Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

From shared grief, something good

Sunday, August 2, 2015
Posted By: 
Marlene Delaney

I am the youngest in a family of five. My sisters are 18, 15, and 12 years older than me and my brother is 5 years older than me. But I was the first to have a spouse die. And while I was the caregiver for Tom as he fought his losing battle against a brain tumor and after his death at the young age of 48, my family wasn’t around much for support. None of them live in Illinois but 3 of them are about a 2 hour drive away which isn’t that far but it always was too far for them. But as my daughter said then, they don’t know what we are going through so you have to forgive and understand their lack of compassion.

A year after my husband died, the husband of one of my sisters lost his several month long battle with leukemia at the age of 66. Having experienced living with a sick spouse and then losing a spouse myself, I knew how important it was to receive support so I emailed my brother-in-law every day, called my sister on a very regular basis, visited my brother-in-law in the hospital in Milwaukee several times a month, helped my nieces deal with losing a father, and in general, provided as much support as I could even though I was still grieving from the loss of my husband. And two months after my brother-in-law died, the son of one of my other sisters died suddenly at the age of 40. He left a young widow who severed ties with our family shortly after my nephew’s death which compounded the pain.

Three deaths in our family in a little over a year was a lot to deal with but out of all of our grief, there has been good. My siblings and I have gotten quite a bit closer. Prior to my husband dying, we all focused our attention on our own immediate families. We would get together once a year or so but the gatherings were superficial since we didn’t really know each other. Phone calls and emails between any of us were few and far between. We all sent Christmas cards and they were simply signed ‘love’ because that was expected.

Now we have sibling lunches every month or two. We catch up on our day to day lives and we share memories of our parents and our childhoods. And we laugh – a lot. We email, call, and text with much more frequency. And the few of us on Facebook make comments and ‘like’ each other’s posts and photos. The burden for this falls primarily on me because as the youngest, I have the most energy. But I know it is appreciated and our time together is enjoyed.

Would the dynamics in my family have changed if my husband hadn’t died? I don’t think so. Tom and I would be enjoying our life as empty nesters, going golfing, and taking trips without thinking much about my siblings. But he did die and as a result of that and of the other losses in my family, my siblings and I are closer. Would I prefer Tom to be alive – of course, but from something bad, something good has come. And I have to appreciate that.


Marlene is so wise and her writing so crisp, clear, and real. Her words are beacons of hope and support. Thank you, Marlene.

Thanks for sharing this story. My husband was also 48 when he died last year. Sooner or later I will meet up with this group!

God bless you and your family

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