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Valentine's Day After the Loss of Your Partner

By Meghana Giridhar, February 9

While still working full-time, Janet Edmunson took care of her husband, Charles, during the five years he dealt with an Atypical Parkinson's disease called Corticobasal Degeneration.  This movement disorder with dementia caused extreme rigidity, eye movement programs, difficulty with fine motor movements, trouble finding words, slowed thinking, judgement issues and inappropriate behaviors.  Charles noticed his first symptom at age 45 and then died by the age of 50, in 2000.  Determined to give Charles the best rest of life as possible, Janet kept him involved as much as he wanted--maintaining friendships, traveling, and distributing his meaningful “thoughts for the day.”  Janet authored a book, Finding Meaning with Charles, about their experience of trying to stay positive amidst the phenomenal challenges.   1.    How significant was Valentine’s Day the year after the loss of your spouse? Charles’ love for me was very poignant. As his second wife, he would always tell me that I was the best thing that ever happened to him.  And he made me believe that. In the first year of dealing with his atypical Parkinson’s disorder, he didn’t want anyone else to know about the disease, so we only had each other. As we snuggled in bed each night, when he would tell me that I was the best thing that ever happened to him, he started adding phrases to it. Eventually, he had a little poem that he would recite each night.   “I love my Janet—my pretty, little, gentle Janet. The love of my life is Janet my wife. I love you so-so-so-so-so-so much—multiplied! I am very proud of the person you are! The best thing that ever happened to me is you!” So as I reflect on the significance of the first Valentine’s Day after his death, I feel that very special love.  I am sure that first year, and for a number of years afterward, I recited that poem out loud and have snuggled in the sense of his love.   2.    How did you deal with those feelings? I try to hold onto the precious feelings of closeness and love. I believe I never need to give them up, even though I remarried three years after Charles died. The theme song to the movie Titanic expresses my feelings. It says “You’re safe in my heart and my heart can go on and on.” I never have to give up that special love and closeness. It can stay in my heart for my entire life. And I chose to let it reside there. 3.    Have your feelings about the day changed since then? Someone told me once that “Love never divides, it always multiplies.” Even though it’s been 15 years since Charles died, I can hold onto my love for Charles and still have plenty of love left for my wonderful and supportive husband Jim. So when Valentine’s Day rolls around each year, I celebrate with Jim, but I still enjoy that love Charles expressed toward me so many years ago and keep it deep in my heart.     4.    What caused the change? I have realized that life moves on and I needed to move on with it. I found relief in knowing that I didn’t have to choose between holding on to my love for Charles and allowing myself to love someone else.   5.    What tips do you have for others who might be going through this? The main tip I have for anyone who has lost a spouse recently, is to have a plan for what you can do that is meaningful for you on Valentine’s Day. Think of ways you can remember and honor your spouse.  Read letters or correspondence you may have saved from your spouse.  Write down what you cherished about your relationship and what values you learned from your spouse that you are still taking forward with you.  Did you and your spouse have a Valentine’s Day ritual?  If so, consider how you can modify it and keep it going in some way.  Buy a Valentine’s Day card and write a note on it to your spouse, expressing your love and appreciation for the life you had together.  Enjoy a piece of chocolate, or buy one long stem red rose as a remembrance.   The most important thing is to plan for what you will do on Valentine’s Day so that it doesn’t creep up on you and hit you like a lead balloon.  Having a meaningful act that you will do that day will bring on emotions, but they will be emotions that you have welcomed, instead of those that surprise and overwhelm you. Meghana Giridhar serves as Content Manager and is part of eCareDiary's founding team. In her role, she oversees and edits content across all of eCareDiary's media platforms.

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Radio Show

How Poetry Creates Connections

March 8

eCareDiary's caregiving expert, Margery Pabst Steinmetz will speak to Gary Glazner, Founder of "The Alzheiemer's Poetry Project" about how poetry influences the way caregivers and their loved ones engage and in particular responses of those with Alzheimer's.

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