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Grief Over Loss Of Ex-Husband


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I have browsed various forums here; I've not found one that fits my situation but this may be the closest. I recently lost my ex-husband for whom I cared until his death. I became his caregiver in part because no-one else would step up to help and in part because I knew he still loved me even though we have been divorced 20 years. He had not moved on from our divorce with another woman nor had he really moved on with life and would have been homeless and destitute if I hadn't let go of 25 years of anger and stepped up to the plate.

I knew him for more than 30 years and was with him for 5 out of the first 8. We had quite a lot of fun a lot of laughter and were more than compatible in the beginning but once marriage and kids came along he didn't want to let go of the 'fun' times. Eventually his abuse of drugs and drinking tore us apart and we divorced.

Over the years following our divorce he continued to plague - I am sorry but that is what it was - my life and caused huge amounts of stress in the lives of our sons who he impacted through guilt. He had a horrible habit of descending upon my home when I was at work and guilting our kids into letting him in the house when they and he knew it wasn't ok. He would have various reasons (was in the area and needed a drink; wanted to do a load of laundry; needed to use the bathroom; was really hot and needed to cool off) and they would always let him in. I moved many times and he tracked me repeatedly and continued this behavior. Every home I lived in eventually received mail addressed to him at my location. I talked to him repeatedly, trying to set and keep boundries including staying away from my home when I wasn't there. Nothing worked - ever. He effectively eliminated the ability for me to establish a relationship with anyone else for all those years.

I also took him in many times when he needed a place to stay for a day or two although it always morphed into a week to a month before I could shake him loose. I moved out of state. He wormed his way in at holiday time.

Then he called to let me know he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. That was in October of 2009.

One of my sons and I moved back to Phoenix in May of 2010; we both thought it would be better for him if we were here to add to the folks who could help him through his illness. I didn't realize there was no-one BUT us. He was again homeless and had established nothing in the way of medical aid other than to go to the Dr the state of AZ assigned him who just threw prescriptions at him. He was still abusing drugs although he had stopped drinking when he found out about the cancer. The biggest problem was he had no-one to help him through all the new obstacles and he was absolutely emotionally unable to navigate it by himself. I had a hard time finding my way through it myself. Eventually I found the right doctors, made sure he had food stamps, helped him get lined up with social security and dug in with his schedule of doctor visits and hospital procedures, took charge of his medications so that he had what he needed and understood how to take it, helped him with changing his diet - anything needed when I knew he couldn't do it himself. Some times I resented it but most of the time I was relieved he was on the best path for making the remainder of his life a life worthwhile for him. All of this was done with the intent of him being able to do what he could on his own and we would swoop in and help when and where necessary.

He was not living with us; he was staying with a couple friends in a warehouse where they worked. The owner had been kind enough to set up part of his warehouse for living for all three of the men. Still, there were many times when he would show up at my door asking if he could stay a little while.

Sometimes I said no and now NOW my guilt level is so high when I think about how hard it was for him to even make it to my house with the way he felt that I just cannot stand myself. I'm crying like crazy writing this - I feel like such an inferior human being having turned him away, ever. He was dying from liver cancer and still I just couldn't handle him in my house like that. There were plenty of times I did let him stay - his cancer progressed very slowly from Oct 09 to Feb 12. Whenever he was visiting and I could tell he felt awful we kept him with us. Whenever he had a treatment or procedure we kept him with us until he felt well enough to 'go home' Eventually we hit a sort of balance that worked and in October of 2011 I helped him finally get his own studio apartment. He had never, in his 59 years of life, had his own place. He was there until the first of January when it became apparent he was rapidly deteriorating.

I brought him home with me and our sons but neither of them had a great relationship with their father so I became the primary caregiver with the help of HOV. It was not easy. He was a very difficult person with several obsessions (alcohol fortunately not one of them). Food was an obsession and we eventually had to lock stuff up. Taking other people's things was an obsession. I would find those things when I cleaned his room. Sneaking down the road to the store so he could get something to smoke was an obsession so we devised a way that someone was up in the house around the clock...and so on. He was volatile, had a mean and nasty spirit, wept like a baby, apologized constantly.....

