I have a husband who is on the end of life register. There’s a debate as to whether he has weeks or months - but it is clear he will not be around by next year.
My problem is that he subjected me to years of cruelty and control, I wanted to leave him but never had the courage. Essentially I have been in ‘lockdown’ for the last decade because he never wanted to go anywhere and controlled every aspect of my life.
Then he was diagnosed with two forms of dementia, one of which has left him profoundly disabled and he is now in care.
I had struggled through two years of trying to work out what was wrong and my suspicions were confirmed. I guess I threw myself into getting to the bottom of it and he declined so much, that pity often took the place of resentment.
However, there came a crisis point last autumn when he constantly fell and I needed an ambulance for him on numerous occasions in the space of one week. The last time the ambulance came, they finally took him away and I was so relieved. I would look after him all day, from coping with his psychotic delusions to his urinating everywhere and sometimes upon me. Night time was a nightmare – because I would always be on edge, waiting for him to wake up and begin his ravings. Although weak in terms of walking, he was still capable of great violence with his fists and I was permanently in fear of him. I have photographs of the marks that he left on my body.
It took quite a bit of therapy for PTSD but I eventually managed to lay the ghosts that seemed to pervade the rooms where most of the awful events took place – I even resorted to having my home blessed by my priest.
So far , so good. But there’s an additional problem – I realise that I feel absolutely nothing for him, particularly now that I am coping with learning of the children he fathered with other women - yet he is no longer in a position to explain or discuss anything about those affairs. So I have written a long, long letter to him which I know I can never send. In it, I outline all the ways in which he has impacted my life - which has over the best part of 50 years, been negative for 95% of the time.
But in spite of all this, there is still great joy in my life because at the very moment I was at my lowest point, the man I loved long before my husband came back into my life and has proved a tremendous support, help and comfort to me. My children now know that my life with my husband was far from a bed of roses, but are confused by my new relationship - although I have tried to remain honest with them about my feelings for this man – whom they understandably fear might be taking advantage of me.
However, we love one another and both wish that we had not wasted so many years apart, but we have the feelings of others to consider – chiefly my children who I know are just about to suffer the greatest loss that any child – no matter how young or old - will go through in their entire life.
Obviously we know that we have to be circumspect and respectful of the current situation, but we believe that after the inevitable – which is to say the death of my husband – that we have a future together. Yes, emotions were running high and we did rush into things, so now we are taking a few steps back because we don’t want to hurt my children - or indeed anybody.
I can recall the dilemma of radio presenter and journalist John Suchet, whose first wife suffered from early onset dementia. He met and fell in love with a woman whose husband was also a dementia patient. The difference here is that he adored his first wife Bonnie and felt incredible guilt about conducting a relationship whilst Bonnie was still alive. As I said, I don’t love my husband, but I do hope that he can have easy, peaceful death because I wouldn’t want a dog to go through the wicked illness that has trapped him in a life of what must be sheer torment.
The thing is – how to I conduct myself after my husband dies? For instance, how long should I wait before telling people that I am in a serious relationship and wish to remarry? Have any of you been caught in between a world of fear and pain – but can see a wonderfully bright future if only you can do what society expects - by giving the performance of your life as the grieving widow/ widower?
I truly don’t mean to offend any of you out there who were deeply in love with your spouse or partner when you lost them - but I would love to know how people who have walked the same road that I am currently on - have managed to deal with the situation.