Hi, I lost my partner a month ago, aged 71 and I am feeling so lost without him. He had been diagnosed with COPD due a lifetime of heavy smoking, although he did give up after his diagnosis (approx. 12 years ago; before I knew him). He died in his sleep of a heart attack due to coronary artery disease. We didn’t live together, but had discussed it (the pandemic didn’t help!), but had been in a relationship for 4 and a half years. We did split up for a time, between June last year and March this year, but he was my best friend, we spoke at least 2-3 times a day even when we weren’t together. There was an age gap, I’m 39 so there was 31 years difference between us, but it really didn’t matter deep down. Of course it would crop up in conversation at times, mainly from him because he felt like I needed to live my life and he tried to push me away at times, probably to protect me. In the week or so before he died, I had these feelings of wondering about the future. I feel guilty about that. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with him, I was just thinking about what it would look like and more and more recently he had said that if anything happened to him at home, that one of his children would inform me and that’s what happened.
In the couple of months before he died, he had mentioned an ache in his chest on and off, he never described it as a pain. He kept saying it was anxiety. He also had lost weight over a long period of time, but that is down to COPD. He also complained of indigestion. I asked him so many times to go to the Doctors and I offered to go with him. But he suffered from “white coat syndrome” and his blood pressure went up when he went to the Doctors. He did have to go periodically for check-ups relating to COPD, but he never liked discussing his health so I didn’t quiz him too much. The symptoms he was having are also similar to stage 3 of COPD, which I feel he was entering. The last conversation I had with him a few hours before he died, I asked him again had he been to the Doctors and he said “no, you know what men are like we don’t go”. He had never said that phrase before, but I just said I didn’t know what to say or do if he wasn’t going to go to the Doctors. After he passed away, I did find out that he had been to the Doctors a week earlier and he was scheduled to go into hospital for an operation to do with his COPD. I know for a fact he would have hated to go into hospital. He was the type of man who would not want to worry anyone - he was the same with his children. I was told he passed away peacefully in his chair, he had got up early hours of the morning and quite regularly he sat in his chair as more often, lying down proved difficult with breathing due to COPD.
I feel like there is such a huge void in my life now - I am also feeling guilty about whether I could have done anymore to help him. I never googled his symptoms, but would it have made a difference? I asked him time and time again to go to the Doctors. I do remember him telling me that when I met him 5 years ago, he said he probably only had about 5 years to live and that he wouldn’t live long enough for COPD to kill him. That sticks in my mind, but at the time, he seemed OK, not too unwell. In recent months, he had definitely started to struggle more, but he was the type of man to keep busy and doing things, without resting properly. He started to seem a bit frail somehow and was getting tired more quickly (again, due to COPD).
I know the age gap was big and some people have suggested that this was to be expected. I understand that, but I think if he had been a little more open about his health, it would have prepared me a bit better. I know that sounds selfish, but it was such a shock to receive the phone call to say he had passed away. I still feel a sense of shock now a month on.
I went to see him in the chapel of rest - that was a huge step for me to take having had a breakdown when I saw my Grandma 20 years ago. At that point, I wasn’t prepared at all for what I would see. However, having seen my partner, I felt shock at first when I looked at him - but I could see he looked very peaceful, which hopefully suggests that he didn’t suffer. I wrote down everything I wanted to say to him, including his favourite prayer and a poem he used to read. When I think about it, there was never anything else I wanted to say to him in life, I said everything I ever wanted to, which is good.
The funeral was much more difficult - I tried to keep it together as best I can, but at times I wept.
Now, a month on, I have had great support from family, friends and work colleagues. I have also started counselling last week. Although I am so grateful, I jut can’t get my head around the fact that physically, he is no longer here. We both shared a strong christian faith, and having visited his grave several times, I feel a sense of comfort when I’m there. I just sit on the grass next to the cross and talk to him. I just miss him greatly, every morning I feel like I’ve had my heart ripped out and after a split second of thinking everything is OK, I realise that he is no longer here.