Grief in GeneralMoving ForwardSharing the Story of Another

Dear Jessica (You Are Not Alone)

Up until this very moment, I had only admitted this to a few close friends, but the truth is the last month or so I have been occasionally frustrated with my blog page.

I pour so much of my heart and soul into it, exposing my deepest thoughts, fears and emotions. I get frustrated because I feel like I have such a story to tell, such a journey to share – and yet, my platform isn’t big enough.

I want to grab a bullhorn and shout it from the top of a tower. Everything I have learned about love, loss, grief and that undying hope for a better tomorrow.

Something funny happens every time I feel that way though. Just as I begin to question whether or not to continue on this path, I receive a message, a comment or an email from someone.

Someone telling me what my words have meant to them. Someone telling me how much our story has touched them. And how thankful they are to have found my voice.

When that happens I a reminded of something that my wife told me while she was dying.

As I wept over her like a baby, telling her how much I hated this world, a world in which such a beautiful soul could develop such a rare and aggressive cancer at such a young age.

‘John, we cannot change the world. Bad things will continue to happen. But if you can use this pain to help one person, for them the world will be forever changed. So make something good come out of this,’ she said.

Those words have stayed with me to this day, as have so many of the words she said to me. A brave soul that, even while dying, comforted her husband an equal amount of times as he comforted her.

I feel that there is something bigger on the horizon for me. A larger platform to tell our story and help others. I can’t quite put my finger on it and I’m not entirely sure what my next step should be.

The combination spoken above causing a further frustration and lack of patience.

Sitting at the airport, waiting to board my plane to fly back home from a weekend trip, I received an email.

From Jessica.

It reminded me of something so important.

That message that Michelle so gracefully delivered to me.

The size of the platform does not matter.

Instead, it is the size of the message being delivered that counts.


Here is my response:

Dear Jessica,

I receive so many messages from people that touch me deeply, as did yours.  In fact, your message made me tear up.

Perhaps it was the travel fatigue, or the fact that I am on a four hour flight home suffering from a stomach bug that sent me into crybaby mode – but I think it was more than that.

I think it was the line about your husband’s eyes.

The line you wrote about how the pain in his eyes watching you near death is worse than the pain you are feeling.

I know that pain. I have lived that pain.

Those words brought me back to a place I don’t often visit, but that is forever in my memory bank – just below the surface of where I allow my mind to travel on a daily basis.

It brought me back to watching Michelle die.

It was so long. And it was so painful.

Two and a half years of pure Hell.

It brought me back to the moments in which I couldn’t control my raw emotion, and I would break down in front of her.

A grown man so destroyed that I couldn’t even give me wife the support she needed, and deserved.

But then you said something else.

You told me that my words simultaneously broke and mended your heart, at least a hundred times.

And selfishly, I felt a sense of peace.

Peace that I could do something that helped a stranger now realize that she is not alone in this journey.

Peace that you now know your husband’s pain has been felt by many before, and will be felt by many after.

I can tell you that my heart has broken and mended more times than I can even begin to count, or remember.

The expected outcome of losing the love of your life for the second time, this time – for the rest of time.

After you told me about your story and how my writing had touched you, you finished the email with a serious of questions.

So let me answer those for you right now.

‘How is it to actually lose a spouse?’ you asked.

It is awful. It is so far beyond awful.

It is painful, and gut wrenching.

It is heart breaking, and soul crushing.

It is as if someone has taken a knife to your insides and will not stop stabbing them, without conscious or guilt.

‘Was it all worth it, meaning would you do it all again even knowing that Michelle was going to die?’ you asked.

Yes, Jessica – it was all worth it.

All of it.

Every single second.

Of every single day.

Hope, the only thing in this world that can combat fear.

The love shared, the only thing stronger than the heartbreak endured.

‘Do you think my husband can make it if I don’t?’ you concluded.


Your husband can make it.

And, I believe your husband WILL make it.

I believe this for one reason and one reason only: I made it.

When people hear me say that I was as low as a human being could go when Michelle was dying, they often wonder what I mean by that.

I believe that my words are self-explanatory.

If the worst happens, to you. The pain will be unbearable, for him.

There will be moments when surviving the minute, let alone the day or week, seems impossible.

