Spring breaks through winter of grief

My springtime garden is a picture of blooming flowers and the sun shines warmly to welcome an idyllic day.   I can appreciate such beauty now, but six months ago to this day, another Friday,  my beloved husband, Olivier Foubert slipped quietly from this life losing his 16-month battle with advanced prostate cancer.

His death plunged me into despair. I had lost my “lovely Frenchman’’, the hero of my memoir From France With Love,  and our wonderful married life, which was cut short cruelly after only four years.   Life became one black cloud of excruciating grief.

There we were cruising along a honey-laden highway of a later life of travel,  planning our new retirement home and enjoying a seachange at Hindmarsh Island.  But, it was the Beatles  who sang that “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’’ and in a moment, in January 2011, Olivier  was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We were heartbroken.   Our retirement dreams were crushed.  The foundations of our new home were still drying out.  Chemotherapy over the months helped and we moved into our new home and established our garden together.

All too soon I was alone for the first time in my life and consumed with sadness and uncontrollable weeping.  I hovered between the need for friends and family to support me and the need for solitude to grieve.  I did not eat and I could not face shopping  in supermarkets.  Bed was my refuge and the hardest thing was to get out of it each morning.

Depression sank its teeth into my heart but somehow I  groped along the grieving path until a new grand-daughter, Scarlett arrived to bring joy.   Recovery from grief is a work in progress and could take years to find that joie de vivre again.   One positive move was attending a 10-week grief support group and counsellor Faye,  helped us struggle together to face awesome feelings of fear, powerlessness and rage.

We received guidance to live with loss.  It isn’t only the loss of a loving partner, but also a lifestyle.    I felt deeply the loss of my identity as a wife and partner and I needed to re-construct a new self.

So I looked for new things to do and outward towards community.   I copied Olivier, an avid reader and began read in bed at nights, then mornings, too.  I began visiting the library, joined a book club and accepted every invitation. But the nights were long and lonely.

I began walking our puppy Oscar once more and on Saturdays when I ate breakfast at the local cafe  he would attract attention.   My children organised weekend family events and I followed Olivier’s footsteps into our garden planting and pottering, watering and weeding.   Friends brought plants to help.  I took over Olivier’s role selecting music, buying wine and taking photographs for my website www.nadinewilliams.com.au.

Ritual has healing power, too.  I still arrange flowers for the house;  I still learn French and I still write. Recently I resumed my charity work.  It is not such a struggle now to fend off sadness and I sense a new life is taking shape.



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6 Comments to “Spring breaks through winter of grief”

  1. By Janet Schwarz, 09/11/2012 @ 10:26 am

    I was saddened to hear that Olivier had passed away just as you were both looking forward to new beginnings. I have just read your piece in the Advertiser magazine this morning. It was a really beautiful piece from the heart. We have retired to the Barossa but are leading an active retirement. I have been (with Brian) to work in Darwin, Port Macquarie, Horsham and Thailand and soon will go to New Zealand to fill in over Ad vent and Christmas. We also had a holiday in Hawaii to spend time with American friends from PNG days whom we hadn’t seen since 1986.
    It is amazing how God works in our lives isn’t it? Olivier has passed away and then a new life comes into your life – a beatiful little grand-daughter.
    Brian’s and my thoughts are with you at this difficult time.

    • By nadine, 11/11/2012 @ 8:15 am

      Thankyou Janet… Today 11h is six months since Oli died and also the day my new grand-daughter, Scarlett will be baptised in the chapel at Concordia College where we married and where I held his funeral service. It seems such a powerful connection for me reflecting the passing of such a happy time in my life with Olivier as my partner – now ended – and the beginning of such a wonderful journey as grandma of this exquisite little girl who is the living image of my son Tyson. Do keep in touch and if ever you are in the Barossa long enough, I would love to come up for the day and visit you both. Nadine.

  2. By Barbara Schulz, 11/11/2012 @ 10:38 pm

    Dear Nadine,
    I read your article in Fridays Boomer Magazine.It was a thought provoking article for me especially.I lost my husband Russell of nearly 29 wonderful years.He died suddenly of Type 1 Diabetes.He was away in Sydney on a conference and died in his hotel room.My life has been turned upside down and although it was over 4 1/2 years ago and I have moved on a lot,in my grief,there are still days when I do not cope well at all.I remember at 6 months that things were just getting tougher for me and that reality was just setting in that he was gone and not coming home.The grief comes in waves of ups and downs.I too belong to a grief group formed from a 6 week coping with grief course.We have all lost our partners and so we have the common bond that all of my friends do not understand because they all still have their partners.
    Someone ,a young newly trained Doctor and family friend once said to me ” that westerners do not do grief very well.” We need to talk about it more ,share our stories,shed our tears,and then the healing will come.I am a trained nurse and thought I knew what it meant to lose someone ,in reality I had no idea.
    Next year I am planning to do a councilling course in the aim to be able to give back and give support and be able to empathize with others.
    Today would have been hard for you to go back to Concordia College(Our 3 children attended there)I had a difficult time in church today,a loved and familiar song is enough to set me off,and one that Russell played a lot.
    Thank you for your article and take care not to rush about too much,
    Take time to grieve.
    Barb Schulz

    • By nadine, 12/11/2012 @ 9:45 am

      Your story is so sad, too. When your husband simply did not come home from a conference must have been so heart-wrenching and all those regrets that you weren’t there for him. I have already decided not to take on anything this year and have refused a few board positions at this time. I will see what 2013 brings. I can sense I have changed enormously and no longer wish to rush about and I am enjoying establishing Olivier’s memorial garden. Do read the story I have just posted on my website about yesterday’s baptism…kind regards and I shall put your email address on my web distribution list. Nadine

      • By Barbara Schulz, 16/11/2012 @ 6:27 pm

        Dear Nadine,
        Thanks for your response,I think that the hardest thing is learning to accept the fact that they are not coming home.The coming of Christmas is always difficult,everyone is is getting ready,rushing about and really all you want to do is forget the whole thing.Just remember to not be too hard on yourself and one day at a time.A web site that I found helpful and they send you a daily devotion,bible text and some words of encouragement and prayer…

        http:www.griefshare.org/dailyemails I did try to forward it onto you but it failed.I have just started the round again and they go for 365 days,no pressure but during my first time when the email arrived it was just what I was experiencing it may help you.
        Another hint for you as these special days come and go Christmas , Birthdays anniversaries etc.
        the days leading up to the event are usually worse than the day itself.
        Keep in touch,
        Talking ,Tears and Time the 3 T’s in this journey..
        If you ever want to talk let me know.

  3. By Jenny, 19/11/2012 @ 7:57 am

    Dear Nadine
    I read your article can you help
    Married 24 years to my wonderful husband Gerard.. whom passed away 23 April 2012. In his sleep heart ATT only 53.Why can live be so cruel..He wasn’t well kept asking in the end begging him to go to the docs ask friends to help me to get him to a doctors. one morning after a beautiful night Gerard went down stairs to watch the bikes which he loved .Our daughter leah who is 19 came home a 6am to get ready for work from her boyfriends place and said why isnt dad up i yelled from up stairs just give him a nudge, she yelled he is not moving straight away I new i ran down stairs he was so so so cold he was gone my daughter phoned 000 I couldn’t just kept screaming wake up wake up…I called my other daughter Stacey who is 23 to come home….Its been 6 mths 3 weeks Im still numb cant work sleep just so lost with out him.. Im so worried about our girls Stacey has been really quite Leah angry. We talk every day about gerard and have photos every were of him its just killing me to see him ever day and him not being in my arms at night…Please please help

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