The Anguish of Sudden Death

The anguish of someone you love dying suddenly is one of those things you just can’t imagine will ever happen to you.  I couldn’t have imagined it either until it happened to me.  The moment still remains so surreal.  My husband and I owned a business together and were working in our building like we did everyday.   This particular day he was on a ladder installing some electrical conduit onto a wall when he fell from the ladder onto the concrete floor.  In that instant my life was forever changed.  I ran to him as soon as I heard the crash and I saw him lying on the floor unconscious and bleeding.  I had an employee call 911 as I held him in my arms for what seemed an eternity.  He regained conciseness and started to break away from my hold, I had no idea the extent of his injuries and thought I should try to keep him as immobile as possible until the ambulance arrived.  He was rushed to the hospital where he remained comatose for seven days in the intensive care unit until he died.  During that week as I sat by his bedside in my daily vigil, I talked to him with a certainty that I was sure he could hear me. I begged him to wake up, to come home and that we needed him.  I found myself making a pact with God to please let him wake up and be well and I would be repentant forever after.  I guess God had other plans.

Sudden death leaves you numb.  I never got to say good bye, I so desperately wanted to hear his voice one more time.  I wanted to feel his hands touch my face and hold my hand. I wanted to take back every cross word I ever used, I wanted to have one more day, just one more day.

Losing someone you love so quickly is a heartache of unbearable proportion. I recall feeling numb for days and weeks that followed. My life was forever changed and I hadn’t made plans to accommodate that change.  We make plans for our lives in so many areas from raising the children and planning their education to the short and long term planning of our personal and professional goals.  We did not have a plan for sudden death, we had no life insurance, and we had no back up “what if” plan.

The journey through grief was hard, I questioned the meaning of life, my faith and of whom I would become.  My self-identity as a wife had changed, how I was once defined was now different. I was now a widow. I did not sign up for this role and did not embrace it easily.

There were lessons learned from my journey. I did learn to be compassionate to myself and all the feelings I encountered.  I learned to go with the flow of the day and not judge myself so harshly. I eventually faced the reality of my husband’s death, embraced the pain and found hope for my future.  Most days now are good days, memories are sweet and oh so precious and life is a gift I do not take for granted.

Allan & myself

Myself & late husband Allan


6 Responses to The Anguish of Sudden Death

  • I sent Tom a personal note on May 10th. He spent 60 years with his wife Alison. What a gift to have that many years with the love of your life. But so sad to lose your partner that you have come to rely on. I can understand some of what Tom’s life is like because I watch my Dad who lost his beloved wife after 51 years of marriage. I know his loneliness. I let him know he is not alone and I hope Tom has a supportive family and friends to comfort him also.

    With love & hope,
    JoAnne Funch

  • Dearest Ann,

    I emailed you a personal reply, but know this is a community for support of your grief journey. Sharing your story helps others know they/we are not alone.
    Please feel free to write me anytime. You are not alone,
    in love & hope,
    JoAnne Funch

  • I’ve read several blogs on widowhood recently, yours has a sense of peace and hopefulness. Thank you.

    I lost my husband three years ago this June while we were traveling in Europe, my husband was an invited speaker at a distance education conference in Vienna, Austria. The day after his presentation we were getting on a cruise of the Danube River when he had a strong pain in his belly and couldn’t catch his breath. Gratefully two men were immediately by my side helping him – they both spoke English. They recognized the seriousness of his symptoms and called for the paramedics. He was rushed to the hospital, where they confirmed that he had had a heart attack. He was 51 years old, very healthy otherwise. They said the heart was caused by a blood clot.

    He lived for over 36 hours and stayed alert most of the time but he was very weak and his heart was pounding in his chest. It never occurred to me that he could die. People had heart attacks all the time and lived. I was just wondering how long we would be in Austria, how long before he could fly again. When I finally spoke to his doctor in the US who had gotten through to the doctors in Austria I grasped the critical situation we were in. I was told that if he went into renal failure the only thing that would save him would be a heart transplant and they didn’t perform those at the hospital we were in. I begged them to move him to a hospital that could and would perform such an operation. They refused because he was not yet IN renal failure. I asked them that if he were, would they move him, they told me no, it would be too dangerous to move him at that point. The frustration! His condition worsened and I was escorted out of the room so they could intubate him. Before I left I looked him in the eye and told him that I loved him. He blinked back his response.
    Two hours later I knocked on the door and begged them to simply let me be in the same room with him. The nurse looked at me and said in his far too casual and less than perfect English, “Sure, you can come in. But he died.” Those words will echo in my mind for the rest of my life. I could not believe that the God I had been praying to, been pledging everything to if he would only save my sweethearts life would leave me alone in a country where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language!

