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Tammy's Story And My Feelings Of Guilt

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This post will long (and emotional) but I hope you stick with it...

I loved my wife Tammy with ever fiber of my being and no one ever loved me the way she did. It's only been 19 days and the pain is unbearable. I know I'm in the early stages of grief and the shock hasn't even worn off. I can only imagine how difficult this journey is going to be. The crying, the feeling that I'm all alone, the hopelessness, the anxiety, the feeling that I don't know how I'm going to get through this and survive... all those things you feel when you are grieving for your soul mate are excruciating.

Right now I think one of my biggest issues to overcome is the guilt trip I'm putting on myself. But for you to fully get the big picture, some background:

When Tammy and I first got together in 1999, I knew she had many prior health issues. She'd already been through more than you could image... from a stroke, to a situation where she almost lost her leg to infection and much, much more. Her systemic lupus was severe. But... I was in love with her, she made me happy and I wasn't about to give her up because she didn't have perfect health. And believe me, there were members of my family questioning my decision.

From the time we met in 1999 until 2007, Tammy's health was overall fairly good. She took her meds and for the most part her lupus didn't stop her. She worked a job she loved, sometimes working 50 hour weeks. She was their Employee of the Year in 2006. Although she never could walk very long distances (due to her "bad" leg) she always managed. We took trips to the ocean, went out to eat all the time and had a wonderful life filled with love and laughter. Oh how I loved to make her laugh.

Her health and lifestyle began to change in 2007. I got a phone call from her work that she had been rushed to the hospital. She had a severe infection in her lung that required major surgery. That turned into a harrowing 6 1/2 hour surgical ordeal. She required months in the hospital and months in rehab but she got through it. Her health from that point on was never great again. Her mental health took a hit later when her employer let her go. Not due to her work ability, it was clearly due to her health. That devastated her.

It was always something with Tammy's health. In 2008 during a follow up visit with one of the surgeons that performed her lung surgery, she became very ill. Her pressure was nearly 200/... she was taken to the ER again. And again she pulled through. There were occasional middle of the night trips to the ER where Tammy was in unbearable pain and other issues. She always pulled through and I was always by her side. A friend of Tammy's recently told me that Tammy said she always knew that when she woke up in the ICU "Mitch would always be there" and that's the truth.

In 2009 Tammy was rushed again to the ER with weakness and severe pain. At one point I had to take our daughter Katie to the rest room and when I returned to the room the door was closed and curtains drawn. I was told "the patient was very sick". Patient? That's MY wife!! I peekrd into a gap in the curtain and saw them using paddles on Tammy's chest. My heart sunk. Turned out the doctors unfortunately gave her a terrible mix of pain killers and anti-anxiety drugs causing a cardiac arrest. We waited to hear the news from the doctor. To my utter relief, Tammy came back. And again it was another many months long hospital/nursing home rehab ordeal. And again I was with Tammy night and day as much as possible.

This type of pattern happened over the next few years. Tammy having serious issues and overcoming incredibly bad medical challenges. In the past few years she was diagnosed with raynaud's and sjogren's (autoimmune illnesses) in addition to the systemic lupus she had for 24 years. She had sepsis (severe blood infection that's often fatal) a couple times, Severe e-coli infection and MRSA (the pain from that was unbearable everyday) and other issues that a person with a compromised immune system shouldn't even have survived. But Tammy did because she loved life. She was a fighter. And I think my love for her played a big part in it as well.

I remember a time where the doc in the ICU told me Tammy's blood was toxic and it didn't look good. The next morning the same doctor approached me with with an odd look on his face. I braced for the worst. Instead he told me in a suprised voice that Tammy's blood work came back normal. A miracle? No. That was my Tammy. She was incredible.

Through all this Tammy had an amazing positive spirit. She was an inspiration.

