Is Love Possible After Your Lover Dies?
Cary Valentine was interviewed during Michelle Marchant Johnson’s Fuel Your Feminine Fire summit. I immediately recognized that, unlike other men I have dated, he had done his grief work. After the death of his wife, Wendy, of 22 years, he took two years to feel and heal his grief. This is the story of that journey through cancer as a beloved caregiving husband and how he found love again.
You may email him at: email@example.com or learn more about him at his website: caryvalentine.net.
Georgena: Tell us about your marriage to Wendy and that date of her diagnosis.
In the Beginning of the End
Cary: At that point, we had been married for 22 years when we received the diagnosis in 2010. We had a crevasse about halfway through our marriage and hit rock bottom. We learned to turn things around. Then we became relationship coaches for others and helping them because of the journey we went on to turn our lives around. Which lead to workshops, and people said, “Hey, you guys should write a book.”
We said,” What? How do you do that?” We ended up writing the book, In Love Forever.
Everything was seemingly fine. In retrospect, prior to the diagnosis, what happened was we were musicians. She was rehearsing the chords right before we were to perform, and something was a little odd because she was quick to pick that stuff up and keep it in her mind. I thought, you know this stuff. Now I see it was the effects of the tumor in her brain.
Shortly thereafter, she woke up one morning and didn’t know her name. It was like being fine and to that level of intensity.
It was a very odd moment. A very scary moment for both of us.
We went down to the emergency room at the hospital and told them what was happening. They immediately did a brain scan and came back and unfortunately gave the diagnosis at that moment which they shouldn’t have. The technician said, “You have a brain tumor, and we are flying you from Kauai, where we lived, to Honolulu by helicopter to have brain surgery. It was just so shocking. So acute. So uncouth and noncaring. As if we weren’t even people. Out of nowhere, all this happened. That was very intense, and I would say the way it was expressed was very unkind. Very unempathetic and uncaring.
Wendy looked at me at that moment and said, “I don’t want to die.”
The next day we met with the brain surgeon, and she had brain surgery. The brain surgeon met with me while Wendy was in recovery. “We have to wait for the pathology report, but it appears to be Glioblastoma. There is a 99.99% chance she will die. We don’t have the medicine yet to get around this.”
Again, went from a day ago not knowing her name to ‘a diagnosis that there is no getting around. And most people die pretty quickly from diagnosis.’
When Wendy came to, she was back to being her normal self. As if nothing had happened. There was this blip, and the tumor was taken out, and she was speaking and acting like a regular person.
The hardest thing I had to do as she was recovering in the hospital was, I had to tell her what the doctor told me because it wasn’t told to her from him. It was the hardest because I had to tell her, “You can’t get out of this because of the way this tumor acts and responds.” It was really, really hard.
Wendy had a spirit “Let’s do what we can do. See what can help.” We went through the regular drugs. Sidebar note: so many wonderful things about Hawaii, but they do not have a teaching hospital doing research. They provide standard medical care.
Which for this is not a good process. She went through chemo, and there was no change. We went to see the oncologist, and he said, “Prepare. You are going to die.” Dropping that with no care, no heart. Forgetting this is a human being.
Ultimately, we took it upon ourselves to fight this fight ourselves and went to the mainland for treatment, so she lived two years to the day from her diagnosis.
We had to be the researchers, though, to find the place. It was a lot! We found a cutting-edge treatment after several failed attempts. The tumor shrunk and stayed that way for a long, long time. (Side note: It was the Burzynski Clinic: Advance Integrative Cancer Treatment in Houston, TX. He recognized there is a fighting element in our bodies that, when it is strong, people do not get cancer. He replicated our natural body that became a medicine. He first worked with children who had brain tumors. It was so successful that he worked with people of all ages. This natural medicine is called antineoplastons. I gave it to Wendy through a port.)
We had a nurse that came to the house who helped Wendy go through the fear. It was easier for her to share that with him than with me. In retrospect, she did not want to burden me with what was going on with her. He was a support to me as well because he had gone through his own fearful journey. To this day, he and I are still friends.
There were challenges with this treatment, and one of them was communication which was frustrating for both of us. She finally came to a place where she said, “I’m okay to die. I am at peace with it.” Literally, in 24 hours, 48 hours, that was the beginning of the end for her.