    I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had been in contact with the local missionaries as soon as possible after arriving at the hospital. I could not have survived without the sweet and tender care of those boys. They were at a loss as to how to help me but they had access to resources and people who could. Other members took me into their homes; they helped me with the piles of paperwork and red tape involved with the death of a citizen abroad.In less than two weeks we were able to fly his body back to the US.

    A sad side note to this sad story. My husband and I had only been married for 14 months. It was a second marriage for both of us. We had finally found what we had both missed for so many years! I had never been happier. We had plans for the future, plans we had never been able to make with previous spouses. It was all before us. Until it wasn’t. I was hurt and angry. I felt cheated beyond belief. My faith assures me that there is life beyond this. I am not at all sad for my husband. I believe he is in Paradise patiently waiting for me to join him. I believe we will be together again. And for him, it will be but a small moment in time. But for me, it will be years and years of loneliness.

    Between us, we have six children. He had two boys and I had two boys and two girls. They are all young adults now, going through all the typical stuff and none of them lives at home. My nest seems prematurely empty.

    Since my husband’s death I have completed an advanced degree, found a new job and am managing day by day. I cycle through periods of great hope, of contentment with my situation, to periods of resentment, frustration and anger. But I truly do try to focus on the positive.

    I was given a second chance to discover what love really is, what marriage should be like. I count that among my greatest blessings. I don’t believe God punished me by taking him away, I believe he blessed me by giving him to me in the first place.
    I remember saying to myself” I didn’t sign up for this! This was not the plan!” But then I realized that if the choice were; to have this man in my life, for only a short time, but with the promise of eternity with him or, never know him, never feel the loss of his death. I would have signed up gladly.

    This was long. I’m sorry. I haven’t really told the story before. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

  • Gail,
    I know the shock of your loss, did he pass April of this year? I can assure you that the pain does ease with time. You have to walk this journey through grief because it is the only way you will come out the other side. If you ignore or push aside your grief, it will come back to haunt you until you face it. Please know you will never “get over” this great loss, but you will learn to live again in a different way. I suggest you get supported by people who allow you to mourn your loss, know you are not alone and don’t have to go through this alone, be compassionate with yourself as you face the sadness, let this time be what it is, you will feel such a myriad of emotions from anger to numbness so allow whatever feelings come up. If you are spiritual, I encourage you to find strength in your beliefs. Start each day with a meditation or prayer. I remember after my husband died, everyday I would ask God to just get me through this day and give me strength.

    Please feel free to write me anytime,
    you are not alone,
    JoAnne Funch

  • On April 22nd, I had taken my husband to the Dr. As the Day before at work he was not feeling well, but of course finished his day and came home took a shower, and said he would go to the DR. in the morning. Well that is when my nightmare started,from there they did an ekg and transported him to the hospital, Where they confirmed he had a heart attack the day before. I will nver forget the look in his eyes saying it is worst then we thought. As they were preping him for a stint,they found out he needed a triple bypass, well he never made it that far, he went into cardic arrest,and passed away.
    At 52 years old, The love of my life, I just hope for the day to come when the pain lightens up

  • I met my late wife, Alison, when we were both serving in the RAF as Radar Fitters, in 1948. We married in November 11th 1949 and were very happy together until Alison went home to be with the Lord on Thursday 5th February 2009. Her funeral was on Friday 13th February and we scattered her ashes in the Garden of Remembrance on Friday 27th February 2009. Since then I have been in a kind of “limbo” with sleeping pattern disturbed, and waking in the night, certain that I heard Alison’s voice calling to me. only to wake and find it was all a dream. I am a Christian and communicant member of my Anglican Parish Church but my mood fluctuates between despair and despairing hope that I shall be reunited with my beloved when my time comes to die.

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