A Deep, Unique Story
When I met my wife, Colleen, her story amazed me and her strength impressed me. Just four years earlier, her husband of three years suddenly passed. Colleen, left to pick up the pieces and find her way through this tragic loss, focused on their daughter who was just nine months old. Through inner strength, determination, and an unbelievable support system, Colleen rose up and made adjustments to her new normal. Through our years together we were determined to keep her late husband’s memory and his family a close part of our lives, knowing that moving forward we would forever be a foundation of three families.
I was well aware of Colleen’s strength through her loss as we often had discussions of how difficult it was for her. It wasn’t until I experienced her loss in July 2020 that I truly understood. Colleen was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2017 while experiencing a persistent issue a doctor had dismissed. Through her fight, she was treated with radiation, chemotherapy, and a double mastectomy all while working full-time. December 30, 2018, she became confused at home, to a point I knew something was seriously wrong. An immediate visit to the ER confirmed her breast cancer had metastasized; brain tumors were discovered. The fight was on again. Early in 2020, while being treated aggressively with direct injections of chemo into her spinal fluid, additional cognitive deterioration became apparent. Soon after it was determined the treatment had become toxic and we had exhausted all possible treatment options. We began hospice on June 8, 2020, and I lost my best friend peacefully in the early morning hours of July 3rd.
The Change Within Me
Through our initial grieving and undeniable world-class support from family and friends, I became aware of a new world of loss that sometimes overwhelmed me. Moving through the first few months seemed like a surreal, unbelievable time. The day-to-day living with this new life was so foreign and unfamiliar that I was wandering an empty, winding road I’d never experienced before. Indeed I was. All the while attempting to redefine what life was to be now as the world, all around us, was moving as it always had. In a way, that felt unfair. I was now faced with unknown pitfalls, sudden outbursts of sorrow (thankfully when I was alone), and truly hating the experience of bedtime and waking in the morning alone.
Through a generous invitation to two bereavement groups, I began learning so many details of this new path that I never knew until now. Throughout our many group discussions, I quickly found solace and comfort in the realization that my experiences were typical. Often I would find appreciation in a story someone would share, providing me with guideposts along the path of my loss. As weeks turned into months, I identified a personal desire to provide that same guidance on a larger scale. My story, in many ways, begins where my wife had left off. Mine, fortunately, is supported by many who have experienced loss and are now willing to share their stories with me through my podcast, Journey to Grateful. As I discovered in those first bereavement meetings, although our stories are unique, they overlap in many ways and can be offered up to show the way through while we all navigate loss.
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