Saturday, July 13, 2019

Surviving the Loss of a Partner - Life Changing on Every Level

Breast Cancer

“I have breast cancer.”  Tears were welling up in Sandy’s eyes as she shared the doctor’s diagnosis.  I felt the warmth of tears as well but with it came an instant firm resolve that we would beat this monster. 

This journey is never one we take alone.  It affects our loved ones deeply.  As we began our five-year journey of surgery, chemo, radiation, and severe pain, Sandy never complained. 

Our journey was one of hope, followed by disappointments.  An emotional roller coaster each time cancer raised its ugly head, each time more aggressively than the last.  I tried to be strong but felt helpless.  Alone, I cried and prayed that God would show me a way to help Sandy, to allow me to bear some of her burdens.  All I was able to manage was to make her as comfortable as possible and to be there for her. I watched her brave battle as cancer slowly and radically gained the upper hand.  I never lost hope; praying and believing for a miracle.

And then.....she was Gone

And then…. she was gone.  Gone.  The battle was lost encountering a new one of extreme pain from that loss.  It seemed even more unbearable.  In a trance-like state, I progressed through the arrangements finding some comfort in fulfilling her last wishes.

The pain was overwhelming and the tears would not be contained.  Would this ever end?  Friends and family tried to help but it was part of the journey I walked alone.  The house was void of Sandy except for the memories.  The furniture, the flowers, pictures, and photos all reminded me of happier times.  What I thought would be unbearable, was more excruciating than I had imagined.

Nothing Eased the Pain

I began attending a Grief Support Group in hopes of understanding the process of grieving with the help of coping tools.  But the pain and the tears remained.  My doctor recommended a change of scenery – rearrange furniture, replace photos, hide the things that trigger pain and tears.  I felt guilty as I collected personal memorabilia and gave them to Sandy’s son, Kevin.  But I knew it was important and seemed to bring some relief.

And Then Sue Walked In

After completing the Hospice Grief Support group, I made a spur of the moment decision to attend the Friday afternoon hospice drop-in. 

Arriving at the same time, I held the door for Sue and introduced myself while helping her with her coat.  I felt a spark that surprised me as we talked and then agreed to meet for coffee or lunch.  Sue was a recent widow and it was her first visit to the support group as well.  We hugged each other good-bye and I felt an inner peace – the healing began.

I waited a week to contact Sue unaware that she was anxiously waiting for my call.  We agreed that the way we met and immediately connected was amazing.  It was as though Sandy and Jim sent Cupid to shoot an arrow through us at the same time.

We are astounded and in disbelief at how two ‘mature’ people in their 70s or 80s could fall in love so deeply.  We were twenty-year-olds once again.  We still grieve at what we lost but rejoice for what we found.
Fred and Sue Stark
Moving Forward is a Choice

Supporting one another we have learned to move on towards closure of the past and a new beginning.  I was there when Sue put Jim’s ashes in the ocean, and she was with me when I visited the mountain site where I had placed Sandy’s ashes.

After one of our recent road trips, I bought Sue a ring and proposed.  We are now officially engaged and planning our beach wedding in Mexico.  Happiness has replaced the pain for which we both are eternally grateful. 
Fred and Sue Stark

Are You Grieving the Loss of a Partner?

I assumed it would take years to recover from the most painful experience of my life.  Both Sue and I believed we would spend the rest of our lives being single.  Newfound love was not in our realm of reality.  Yet….it happened.

Guilt can sometimes try to rob you of that new relationship with questions.  Is it too soon?  Are we too old? 

When love takes us by surprise, it is especially shocking and cannot be explained.  It is a gift; a miracle that continues to hold us in awe.  We believe that if you have suffered this loss – your loved ones want you to be happy again.  You cannot bring them back.  If love comes your way – embrace it fully.  Don’t hesitate. You will be glad you did and so will those who have passed. 

This is a true story told to me by Fred and Sue Stark

Fred and Sue Stark

Fred and Sue Stark


  1. Such a wonderful and uplifting story, Carol! It just goes to show that we are never too old to fall in love. Blessings!

    1. These two are an amazing and beautiful couple. Thank you for your note of encouragement