One of our new befriending volunteers shares her story of losing her husband after a battle with cancer, and how she journeyed through her grief to a place where she is now ready to walk alongside others who have been bereaved.

My name is Marian and I have been a widow since June 2000. My husband, affectionately known by me as ‘P’, died within eighteen months of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. The diagnosis showed that the cancer had already spread to his bones.

It all began one Sunday morning when I was getting ready to go out and realised how poorly P was. He could not move around and had difficulty passing urine. It was a struggle, but I managed to get him to the car and took him to Accident & Emergency. The doctors discovered there was a blockage in his bladder area that was preventing him from urinating and decided to operate. The consultant told me that he had a fifty percent chance of recovery and that I should pray. I gathered my three teenage children and told them that their father was seriously ill and could die.

P miraculously survived the operation after the first diagnosis, but he suffered hallucinations in which the medical staff were trying to harm him and I was colluding with them. He then received treatment for the cancer in his bones. He was able to walk when he was discharged; part of me felt that it might be the last time that he walked so we took a photograph together in a photo booth. Soon after he was admitted to the urology department at Guy’s Hospital. After his discharge, he was treated at St Thomas’ Hospital due to fractured bones. He was sent home but it was not long after this that he developed breathing problems and received further treatment at our local hospital for fluid in his lungs.

The doctors confirmed that they could do no more for P and recommended that he went into the hospice. I reluctantly agreed and he died in my presence a couple of weeks later. I was hysterical as he was alert a few minutes before and was communicating well with those who came to visit him, so I hoped for a miraculous recovery. When I saw him in the mortuary, his features were the same and he appeared to be sleeping. I had the slight feeling that the doctors had made a mistake and he would wake up. I now know that it was denial, one of the stages of grief.

On the night of P’s death my sister stayed with me in our house because she didn’t want me to be alone. There were so many people and organisations I needed to notify. My sister collected the names of all our family, friends and acquaintances and contacted them for me. I made a list of the organisations and my initial count was one hundred! In the days following I dealt with this as well as organising the funeral.

There were times when I felt lonely. On Sundays my children went out to dinner with their friends, and I was happy for them, but it meant I ate alone at a time when we previously we ate together as a family. One of my coping strategies was to keep busy. To keep me occupied and to enable me to pay the mortgage and support my family I resumed full time work. I attended evening classes studying subjects such as music, theology and an introduction to counselling. However, I no longer felt comfortable in my neighbourhood. When returning home from work in the evening, I felt low as I approached home. I moved to a new area, but this made me feel lonelier as I didn’t know anyone. I felt even worse when our family budgie died because at times it was only us in the house.

It’s not been easy but things do feel much better and I feel positive about the life I am living now. I was introduced to the Widowed Young Support services offered by Care for the Family, and during the support days I appreciate my time with others who have been widowed.

From my experiences came a desire to find ways I could be of support to widows facing emotional and multiple other needs in their lives. I am now a trained bereavement counsellor. I have also received training as a Care for the Family befriender and look forward to the opportunity to support others who have been widowed young.

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