In February 2015, Tammy collapsed while I was helping her to the bathroom in our home. The ambulance came and left with the lights and sirens blaring. This didn't look good. They thought it was her heart. At the hospital procedures were done and they thankfully said it wasn't her heart. They said she had another severe infection and found some blood clots. Unfortunately, two of those blot clots may have been created by the clumsy way they tried to put a central line in.

Another stay in the ICU with Tammy, this time she was on a ventilator. But again she got better. After a couple weeks in the hospital they told her she was well enough to go to a rehab place to regain her strength.

At rehab, I've never seen Tammy so determined to get stronger. At one point there was a serious stomach bug everyone on the first floor was getting, including Tammy. Although she was too ill to go to the rehab gym, she made sure the PT people came into her room and she did exercises from her bed. I was so proud of her. She amazed. I loved watching her peddle the bike or walk the stairs... me being her cheerleader.

After a short stay in rehab though, we were told my insurance ran out. There was no way she was ready to go home so after some fighting with the insurance company we were able to get a bit more time at the rehab place. Her new discharge date was March 6th (turned out to be the worst day of my life) in the morning.

On Wednesday, March 4th, we heard about a major snowstorm that was going to hit our area Thursday. Tammy decided that (to avoid an issue with roads being impassable Friday morning), she'd ask to leave that night to go home. She left rehab Wednesday night by ambulance. I just remember thinking how beautiful she looked in her orange coat and colorful scarf. When we got to our hiouse she had some trouble getting up the steps but with help, she made it into our bed and I was so happy!

This next part is going to be difficult to write but I coninue on...

Tammy had some medications I needed to get at the pharmacy but they were closed. Wednesday night Tammy slept like a baby! Thursday, we had about a foot of snow so no chance to get her new meds. Tammy was still tired but she ate ok. She wasn't up to doing exercises. I was suprised but I knew how tired she was.

Friday March 6th...

I got up extra early to clean our sidewalks and car of snow. As soon as I was done I asked Tammy if she was ok with me leaving for and hour or so. She said she was. So I left to buy some groceries and fill the prescriptions. When I came home I checked on Tammy and she was sleeping fine. I looked at her legs to see how the swelling looked (in rehab her legs and feet really swelled up but the staff didn't seem concerned),

As a suprise I bought a corned beef and planned a great meal for the two of us (corned beef, parsley potatoes and candied carrots). Tammy loved my cooking and I cooked all her meals. Tammy woke up around 11 AM and asked if I could turn the tv to "Price is Right" and I did. All seemed ok as we watched that show and her favorite soap "The Young and the Restless'. Around 1:30PM or so she said she was tired and needed to nap. This sleepiness wasn't unusual for Tammy, fatigue is common with lupus. So I went ahead and started cooking the corned beef and making the side dishes in advance. I also was setting up our exercise equipment with lighter weights for Tammy's use. All the while checking on her and again she just seemed tired.

Later in the day (around 4PM or so) I offered Tammy some of the corned beef. She said she wasn't hungry. Unusual because she normally would have loved to eat it. In the next hour or so she didn't seem quite right. She seemed a bit confused and extremely drowsy. I was getting concerned. I called my brother in law (a doctor) and asked if this could be a symptom of the new, narcotic pain pill (oxycontin). He said it could be, especially considering Tammy also took oxycodone. Tammy's started to say she was getting uncomfortable. At one point she sat up on the edge of the bed and I saw her just fall back in slow motion. I went to hold her, screaming out her name. She opened her eyes and said she was ok just uncomfortable and very tired. She laid back down on her pillow.

Then she said she was having trouble breathing... I had to call 911! How could this all be? She just got home in good spirits from rehab. I called 911.. and got a busy signal!?! I couldn't believe it. In the meantime Tammy told me not to worry. She said she was fine. Thinking about it now, she must have just caught her breath for a moment. It wasn't much after that she said she was having trouble breathing and I called 911 again. They arrived in maybe 10 minutes.

Tammy was in terrible distress. I was a basket case. She looked up and said "Help me"... I felt so helpless! The EMT's then put an oxygen mask on her.

