“I can’t live without my husband.” I hear this a lot from clients whose spouses have cancer. The fear of losing your spouse is completely normal, even rational, after a terminal diagnosis.
When I first met with Cindy, her husband had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. They had been together since she was 18. They had raised 4 lovely children together. She couldn’t imagine life without him. In fact, she really didn’t want a life without him. The thought of being alone gave her tremendous anxiety.
Cindy’s feelings and fear of a future that felt like it was being thrust upon her are not uncommon. If you are experiencing an intense fear of losing your spouse, know you are not alone. While not easy, it’s a normal reaction when our life takes a turn we weren’t expecting.
As someone whose husband did pass away after a long cancer journey, I want to take a moment to answer some of the most common questions about how to deal with a spouse dying of cancer and ease some of the fiercest fears you might be experiencing right now.
Why Am I So Afraid of Losing My Husband?
When you are presented with the news that your spouse may not be around as long as you thought, it can feel very overwhelming and frightening.
This is because, as human beings, we fear experiences or circumstances that are unfamiliar or uncertain. It creates the feeling that we’ve lost control because we no longer know how things are going to turn out. We start wondering how we’ll cope without our spouse. We wonder who will do all the things they normally do. We feel overwhelmed at the prospect of starting over. If we have children, we fear how losing a parent will affect them and worry that as a solo parent, we won’t be enough.
How you might experience the fear of losing your spouse can vary greatly. You might feel anything from mild anxiety to intense terror. You might also notice physical sensations, such as a racing heart, sweating, and an increased sense of alertness. While fear can be a helpful response in certain situations, it can also be overwhelming and interfere with daily life if it becomes excessive or irrational.
How Do I Cope with My Spouse Dying of Cancer?
If left unaddressed, your fear of the future can get in the way of being fully in the present. It might seem like the only thing to do is just to push your fears down or try to ignore them. However, this approach won’t work. Your fear will just wait for you, sometimes even intensifying. Remember, what you are experiencing is a totally normal and common response. Fear is just a human emotion created by your thoughts, and it needs to be acknowledged openly.
Tips to Cope with the Fear of Losing Your Spouse
- Acknowledge your feelings: Recognize that it is normal to feel scared and anxious about the possibility of losing your spouse. Allow yourself to experience your emotions without judgment. I highly recommend journaling during this time as a way to express your fears and take them out of your head.
- Communicate: Talk to your spouse about your fears and concerns. Open communication can help you both feel more connected and supported. You may also consider speaking to a coach or therapist who can help you work through your feelings.
- Focus on the present: Dwelling too much on your fear of the future will take you out of the present. Remember that they are here now, and you want to focus on and appreciate the time you have together.
- Seek support: Lean on your family and friends for support. They can offer emotional support and help you cope with your fears. You are not alone. You can join my Facebook group to connect with others going through a similar situation.
- Take care of yourself: Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and practice self-care activities that bring you comfort and relaxation.
How Do I Prepare for a Dying Spouse?
When your spouse is in their final weeks or months, you want to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically so that you can still be present for the time you have.
- Create space in your life: This time will take up a lot of energy. Think about any tasks you can eliminate or delegate for a little while. A lot of things you might do in normal circumstances can probably be let go of. You want to have as much time and energy as you can so that you can focus on what is most important right now.
- Clear out your thoughts: Start a journal and just record all the thoughts that come up. Your fears, worries, and anxieties all need a place to go so your head can stay as clear as possible. Seek a coach or a therapist to help you process what you are going through.
- Allow all your emotions: This time will be emotionally draining. You will experience a lot of ups and downs, and it’s important to just let yourself be where you are. You may even feel numb. Or relief. All of it is normal and OK. Don’t waste any energy questioning yourself or your feelings.
- Take care of yourself: It’s essential to take care of your physical well-being during this time. It might be tempting to push this all aside but don’t. This time is going to be physically taxing. You need your physical strength. Make sure to eat healthily, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Consider modifying your activities, but don’t abandon them altogether. For example, maybe you walk laps in the hospital instead of outside.
My Husband is Dying: What Do I Do?
There is no doubt that losing a loved one is one of the hardest things you will experience. As you face this time, know that you are stronger than you think. Love and loss are a part of the human experience. The key to getting through this time is to be willing to feel them both.
Having a coach to support you every step of the way can make a huge difference. I have supported several clients in this journey, and it has allowed them to grieve cleanly and grow strongly. If your partner is facing a terminal diagnosis and you want support, I’m here for you. Schedule a free 1-hour coaching call with me today!