Moments in which the shattered soul left on this Earth to grieve the departed will want nothing more than for God to call their number in hopes that the pain will go away and that the beautiful reunion will take place.

I know. I was there.

But now, I am here.

Still grieving my wife.

Still madly in love with my wife.

Still with a heart that doesn’t quite tick the way that it once did.

Still with a soul that will never quite be 100 percent repaired.

But, I am here.

Because I have survived.

Because daily, I survive.

Should this happen, should you go – tell your husband that he is not alone.

Tell him that others have felt his pain. And that others know his heartbreak.

Most importantly, tell him this:

Tell him that love does not end in death.

Tell him that the reunion will take place.

Tell him that it will be more beautiful than he could have ever imagined.

Until then, tell him to grieve. And to grieve hard.

Tell him to live. And to live with purpose.

Tell him to reach for happiness, laughter, and most importantly, peace.

Tell him to carry the love that he has for you with him. Each and every day.

Tell him Jessica, that you’ll only be a thought away. ️

with love,




12 thoughts on “Dear Jessica (You Are Not Alone)

  1. Well put comments to Jessica. I am just entering my 13th month since my beautiful wife chose not to live anymore. I hesitate to say she died because I think she truly was capable of hanging on but was not happy with the quality of her life. The day she transitioned to heaven in her sleep she had difficulty putting her makeup on. I suggested we call Nordstrom’s and we did and I got an appointment to learn how to do my wife’s makeup on Tuesday. She passed away Saturday into Sunday. I think that was the proverbial straw that her life quality was not what she chose to be on earth with. We had discussed this when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Silly me I didn’t realize that this was her and Design. The last three months of her life she lived on Fresh cannoli from the Italian bakery and talenti gelato. You think the light bulb would have gone on but it didn’t. I was so thrilled to have her with me for those last few months. Now that I’ve gone through wedding anniversaries memorial service anniversaries transition anniversaries I am starting to peek at distant glimmers of sunshine. I am really trying to focus on celebrating the joy that you brought to my life rather than lamenting about the sorrow of her not being with me. Someone told me you reap what you sow. My wife is in a better place and she is happy because she is no longer in pain. Sorry about the rambling hope this helps someone.

    Richard Ahern

  2. Thank you John, I don’t believe you know how big your platform really is. I read each one and at times I go back and read them again, after 3 years I know that I have moved forward but then the wave crashes over me and I have to crawl back up. I have lost many people in my life because I can no longer do the activities we shared, I had to have spine surgery 2 years ago and cannot golf, do yoga or other things I had in my life and the people I did them with have moved on without me. I do not have the energy or desire to try again. I have had a full life and am grateful for my blessings but the person who made me vibrant and bubbly has gone ahead and I am waiting on my turn.
    No one could ever have explained this pain, emptiness and loneliness.
    Thank you for sharing

  3. I lost the love of my life in November 2016, after 36 years of unbelievable love and partnership.

    Your answers to Jessica touched me to the core and helped me accept the feelings and sorrow that I carry in my heart.

    I will reread those answers over and over again in the coming months.

    Thank you John, you are helping.


  4. Wow. You just broke the armour around my heart wide open with those last few lines…. I”m sitting here, shocked, to realise that I didn’t dare the “grieve, and grieve hard”, and somehow also never got to the live life with purpose sequel… My heart breaks again but this time for me. I was fifteen when my dad died, suddenly, and being that hurt that young I just closed off the softest piece of my heart with the biggest and highest wall I could make and from then on struggled with the loneliness behind it. I am 46 now, and you just opened my eyes big time.

    Thank you.

  5. Please keep standing on your platform. It will be two years for me in September and your words always resonate so deeply.
    I continue for my husband, every step forward I take is for him and I know he is with me.
    Without advocates for bereavement, such as you I don’t know where I would be!
    Keep writing and shouting out, for the bereaved community.
    Thank you for this post, the tears came thick and fast!
    Keep up the good work x

  6. I am so thankful I found your site. Now I know that “the shattered soul left on this Earth” (me) is not alone. I lost my beloved wife last March. We were together for over 33 years. The last five years I was her caregiver as well as her husband after she suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her unable to move, talk, eat or care for herself in any way. That you have survived your loss gives me hope as well because honestly many days I do not believe I will. You do have a purpose. Please don’t stop. Your words are helping many people who suffer as you do.

