The Phantom Spouse-myth or reality? It has been said, “Losing a spouse is like losing a limb.”; let’s explore the validity of this statement. Drawing from my personal experience, the similarities are uncanny. Both situations leave you without something or someone vital to your survival; that is unequivocal.
After an amputation, an amputee continues to feel pain/sensations in the missing limb; it appears this pain comes from the spinal cord and brain. During an MRI or PET scan, portions of the brain that had been neurologically connected to the nerves of the amputated limb show activity when the person feels phantom pain.
After an amputation, areas of the spinal cord and brain lose input from the missing limb and adjust to this detachment in unpredictable ways. The result can trigger the body’s most basic message that something is not right: pain. Studies also show that after an amputation, the brain may remap that part of the body’s sensory circuitry to another part of the body. In other words, because the amputated area is no longer able to receive sensory information, the information is referred elsewhere—from a missing hand to a still-present cheek, for example. (Mayo Clinic)
After losing my spouse, I continued to sense his presence. I expected him to walk into a room, to be sitting next to me, and sharing moments we would normally spend together. I expected him to show up when I needed help. I expected him to answer the phone when I called. I expected him to call me daily at 3 p.m. as he had done for years. I expected him to be next to me on the treadmill at the gym. For a long time, my heart hurt while my head tried to process the idea that he was gone. Eventually, my head came to terms with that fact. I stopped expecting him to be there or seeing him in familiar places. But, my heart knew something was not right; that hurt. Trying to function with a gnawing awareness of a void in my life – that was painful.
My heart is having difficulty coming to terms with what my head already knows – he is gone forever. The phantom spouse is real; slowly, his image fades. Someday, when my heart and head reconcile with each other – that image will be gone. But, I have to learn to walk again – using everything I have to compensate for what I have lost, knowing that each step will hurt like crazy, but acknowledging the only way out is through the pain. So reach for your “crutch” – whatever it may be, and WALK AGAIN.
Cynthia Mascarenhas was widowed on February 4, 2018, when she lost her husband of 29 years, Franz Mascarenhas, to a sudden heart attack. Following the passing of Franz, Cynthia founded Walk With A Widow, a non-profit organization whose primary focus if healing the hearts of widows by giving love and hope to widows around the world. As one would expect, much of the material crafted for widows can also be of help to widowers.
Professionally, Cynthia is a registered nurse and an independent legal nurse consultant. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Orlando Chapter of Legal Nurse Consultants. Cynthia has served on various committees for the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.
Cynthia’s insightful articles will appear periodically here on WSN-MO. You can contact Cynthia at her website, www.walkwithawidow.com