I was my husband’s primary caretaker for almost three years in his losing battle with cancer. During that time, I learned more about hospitals, treatments, the medical profession and cancer than I ever wanted to know. I was on a treadmill to keep up with little or no time for myself. Not that I cared about me. I just wanted him well. I wanted our life back.
He died unexpectedly one night. There were no death watches, no friends or family gathering for his last moments. He went quickly and I hope painlessly in the hospital.
Even though I knew he was eventually going to die, I never found the time to reflect on my life without him. We never talked about it partially because admitting it was like giving up. We were fighters until the end. In retrospect, I am not sure what we could have done or said to ease my transition from wife to widow. It was and still is surreal.
At first, there was the flurry of activity that accompanies a death. Then, in a week it was over. Everyone went home. I was left at home to ramble between rooms with my ailing standard poodle for companionship.
I was lost, lonely and vulnerable. I needed a reason to get out of bed, to eat, to live. I argued every morning with myself about getting out of bed. I knew that I should get up but I could not. When I did get up, I would eat a bowl of cereal on the living room couch (definitely not allowed in my previous life!). The empty cereal bowls piled up on my coffee table. Eventually, I stacked them on the kitchen counter above the dishwasher. I did not have the energy to open the dishwasher and put them away. The entire time I was watching myself and chiding myself for my lethargy.
I eventually stumbled onto a routine that worked for me.
Every morning, I walked the circular path in the park near my house. My goal was to put one foot in front of the and walk around and around until I was exhausted. There were no decisions about going left or right it was just straight ahead. After a shower, it was a late lunch with a friend or whoever I had corralled for the day. This socializing and getting dressed up was a crucial part of my day. I did not leave this to chance. I kept my “dance card” full so that I would always have a luncheon partner. On the few occasions that someone cancelled, I was panicked.
With luck, I could drag lunch out most of the afternoon. I liked this because late afternoon and early evening, “l’heure bleue”, was tough. There was no one coming home. I stumbled upon movies to fill this time. I did not have the energy to go to movies, so I rented a DVD every night. Picking it out and returning it the next morning became a ritual.
Then, it was bed and start the cycle all over. I had made it another day. Simple things, but all that I could handle during the first 90 days.