  7. This resonated with me walking a parallel path to yours, John. I’m also a writer developing my platform. Much of my writing shares my grief journey. My beloved passed away in March of 2016. We’d known each other since the late 80s and came together as a couple in May of 2014. Nothing ever felt so right. We called ourselves crazy, sexy, cool–Fire & Ice. We were all in. He died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in his sleep. I was devastated, obviously. You expressed those feelings aptly. I’m sorry for your loss. way to use it for good. My sister lost her husband of 33 years to cancer in 2012. Your piece reminded me of how they looked at each other when he was sick. Big tears. Keep walking your path and touching lives, John. Thank you for being part of mine. You’ve spurred me on.

  8. John,

    As a recent finder of your blog and as I check into your FB page, I was ‘happy’ to discover your lantern of light in offered words as I travel around, down & sometimes, even hide, on this rocky grief path.

    Like everyone, It wasn’t a path that I chose. Most days, after you become so aware of how one is forcibly thrust into this sad world of unknowns & then accosted by many reminders that cause pain, or turn up the feeling of that steady heart break and rapidly increase the awareness of the frustrating loss: you realize there are not a lot of ropes or available flotation devices to reach for that allow you a moment to breathe in, absorb some understanding or even to stand a moment on some solid ground as you take in possible avenues of how, what and where to go to next. Sometimes I feel like a flamingo balancing on one leg – but not as graceful or purposeful trying to scope out a destination to land and stay, so I can just be.

    In my short visits here and various section reads – Your page seems to be one of those solid, safe islands and strong presented ropes I can attach to either with my morning coffee or just before bed. It has become a moment to breathe. In reading thru your passages, memories & pain, and also taking in many of the respondents stories, brief shares, personal images and reading thru their heartache, their questions and some learned wisdom; there is some safety and moments of offered union that say, ‘You are not alone’, and ‘ I am aiming to survive too’ – with Sadness intact.

    If is difficult to say or write out – that I am a widower. And I don’t want to live in memory land. It’s not a happy place for me. And there is nothing I can do to replace anything we had, anything we did, anything we shared or anything we loved, to make these days or any moment feel real. I am in loss.

    But this page and the reality of it – connects and seems to throw out different safety lines to many – So someone won’t drown, Another can stay afloat and Others can reach out and work to pull themselves out of the muck and read and feel that others who are on this road relate to the sadness, the anger, the loss, the missing & that all the pain is not so singular.

    Lately my questions have been – what happens if I can’t accept his death? How can I not be living with him anymore? , and How long can I stay in this igloo of isolation? As I inch towards more reading here on your blog and thru various statements offered by many followers – I say to myself- Maybe I can go in deeper to see if someone (anyone) has similar questions or even some answers to what this forever grief road will bring to me somewhere around the corner.

    John, don’t stop writing, sharing or questioning – because you may be a light, a safety line or even a brief safe haven for someone out there struggling, crying & questioning. What I have observed is that here, you have gathered a community of followers that want to share, that want to help and need to feel connected. And many write to be heard in a kind, caring remembrance and even ask – what is next for us?

    Keep at it.

  9. John,
    Thank you for your words, for your courage, for permission. People ask me how I am and I say “okay” and I am ok, but okay is a relative statement to how I was 3, 6, 9 months ago when my husband of 35 years died. The only ones who truly understand are those who have been there. Your blog is a comfort and a gift, a place to bring broken hearts together, to know that they’re not alone. A place to be allowed to feel the fullness in our hearts, the pain that we feel in our bones.

    I’m deeply sorry for your loss, of your beautiful wife.

    Thank you…

  10. I have been a widow for 5 years now and I want to want to say to the ones who are new in their grief, to please know there will be a day when the loss will be easier to bear. My husband only lived 2 months after his diagnosis of cancer and I was both shocked and angry that he was taken from me. I was lost without my other half and felt like God had done a horrible thing by separating us. I despaired at the thought of living with such pain, but a widowed friend told me the first few years are the hardest and that I would gradually find beauty in life again. She was right! I still think of him daily and will always love him. I knew him for 44 years and we were married for 38 years, and he died at age 61. It was still too soon for me; I wanted to grow really old with him and for his grandchildren to know him.

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