This is a real letter I wrote to my husband shortly after his death. I was wracked with guilt, and slowly destroying myself, bit by bit.
You will also see a reply to myself (yes, I do often do this), that was written some time after the original letter was written.
This was my way of processing. I found it really helpful, it seemed to help me balance out those really distressing thoughts and feelings that I had. Writing, (or rambling, as I prefer to say, as I'd never consider myself a writer, but the tag of rambler, I will happily accept) has always been my therapy, long may it continue.
To My Newly Dead Husband
"I blame myself entirely for your death. If I’d kept a closer eye on you, I’d have noticed you were getting more and more ill as the minutes passed, but I didn’t. You were downstairs, watching TV and I was in bed. You had been in and out of hospital all month, it was exhausting.
The doctors were pretty rubbish, you were getting more and more frustrated and I felt so helpless. I couldn’t fix you.
6 hours before you died, you finally came to wake me to tell me that you thought we should go to hospital. So I called the emergency doctor.
Note to self: Why the HELL did you not call the ambulance? You probably killed him with that stupid action alone.
The emergency doctor came, and took one look at you, and immediately administered a cannula full of drugs into your pale, cold body and called the ambulance. I failed you, baby, I am so sorry. I packed your bag for the hospital while the doctor spoke quietly but urgently to the emergency call room, putting your slippers, dressing gown, your favourite jeans and t-shirt in the bag, for when you came home. That final journey you would never make.
I will never forget that ride to the hospital, they were watching you so closely, you were being sick, but it was just like any other hospital ride we’d made. You were taken straight into the resuscitation room, and I was sent to wait in the reception area.
It felt like hours. I texted your best friend to tell him what had happened, and he asked should he come up. Yes, I said. When he arrived, I remember him asking me “he’ll be ok, won’t he”, and I just had no answer. We'd been in this situation so many times, and I never wanted to tempt fate by thinking you'd be ok.
I was finally allowed in to see you. It felt like hours, and I saw you, and my heart broke. You were so pale, shivering with the fever, delirious. You looked ill in a way I'd never seen before.
My darling boy, I am sorry for failing you.
I am sorry I didn’t call for help earlier. I held your hand, I kissed your head, I talked to you, I told you how much I loved you and I sobbed, silent, bitter hot tears, gripping you close, looking at you for signs that you could hear me. I told you to keep fighting and not to leave me, please, please, don’t leave me. I cannot do this without you.
I asked the doctor if I should call your family, and they said yes. I knew this was not a good sign, so I went to call them, and I tried to return to you, but they wouldn’t let me in.
I was devastated. It was only afterwards that I realised I traded my last few minutes with you to share the news with your family, and I would go back a million times to change this decision.
I wanted to be with you, to comfort you, to know you were not alone. Oh baby, I regret this decision every minute of my life, I will never forgive myself and I will forever hate my stupidity.
You were taken to the critical care unit. We waited, and waited. His best friend said to me “He’ll be ok, won’t he” and I couldn’t answer. We waited and we waited, nothing. I kept asking if I could see him. The nurses just told us he was very poorly and the staff were trying to make him better.
6 hours later, after calling the emergency services, they came to tell us the life changing, heart crushing news that they could not save you. I think my heart stopped, and a part of me left me, because I don’t feel the same anymore. I don’t think I ever will.
I asked if I could see you, they said we had to speak to the police because it was such a sudden death, and they'd need to talk to me to decide if they needed to do a post mortem or not.
That was agony, sitting through stupid questions with a stupid uncaring police man who didn’t seem to realise he was stopping me spending precious time with my boy, his body was growing cold as this idiot grilled me about medication and medical history. All stuff they could have asked medical staff, and my brain was experiencing such fatigue, I just couldn't clearly recall anything. It was torture.
When I finally got to see you, there were not enough sorrys in the world.
I am sorry, I am so so sorry I let you down, I am sorry I couldn’t save you, I am sorry I lost you, I am sorry I didn’t care for you better. I am sorry I let the world take you, I am sorry I let you go, I am sorry for everything. I had time alone with you first, and I am glad. I wept, holding your hand.
You were not cold yet, there was still movement in your hands as I entwined my fingers in yours. My heart was broken and I was in shock, I just kept waiting for you to open your eyes. You didn’t. As time passed, you grew cold, and your body started to stiffen, and your skin started to look different. I had sat at your side for almost three hours waiting for you to wake, baby, and you didn’t.
I knew I had to leave you, the beautiful boy I knew was not there anymore, it was just your cold body, and I shuddered, I needed to leave you, and go home to the place where I could find you. In photos, in videos, I needed to hear your voice, I needed to feel you were with me somehow.
I am sorry for everything, I am sorry I failed you. I hope you will forgive me, I always did the best I could, I am sorry it just wasn’t good enough. My beautiful soulmate, oh how I shall miss you".
That is the letter I wrote to him. My next challenge was to wait until the day that I felt I could respond to this letter, I never thought it would come, but it did, eventually, over 2 years later.
This is my letter to me.
"Please, stop, dear god woman, stop. Do you think you are a saint? You were not a 24/7 carer, you are not a medically trained professional. You know he was in and out of hospital, constantly, you grew too used to the lives you both lived in. If you responded at crisis level every time he was ill, you both might as well live in A&E, so stop this.
You did not kill him. Cancer and all the other medical conditions he had killed him, you did nothing but love him.
Everything, literally EVERYTHING this man needed, you gave, unconditionally. He was difficult, he was argumentative, he refused to go to hospital frequently. Do you really think you could have made him go? No. Be realistic. You married Mister Stubborn. You remember that, right? So get a grip and stop this.
You do not need to apologise for leaving him to call his family. What you did was beautiful, you chose to let his parents know, rather than spend that time with him. It was selfless.
This is a lesson you need to learn and carry forward. Stop doing things for others that mean you lose out. Stop being so passive, and be the assertive woman you need to be to survive this totally shite world. Stop it. Now. Always do what is right for you. Forget everyone else, they’re busy looking after themselves, you look after yourself. Got it?
You have NOTHING to be sorry for – you gave this man everything in his lifetime with you, you gave him love, support and care, and that’s all he needed. You cannot blame yourself anymore for all of this. He was critically ill the whole time you knew him ,and it was your love and support that kept him going. He told you that a million times. His family told you that, his friends told you that he literally kept on living to be with you.
He loved you enough to be strong and fight, and now it’s your turn to be strong and fight, and stop with the self loathing. You know if he was here, he would be furious with you. You loved him wholly in life, you love him in death, and you were his world, as he was yours.
Woosh. I love assertive me. Reading back on those words still feels powerful, and I revisit the words when I need to remind myself that I was there when he needed me.
If I am to learn anything from this, it’s this.
Guilt is destructive, it has crippled me and stopped me living, and it needs to stop now. I loved him, he knew this, and you were at his side whenever he needed you. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Please stop, and acknowledge he loved you, and you loved him”.
Those were all the words I could find at the time.
I wanted to share with you, to show how destructive grief can be, and how important it is to stop those feelings of guilt and self hatred. Remember how much you loved them, and continue to love them.
Please, don’t be me. Don’t blame yourself for anything. You loved them and did everything you could. Honour their memory by remembering all the wonderful things you did for them. Never forget the joy you brought to them.