoy her friends without the encumbrances of work, limited finances, or health issues. I was angry and felt lost, sinking into depression, and even suicidal thoughts. Going alone every night to a cavernous empty and silent home was a challenge.
Fortunately, I found some great support from a therapist at Pathways Hospice, from friends and family, and from new activities that got me out of my house. Gradually I found new purpose in:
· writing my book (Widower to Widower) to help other widowers,
· joining the Pathways and Poudre River Public Library Boards of Directors,
· starting a Men’s Grief Group and co-facilitating it for the past four years,
· finding new relations and companions; and in
· re-committing to my role as father and grandfather.
All of these activities became more normal and gave me a stronger sense of my life’s purpose, as well as new joy which gradually filled the void left by my wife’s departure. This did not happen overnight, and there were often setbacks in my grieving process, but incrementally I began to fill whole again.
If you find yourself in this position, I offer my experience as but one example of how you can begin to answer these questions about “Why am I still here?” Each of us must find our own way and in our own time, but we can learn from each other and grow from there. I have watched many widowers come through our Men’s Grief Group and find their way to a different new life which often gives them solace and allows them to get value from life again. You can too!
Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower which can be found on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday.
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