Widow Wednesday: Giving Up Hope

Several months ago, when I was dropping the kids off at my Grandmother’s house, my attention was caught by a story on the TODAY show. The story was about a person who had woken from a coma.  I tend to notice all of those stories, but then this had the phrase I hate. The patient woke up when, “the family was just about to give up hope”. This isn’t just a pet peeve. This phrase cuts me to the core every single time I hear it. There are so many things about the phrase that get me. And I’m not going to claim that any of them are rational. I know those stories aren’t about *me*. Regardless, they get me. So, if you can’t put up with some crazy, you should stop reading here.

When a person wakes from a coma, just in the nick of time, and the family never gave up hope? It implies that I did, and if I hadn’t, Mark would have woken up. Because, you know, just a little more hope would have turned those black brain scans back to ones full of light and activity. A little more hope would have cleared his lungs. A little more hope would have made it possible for him to swallow without choking to death. If only I’d had more hope.

Mark’s dad, Larry, literally never gave up hope that Mark would wake. We were at the hospice unit where Mark would die in 8 days and Larry was still urging Mark to wake. It got so painful that I asked him to stop when I was in the room. I just couldn’t hear it. So, if just having hope wakes someone from a coma? Larry would have been enough hope for all of us.

I hear “hope” and “faith” the same way. If only I’d had more hope/faith. Which means what? I didn’t pray right? The hundreds of strangers lifting Mark up in whatever prayer/thoughts/pleading to their own personal God or high power didn’t count? That’s what I hear when someone says they had faith.

I know. I know that, logically, nothing would have changed if I’d had more hope. I think it hurts me to hear that phrase, too, because if Mark had woken up…he wouldn’t have been Mark any longer. He would have been a shell. Probably. At some point, I knew it was better to let him go. His body could have lived on life support and in a coma for a long time. He had already fought of lung infections that would have quickly killed older, sicker patients. But we had talked about it and I knew he wouldn’t want to live like that. But, if I’d had more hope, and he had woken up, I would have sentenced him to a life trapped in a broken body and mind. Probably. But, I’ll never know for sure.

You can’t imagine how hopeless that still makes me feel.

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  1. My uncle had a catastrophic heart attack a few years back and he was put on life support. He came from a family of seven with one of them being a doctor who is well versed in palliative care and several folks who have medical backgrounds.

    My Uncle Chris was on a vent for a long time and finally the decision was made to take him off and just “let him go.” My mom–who was closest to my Uncle Chris–didn’t want that to happen. She was *sure* that she could bring him out of it. She *knew* she could make. It. Happen.

    In the end, Uncle Chris was taken off the vent and my mom and I were there when he took his last breath. She hoped and hoped but, in the end, Chris was just not meant for this world any longer.

    Sometimes, we can hope and pray and do everything within us to keep someone here but, in the end, it just doesn’t happen.

    And that sucks So. Much.

  2. Sherry, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I’m sure I can’t begin to know the type of pain that you must have gone through, and the types of thoughts you have now when hearing stories like that on the news. Personally, I think the journalist is just being lazy. Trying to create a little more drama…etc. Still I feel for what you’re saying.

  3. Hi Sherry, Amy & Sean
    This is a widow from NJ,
    I want to use the heading similar to yours for support group- on going in my county and possibly the state through meetups. Wish me luck- today this seems like something I can manage – so I am working at it.
    So, well before posting – I was surfing the web for term “Widow Wednesday” to see if I might be duplicating efforts and your blog came up. Not the same as a support group but I read it since I was here, yes even after Amy gave the warning I continued reading it because – well as widows learn and eventually know inour guts that widowhood is nothing but crazy to everyone else- non widowed that is-like having kids – those without are clueless. I lost my husband to cancer in 08″ and have been a solo parent that while grieving myself – I need to attend to and be mindful to my children and REALLLLY watch what they are exposed to and whom I let into their lives and heads…way to many inappropriate things said around children of loss. I have a great shirt that I got last August at a widowed peoples conference (called it camp) the shirt won out over – Yes, I am a widow and you can not borrow any money- The shirt says “Maybe one day you’ll be in a better place too”
    – out of hundreds of widowed people- this got the most votes…we all had the same gut reactions to having heard this said to us carelessly by lazy ignorant people. – Like our beloved partners would of felt that there was any place better than being with us or watching their children get born and grow up without them because they are in a BETTER PLACE. Screw them. We did nothing wrong it is not like we DID NOT PRAY hard enough nor HOPE long enough to wait for a miraculouse recovery.
    People die- some die later some die sooner and there are all different types of brain injury, cancer, car accidents, depressions and illnesses that go undetected – we the bereaved did not do anything wrong.

    1. Stacey, It sounds like you went to Camp Widow. I’m so glad you got to go and connect with those folks. I’ve wanted to go for several years now, but haven’t been able to manage. Thanks for stopping by!

    2. I too lost my husband to cancer. Well intentioned people can say the stupidest things! We actually had a nurse tell us one of the worst, as we were leaving the hospital a week before he died. She said, “you know, God still performs miracles all the time. All you have to do is ASK him for it, and BELIEVE.”. Ooohhhhh? THAT was all we had to do, huh? As if it had never crossed our minds to pray for (beg for) a miracle and more time! I appreciate your blog!

      1. Marcie~I’m so sorry about your husband. It’s amazing the stuff that will come out of people’s mouths in times of stress. Sometimes they just don’t know what to say, but dang, the stupid can come spewing out! If nothing else, this experience has made me much more careful with my words. I hope you come back to visit with me!

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