My husband’s aorta split and during emergency surgery he had a spinal stroke. Now his legs are paralyzed and he can’t return to our current home, which has lots of stairs. So our home is for sale and I’m building a wheelchair friendly town home for us. It’s supposed to be finished in a month, and I’ll move there before my husband.

I want to have everything ready for him: a hospital bed, bedside table, and shower wheelchair.

Thinking about all I have to do wakes me up at four in the morning. Once I’m awake, I rarely go back to sleep. I make coffee, sit on the couch, and assess my feelings. It has taken several early mornings to make me realize the impending move sparks grief feelings.

Though he hasn’t said it, I think my husband shares these feelings. Why are we grieving?

First, we are going to miss our home, a place that has sheltered us from storms, the death of family members, and allowed us to enjoy holidays, birthdays, and family celebrations. We’ve lived there for 20 years, and leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar will be hard.

Uncertainty is part of our grief. When we move to our town I will be my husband’s primary caregiver. Since I can’t do this alone, I contacted a home healthcare agency. I’ve tried to think of everything to make our town home a loving, nurturing place for my husband, but we won’t know if I’ve succeeded until we’ve lived there a while.

Worry contributes to my grief. Will my husband feel trapped in a smaller space? I worry about the cost of pending and future healthcare bills. I worry about the cost of medications and renting hospital equipment. I worry about buying an electric wheelchair for an estimated cost of $33,000. We’ve saved for this time all our lives, yet our funds could be gone in a flash.

Because I’ve studied grief for 20 years, I’m able to recognize my anticipatory grief. In the coming months my husband faces many challenges and I don’t know if his body can survive them. He is getting physical therapy at a local nursing home and this therapy will continue for months to come. In the past few weeks he has had a fever several times and that sparks my anticipatory grief.

Stress hypes my feelings. According to the The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, also known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, stress may contribute to illness. Psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed the scale in 1967. Life changing events on the scale were given different numerical ratings or weights. As an article on the Mind Tools website, “The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale” explains the test. “The higher the score, and the larger the weight of each event, the more likely the patient was to become ill.”

I’ve experienced many of the events on the scale: death of a close family member, change in health of a family member, spouse stops work, and will soon have a change in residence. Thankfully, I’m able to recognize my grief and take steps to combat it. Instead of wallowing in grief, I focus on my husband’s love and the new life we will share together.



Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit

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