Layers of an Onion

The end of April is a hard time for me. I’ve told you all that before. Four years ago my husband was battling lung cancer during the spring of 2019. It’s a battle he lost. As Spring comes each year, the last weekend in April is always hard.

Part of me loves the Facebook Memories app. I can go back and see how the grandkids looked two years ago. I can see when I planted the garden. I can see prom pictures of my kids who are grown and have kids of their own. But, on the flip side, I can see pictures like the one you see below.

I would give a lot to stop my life right at the moment I snapped this picture. It was an innocent moment… little did I know that hours later my life would completely and totally change.

About 18 hours after that first picture came this picture.

For those of you who are like me and don’t know how to read an X-ray, this is the picture of …

my husband’s broken neck. The cancer had moved from his lungs and took up residence in his neck, eating the bone and breaking his neck.

You can see why I want to stop time in the first picture. What came next was really hard. It wasn’t fun. We started to realize this cancer wasn’t going to the bump in the road we thought it would be. It was going to be a fork in the road and my husband and I were no longer going to be on the path with our family.

Greif is so weird.

I was talking to a cousin of mine who lost her husband. Her husband died two years ago. Both of us talk saying it seems like yesterday and it seems like it was forever ago.

Both of us talk and say during the time our husbands were sick, we have bright vivid memories of some stuff and other things we can’t remember much at all.

Both of us talk and say we have flashbacks from time to time…especially at this time of year when things were the worst for both of us.

During the smooth times, I often think I have the grief thing all figured out but I don’t. It’s really like an onion and comes in layers. Some layers are thin but they are hard to break free. Some are thick but pop off easily without even trying. Some are really more like a membrane but oh, they are hard to get off. Some have a little unusable piece along the edge. Each layer is different and is a challenge in its own way. Sometimes I cry when working with an onion…sometimes I’m just fine. Grief is so weird and so unpredictable…and so much like an onion!

Lately, I’ve been having some really annoying dreams. In every dream, my husband is there and he’s going somewhere and I can’t go. I beg to go with but he won’t let me. They are some pretty crappy dreams…They are all the same premise but all different settings. Sometimes it’s two dreams on the same night. UGH.

Part of me wishes I could tell my broken-hearted self who saw that X-ray for the first time that you will be okay. You will figure life out. You will figure out how to do all of the things you were worried about. You will cross-stitch bigger and more amazing projects. From time to time grief is going to catch you but you truly will figure out life again. It will come with struggles, you’ll miss him like crazy, but you will be okay. You will survive this.

It’s all grief and in a month or a day or a week, I’m sure it will settle down again. It’s just the layer of the onion I’m going through right now. I need to be patient. This is the nature of grief.

25 thoughts on “Layers of an Onion”

  1. Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about. We got THROWN into cancer and impending death when we saw the x-ray. It was a glioblastoma (brain tumor that leaves few survivors) and were told ‘one year if you’re lucky’ and we had a year. That was 10 1/2 yrs ago and I still grieve nearly every single day. I’m sorry you’re at this stage now/again.

  2. You’re not alone, Jo, I have some crappy dreams about my late husband too. The bad ones are about him leaving me on purpose, which I think is my mind and heart trying to work things out. I have dreams of daily life or that he is back again too. I look at those as if he is visiting me and take comfort from them. I pray you start to have more good dreams than bad ones.

  3. Judith Fairchild

    I understand what you’re going through even though it’s been 32 years I will occasionally have dreams where my husband comes a d we start off somewhere then he turns and I have to leave and just walks away. I wake up knowing it was a dream but the hurtis fresh. Our minds do crazy things with our memories. It’s like a friend said grief doesn’t go away, your get used to it.

  4. Cynthia from Nebraska

    I often wonder about dreams in which my parents are both present. I hope yours become less disturbing and more comforting.

  5. Our 43 yr. old son passed away at the end of Jan. 2020 and I know what you mean about it seeming like it just happened and at other times it seems like forever ago. What gets me the most is thinking about his two kids growing up without their dad. They were just 6 when he passed.

  6. Thank you for your very touching post. I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to be in your situation. But I am inspired by your very brave and honest sharing of your feelings, and I see your post as a sort of preparation for whenever (or if) this might happen to me. Thank you.

