Returning to the Hospital Stirs Fears, Hopes

I recently experienced a personal milestone that may not seem like much to the outside world.  But it’s something that I know other widows who are trying to navigate this road will understand.

I went to a doctor’s appointment with someone I have been dating to find out whether he was really sick…or just in excruciating pain.  The appointment wasn’t IN the hospital but it was in an office within a block of the hospital, an area I’ve avoided for the past 4 years, since my husband died.

The good news is that the doctor believes that what they had seen in his MRI is benign, which is what I tried to focus on as she explained that screws, metal plates, and painful surgery will be necessary to fix the problem that he has.

I know it’s not me going through it…but I’ll take that over the alternative any day.

We had spent a couple of weeks, wondering and worrying how what the doctor was going to tell us would affect the future.  Before his initial appointment, I remember sitting down to dinner and wondering if this would be the last “normal” evening we would spend together.

Because, as we all know…once you hear certain news…you can never go back.

Before his appointment with the orthopedic oncologist (someone I hope we never see again), we busied ourselves with the small home improvement project of painting my son’s room.  Or I should say, I kept him busy painting my son’s room because my shaky hand and impatient nature usually make my projects look like I enjoy painting while blindfolded.

As he rolled, brushed, and filled in holes, trying to cover up the disastrous paint job I had done 6 years ago (with red paint, no less), I said, “Aren’t you grateful that we have this project today that’s mindless but keeps us busy until your appointment?”

He gave me kind of a deadpan stare and said, “Yeah.  Thanks.”

What can I say?  I’m always thinking of others.

As I showered and got ready to leave for the appointment later that afternoon, I felt that familiar tightening of stomach muscles that I didn’t know I had and tried not to think about what might be coming.  But I couldn’t help it.

A million scenarios ran through my mind.  What if they wanted him to stay for tests?  What if they said they wanted to admit him immediately?  What if the tests involve surgery?

I started thinking about when I went to the hospital after my husband’s accident.  When the nurse called that morning…she assured me that my husband would be fine.  I packed clothes for him to come home in (a bag that is still packed and sitting in my closet…one of the “mysterious widow things” I can’t seem to get rid of).  And I packed a bag for myself.  But after the you-know-what hit the fan at the hospital later that day, it became obvious that I had packed the wrong things.

Since the accident had happened in July, I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, unaware of how hot and cold the hospital gets.  Nothing in that bag was even remotely helpful to me through the next 3 days.  Now that I think about it…I don’t even know what in the heck I packed (I do remember having my all-important People magazine).  And I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice.

As I got ready to take my boyfriend to his appointment, I dressed very deliberately, wearing layers and comfortable shoes.  I didn’t wear my favorite jeans…I wore jeans I thought I could sleep in if I had to.  I packed my purse full with a book, phone charger…anything I thought I might have to have for the next 24-hours in case I couldn’t come home.  I debated on whether or not I should wear a scarf that would look cute with what I was wearing…and could double as a pillow later if I needed it.

I tried to discreetly prepare myself as much as possible, without scaring the heck out of him.

It didn’t occur to me until after the appointment how weird and sad that was:  That I couldn’t take someone to a doctor’s appointment without worrying about how we might not come home for awhile.

But we did.  We left.  Just like a normal appointment that a normal person would have on a normal day.  Well…except for the upcoming screws and plates and stuff.

I will tell you that our relationship hit a new level yesterday that my widow friends will understand.  As I was driving him to his appointment and he was filling out paperwork, he asked me a question that I consider a big step.  A new level of commitment that really says where we are.  It’s not something I was sure I was ready for, but sometimes…you just have to take the plunge.

“Can I put you down as my emergency contact?”

Catherine Tidd 2011

Catherine Tidd

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Catherine Tidd is a widow and the Founder of, a free social support network dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other. She is also a writer, public speaker, and mother to three young entertaining children. She received a degree in English from Rollins College in 1998 and has since worked as a writer, editor, Marketing Manager, and Event Planner. Originally from Louisiana, Ms. Tidd currently lives in Denver, CO. To read more of Catherine's work, visit


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  • Deb Kosmer says:

    Great article Catherine and the last paragraph was a great ending. My son and I had the same dentist. After my son died I could not bring myself to go back for a couple of years. The dentist had a son who played on the same football team as my son and it was just more than I could deal with for awhile. Thanks for sharing.

  • Catherine Tidd says:

    Oh Deb. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s so strange…the unexpected things that get to us and the people who trigger these emotions!! A doctor, a dentist…who would have thought??? I completely understand what you’re saying, though. Thinking of you and thank you so much for your comment.