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Walking Alone

Eliana Cline

The death of Her husband is one of the most profound losses a Woman can experience. Three women who lost middle-aged husbands describe how they readjusted their lives and discovered inner reserves of strength and faith

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

When Anne, then a medical student, was dating her future husband Sam, she was open with him about the lifestyle she intended to lead. “Sam, I am not going to be the typical housewife,” she declared in her frank manner. “I’ll be a mother and raise my family, but I’m also going to work as a doctor. I may specialize further. I just want you to know that.” Sam wasn’t fazed. “I know a woman with four children who lost her husband. I want to marry someone and know that if chas v’shalom something happens to me, she’ll be capable of taking care of the family,” he replied. Sam and Anne got engaged shortly afterward, and the discussion was forgotten. But 23 years and four children later, Sam’s words turned out to be eerily prophetic. After battling cancer, Sam passed away, forcing Anne into a new stage of life. Over the nine years since, Anne has slowly adapted to her reality, taking on new responsibilities and leading a full and productive life. For middle-aged women like Anne who lose their husbands, the loss and its aftermath chart a unique course for the rest of their lives. In addition to the traumatic loss of their life partner, their entire status quo shifts — financially, socially, and in the family structure. Their identities as wives are upended, requiring a reexamination of their place in the world. Missing Your Best Friend For many new widows, the biggest loss is that of best friend and confidant. Ellen, 61, felt a deep vacuum in her life when her husband of four decades passed away after a massive heart attack. Generally a healthy person — his only chronic issue was back pain — his sudden passing came as a shock. “I went to a Shabbos kallah on Shabbos afternoon and came home to find him collapsed on the bed. It was ten days after our youngest daughter’s wedding,” relates Ellen. Four years later, though her life is full, Ellen still senses a void four years later. “The most difficult part is not having my husband around to share things with. We were married for 40 years. It’s lonely not having him to join me in day-to-day events. I do have a large social circle, but every relationship is different. “My husband understood me perfectly. It was so easy to talk to him. He was such a positive person. He was the rock of the family.” Rachel, 58, from Thornhill, Toronto also experiences a profound longing for the close relationship she shared with her husband. When Rachel’s husband passed away just one year after his cancer diagnosis, she wasn’t prepared for what life without him would be like. “The loneliness is definitely the hardest part,” she shares. “Not having a best friend to share with is very painful. The loss of the relationship has been the most difficult aspect of the whole experience.”

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