One Year Since My Husband Entered Palliative Care

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one year

I still can’t believe it’s been one year since returning home from our trip to California and Matthew entering palliative care. Last June marked the beginning of the end. Now I am planning Matthew’s unveiling*.

Needless to say this has been a rough week. The finality of the first year being over has hit me hard.

It has been tough watching people move on while I still feel “stuck” in my sadness. But, this week, I finally let myself cry for the first time in a long time.

I think the unveiling will be in the fall, Matthew’s favourite time of year. Brooke asked if she could help me choose the headstone and what we will write. The ceremony will be grim but I am confident that I can find the courage to celebrate Matthew’s memory.

For this reason, I have decided to keep it small. The thought of getting together again with everyone, something I haven’t really been able to do since the Shiva, is overwhelming and makes me anxious. 

A positive thing that happened last week

Last week, many of you reached out to share memories of Matthew and recall special moments in his last few months. It was comforting to get text messages like:

“This is the week one year ago I flew in to Toronto. I will always remember it. Your positive attitude throughout everything and the way you cared for Matthew was inspiring.”

“It hurts and it won’t ever stop hurting. It’s just insane he is gone and he would 100 000% want you to try and move on and be happy. The best guy ever and it is still hard to believe.”

”Just wanted to say hi and see how you are doing? I just realized it’s been a year since I came over to visit you and Matthew. I have been following you on social media but wanted to check in personally and say hi.”

Thank you for these messages, I love them and it helps to know I am not alone and that Matthew will never be forgotten. This is a constant fear of mine.

Many of you have asked for an update on the kids

They are okay. I am amazed by how resilient children are. We have definitely had our ups and downs, but we are managing.

Brooke was much better once Matthew passed away. It was very hard for her to see him so sick and watch him deteriorate. She said to me the other day, “Mommy I am getting used to not having a daddy anymore and it is okay.” I understand what she means. She is getting used to her new normal. And slowly we all are.

I often feel outnumbered by the 3 kids and the boys can be physically exhausting. At moments like these Brooke is a tremendous help. She gives me my own time out. And plays with the boys while I regroup. Just last night she put them to bed for me.

Brooke is going to Camp Erin, a grief camp, this weekend. I think it will be amazing for her. Her first birthday without Matthew is coming up in 2 weeks. We are going to NYC with her best friend and her mother. I’m looking forward to being a normal mom with her daughter in NYC! Feeling “normal” is what we all crave these days.

Zachary and Joshua are doing well. They fight all the time the way brothers do. Zachary has finally processed what has happened. I think it took him the year to fully grasp it. He will randomly tell strangers at the grocery store, doctor’s office or on a play date that his daddy is dead. He will just blurt it out. He told my mother the other day he can no longer bike with Daddy because he died and is in the stars. I feel like he wants to talk about death and understand it a bit more so he starts play therapy this month. Joshua still saddens me the most because he will have no memories of Matthew. I will need to fill in the gaps for him. He is starting to look more like Matthew every day.

Moving on

It still hits me how much Matthew is missing. All 3 of the kids have grown so much and are beautiful fun little people. The nice weather reminds me of Matthew because he was all about being outside, walking, playing with the kids, and gardening. Going to the park and seeing all the families, especially the fathers, breaks my heart.

As I always try to do, I have found some silver linings in all this chaos. I have made some amazing new friends that would never have been part of my life had this not happened to me. My relationships are deeper and more profound. I still miss having that special someone all the time. 

I have redecorated my house and started to donate Matthew’s clothes. As much as this saddens me, I need to do it. I need a fresh start.

It took me the full year to really accept that Matthew would want me to move on and be happy.

Matthew always told me that he did not want me to be alone. As this first year comes to a close, I am confident that I am ready.

* An unveiling is Jewish ceremony that often occurs within the first year after the passing of a loved one where mourners and their family gather at the gravesite for the placing of the tombstone. This is done to honour the person who is now deceased. It is a spiritual time for the family to comfort each other and remember their loved one.

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About Author

Heidi Wilk was born and raised in Montreal and received her dietetics degree at McGill University. She moved to Toronto in 2002 with her husband Matthew. Heidi works full time in a downtown Toronto hospital and has 3 beautiful children under the age of 7. Trying to achieve a work life balance was put to the test in 2008 when Matthew was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer and their lives and dreams were forever changed. Heidi has recently started sharing her own personal struggles, how she has overcome them and the important life lessons she has learned as result. Contact Heidi by email at heidiwilk76@gmail.com.

2 Comments

  1. liz_pearl@sympatico.ca'

    Thank you once again Heidi for sharing your ups and downs with us. We are all cheering for you as you travel your journey forward.

  2. paula@paulafphotography.com'

    Heidi, your words and thoughts continue to be so honest. You will always tell your children stories about Matthew. It is sad that they will have few memories of him but he will always be part of them. Keep writing and speaking as you inspire and encourage others to appreciate what they have. You’re a superhero Heidi.

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