3 Things to Do When You’re Afraid Of Your Spouse Dying First

It was my greatest fear. Having had no children, the thought of my husband dying first and me being left alone in the world was something I simply couldn’t bear. Even if I had had children, the idea of my best friend, lover, business partner and companion leaving me behind was unbearable.

So I didn’t think about it – or when the thought came to mind, I just banished it as quickly as I could.

And then my greatest fear came true. Philip was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October 2010. In the end, we had 14 months together from this point, which rather surprisingly became one of the best years of our marriage. We were forced into living in the ‘present moment’ much more than we had ever been, and found a greater depth of love, joy and peace as a result.

But then he did die.  And I was left alone.

Another surprise laid in wait for me, though.  I discovered that the fear I had experienced was just that – a projection of thoughts into a future that I did not want. When it actually came to pass, I coped. I managed. I unearthed strengths in myself I had no clue of before.

Sadly, though, I also discovered that I had been withholding love from Philip without realizing it. At that point, I promised that if I were fortunate enough to have another relationship one day, then I would make a point of keeping my heart fully open all the time.

If you’re afraid of being abandoned, to go all out with an open heart to love seems like a mad idea; it’s counter-intuitive.  And yet it is the thing to do, because that is the one thing that will help you experience the fullness of life and love right now.

Here’s my tips to help you:

  1. Acknowledge they will die at some point. That in itself lessens the pressure, because when you try to push away a fear, it simply hangs around, waiting until you do recognize it is there.
  2. Let the feeling in. I now recommend to people that when any feeling comes knocking at the front door that we don’t like, our job is to open the door. Welcome it in (even if you don’t like it). Open the windows of your house and let it fully in – but also open all the doors at the back of your house, so the feeling can easily leave as well. It will do that – this is exactly what happened with all the rage, the tears, the bewilderment, fear, worry, depression and insecurity that I felt. That’s how I can speak so authoritatively about this now.
  3. Keep your heart open. You can learn to do this. I did it (and still do) by meditating every day, using a chakra meditation.  Others can sense energetically when their heart is closed and can breathe into it and open it up again. No matter what method you use, you can instinctively tell when your heart is open, and to what degree, simply by tuning into your heart and asking the question ‘How open is my heart now?’  Practice this in all sorts of situations and, as with any practice, you will get better and better at tuning in to yourself.

I promised myself after Philip died that if I had the chance to meet another man, I would open my heart fully, and keep it open. I would reap the benefits from that new relationship in honour of the time Philip and I had had together.  (And it has happened – about 3.5 years after Philip’s death, I met a lovely widower with whom I intend to spend the rest of my life. We can easily talk about our spouses, and in fact, feel that they are both in this new relationship with us).

All of this has led me to be able to be truly grateful for Philip’s life, and the 20 years we shared together. But also to feel truly grateful for his death, and what I learnt about myself as a result.

Watch Jane’s TedX talk here and then discover for yourself how well prepared you are for a good end of life by taking the Before I Go quiz here.

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  1. Sandie Luti on April 11, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Hello Jane
    There are many e-mails which I ignore or delete. Yours, however, are sent to a designated folder, the biggest I have, to be read and reread, out of interest, for inspiration and wisdom, comfort and information.
    More power to your elbow!!

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on April 11, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Sandie, that is just beautiful! Thank you so much. I am very touched 🙂

  2. Lorna on April 11, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing Jane, it’s so lovely that after all you went through losing Philip that you have found happiness once more, well done you, a real story of hope after loss and how you achieved it.
    Food for thought.

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on April 11, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      Thanks Lorna, much appreciated!

  3. Dianne on April 11, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    I am in exactly the same position as you found yourself in. In my case, every day could be the last even though my partner is still able to walk around with difficulty and is still compus mentos to a degree. His heart is only functioning at 10% we are told. I am dreading the day he dies and he won’t speak about it. Naturally he gets depressed and there is nothing I can do for him except see to his personal needs, keep him company, try to think of things to cheer him up and show him I love him. I cannot change the situation. What makes it extra difficult is that he has Aspergers Syndrome which can be difficult enough for him.
    I am not sure opening doors and windows will even in my mind will help.

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on April 11, 2018 at 8:45 pm

      Really sorry to hear this Dianne. It can be so difficult when the other person doesn’t want to/can’t talk about things. Then the person in the carer role has to simply do what you are doing – and come face to face with the face that there is nothing else they can do. Not easy. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. David Knight on April 11, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    Lovely heartfelt post. Thank you, Jane.

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on April 11, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      Thank you David!

  5. Dorothy on April 12, 2018 at 9:08 am

    Hello Dianne
    Such a complex time for you both. All the challenges you are describing are physically and mentally exhausting and you are still being creative in your levels of care and affection, which is quite miraculous when you consider that ‘opposites attract’ happens to everyone to some extent! And it can be infuriating and frustrating but it’s always been there. My father loved us so dearly that he could not summon his own goodbye energy…it was beyond his endurance even before he was dying. But he showed it in many ways. Love comes in all shades and he must be overwhelmed and grateful for your love too. Love can’t die. Well done for keeping going. Love to you both. Dorothy xx

  6. Val Cunningham on April 12, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Thank you Jane for the reminder to be fully open to love and to be loved. wishing you both a joyful journey of love. X val

  7. Claire on April 12, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Wonderful post Jane – I’m so happy for you and feel sure that Philip would be so proud of the new life you have made and the amazing contribution you are making. An open heart that has changed the life and future of one very blessed widower and the many of us all over the world with the work that you do. So fantastic!

    Now, I must ask myself the question “how open is my heart now?” Love Claire X

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on April 12, 2018 at 7:48 pm

      Claire, if I hadn’t written that question, I would be thinking ‘that’s a good question to ask!’ (I’m sure others much wiser than me have suggested it too!)

  8. Akasha Lonsdale on April 12, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    I know when I’m feeling grumpy with my husband sometimes, I remind myself how much I would miss him. I also have a 91 yr old Aunt who lost her husband three years ago. I remember clearly that everytime I phoned, she would complain to me about how he was sleeping all the time (he wasn’t well) or was always irritable. Nothing was ever right. Now since he died, she is full of regret and wishes she’d done things differently. Each call we have, she reminds me never to take my husband for granted and to tell him I love him, so I have her words in my head too! Thank you too for the reminder Jane and I’m so pleased you have found love and happiness again. xx

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on April 12, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      Thank you Akasha, and thank you too for sharing about your own and your aunt’s experience. It is so easy to take what we have for granted, and focus on what we haven’t got instead. Mad, but it happens a lot!

  9. Sophia on April 13, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    YES! Soooooooo happy to hear there is even more love in your life Jane. You deserve it and I’m quite sure Philip would be honoured. xx

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on April 13, 2018 at 4:57 pm

      Thank you Sophia! Lovely to see your smiling face recently in Executive magazine 🙂

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