Al and Kathy lived in the same area growing up and their parents knew each other so there was already a connection when they started dating as young adults. Very quickly, Al confidently knew that he was going to marry Kathy. And even though it took Kathy a little longer to come to the same conclusion, she was eventually just as confident that they were a match.
The two did marry, had two sons and were just in the midst of considering what retirement could look like when Al experienced terrible back pain that was debilitating enough to send him to the Emergency Room.
After seven hours in the ER, Kathy would be sent home only to be called back almost immediately to the worst possible news: Al had died.
“My life became a fog for months,” says Kathy. “How could this happen? He wasn’t even that sick. And if he was that sick, how could the doctors not have seen it?”
Al previously had a blood infection and while it had been cleared, doctors did say there was a very slim chance it would come back again. After a recent medical procedure, it was possible the infection had returned.
“Al’s very quick passing was a total shock to everyone, even the doctors,” says Kathy. “No one was more shocked than Al would have been, I say all the time. If he had any sense of it, he would have said so during our long conversation in the ER waiting room.”
Only three short weeks after Al’s death, Kathy decided to attend a Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR) program, but was determined she was only going to listen. Kathy had heard about BFO-MR years before through her participation in a walkathon the organization used to hold to raise money in support of their programs for parents grieving the death of a child. Since then, BFO-MR’s mandate has broadened substantially to support those who have experienced a variety of losses, not just the death of a child.
That first Living with Loss meeting started with a check-in with each participant and, according to plan, Kathy passed when it came to her and continued to listen quietly to the stories of others.
“But then, as the group check-out began, I felt so comfortable that I shared my whole story of shock and loss,” says Kathy. “And, since then, I’ve been to almost every meeting.”
With all the support she received through BFO-MR’s Living with Loss group, Kathy became interested in how others grieve and wanted to learn how to help others on their journeys. To this end, Kathy recently completed BFO-MR’s facilitator training where she says she was given tools to help others work through their grief.
Kathy still wears her wedding ring and she doesn’t refer to herself as a widow. “I didn’t end the marriage and neither did Al…well, not intentionally,” she says.
She also wears a necklace with an engraved likeness of Al on it as a way to have him —husband, father, grandfather – there in spirit, at the marriages of their sons and the wonderful birth of their first grandchild.