Wendy Saint-Onge

Twenty six days after my husband's 46th birthday he sat in the doctor's office alone expecting to hear that he needed a cortisone injection in his back.  Instead, he was told he was dying of cancer.  Two days later, he told me.  Two hundred and seventy eight days after he told me, he died at home.  

During the time that Ben was sick we began writing a blog.  It started as a way to keep family and friends updated, but ended up being the only thing that kept me sane. I use blogging as a way to purge myself of pain, as a way to connect to others who get it, and as a way to offer help and receive help when I need it.  Mostly, I blog to remember Ben.

It Must Have Superpowers

Did you ever feel so consumed by your own grief that you have forgotten that others grieve too?  That they grieve not only for the loss of your spouse, who may have been a friend to them, but possibly they grieve also for other people that you may know absolutely nothing about?  Do you find that during this time of all consuming grief, you have forgotten that other people have suffered loss too?

Recently that realization has hit me hard.  

For the last 19 months I have been consumed by my own grief and I didn't have room to consider the possibility that anyone else in my life could be carrying around a similar, agonizing grief from their own past.  That wasn't on my radar at all.  Lately though ... lately my eyes have opened a bit to the world around me as I have slowly started to awaken from my drugged slumber (figuratively drugged, not literally), and I have been surprised to discover that others - not random strangers but actual people who are a part of my life - have suffered their own agonizing losses that I knew nothing about.  How could I have not known??

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An Honest Love Letter: Saint-Onge style

I was scrolling through my personal blog recently, because I like reading what I wrote while Ben was still alive. Re-reading my words allows me to remember certain days with clarity.  For a moment I can close my eyes and feel myself back in my real life when Ben was alive.  And even though those days were terrible for him (pain, chemo, radiation, more pain), the saddest day with Ben in my life was still better than any one day could ever be without him.

Towards the end of summer in 2015 I was getting desperate.  I knew that it was only a matter of time before Ben died, but he made it clear that type of thinking / talking was off limits. That meant we didn't get to discuss anything about what life would look like without him.  I didn't get to tell him that we would remember him, and honour him, and talk about him.  I didn't get to tell him that he would always be my number 1, and that I would miss him every single second for the rest of my life.  I didn't get to tell him that my heart would break and would never fully heal, that scars would remain that would remind me constantly of a life I would no longer have.  

So I wrote him this love letter, in a way that we would normally banter back and forth.  In a way I hoped wouldn't scare him.  In a way I hoped would let him know the depth of my love and how deeply I would miss his presence when he was gone.

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  • commented on It Must Have Superpowers 2017-09-18 23:10:01 -0700
    Joseph … I’m so glad you attended the grief group. For me, I think that being around people who understand my loss is an important part of my healing. I particularly like being around people who would never use my own grief as a platform to lecture me on the grief some feel when losing their pet, such as happened today. I have yet to meet another human who has lost their spouse that thinks that is a reasonable statement to make.

    I guess my point is this …. good for you for seeking out people with similar experiences, for being someone who can help them, and for being someone willing to accept help yourself.

  • commented on Summer Is Winding Down 2017-09-05 11:46:13 -0700
    Marissa …. congrats on all your kid’s pending weddings and I’m sorry that your husband won’t physically be there with you. Trust me, I know the feeling for that longing for your cancer free husband to be back by your side. I truly hate that disease.

  • commented on Hit the Road 2017-08-15 09:12:35 -0700
    Woo hoo! You are not putting too much importance on this trip … it is SO important! How freeing to be able to grab your girls and just go. How good for you. How great for them. I took my girls and drove all the way to Hollywood last summer, just to get out of here and be able to breathe again. Everywhere we stopped we went for hikes and just sucked in all the nature we could (and a wax museum in Hollywood.) Everywhere we went, we carved #BenTheTitan and left a little piece of Ben everywhere. He now lives on the Santa Monica pier, at Fisherman’s wharf in San Fransisco, at Cannon Beach, on a bench near the Hollywood sign … you name it. This is your trip to celebrate Megan and also to celebrate the “you and the girls” who exist now. I hope you have a fantastic time.

  • commented on No One To Zip Me Up 2017-08-18 23:08:54 -0700
    Indie …. I agree that the camp will not change how you feel about losing your husband. You will miss him terribly every single day, forever. That’s what true love does for you. But what Camp Widow will give you is a place to breathe. A place where no explanation is required. Where people understand you and you no longer feel alone. I really hope you reconsider … it was one of the best choices I’ve made since Ben died.