They rushed her downstairs and into the ambulance. I rushed out of the house. Why wasn't the ambulance moving!!!! I asked some of the guys outside from the volunteer fire dept. and they said they were "doing what they do". I had to find out what was going on!! I looked into the ambulances back window in horror... I saw them pounding on my Tammy's chest. "OMG" and "Please don't hurt her" is all I could think. I was feeling sick.

At the hospital not more than 1/2 hour went by before they told me Tammy had arrived unresponsive and they couldn't bring her back. At that moment it felt like my world had ended. How could this be? She's only 45!

I apologize if I posted too many details... I just needed to wite this all down.

Now on to the guilt I'm feeling. Logically, you have seen the kind of horrible medical ordeals Tammy went through. It's amazing she beat all those odds time and again. She was a miracle of a human being. And I've been told by many, I was the most amazing and devoted husband they have ever known. And yes, I would do anything for Tammy. I cooked, I cleaned, I did her wound care, did all the grocery shoping... And why shouldn't I? She made me happy and when I married her I signed up for the "Lifetime Plan".

So why am I so guilt ridden? The doctors sent her home saying she was doing better. But why didn't I, Tammy's soul mate know that her organs were failing? Sure, Tammy kept saying she was tired but why didn't I know it was more than that? Why am I beating myself up with crazy thoughts that something I said in an argument years ago may have lead to this?

Maybe I'm just torturing myself because I want Tammy here with me and I need to blame someone. I guess that's me.

Logic says, I was a great husband. Tammy told me many times no one has ever loved her like I do. Matter of fact a short time before she passed she told me she loved me more each day. When I left the hospital with Tammy a doctor there told me he admired my devotion to Tammy (I stayed there two weeks straight and slept in an uncomfortable chair in Tammy's room). Why wouldn't I stay there with Tammy 24/7... what would I do at home but worry, right?

I know I need to stop beating myself up. It's not helping and it's certainly not justified. I've always been the kind of person that's been hard on myself.

How do I overcome these feelings and get a more realistic (and fair) point of view?

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Dear Mitch,

I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear Tammy. It is not your fault. You, like myself, were a truly devoted most loving husband to your wife. I lost my wife, Mary, 11 weeks ago Friday night. She too had many health issues, fibromyalgia, lupus, heart disease, kidney disease, Parkinson's, but it was ALS that stole her from me on Jan 9. I was by her side through so many hospital and nursing home stays, caring for her twin brothers who passed on nine years apart age 43 in 2004 and age 52 in 2013 and our SIL age 40 in 2013. She pushed and cared selflessly for them through her own illnesses. I just stood by her and took care of her. Her ALS was misdiagnosed late and we didn't have much time before it began stealing vital pieces of her physically. But her soul, heart, spirit, and love never did change. Like it sounds like with your dear Tammy... She fought and her spirit and love never faltered. YOUR care and devoted love never faltered. I feel that in reading your story. My heart feels that because I never faltered for my sweet wife. Yet still today, the guilt haunts me. The questions, the things I should have known sooner. The things I didn't sense as close our bond of love and soul connection was. I still feel I failed. It's all new raw fresh. You will feel these things. Every one of us here who have lost their love of their life feels that way too. At 19 days, 77 days, three months, six months, five years, or ten years. Our feelings are just that... Ours. Of course we feel responsible. How can we not? However, it was beyond our control. And as far as realistically, there really is no realism in such profound grief. Our hearts are shattered. I hope I make sense. I apologize if I dont. I'm not here that often right now. Words are still very hard for me to find.

Think about asking your dr for a referral to a grief therapist. And perhaps an anti depressant or anti anxiety to help you through. Drink a lot of water, eat small meals. Rest as you can... Even if it's not sleep... Just rest your body. Caring for our spouse... Or anyone... WILL catch up to us. It has many here including myself.

I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Even if you don't or can't believe in prayer... I do. So I will keep you there... I do everyone here. Please forgive my long winded reply. This is all new to me too. And my heart feels for you.