  7. Jo, I don’t know what you are going through, but I can imagine what it must be like. I was recently discussing death with my sister who lost her husband when he was 51, and she has said how it was for her. She didn’t mention any dreams, but said at the some of the weirdest times she would just break out crying and people wondered what in the world caused it. I pray that little by little more healing will take place.

  8. Same here– agree with everything you said and shared. This is year 38 since I went thru similar. Cancer.. husband had just had 50th birthday when he passed away.
    I was 47-with 4 kids. Yes-seems like so long ago–yet just yesterday. Have dreams too, though not any like you have had. But the layers-are never ending.
    It’s still all there for my kids and me even after all this time. A person just has to keep putting 1 foot in front of the other. I survived MRSA/staff eating my spine too-18 years ago and 2 years later colon cancer–still here-at 85 years. God seems to have wanted me around for some reason–hard to understand why he had to take my husband, one of the good ones. Thinking of you & the struggle!! Hang in there!!

  9. Having never been on Facebook, is it possible to turn off the memories section when it gets around this time of year? I don’t know if that would help. Hugs.

  10. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Praying for you. Even after 50 years, there are still those sneaker waves that surprise me. They do get farther apart, for which I am grateful. Memories are sweeter and less painful. I only remember one dream, many years ago.

  11. Pamela Hauge

    i am so sorry Jo. I was widowed in 2014 unexpectedly. that picture says a thousand words. you by his side, his strong hands, worn blue jeans. i saw it more than once with my Jim and always by his side. i have similar dreams about my Jim. its good to know its not unusual. God bless you, there’s a story unfolding, just not as we expected. always remember God is good

  12. Jo I am so sorry that grief hits harder during the last few days of a loved ones life. My sis says said when its her daughters anniversary , she was only 27, when ovarian cancer took her in 12 weeks. She says you never get over the loss, you have to learn to live with it. Love and God Bless Jo to you and your wonderful family. xx

  13. Grieving with you, Jo. Every day, each breath is a gift. In the end, all that matters is how we loved and you love so well. Thank you for your openness, thank you for allowing so many to love in return.

  14. Shirley from Calmar

    Thank you for sharing and every one else. As A Willy Nelson song called “something you get through”, says You don’t get over it, you get through it. I understand when you speak of the time of year. It has been 9 years this week since my husband passed away from a multitude of issues. Those dreams are so real and you wake up at a point of intense mourning. My dreams of him have gone to brighter more celebratory type, but My daughter was taken by covid a year and a half ago, leaving her husband and 4 teenagers, and dreams have come back as not being able to find her. They are so painful to wake up from because all of us are searching and cannot find her. I know the dreams will get better but I think it is all a process to help us get through it. Knowing so many more have gone through that, is helpful.

  15. Janine Baker

    I can’t even begin to imagine how you feel-yet!! My husband has been declining in the last several years with kidney issues. The last year has been a fast slide and he is now having to do daily dialysis at home. He has improved somewhat, but is not what he hopes to be again. I am just grateful that he has made some improvement and I still have him here. I do so appreciate you sharing your journey, it reminds us it can always be worse!! Thoughts & prayers for you & the family. Hugs,

    1. I just had to send you a special hug. My husband had kidney cancer and was on peritoneal dialysis for approximately 8 years until his heart failed. I so know the road that you are on and just wanted to send hope for your husband’s progress. Jo, your story is so like my friend’s whose farmer husband died of lung cancer and who is currently working on a tough onion layer. I shared this post with her. Thanks for sharing with us.

  16. Carolyn in Illinois

    I always equate that feeling to standing in the ocean, feeling ok, strong even, then out of the blue a wave hits and knocks me under. I manage to fight my way up again, and continue on. I have also had the dreams and wake up feeling sad and alone. It’s gotten better and I hope the same for you.

  17. Rosanna Bontrager

    Thank You for sharing your feelings. Prior to 2019 I had lost 3 sisters and my parents. Then from May 2019 to May 2022 I lost 5 more siblings. Then nearly 4 weeks ago I lost my husband (53years old) in a accident that instantly killed him. Leaving me a widow at age 52. We were married for 22 and half years. We didn’t have any children. I still have one brother and one sister. ( I am the baby of the family) But they live out of state. The neighbors, church family and community have done so much for me.
    So over the years I have “peeled” many onions.
    Someone gave me a book to read called “Tear Soup, A Recipe For Healing After Loss” a simple illustrated book by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen.

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