fbpx The Reality of Grief
 Skip to main content
Friday, January 3, 2020

Editor's Note: This is part of a series that Nancy will be doing on caregiving. Make sure to check back every Friday to see the rest of her blogs or find the complete list.

When at last Brett died, I expected peace, not chaos all over again. I’d buried him prematurely in my dreams throughout his illness, bracing myself, I suppose, for the inevitable. Now that he was truly gone though, I was unprepared for the tidal wave of grief within me. The first few months after Brett died were a blur.

Beyond normal exhaustion, widow’s fatigue felt like an acute numbness and distortion of life. Nothing was as it was before. Our black leather couch, once a haven of comfort for the four of us, didn't even feel welcoming. The dishes were foreign objects in my hands and the neighbors, too, seemed like strangers. Home wasn’t home without Brett—and his absence was felt everywhere.

Some days I begged my mother to take Rebecca and Casey. I didn’t want her—or anyone—to take the twins permanently; it’s only that I felt too numb and lifeless to parent. We were fortunate to have a few hours of babysitting help during the weekdays, allowing me precious hours to myself. I felt guilty spending my time in bed when I should have been resuming my career or meeting friends or getting exercise. It’s just that the calm cocoon of my comforter was the one place I felt secure and tethered. Beneath the warm folds of the comforter, I didn’t need to put on a fighting face; I could just be still.

Well-meaning friends and family would say to me, “He’s finally at peace. And now you can be at peace, too.”

After a few months, everyone returned to the busyness of their own lives. They wanted me to hurt less. They cared a lot. They wanted me to be happier. But they didn't understand that you can’t expect to be happy and whole within a matter of weeks after living through seven long years of caregiving and illness.

It struck me that my whole identity had been wrapped up in Brett’s cancer. I needed time to detangle myself from the clutch of cancer and figure out how to move forward without him.

Would I ever be happy again? was the question that sat like lead at the back of my throat. And…would my children ever recover from the trauma of losing their dad?

Answers to these questions and others about “what now” and “what next” were tinged with gray. Some days I possessed clarity, other days the future felt as strange as a foreign language. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, there is only the way that feels truest to the person who is mourning in the moment.

Suggested Resources:


10 Tips for Caregivers

Coping with Brain Tumors

Friends & Family


Talking to Kids and Teens about Cancer


Find Support

Love Goes On


Find a local CSC or Gilda's Club for support groups and other resources

Category: Caregiving

Cancer Emergency Fund

The Cancer Support Community’s Cancer Emergency Fund provides financial assistance and support to individuals living with cancer who may be struggling with financial hardships.

Call to Apply: 1-888-409-4166

Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. ET

Saturday – Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET

Frontline Stays for COVID-19 Responders

CSC and Airbnb are partnering to connect first responders with clean, convenient places to stay that allow them to be close to their patients — and safely distanced from their own families.

Join MyLifeLine

Easily connect with your friends and family to organize your own personal community - privately and securely. And connect to others like you for support and sharing on our discussion boards.

Join Now