Editorial: How do we heal from the death of a spouse?

  • Paul J. and Julie P. Schlueter of Deer Park.

    Paul J. and Julie P. Schlueter of Deer Park.

Updated 4/16/2018 10:46 AM

We had a brief conversation the other day with an Arlington Heights woman named Kathleen Jordan, whose husband Richard passed away 21 years ago, and we asked, does the grief ever get easier?

"You never get over it," she said. "You learn to live with it, but you never get over it."


Twenty-one years. "You never get over it."

Patty Hindes, whose husband Corey died a year and a half ago in a motorcycle crash we describe in today's editions, told our editor that the world is made up of two kinds of people -- those who've lost a spouse and those who haven't -- and as much as friends might care, unless they've lost a spouse, it's impossible for them to fully relate.

Why a series like "Last Kiss"?

Death, of course, is universal. We all know that. And there are the marriage vows, "Until death do us part." We all have heard that.

We have a sense sometimes that because we know these things, that makes them somehow relatively manageable. Painful, certainly. But something you mourn, and then get past. If we don't have that sense, most of us at least behave like that's what we think.

For some people, maybe it is that manageable. One take-away we've already drawn from Last Kiss is that different people cope differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and no call to judge the grieving.

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But we also have come to see this: Most people are changed by the death of a spouse. Certainly, their lives are changed by the loss.

That stands to reason. Our spouse is our life partner, the person we're most intimate with, who we share the most experiences with, who knows us most deeply. The person who can finish our sentences, or understand what the sentence was going to be even if we only spoke it with a look, not a sound. The person who, in a good relationship, accepts us despite our faults, who always has our back. The person we love with all our heart.

Most of us don't get over that kind of loss in whatever unstated period of mourning society might set. We don't get over it just because it's expected. We don't get over it just because we're old.

Why a series like "Last Kiss"?

In a previous editorial, we invited widows and widowers to share their advice and their stories. We've been overwhelmed with the response. Not just the volume of it, but even more striking, the depth of it, too.

Many sent page after page after page. Many sent eulogies. One widow sent a short book. Another wrote and rewrote and rewrote, trying to get her feelings right. One widower referred us to an essay he had written that his daughter developed into an award-winning short film. (She's agreed to let us share it with you online, and we will be doing so later this week.)


And such thoughtfulness and eloquence. This week, we're highlighting some with prominent presentations. But there are so many others we could highlight. We're publishing as many of these articles as we can, and if we have to cut them for space in print, we're running them full on dailyherald.com.

Why a series like "Last Kiss"?

The volume and depth of the response underscores the enduring intensity of this life experience. For that reason alone, it needs to be discussed and recognized, not left in the shadows of "That's just part of life."

Those of us who haven't lost a spouse need to understand what we can do to support and comfort those who have. And to learn from those who have because one day, their widowed world could be ours.

Those of us who have lost a spouse deserve to learn from others who are coping with the same experience and to understand that it's OK to talk about it.

The Last Kiss. How do we heal?

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