A Matter of Survival

After 48 years of marriage, some say I’m making a fresh start. If so, it is a forced start forward. Sadly, I'm being dragged into a new beginning with a hole in my heart. My wife Julie died in hospital three months ago. Her death tore my life apart, and here I am, facing the new year of 2022. There is no shouting, “Happy New Year,” for me. There may well never be happy years in my life again without Julie.

We were one of a kind, as a couple. We had no children. We had half a dozen close friends who now comfort me and support me. They shared Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with me. They included me in their families and plans so that I would not be alone. It was appreciated and helpful, but I came home to emptiness and cried myself to sleep whispering, “Julie, Julie, Julie.”

Most say that grief has no time limit, and you will always grieve the loss of your loved one. Yet, people expect me to get beyond Julie's death and into another phase in my life. They accept Julie's death, but I have trouble making peace with it. I cannot change her death at the hand of a terrible disease. They say that there is no cure for the illness that killed her. Can I accept her decline and the gradual loss of her life and hope? Not entirely; it will always seem wrong to me. I can’t be at peace or even the slightest bit comfortable with how her life ended here on earth.

There is a time to be born and to die. Yes, if your mate dies, you must start over, living without them. Life goes on. Move on! So much easier said than done. Worst of all, I know no one can start over for me. I have to move forward while my life behind me is still full of disappointment and unwanted death. They say that time heals all wounds but does it?

For many, this new year will mean making a resolution or two. Resolutions reflect what people feel is essential to them in the coming year. They may promise themselves that they will do any number of things. For example, some will resolve that they will eat healthier and lose weight. How many will exercise more? Save more money? Focus on their self-care? Read more? Make new friends? Take up a new hobby or renew a skill they have neglected? Resolutions are about what people decide is essential for them to do in the year ahead.

More resolutions than not are made by people who lack the necessary motivation to accomplish them. Since my wife died three months ago, I have lost my appetite and have also lost twenty pounds without any effort. I have had more exercise with trips to the funeral home, lawyer, and real estate office. I needed to sell our apartment because I could not be in its emptiness without Julie. I have read more legal documents but just one small book on grief. Will I make new friends as I move to a new home in January? I have been renewing my skill of packing and moving my possessions.  

In any given new year, many resolutions made are ignored. But, when a loved one dies, feelings come that you cannot ignore or dismiss. I feel anger. I want to blame, slap, beat on, and kick the disease that stole Julie's life. I feel guilty that I and the health care system could not have done more for my wife. I feel loneliness and emptiness that will not leave me alone. They come and go as if they own me.

I never understood how loneliness and loss could intensify with everything that should be neutral. The chair that Julie favored sitting in at the table. Silently screams at me, “Don’t you dare sit here!” Her coffee cup that says, “I need coffee,” glares at me that Julie is gone and won’t be back.  Her sign on the kitchen wall reads – “Get out of My kitchen!” reminds me that Julie is gone, but her authority is still present without her to assert it.

Who knew the answering machine could bring me to tears. Julie's voice, in all its life and vitality, says, "Hi, you have reached Julie and John. Leave us a message, and we'll get back to you if you leave your number." Every time I was out, I would call our apartment, waiting for the answering machine to click on, and I could hear Julie's voice once more. After the first month of Julie’s death, I stopped calling home as it was an obsession that made me sick to my stomach.           

I am talking more with God in my sleepless nights and early mornings than ever before. We haven't been close, but I have never been so devasted before and as ready to give Him respect until now. I know Julie would have me get better, not stuck in grief or bitterness. I do best when I remember her impatience with people feeling sorry for themselves.

In the three months since my Julie died, I have met others that have lost loved ones to death. In talking with them, I realize I am in the company of countless others who have needed to start over because their loved one is gone, and they cannot bring them back. It is a bitter truth but one that cannot be denied.

I have gradually realized in these three months since the death of my wife Julie that her death does mean starting over for me. It does not mean that I love Julie any less but that it is a matter of my survival. I need to live on facing the truth life continues despite the death of those we love. I must learn to love Julie as even more precious to me now because she is not with me in person any longer. I am supremely grateful that Julie once was my loving wife and companion as I start over in my life.

I aim to start over, move on day by day in 2022 with what I believe Julie would say to me if she could. She would say, “Don’t forget me, but You have my love and blessing to move ahead. I want you to make a good and happy life without me. You will always be mine, and I will always be yours, so move on in peace, sweetheart!”

December 27, 2021 20:28

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Alice Richardson
02:07 Jan 02, 2022

A beautiful story about acceptance of things you can't change, and yet hope for the future.


Ray Maher
03:20 Jan 03, 2022

Thank you for your kind comment - wishing you a Happy New Year and tons of hope for 2022


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply