It was my first bereavement group meeting. One after another, people recounted heart-wrenching tales full of tears, anger, regret and loneliness over the loss of their spouse. Their partners had died in hospitals, with medical personnel trying to work miracles right up to the bitter end. They did not feel good about their spouses’ medical care or their hospital experiences, and that seemed to make the grieving process even harder.
When it was my turn to share, I was reluctant to speak, feeling almost guilty that my experience had been so different. My husband, Bruce, had decided to stop treatment for his terminal cancer, choosing quality of life over quantity. At the end of his physical and spiritual journey, he was calm and peaceful, without fear or regrets.
It became obvious that there was more than one way to face terminal illness and our experience was not the norm. Bruce had taken control of his end-of-life journey with advance planning, an informed understanding of the process of dying, the help of family and friends and a supportive medical team. Without any one of these, including our family physician, Richard Abraham, M.D., of Canton, Connecticut, our experience would have been quite different.