So many here will listen and reply better than myself. Everyone is on the same journey... Different places, different time frames... But the same grief road.

Be gentle with yourself.

Peace to your heart,


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I am glad you wrote down the story in its entirety, it helps give us a clear picture of what the years were like. You're right, you don't deserve to feel guilty, in my estimation, you are both heroes! How can you be expected to know something was wrong when she was tired when SHE didn't even realize something was wrong?! But you're right about something else too...it's the grief that is making you feel guilty, even though you aren't guilty of BEING guilty! No one could be more devoted than you, more loyal. Both of you tried so hard, unfortunately, sometimes all our effort just isn't enough to stop the inevitable. I felt that way too. Why did my husband die when his birthday banner was still up, he was barely 51, to me that is way too young. It'd taken our lives to meet each other and we'd just put our lives together, how could this be? We knew each other 6 1/2 years, married for 3 years 8 months exactly. There is no rhyme or reason, no fairness enters in. Some people get 60 years together, we got way less than our share. But it's us that feel we're entitled to more, the truth is, none of us are guaranteed any set amount. Some couples live together 50 years or more, never really loving and appreciating each other. Others only get a year but live each day fully. We have nothing to regret, nothing to feel sorry about or beat ourselves up for. We lived each moment fully loving and appreciating each other. It's not the length of time, it's what you do with what you get. Us who are here...we gave it our best, we loved completely, appreciated each moment together. The ones who didn't, they aren't here, they've long since moved on, never knowing what they missed...sadly. But for the rest of our lives, we will remember our true love and all that we shared. I'd venture to say that you shared more than most, maybe more than anyone. All of the ups and downs, all of the battles for life, but you guys beat the odds. You fought, in Tammy's short life, MRSA, Lupus, heart attack, stroke, sepsis, other immune disease, I can't even remember it all, And you did it one day at a time, one moment at a time, fighting for more time together. It is the same way you'll somehow survive this journey, it will have to be taken one moment at a time for anything more is too much. And we will walk it with you so you will not be alone. When the rest of the world doesn't understand, when they desert you, we will be here, we will listen to your heart's cry, you will be able to come here and vent when you feel it is all too much, when you feel angry, and we will get it because we've been there.

The best thing you can do to please Tammy right now is take care of yourself as best as you can. And that will be a tall order when you don't care, feel numb, don't see the point. We keep going, putting one foot in front of the other. It was easy to fight when the incentive was there...the incentive being giving the two of you more time together. But when they're taken and we need to fight for our lives, that's the really hard part...fighting depression, fighting no motivation. It took great time for me to learn that I have purpose "after", even when I don't always see what it is or know what that purpose is. It doesn't seem like "purpose" in the sense that it was when I was George's wife...I was everything to him, as he was to me. That is great purpose! I've learned that God gifts us with this very moment and in this moment it is for me to fully appreciate what is, and try my best not to lament what isn't. To always look back at what was and is no more is to deprive myself of the ability to enjoy right now. That is a battle in itself, learning to appreciate and have joy in this moment. But I've learned to, it took some of the greatest effort of my life to learn it, it took practice and effort when I felt I was emotionally bankrupt. I learned to step it down and appreciate the smallest of joys...seeing a rainbow, getting the privilege of seeing deer and elk grazing in my back yard. Enjoying this wonderful goofy loving dog I rescued. Even enjoying the cats that adopted me. Learning to reach out to others, just get out of my house, go to church, go to the senior site, spend time with others, that has been hard to do, and trust me, it didn't happen in the beginning, I isolated myself a lot, which wasn't good for me.

There is not a day goes by but what George isn't on my mind and in my heart...in June it will be ten years he's been gone. Ten years! How can that be?! I did not see how I could survive a month, I never dreamed I'd make it ten years. I can see now I am following in my mom's footsteps, she had 33 years of being widowed before she got to go join my dad. I don't want to think of another 20 years, and I've learned not to look ahead too much...it's too much, so I just take this day and what is in it.

