I want to share with you the experience that I had three years ago that changed my life overnight. I was a regular housewife, with a vital and healthy husband and two loving kids and suddenly everything turned upside down when we found out that my husband was sick. I felt the world begin to crumble around me.
I became enraged, to the extent that I deeply questioned my faith and felt a great resentment toward God asking him, ‘why him?’
My husband was a good man, beloved by many. He was a man that always worked hard for his family so that we wanted for nothing. He knew that I had taken the news of his sickness tremendously poorly, he would tell me that we would fight it, and that we were not so special that we would be exempt from struggles.
He passed on 2 years later, with the last year seeing him in a near constant decline, something which caused immense heartache – to watch the man you love dying slowly. He passed away at the age of 56. I had spent most of my life with him from the age of 16. We had known each other for 40 years.
I eventually found out about ‘Minus One’. It was still difficult at first to take the leap and begin to attend, but from the time that I did I never looked back. I was welcomed from the first time that I went there. Nowadays I look forward to every Friday night, when our meetings are held.
My advice to those who go through this experience is to take the leap, and find the courage to attend, because you will feel better. The fact that there are those who share your experience and are willing to listen to you and to understand what you’ve been through is the greatest help.
I was born in Bormla, on the 8th of March 1962. I was 10 months old when my family went to live in Paola. I lived there until I was 22 and had gotten married to the most beautiful woman that I had ever met – I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with her.
Margaret was my world, we had 2 sons together, but this happiness was not to last, as she became sick at the age of 28. She spent the next 13 years of her life battling her illness before she passed away. Our sons were 18 and 14 respectively.
Next April will mark the 16th year since her passing.
I work as a printer at a private company, and 2 of my friends had experienced this tragic event before me, and they had sometimes mentioned the group – and it was thanks to this that I knew of the existence of ‘Minus One’ for widowers like myself, and I was soon invited to join.
At Minus One I found my second family. Sometimes I feel more understood there than I feel with my own family on the simple matter that these people have experienced what I have. I found kind and compassionate people. When one of us needs help, everyone does their best to step up and land a hand.
On a lighter note, the 1st thing I learned was how to avoid washing all of my clothes into a single colour, as for a long while all of my clothes that I put up for drying where all either red, green or blue. I feel like my neighbours must have thought that I was some sort of Caravaggio – or that I was a man who obsessively colour – coordinated all of my clothing down to my underwear!
The group offers friendly companionship, be it a walk, or a day visit to Gozo or Comino. I always do my best to attend. My favourite outings are the mass that we hold on the 1st of November, and on Mother’s and Father’s Day, as everyone listens with rapt attention to Father Saviour’s sermon. He knows us, and he knows what we have been through.
Everyone in the group’s committee plans meetings and activities to help us toward finding a happiness in our lives – laughter is never absent. There are also the times when we cry together, when we remember the loved ones that we have lost on days such as birthdays or the anniversaries of our loved one’s passing. We understand each other’s pain on these days.
I enjoy talking with the others, and I always suggest that discussions do not last more than an hour – we have to leave time for coffee and cake, after all.
When you lose someone with whom you have spent the majority of the best period of your life with, the loss is so great that it changes your life completely. You feel empty and aimless, we have all experienced this tragedy, but we also know that we have to move on, whether we want to or not. Everyone finds their own coping mechanism, most people look for support from their families and friends, and even from support groups. There are some that prefer to fend for themselves like I myself did in the first six years.
My cousin tried to convince me several times to go with her to support group meetings at ‘Minus One’. I was resistant, I thought to myself that I was already in a struggle enough as it was – I didn’t need to surround myself with the struggles of others. I made up excuses time and again to avoid attending – until I couldn’t come up with anymore, lest I embarrass myself in from of my cousin, and so I went.
The first time that I did go felt disastrous. I knew no one, and to the already established circles of friends I felt like a fish out of water (like the ones in Xemxija after the storm). If it were not for my cousin and her efforts on my part, I would have left within the first 15 minutes. To cut a long story short, slowly I began to become accustomed and integrated into the group – I even ended up on the group committee twice. From that day on I realised how useful it is to involve yourself into a group such as this one, and that by helping others you also help yourself.
As time progressed, I felt more and more accepted into the fold and I begin to appreciate the good that this service did to others. Every time I was asked to lend a helping hand, I would to it enthusiastically, because it gave me great satisfaction to share what kills I have with the rest of the group. I learnt a great deal from the others – everyone has something to offer, and this group is not lacking in varied talent.
The emptiness left by the passing of my wife is still, and it can never fully go away, but thanks to the group I am able to begin to heal the pain and the solitude.
A single living flower is still fragrant, but when there are others in the bouquet the fragrance is stronger – and it is the same for this group. There is strength in numbers, and the more we are the more good we can do, as long as we are true and sincere to one another.