Walking Besides Death

death

When it is your soulmate who is terminally ill and calling your name, you feel an urgent need to go to him immediately. What if…
When she needs something that just seems unnecessary to you, and you have to run through the house to get to her…
When your name becomes a dreaded sound to your ears, and yet you love him…
When you long for touch and cannot have it any more from the person who was such a wonderful lover…
When you’ve forgotten what it is to go out of the house alone for a couple of hours, and to come back without fear and dread…
When your partner has not been very loving, yet you are expected to take care of her…

When you are sleeping next to her, and you are sure she has stopped breathing…
When he has taken more meds than he is supposed to, and is confused and belligerent…
When she rebels against doctors orders, and you have to pay the price…
When you’ve changed the sheets already once tonight, and now they are smelling again…
When you really want to see a show or join your friends, and you feel too guilty because you know he doesn’t want to be left alone…

When the options don’t exist any longer in the medical community, and you are sentenced to wait…
When you have loved him with all your heart, when he was the finest person you ever knew, and now he is diminished by his disease…
When she knows she is in the process of dying, and sometimes has incredible fears and sometimes is welcoming…
You are expected to live normally, and yet normal hasn’t existed for you for a long time…
When you know she is in terrible pain, and you are not ready to let her go…
It is usual for you to ride a roller coaster of every emotion imaginable – and you need to learn how to do that without guilt and shame.

Having worked with people walking this path to their partner’s death, I know that the comfort that comes from speaking to someone who can validate the normality of your experience, is invaluable. How to handle the myriad feelings, how to speak with your partner, how to comfort yourself because you are about to lose the one person who “got” you.

You will be alone and what will life look like for you? How will you manage? Will there be people who will continue to invite you? Will you ever love again? Will you ever have sex again? How can you sleep in bed without him? What will you do when you need comforting in a storm? How will you shop just for yourself?

So, you think you are preparing, yet there is no preparation. Not really. You have been on call for a long time and soon no one will call your name. It is imaginable that he will not be there any more. Life will never be the same. And, you will feel the stab of guilt for having felt anger at this person’s illness and needs. You will feel anger at the loss of her partnership in your life. And, you will have been angry at the dirty sheets. And, then you will feel anger at yourself for feeling anger. And, you know that the missing will be suffocating, and you will feel it in waves, indiscriminately.

My advice? Have someone you can confide in completely. Cry when you feel the tears choking you. Feel your anger and know that it demonstrates your humanness.

Find music that soothes and writings that keep you company. Know that this was what you needed to do and that life will continue after this life has ended.

You will have learned to love, and give, and grieve, and perhaps someday, you may even love again. And, you did what you needed to do. Take comfort in that.

No one, not any of your dearest friends can know what you have lived through this time. Forgive them for not knowing. We are truly alone in the depths of ourselves. Faith can help. Believing in higher powers can help. However, we all really walk alone.

The best we can do is to love ourselves for doing the best we can do.

There is something sacred in taking this journey together, and in holding that someone’s hand as they pass from this life – and from yours.

And when he is finally gone, you may find yourself wishing you could change his sheets just one more time.

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About Paula Susan

Paula Susan, MSW, LCSW, Masters in Clinical Social Work & Psychology; specialist in Trauma and Relationships since 1982. In 1991, I integrated the powerfully transformative process of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Research demonstrates that it facilitates life-altering changes more efficiently and effectively than talk therapy alone. I teach skills such as communication and anxiety relief to improve connection with others. Over the decades, I’ve come to respect how much damage even small traumatic experiences inflict on our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. I consider it a privilege to help my clients understand and change what has undermined their happiness and their relationships. I do it with warmth, integrity, humor, and profound respect for those who care about the quality of this small piece of time we have on earth.www.paulasusan.com

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