There were also some pretty warm hearted moments reliving some super fun things we had done as a couple. We talked a lot and I let him try to right so many wrongs over so many years. I believe his final 6 weeks were everything he wanted. We took him up to the mountains where he and I had spent so many of our happy moments and where he spent so much of his summer time at a cabin his family had owned. My sons took him fishing. We went out to eat and went to the movies. We did what we coule to establish a normal 'family' routine. I think he was as happy as he could be given his circumstances and for once I was super grateful I was not in another relationship.

He passed away February 23rd and every day I cry....and I don't know why. Some of it is just because I am extremely empathetic and felt so much sorrow for the person he so badly wanted to be but could not. Some of it is because I just cannot shake how scared he was. Some of it is because his only two relatives - both brothers - deserted him completely and it was so heartbreaking for him. None of it is because of lost love. I did not love him and hadn't in more than 2 decades. I didn't even like him for most of those years and I barely liked him up until the end. But I did the best I could to make sure he did not die alone and unloved.

I hate the thought that I may be crying for me.

I sure could use some help

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My dear friend, regardless of the guilt and regret that you are experiencing now (and I certainly will not try to talk you out of your guilt) it is quite clear to me that you did everything you possibly could for this man, and more. As you say, you did the best you could to make sure that he did not die alone and unloved. I don't think there is a person among us who would judge you as not doing enough. Still, you are your own harshest critic, and I know our voices will do little to silence that voice you're hearing in your own head. I strongly encourage you to do some reading about guilt and regret (see, for example, Guilt and Regret in Grief and A New Year And The Burden of Guilt). Since your ex-husband was on Hospice of the Valley's service and you were his primary care giver, you have available to you all the services of our Bereavement department, which include meeting individually and privately with one of our bereavement counselors, if you are open to that. I hope you will take advantage of all the services HOV has to offer you. Please know that we stand ready to care for you by offering our support to you. It is your turn now, and we are here for you.

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Thank you for your caring words which, of course, made me cry. Since I have trouble putting voice to thoughts without crying like a fountain, I am not in a place to talk with a counselor so I will explore the reading material you recommend. I know I will get to a point where a counselor will help, but I have to gain some level of control before I can go that route - or at least a level that feels more in sync with the situation. I have a great family support network as well. They can be relentless and what feels private - to me - becomes fair game in the family pool - immediate and extended. Fortunately they don't think I'm nuts so they allow my silence. Hopefully reading material will help me find some logic or normalcy as to why I am so emotional about this. I should be relieved that I can live my life now without worry about the next time he will intrude upon it and knowing that is how I should feel I know I will get there..

Thank you again for the response Marty - take care.

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God bless you for your warmth and love. Your ex husband was avery fortunate man to have you in his life. You need to start to take care of yourself now. I am sure that a counselor has seen it all and all the tears in the world would not be foreign to him. Take that step; you can decide it is not for you, but it may help. God bless.

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  • 4 months later...

I agree - your ex was obviously exceptionally lucky to have a woman that cared for him as much as you did despite the fact that you were no longer together. My close friend lost her ex to a car accident on his 50th birthday on December 29, 2011 and she stood by his casket and with his family as a very treasured member of the family. You have to do what you feel is right in your heart and be okay with your intentions. I think you are a wonderful individual for being so devoted.

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  • 1 month later...

You are amazing! I don't think I ever would have done for my exes what you did for yours! There is so much you can feel GOOD about, helping him through the maze of the system, getting his own place for the first time in his life, and being there through thick and thin at the end when he most needed help. You have set a wonderful example for your children.

Through all of this he had to know he was truly loved. Anyone can say the words but you truly went the mile!

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