    Michele … I did not see the zip up service (how did I possibly miss that??) but I should have definitely asked. You have thought of everything else, so of COURSE there was a zip up service! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all you do. (although I still say that you should leave Toronto in November behind and instead bring the camp to beautiful BC) :)

  • commented on Maybe I'll Get A Cat 2017-07-31 17:25:53 -0700
    Joseph I’m glad you joined a grief group, but I say do not ever apologize for wanting to talk about Karen. Ever. They don’t understand and that is probably a good thing, because it means they haven’t experienced this type of loss. But never, ever apologize for loving Karen so deeply that her name is always on the tip of your tongue.

  • commented on Hiatus 2017-07-28 17:14:08 -0700
    Your post brought tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but I am thrilled … yes, THRILLED that you have found love. May your health get better and better and your heart become even more full.

  • commented on Grace~ 2017-07-26 18:15:18 -0700
    Chuck. That was supposed to say Chuck is proud of you. But there are a lot of chicks out there who are proud of you too, so either way it works :)

  • commented on Being Mom And Dad 2017-07-24 19:15:00 -0700
    Joseph … thanks for taking the time to leave the positive comments about how the kids may feel in the future. I certainly hope I am still providing them with a good life. Not quite as good as if Ben were here, but maybe almost?

  • commented on Rattled 2017-07-20 21:17:17 -0700
    Oh Stephanie … you are in fact dealing with it, just in a different way. It’s the best way you can, and Mike would understand.

  • commented on A Widow Summer~ 2017-07-20 21:10:17 -0700
    I love that you loudly and fully declare you will never say goodbye. I also love that you live in colour. And I hope you bring your one woman show somewhere near me :)

  • commented on Life Getting in the Way 2017-07-18 12:58:07 -0700
    Mike … you made me smile when I read this post. I’ve been keeping my own blog for two years, and sometimes now I find myself thinking, “Wait … nothing bad, depressing, sad or otherwise happened this week.” Weeks like that may be a bit more pleasant to live, but don’t make for lengthy blog posts. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has some relatively normal weeks … they help counter balance the ones where some horrid memories come raging in like a tidal wave and knock me on my ass for a few days. In the meantime, the most significant thing that has happened for me so far this week is trying to calm my annoyance at the rodents that have made their way into the engine area of my car. :)

    I hope that Megan’s approaching birthday is manageable for you. Those are tough milestones.

  • commented on How Are You 2017-07-18 13:41:18 -0700
    Carol … I’m so sorry to hear that you felt invisible. I think that’s probably one of the really great reasons to hook in with people who have walked the same path as you. I don’t believe that most people really intend to ignore the bereaved, I truly think they just do not comprehend how the pain lasts. This kind of pain and loss is nothing that can be explained to someone who hasn’t experienced, don’t you think?

    I think people generally feel that it would be good for the bereaved to “get over it” because they think it’s better for the person grieving. They think it would be better to “move on”, and they have no way of understanding that you will never get over it and you will never move on. You will work through it, you will move forward, but the loss will always be a huge part of your life.

    I have also met some people who have experienced this loss themselves, and their own way of coping really is to not discuss it and to try not to think about it. That’s ok too, except it gives the rest of the world this warped idea that people get over their loss. Maybe it contributes to this crazy illusion that people have that says we should grieve for a month, accept the situation and move on. Personally, that’s not really my style. I’m coping, I’m living, I’m even having some fun, but if I had to stifle my grief I think I’d just die.

    Anyway … I am terribly sorry for your loss. I think you should take every little moment you need to grieve exactly the way you need to. xo

  • commented on It Took Me Ten Years 2017-07-14 17:22:11 -0700
    Getting rid of a lot of “stuff” was easy for me, but his t-shirts? Never. I take them out and smell them, sometimes sleep with them, and then put them back. I’m too scared that they’ll lose his smell, so I satisfy myself with snuggling with them instead of wearing them.

  • commented on Meet Wendy and Ben 2017-07-13 20:11:41 -0700
    Joseph … I’m so sorry for your loss. That is so fresh for you. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly figure it out. Baby steps. Sending love your way. I hope you have tons of support.

  • commented on Oh, the Shame! On THEM~ 2016-12-14 15:16:11 -0800
    You wrote the words I so often say in my head … “You have no idea. So fuck off.” Thanks for that

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