Sunday, October 14, 2012

The trauma of survival

There are many dimensions of grief that lead to healing.
The trauma of survival
Sunday October 14, 2012
by sherry

There are many dimensions of grieving and I am told all are necessary- working through my grief will lead to my healing.

"Eight weeks ago, I watched my best friend die".  I survived the death of my husband.

 I think I must be the guilt stage" because my mind replays Terence's last few weeks, last few days and his last few hours.  I find myself sobbing, telling myself, "I didn't realize how sick he was....and  I made him walk to the kitchen to get his own smoothie"  How could've I done such a thing?  Similar scenarios are played over and over in my mind, shattering my heart all over again.  I ask my sisters over and over again (who were present the last few weeks, days and hours) "Did you know he was dying? How come I didn't see it?  And I made him get out of bed up until the very last day....".  

 My mind is playing the 'survivor's guilt' game with my heart.  It should've been me. He was the nice one! I failed in the compassionate caregiver department!  My mind is recalling my unskilled actions, my forgetfulness, my selfishness and my overly emotional behavior. I should've done more. God, are you sure it wasn't supposed to be me?

My mind is mercilessly berating my heart. The trauma of survival as well as the daily fear of survival has a tendency to be all consuming at this point.  To overcome this I have to live every moment of every day with intentional thoughts or else I find myself losing track or truth.

The truth is that none of those thoughts had any type of bearing on  the outcome of Terence's death.  The truth is he had cancer and I didn't.  The truth is I couldn't see his last few days as 'his last' because he needed me ( and I needed me) to continue to hope in tomorrow.

So I survived our cancer journey and he did not. 

There is good news though; He is absent in body, but present with the Lord, and  I will be comforted by the Lord Himself.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. — Matthew 5:4

Grieving is hard work. But attending to this sorrow and allowing myself to mourn brings the eventual payoff: healing.


  1. Sherry, My husband also died on Sunday, August 19 at dawn. He died after 2 days in hospice from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I also did not see the signs that he was dying -- and neither did he. No medical person did either, or if they did they did not tell us until 3 days before his death. He went to work until 5 days before his death. He knew I needed printer cartridges and somehow got himself to Staples to get them for me. I don't even know how he walked across the parking lot. Irrationally, I am replaying that last week over and over, and wish I could could have a do-over. Would that change anything? No. He is at peace and healed. I will see him again, but meanwhile I am trying to find my own peace and healing. "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail."

  2. "The truth is I couldn't see his last few days as 'his last' because he needed me ( and I needed me) to continue to hope in tomorrow."

    Sherry: that was so clear to me, watching from a distance, just reading your posts. Had you done anything different than you did, it would have been devastating to Terence, I think. His hope, your hope that tomorrow was going to be a better day was a precious golden rope you both were grasping for dear life. Literally.

    Regrets. I think they poison our soul. I will pray for yours, and will you pray for mine?

  3. Dear Sherry, your writing and the comments from anonymous and Dorothy are so full of rich wisdom. Life is for living---and that's what you were doing. Like Dorothy said, any other way would have been devastating to your husband. Sometimes we try to get the regrets and good memories to at least balance out and equal each other. Ideally, the good would outweigh the bad. But we grieve over both: as you are doing, and doing very well. Blessed are they who mourn for they WILL be comforted. Count on it. You're going to make it. It takes time though. Years full of love aren't quickly forgotten . . .

    1. I am struggling with my husband's last days. I feel so much guilt... It went to his liver and he developed hepatic encephalopathy which the doctors didn't even tell us would happen. His mental status changed to the point where he was in and out of reality but at least he was talking and making sense a small part of the time. He got confused and anxious so the nurse suggested we give him Ativan. Well after the Ativan he never spoke again. I don't know if it was a very strong dose or if it was just a coincidence that he slipped into sleep and would not wake up. The doctor said he would drift off into a coma. I didn't know he would drift off and not be able to talk again that soon. I was thinking the Ativan would just calm him down some so he could sleep and wake up more relaxed. I feel like I made the wrong call on that. I could've heard his voice maybe one more day, a few hours? I don't know...I guess we just have to realize we are not physicians and we did the best we could with what was thrown at us. My husband was a better person than me so I wonder why him and not me. Sometimes I think God is punishing me. Whatever the case life goes on and we have to try to forgive ourselves and know we did the best we could under the terrible circumstances.

  4. My prayers are with you. My uncle died 3 years ago after 3 months of liver cancer in hospital. I know how hard can be..