Eat something. Drink a glass of water or tea. No alcohol, it's a downer, we don't need downers. :) Take a short walk. Go to work when you are able to. Don't worry about her stuff around the house. You'll deal with it when you're ready, IF you're ready and not a minute sooner. Never mind what well meaning (but stupid) people say to you about "needing to move on". You don't need to move on. You need to fully experience your grief and there's no way to but straight through it. It's okay to cry, okay to scream! Okay to feel numb. Whatever you feel is normal and okay.

Try to just get through today and make an appt. with a grief counselor. They are able to guide you through the muddle of this thing called grief. Don't be afraid to get help, make an appt. with your doctor.

My heart goes out to you, I know this is a hard journey, but you are used to hard journeys...this one is different though.

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Mitch, my dear, you've asked, "How do I overcome these feelings and get a more realistic (and fair) point of view?"

As others have suggested, a few face-to-face sessions with a grief counselor can be of enormous benefit as you work your way through these feelings. Intellectually you know your feelings are unjustified and even irrational, but still they are real, and right now they are tormenting you. Just acknowledging that you have such feelings is a positive step. As the saying goes, you can't heal what you don't feel. The next step is to examine objectively what you are feeling, and often it helps to do that in the company of someone who can listen to your story without judgment. You have begun that process by sharing the details of your story here. As you can see, you're already receiving some very positive feedback, and no one here has found you "guilty as charged." On the contrary, we see you as one very devoted, heroic and loving spouse who took exquisite care of your beloved wife, and against insurmountable odds.

You mentioned in another post that you cannot afford counseling, but please don't let that stop you. Try contacting your local hospice to see what bereavement resources are available in your community. Some counselors offer their services on a sliding scale, based on the client's ability to pay. See, for example, Finding Grief Support That Is Right For You.

At the very least, I invite you to do some reading about the guilt that normally accompanies grief, as I think it will help you to better understand what you're feeling and what you can do to manage those feelings. (Note the list of Related Articles and Resources you will find at the base of this article, too):

Grief and The Burden of Guilt

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Thanks for all the great replies.

I just still keep playing those last hours on March 6th back in my head over and over. Why didn't I know that this was more than just tiredness or the effect of a new pain med? At one point she said she couldn't get comfortable in bed. Why didn't I know something terrible was going to happen? Then she started to feel cold but yet sweaty and then the breathing problems and the call to 911. Why didn't I know to call earlier and maybe save her?

This is where my guilt comes in. I feel like I failed her.

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Calling them sooner probably wouldn't have made a difference. If they'd have saved her, until when? She was going to die. Either way, you'd be left without her. I know this is tough, but sometimes there's no fix. We all beat ourselves up after they die. Why didn't I push George to see a different doctor, one who might have checked his heart, a year earlier, he could have been saved, could have still been with me. Why? Because we didn't have hindsight then, we're people, we do our best with what we know. They didn't come with warnings and alerts. I wish they had. :(

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Hello Mitch,

You will find many people feeling the way you feel. My precious beloved wife, Rose Anne, passed away, on February 16th, and it is still so fresh new and raw. You can read my story titled "Shock and Awe" Although every one life story is unique, yet there are many facets that are in common. I went through the same feelings, of " if only I would have been home, I could have helped", but I wasn't this last time. I love my wife dearly, deeply, and intensely. I didn't want her die. I was happy caring for her needs daily and enjoying the comfort of being "one" together. Please take the advice that people have lovingly shared here. Take care of yourself, sleep, eat moderately, find some one who can help you deal with all this stuff. I couldn't sleep but 2 hrs a day for two weeks. Finally I called the Dr. to get some medical help so I could get sleep and rest my body. There is help available. Just seek it out. Everyone here listens, empathizes and cares for you. Thank you for sharing your story because it helps me and others know "We are not Alone". Thanks Mitch, I will be praying for you.

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