NAVIGATING GRIEF after loss – MY PERSONAL JOURNEY

by in Uncategorized May 29, 2024

I never thought I’d be known as a widow at this point in my life, but I am and you’ve been gone now for nine months.

Most of us experience grief at some point in our life, but how do you prepare for it when loss comes suddenly?
In this blog post I would like to share my personal experience with those who may be on the same journey as I am or know of someone who is. Although I walk alongside my grief and loss every day, I know I’m not alone…I’ve met many people struggling through similar feelings and emotions. I wish I wasn’t a part of this community of grievers, but it is one that you understand when you’re standing in the middle of it.

I’d like tell you a bit about my husband, how we met and the joy he brought to my life. Thank you for listening to my story.

I remember clearly when I got the worst call ever from one of my husband’s friends…Jerry had collapsed after playing volleyball. He had no vital signs and paramedics were doing their best to bring him back to me. In shock and disbelief, shaking and babbling, my brain tried to make sense of what I was being told over the phone. I stood outside of our apartment waiting for what seemed like a lifetime for a police car to bring me to him. 

Caught up in a whirlwind of emotions unable to think about what to do next, a friend from our building happened to come along. I think she was a little angel sent at that precise moment to help get me where I needed to go. She poured me into an Uber to get to the hospital, holding onto me as I heard the final news on the phone that my husband had officially passed away. 

Seeing my husband that night in the hospital room, to officially say goodbye, shattered me into a million little pieces.

IMG_0281 2

Last year we checked off a few things on Jerry’s bucket list, travelling to Iceland (this is us eating ice cream there), then onto England to attend Wimbledon Tennis and Harry Potters world. Off to Scotland to meet up with family then exploring the beautiful country of Ireland.

How we met again…it was fate!

Jerry and I met briefly in 1991 while attending theatre school…he was in the acting program and I was in the dance program. We were paired up to perform a skit for the lunchtime crowd at the school pub; after it was done we went our separate ways. 

Seventeen years later I moved to Vancouver where I was set up with a “nice man”, who had just moved into town. Initially we didn’t realize our connection, but it didn’t take long to remember that skit we did from school a lifetime ago.

I’ve always believed people come into your life for a reason and my roommate just happened to be the reason we reconnected after all those years. 

So one date in was all it took and we spent the next sixteen years loving each other fully…and laughing constantly.

The night before Jer died he gave me a big hug and told me how lucky he was to have me in his life (he proclaimed his love often)… I hold on to this memory now every day.

My husband Jerry was an actor, writer and all round comedian, who made people laugh all the time. He was passionate about the environment and supporting indigenous rights. He was a lover of reptiles, especially snakes (we had 4 of them!). Jerry was a wonderful uncle, brother and friend and someone you could talk to about anything, from politics to the Simpsons.

Jerry’s accomplishments included a fantasy/adventure book he wrote inspired by his niece. If you’re a Harry Potter fan (like he was) you’d enjoy his book, Cleopatra’s Tomb and the Regit Tigers of Egypt…if you’d like to know more about his amazing little book or purchase you can go to www.jwsgetty.ca…I am sad that he won’t be able to continue his story.

You’re never prepared for loss, especially one that happens suddenly,
it’s jarring and unsettling and changes everything in your life from that point forward.

After Jer’s death, I walked through my days like a zombie, unable to concentrate or focus on the simplest of tasks. My heart was broken, and so was my ability to function like a human being. The feeling of being lost and alone, despite all of the support around me, was and still can be very strong. But I have now come to understand that part of my mental struggle was because of my grief brain, trying to make sense of this sudden trauma.

I had to find a way to go on without my person, my friend, my lover and my confident. We wouldn’t grow old together or make plans for the weekend to come and that was my new reality. Grief doesn’t go away, we just learn to live with it. It is an emptiness that can never be filled, but remembering the love that we shared keeps me going.

Finding help through your grief

Getting help after a loss is essential, that I have learnt…you need to have a village of friends and family to be there at the start and even months and years later. You will not be able to cope or manage things at first, and that’s normal (thanks to your grief brain), so don’t be afraid to accept some help.

My immediate family were instrumental in supporting me through the first few months of Jers loss, and they still play a role in my journey now, but I did have to look for help outside too. Finding the right professional grief support is key, whether it’s a one on one or within a group setting (see my resources below).

I found little things that were helpful alongside of therapy as well, such as meeting a friend for coffee or going for a walk through nature once a week. It kept me moving forward, even when I didn’t think I could. 

Every day is a different day with grief and sometimes you might not be able to do anything more than just get out of bed…and that’s ok too. Be where you are now, but know you must start to put one foot in front of the other again.

I still live in the moments between reality and dreaming and the thought of your last breath when you whispered my name (this is my little shrine).

Tips to help your grieving body/mind

Grief and sadness according to TCM

I am an acupuncturist, practicing TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) at my clinic in Toronto, so I have done a lot of reflecting on grief as it pertains to my profession too. We don’t talk about loss and grief as a Western society, however TCM does talk about it and how it can affect your organs and spirit.

When an emotion is expressed over a long period of time, such as grief, it can affect how your heart and lung organs work (energetically speaking).

The emotion of joy is connected to your heart organ, so when you are in grief mode and can’t express joy in your life this can lead to depression, palpitations and despair. In fact, I could feel my heart beating wildly and physically aching for months, which was a bit worrisome at the time.

The emotion of sadness is connected to your lung organ, so when you have prolonged grief you may experience shortness of breath and fatigue. Your lung qi is also reflected in your skin and complexion, so it was no surprise to me that the night of my husband’s celebration of life I broke out in hives all over my body!

The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine says: “The sadness of the Heart is in fact the sadness of the Zhi.” The Jing of the Zhi and Heart accumulate in the eyes. Thus when both Heart and Kidneys are sad, Shen Qi goes to the Heart, Jing rises and does not go to the Zhi so that the Zhi alone is sad. That is why tears run out.

A note about heart disease...

Sadly, my husband Jerry had severe heart disease…which we didn’t know about and he died because he over exerted his heart. He had no signs or warnings, but he did have a family history of heart conditions. The coroner diagnosed him with extensive atherosclerosis, which affected his coronary artery. 

I can’t go back and change anything and sure I wish we would have asked for testing to be done years ago, but that’s the thing about heart conditions, it doesn’t always show up on initial blood work or examinations. The best I can recommend is to speak with your health practitioner about your family history and the preventions you can follow to help keep your heart (and other organs) as healthy as possible.

I even recently did some bloodwork, an ECHO and a stress test just to make sure everything was ok with my heart, having experienced the palpitations and discomfort. Overall everything was fine with my heart organ, but I did discover that I have high cholesterol and very low iron, which can influence the health of your arteries. So now I am on my own little journey to work on some things to keep myself strong and healthy for years to come.

Below you will see some great resources that were shared through friends and others. If you have other resources that you find helpful please email me and I can add them to my list.

Before I leave you I would like to share a poem I wrote to my husband…

A PART OF YOU
(by Cindy 
Willems)

At first I cried all day long
When I remembered you were gone
And slept curled up in bed so tight
I couldn’t move, no will to fight

I walked around my head a haze
But kept on moving through my days
I started back real slow to work
To help me heal from all the hurt

At times my sorrow hangs around
The loss of you is still profound
I feel so empty, all alone
Especially when I get home

Every night I go to bed
Thoughts of you go through my head
Wishing you were still with me
Wishing this was just a dream

It’s hard to find some joy in life
Without you here to be your wife
But in my heart there’ll always be
A part of you inside of me


Thank you for listening to my story. 

Resources for grief support...