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I Can't Remember The Last Time...

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Dear friends,

“I want to introduce you to my girlfriend, Robin,” my Jimmy Fund Walk co-captain said to me Sunday morning at the starting area for the 13.1 mile version.
He had lost his wife at about the same time I lost Jane—and to the same piece of hideousness. From everything I could tell, his wife’s death had hit him the same way Jane’s had hit me. To say I was stunned by the introduction was an understatement. Then I discovered that she, too, was a widow—having lost her husband to a stroke in a similar time-frame. It made some sense to me.
I have to admit, I am very happy for them both—and overwhelmed by their courage. More, I have to confess to an enormous feeling of envy. It is very difficult to deal with the prospect of years of being alone—of existing without ever hearing the echo of another’s heartbeat again—as many of us have remarked over the last few months.
As most of you know, I spend a lot of time working with patient groups now. On one of the threads in one of those groups a discussion began this week about physical intimacy and what carcinoid/NETs does to that as it progresses. That discussion took me back to a similar discussion some people had here a few months ago about the awfulness of the loss of physical intimacy that comes with widowhood—a thread I promised myself I would comment on at the time, but could not bring myself to do.
I was embarrassed—embarrassed not because I can’t talk about sex, but because I hated to admit how long it had been since Jane and I had last made love. She largely lost interest in sex in the late ‘90s. I have lived a sexless existence since—well, so long ago that I can’t reliably put a date on it—or even a year.
For years, I thought it was me—that I had lost my ability as a lover. Now, I discover this is yet another symptom of the disease that killed her—a symptom no one talks about because the loss of libido shatters both sexes sense of worth.
Over the last dozen years of her life we hugged and cuddled and exchanged chaste kisses. But there was no real sex—no orgasm—nothing beyond two friends sharing a bed.
Jane worried through all those years that I would go off and have an affair. I think part of her would have been happy if I had. But I do not take any vow lightly—and I do not walk away when things get difficult. I could not have cheated on her without destroying myself in the process—and destroying us at the same time. We mattered to me—and we still do.
But it’s not like the sexual part of me has died—even if nearly four years after her death I am still living the existence of a monk. The physical desire and the physical ability is still there; I just don’t act on it. But sometimes I feel like John Adams in 1776.
It’s been particularly difficult the last four months or so. I don’t know why. It’s not like there are any potential partners I’m aware of. And I’ve always hated the entire traditional dating scene. It just is—like the grief tsunamis that arrive without any seeming trigger.
There. I’ve said it. I’ve tried to say it in a way that isn’t too graphic or embarrassing—and I hope I haven’t made anyone too uncomfortable. But I needed to get this out of my brain.
Marty, Mary, kill this if I've put my foot wrong.
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Dear Harry, I see nothing in your post that is inappropriate. I am sure you speak for many of us here in terms of the absence of sexual intimacy in the face of disease and then in the face of loss. I hope it helped you to speak to the subject and do feel free to share as you wish. It is a subject that is not approached easily and not much is written on the subject either from what I see. I certainly miss the sexual intimacy that Bill and I once shared...the expression of our love and sometimes just fun. I am sure others will speak to your post in time.



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Why in the world would Mary or Marty “kill” your post, Harry? It is a reality that those of us who have been caregivers to our soulmates have had to endure for either long or short periods of time. And then when we lose our spouse to death we are left without the intimacy we were so used to for such a long time.

It’s the “hush, hush” topic we don’t talk about. It is one of those secondary loses most of us did not think about when our spouse was still alive because the cuddling and kissing were enough.

I have friends who have lost their spouse and they have girl friends or boy friends because they can’t live without sex ~ good for them. Sex is filling a human need and I don’t fault anyone who finds it in his/her life.

At the present time, I’ll continue to live a celibate life until and if someone better comes along. I would never close the door to something I found such pleasure in when my Jim was alive.

Now, my post may be edited…


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Hello My Friends,

Been away for a bit...Harry your post is "reality" and as normal you express and convey in a way that reaches us all.

The world is so suppressed in so many ways your topic being one of the area's, many things that are given to happen in "Life" are

never talked about or are just plain ignored. I have said many times we as people teach about almost everything except some basic "Life"

experiences we must all face at some time.

Death being the biggest "fact of life", while the grief will still engulf us I am sure but if we are taught some of the feelings and facts of this most inevitable

experience that we will face we might just be a little better prepared, of course nothing can compare but we would have an idea...kinda like prepping a

flight crew what to do and expect during a disaster in flight.

Your topic is much the same, during this journey we all are on most of us never gave this a thought until later in the process I know I didn't, but as time

passed i also went down this road...no Harry as normal your post is something to give us all something to reflect on and explore our feelings...in yet another aspect of the grieving process.

Peace Be With You


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Dear Harry and everyone

I'm aware that anyone can read these posts, not just members so I won't share much but this is such an Important topic for us bereaved ones. My regrets are many in this regard and they usually relate to my pain that I did not initiate more intimate moments as we grew older. It's too late to put this right now and oh how I regret that when I allow myself to think about it. My only consolation is that I gave love fully. And received it back. The idea of any new relationship has been put before me several times. It's almost three years since Pete had the stroke which wrecked our lives. I still feel I only want him and if I can't have him I want no one, but I totally understand how others might yearn for that closeness that we now have lost.

