It was the beginning of July in 2007, and we were looking forward to our summer holiday. Benson, my husband, had recently been given the five-year ‘all clear’ after the removal of a malignant mole on his back.
On the Friday morning, he went to the doctor thinking he had sprained his left hand which had developed a weakness over the last few days. The doctor sent him straight to the hospital, and by the end of the day we were given the devastating news that the weakness was caused by secondary tumours in his brain, lung and liver. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy were available, but only in a palliative role.
Throughout the next few months, Benson was amazingly brave and calm. The treatment made him very weak, and he had several fits which were very traumatic. We had several emergency trips to hospital in an ambulance, but Benson did not fear death. As Christians, we gained great comfort from reading Psalm 23 in the Bible, especially where it says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”
I became very stressed as I tried to care for Benson and support our two sons aged 16 and 20. It was hard for them in different ways as our older son was away at university, while the youngest was still at school. Friends and family were wonderful and rallied round with practical help such as providing meals and doing shopping. We even made it to church on a few occasions, which Benson really enjoyed. But the disease continued to progress, and my beloved husband died in hospital at the end of November.
There was something healing about being with others who had walked the same path as me, and understood my feelings.
The next few weeks were a blur, but one thing I was clear about was that the boys and I needed all the help we could get. A kind friend from church provided counselling for the boys. I heard about a forthcoming Widowed Young Support weekend in May, and knew I needed to be there. People said to me, “Aren’t you brave, to go on your own so soon!” But I wasn’t brave at all, I was desperately seeking help.
And I did find help. There was something healing about being with others who had walked the same path as me, and understood my feelings. Everyone there had their own tragic story, and while it was incredibly sad, it was also humbling to see so much courage, often in people much younger than myself. I learned a lot about the grieving process, and realised that I must actively choose to conquer my grief if I ever wanted to move on.
We were encouraged to look for and nurture all the ‘seeds of hope’ that came our way. This really struck me, and when I got home I started to keep a ‘Hope’ box. By its side I keep a notepad, and whenever anything positive happens, or I have a new insight, I jot it down and put it in the box. Then on the bad days it encourages me to read through what I have written.
One of my ‘seeds’ is the friendship I made with another widow that weekend. She lives about an hour’s drive away, and I really enjoy our fortnightly meetings. Another is my Widowed Young Support befriender with whom I have regular contact by phone and email. As time goes on, I hope and pray that my ‘seeds of hope’ will grow, and that I will come to a place where I can accept my loss as part of a new, but different and fulfilling life.