Georgena: Did you have that final talk setting you free to live your life after she was gone?
We Agreed to Find Love Again
Cary: Yes. Even before this, years earlier, we had had the talk that if one of us dies first, which is usually inevitable in a couple, we both agreed to find love again. Based on the love we were experiencing, go forward and find love again.
Georgena: What was your Anticipatory Grief process?
The Anticipatory Grief process
Cary: We had a zoom conversation with her family as it was getting toward the end so we could have closure.
From the beginning, I knew what we were up against. This is a very, very aggressive tumor that could double in size in a month.
But if you are alive, there is still a chance. There is still a chance.
First, let me say I did not feel alone because, fortunately, I had my brother, who is a chiropractor, and his wife is a neonatal nurse. They were a huge, huge support for me during this time, so I could ask them questions. They have friends who were researchers and helped me deal with the medical side. Questions we could ask the doctors. Explore different things.
I put the grief way, way back. I told myself, No, we are marching forward doing everything possible. I was going to give her quality of care as long as she still wants that and is okay with that. That was the focus until the very end. When that happened, it happened very quickly.
I reached out to her brain surgeon because something else was happening in her brain, a new development in her MRI. I asked, “Is it possible to do surgery on this area, and would it help?”
He said, “Cary, when I was doing the surgery on Wendy, if I were a betting man and I am not, the aggressiveness of what I was dealing with in her brain, I would not have given her three-quarters of a year to live. Whatever you two did were truly miracles. I know you are not going to want to hear this, but you got so much extra time with her. And you should feel grateful
for that. And for her, she was a trooper. She was an Outlier.”
Be Real in the Process
Cary: I remember calling my brother, and when I recited to him what the surgeon said, I lost it. I said, “What the F*** was all this for? We did so much. We tried so hard to not have this happen, and it happened.”
It (the grief) came in one huge tsunami wave of emotion. It was a lot to bear, and even though I was not prepared, I was prepared to accept this because I had gone through my own spiritual journey on my own self. When it all happened, it happened so quick for her, and [my] the healing process took time.
The Supermarket Tsunami
Cary: I am sure those who deal with grief will relate to what I am about to say. I would be in the supermarket, and there would be music overhead, or I’d see a headline on People magazine and break down into huge crocodile tears. OUT OF NOWHERE. OUT OF NOWHERE. I just accepted it. I didn’t fight it. And every time after it happened, there would be a healing. I felt better.
I just found there was a natural journey. I couldn’t push this away. Even if I wanted to. Shortly after she passed, I was getting back into my regular life.
When it hit, it hit hard.
The Grief Research Says Two Years
Cary: That is about right. It was two years for me.
I also realize everyone’s journey is different.
Georgena: Unique. And you allowed yourself to navigate the Ocean of Emotion. And I have heard the Gentle Grief in your voice several times during this interview.
Cary: And as a side note, my parents passed. Two years between them. Then Wendy. Two years. Then two years. Then two years.
My parents’ passings helped. Honestly, her passing was the hardest.
Georgena: Yes. She’s Your Person. You had gone to the depths during your marriage. Then came back up, creating this beautiful work together, writing the book, and then she’s gone.
It Was a Bit Odd to Get Back Into the Dating Game
Cary: I was 19 when I met Wendy, and she was 12 years older. So life now had changed so drastically. There was no online dating when we were dating and all that stuff. I started getting back into dating and experiencing things. It taught me a lot. It taught me what I had with Wendy. It also taught me that I had grown through the grieving process, and I wanted more. I was clear in my values and as a person. Her passing taught me that life is very precious.
You got no time to waste. You Just Never Know
So I shifted my personality to be as honest, as candid, and forthright as I possibly could every moment of every day. It’s important to tell the people that you love, “I love you.” And Repeat that. Tell the people that you care about, “I care about you. I appreciate you.” Because you just never know.
Fortunately, as I think about it, there was my aunt who was right there from the beginning. She would call me all the time. She was like that emotional support and the connection to my family. Living in Hawaii, we were the only ones here. We were very isolated. Even though there are friends like that who supported me, and I have three brothers, each in their own way assisted us.
It was my aunt who was really there for me.