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Sex is a fact of life. Some consider it a need. Perhaps, although it's one I've learned to live without. I haven't talked about it for the simple fact that sex between George and I was such a sacred thing to us...it seems something that concerned only him and I and no one else could intrude even in discussion. Our physical pleasure was secondary to our "plugging in" to each other, as George called it. I've grown rather accustomed to living without this facet of my life. I cannot imagine that it could ever be the same with anyone else, George and I were soulmates, peas in a pod...sexual intimacy to us was as wrapping our arms around each other and being all entangled, comfortable in our bed, us against the world, safe and sound in the night, far removed from all that was in the world...just him and I. Of course I miss that, it is what I miss most, not the sex act itself so much as the intimacy of just being with my George. How could I ever have that with anyone again? I tried...I remarried, I can tell you it was not the same, not at all, it was foolish to try! Not that it is foolish for anyone to try, but I was totally with the wrong person, out of my desperation to not let go of that part of my life, that sharing with someone. The "who" is the most essential part! I have reconciled myself to my existence as it is now. That in no way means I do not miss what George and I shared, but rather that I choose to cherish it in my memory, as a special time in my life, to everything there is a season...

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Harry, I appreciate your bravery in opening this topic. I feel it was not an easy post to write. However, I want you to know you are not alone. Some of the meds that Mike took for pain for his back problems caused impotence. Honestly it just was not that big a deal with us, not to say we did not kiss and hug, and cuddle at times. We learned to be happy with what we had, and we were happy. Did I miss it, yes at times, and it has crossed my mind several times lately that I am getting older, and might want a sexual life before I die. However, I do not see myself seeking anyone out...if it happens for me someday, then it will be the right thing, if not, c'est la vie.

Had to chuckle at your reference, Harry to John in 1776. One of my favorite plays, Mike was Ben Franklin. Enjoyed the "Sit Down John" song from that musical.


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Harry, I so appreciate your willingness to open a discussion on this very important topic.

For those who may be interested, here is a site that offers a tasteful, frank and informative audio program entitled Sex After the Death of a Spouse, which features both the male and female perspective, as described by a widow and widower who found each other following the death of their spouses. Allow about 30 minutes.

The first audio episode in this series is Dating After the Loss of a Spouse

See also an article on the same site, Suggestions for Widowers Who Think They Are Ready for Sex

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dear friends,

There are pieces of this journey I do not understand. I do not feel I am doing anything special or out of the ordinary. Yet people constantly tell me they do not know how I do what I do; that Jane is very proud of me; and that what I do here and elsewhere to raise funds for this disease and increase awareness of it is extraordinary.

People tell me this is not how widowers--or widows--act. They tell me most turn away from the relationship that was and at least walk, if not sprint, away from the disease or accident that has ended their couple-hood. I will admit to hearing both Jane and my mother chiding me periodically for not having moved on by now.

In fact, Jane told me the day before she went into the hospital that she did not want me to mourn her long if she died--that she expected to move on with my life--that she expected me--and wanted me--to "find a younger model." I said to her that afternoon that the only "model" I was interested in was her.

I took vows the day I married her. They are vows I took seriously all the years of our marriage. The vows we both took that day ended on the day she died. But while she was sick, I took other vows, made her other promises. So did she. We both vowed we would kill this disease. She killed the disease within her, ultimately, in the only way she could. She died and took it with her.

But my vow did not die with her death. It could not. Jane and I were never satisfied with doing something only for ourselves. Jane's death did not kill carcinoid/NETs for others. It merely added fuel to a fire that, I hope, will lead to the death of this disease for everyone. I tend that fire now, as do many others. Only my own death or the death of carcinoid/NETs can release me from that vow.

But even were that not true, I would continue to fight this battle. I have seen this cancer. I have seen what it does to the body. I have seen what it does to the mind. I have seen too much to let it live if I can help to kill it.

What I do is not, to me, extraordinary. It is what one does when one sees others suffering. It is what one does when one sees sickness or injury. It is what a human being does to help and to heal others. It is what we are, each of us, called to do.

I know that many people do not see the world as I see it. I know that the pain of loss is a crippling thing. I know that the simple act of remembering can drive any of us mad to the point that we run away and hide from those memories. We all succumb periodically to those moments.

But it takes just as much bravery for a widow or widower to embrace another relationship as it does to face the disease that killed the one you love--and perhaps more. I know how much joy there is in love--and how much pain there is when death takes the beloved away. Every widowed person understands that agony.

So, to embrace that kind of love again, knowing you will either face that pain again--or give that pain you know so well to another on your own death--takes an equal, though different, kind of courage and strength.

There are times I wonder if all my work on this disease is a means of hiding my own cowardice. I suspect those who embrace another love ask the same question about their actions: are they using love to avoid dealing with the issues of what killed their spouse?

And I suspect there is a bit of avoidance in both circumstances--no matter how altruistic or in love we want to believe we are. Either one can take us out of ourselves and the hurt we feel.



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My best friend just got engaged. Her and her intended both lost their spouses about five years ago. One of the things she had a hard time going forward with was knowing that one of them takes the risk of once again having to face this loss...but that is the price of living and loving. Many a time we sipped coffee over this discussion. I feel if all that is stopping you is fear, then that is not really living. I pointed out to her that Roger (her intended) is not someone that grows on trees, and he's brought a light into her eyes I haven't seen in a while, her kids introduced them, their families blend well, they are enjoying life together, so why not?! I am glad for her that she has someone to spend her life with, and she is very fortunate in the person she happened to find. Yes, it takes courage. But I have no doubt in my mind that they are meant to be together, just as there is no doubt in my mind that Jim (her late husband) and her were meant to be together. He wasn't just her husband, he was my friend. She will always miss him, and Roger does not "replace" him, but she now has a new chapter of life to enjoy and they are doing it.

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