The life my husband Bill and I cherished disappeared when Bill died following a five year struggle with Alzheimer's disease. We were spouses, soulmates, best friends, and colleagues for 25 years. I became his full time caregiver as Alzheimer's progressed and the love of my life died at home in my arms on March 27, 2010. I joined these forums in December of that year and found them to be extremely helpful to me as I dealt with losing this precious man and soulmate.
Before Alzheimer's invaded our lives, Bill and I were co-owners of a mental health clinic in Madison, WI (1987-1996). When we moved to the mountain village of Ouray, CO (1996) we practiced together there until 2000 when we took a break to travel North America in an RV ultimately returning to Wisconsin in 2003 where we began to see clients again. Within months, however, a diagnosis of Alzheimer's made it impossible for Bill to work. I continued until 2008 when Bill needed me to be there on a full time basis as his caregiver. I consider these days to be sacred and yes, incredibly stressful and even traumatic for both of us. Initially, I did not believe I would heal following Bill's death. How could I? It seemed impossible. Thanks, in part, to being on these forums I did begin to heal and ultimately resumed seeing a few clients in fall of 2012.
Bill was a Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist in private practice and on the staff of three hospitals for about 40 years. I have practiced as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for almost as long. When our paths crossed and we were married in 1986, we worked together in our own clinic. We shared our lives and home with two Golden Retrievers. Buffy, who died in 2000, and then Bentley, who joined us at 8 weeks of age in 2003. Bentley is a registered therapy dog with Pet Partners, something I pursued after Bill died to honor the plan we had for Bentley. But Bentley's biggest "job" has been to be a therapist to Bill and me.
I know loss well having lost not only my beloved Bill but my parents, five of my closest and dearest friends, a young 14-year-old friend who died in my arms, and our beloved Golden Retriever Buffy, a family member for 14 years. In addition to that, I have worked with clients for many years, many of whom were dealing with grief. Nothing rocked my world and soul as much as losing Bill but each loss has been a teacher that has changed me forever. I will miss Bill as long as I live and each day offers lessons and pain. I have learned over the years that grief is a part of life and to embrace it as well as experience it.
In addition to being licensed in Wisconsin (LCSW) my resume includes a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology; doctoral studies in clinical psychology at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and DePaul University in Chicago; certification in Wellness at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in an 8 week residential program; certification in Soul Collage, a technique useful to those who grieve as well as to others; 14 years teaching at the elementary school level in various socio-economic areas of Chicago; therapist and director of residential services for children and adolescents and outpatient adult and family services at a multi-service agency; private practice working with a general population for 33 years including many clients dealing with a broad spectrum of losses; and a weekly newspaper columnist (Bradenton Herald in FL) for 11 years. I currently write Reflections, a weekly column for the Vilas County News in Wisconsin (2003-present) and a Living Well, Dying Well column for the Voice of the River Valley (www.voiceoftherivervalley.com), a publication Bill and I founded and ran until I sold it in late 2012 to focus my energies on grief education and support. I have completed the required course work for certification in thanatology (CT) through the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) which I joined in 2011 and will register to take the exam in November 2014.
Bentley and I reside in Wisconsin surrounded by the Wisconsin River, hills and woods, artists of all kinds and avid environmentalists and organic food devotees. After Bill died, I took up watercolor and I love to read, write, and absorb nature's beauty. Spirituality and meditation have been and are the mainstays of my life for over 50 years.