When cancer comes to a family, you get to see how everyone holds cancer and their particular belief system and their way of handling it. There were some people that did not see (agree with) how we handled it. Their way was ‘Get over it already. Let her go.’ It was very painful to hear. I constantly checked in with her because this was HER life.
As you care for others, the care comes back to you.
Georgena: Did you start dating after two years?
Cary: Yes. I wanted to be with someone who was wanting to grow, willing to look at their stuff and take themselves on to grow. Because what I have gone through, I wanted to grow.
So, I dated many people. Always listening, feeling into the connection. The last relationship before I met my wife, I didn’t pay attention to something on the second date. I noticed it but didn’t address it in that moment. Her pattern continued of ‘I see my stuff, and I don’t want to take responsibility for it.’ Had I spoken up on that second date, the relationship probably would not have continued. We are just not a match anymore. If something is just a little flag or a red flag, ADDRESS IT.
You can’t fall in love with someone’s potential. It’s got to be actualized here and now. If they are not willing to talk about it, shift and change now, they probably won’t be a year from now. Then you’ve invested a year of your life.
After six years of dating, I was back to relationship coaching, working with people who were focused on dating online. I wanted to find someone naturally. I began to create this picture in my mind. Not of what she looked like, but who she was.
I like to play basketball. So, while I was shooting baskets, my brain would speak to me and vision the essence of the person I wanted to be with. I would leave the basketball court inspired. I could feel ‘She’s getting close. I don’t know where she’s going to come from. I don’t know when. She’s getting close.’ The doubts were gone.
I met a lot of people that were potential dating people, and I liked. But they weren’t the full thing. So, I had to tell them, “I like you, and this is not going to work as a dating relationship.”
I was clear I am not going on a date with someone who is not going to be a match. I know it’s going to happen.
So, I went to an annual conference for Artists in Residence funded by a grant by the State Foundation in Culture and the Arts. So, all the people there were artists in residence in the elementary schools. Dancers, musicians, visual artists, and more.
There was a woman there I’d known for nine years, but we’d never sat down and had a conversation. She knew Wendy because Wendy came to one of the conferences while she had cancer.
So, the two of us sat down and had a glorious conversation.
Two years later, she became my wife, and I am the father figure to her two young children.
So, can love come back?
Love is wanting to come back.
I want that loving experience every day.
Cary’s Three TIPS for The Reader
- Recognize what your pains and frustrations and recycling patterns are. Seek out friends or a professional. Get the help. Because consciously or unconsciously, you want to have love again.
- Know you are worthy of love just as you are. You are loved just as you are.
- Look at your doubts, fears, and insecurities. They are not there to take you down. They are there to speak to you to help you achieve your dreams and the level of love that you want. The doubts come up as your inner sparing partner and will not speak kindly. Listen to them. Work with them.
What if you are on your deathbed and realize you did not recreate the love again? You will have regrets.
LOVE spelled backward is EVOLVE. To Love is to grow, to blossom, to flourish.
Are you willing to DARE to Love?
When we put in anchors:
I choose to attract my beautiful partner now.
Allow your heart to become a lighthouse beaming out to attract the perfect partner.
Don’t Let Go of It
Expect Challenges Along the Way
Life is here to Support you
For the full interview with Cary, CLICK HERE.
Use the Access Passcode: qY%@0n*D
To get specifics on turning on the lighthouse of your heart, fast forward to minute 29.
EnJOY Cary’s book, In Love Forever, HERE.
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
Cary Valentine Bio
Through many years of self-discovery & an unquenchable thirst for deep love, Cary Valentine has uncovered secrets to what attracts and transforms romantic relationships. For over a decade as a certified relationship expert, Cary has been assisting thousands of couples and singles, around the world to transform their relationship and dating challenges to creating joyous, sustaining relationships through his In Love Forever system.
Cary has a unique ability to empathize with people’s pain and challenges, as he has transformed his life out of depression, being on the brink of divorce and caring for his late wife, Wendy, 24/7 as she battled for two years with brain cancer to living a juicy life.
He is an international speaker, award-winning, best-selling author, and has been featured on ABC, CBS & PBS Networks.
Cary found love again and is a husband and father of two living in Maui, Hawaii.
You are gonna love feeling his passion for life…
Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about him at his website: caryvalentine.net.
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