Our Grief JourneysSpousal BereavementSpousal Loss

Jan Ritosa – Spousal Bereavement – Spousal Loss

By November 9, 2021 November 11th, 2021 No Comments
Jan Ritosa
Spousal Bereavement
Spousal Loss


I lost my husband suddenly. We had been on vacation and came back late Tuesday afternoon on March 1, 2016. The next day on Wednesday morning, he was at our rental property and collapsed of a cardiac event and died. He was alone. Someone found him and called 911.

When I received the call from the police, my head was racing, but I never expected to hear what I did in a million years when I arrived in the emergency room…..he had left us.

The days following were painful yet numbing. With the support of our family and friends, my children and I got through the funeral. It is odd the things you remember in the beginning. I recall people telling me “be strong, have courage”…I hated hearing that. Instead, I just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry.

As the early weeks passed and business was taken care of, my children returned to their lives out of town. I now had to learn to navigate this new life. The “we” had become me after 32 years of marriage. This was not our plan.

One day, I remember the pain being so severe that I knew I could not work through this on my own. I called the funeral home. They were happy to help me but felt I needed more than what they had to offer. They recommended I contact the bereavement program at the Canadian Mental Health Association.

I remember reading about how to cope. The deep sadness and heaviness I felt, which I had never experienced before; I didn’t know if it would ever leave. I wanted to know when the pain would subside. I thought if I worked harder and did more grief work, it would go away faster; this was not the case. I recall the grief waves, fighting them, pushing them away because it was so painful. I hated the way I felt and tried to avoid the waves. I did not want to feel the pain. It took me awhile to realize to give into the pain and ride each wave. Later, I learned that each time I rode a wave, I was healing. The waves became shorter and spaced out, and one day they were no longer consuming me. I questioned if this was all normal or if I was crazy and losing my mind. I wanted the answers now. I learned it was ok to just be…patient; to allow the gift of time to heal, and the answers will come.

I recall wondering if I would ever laugh again. I remember initially, I would laugh for others, and then I laughed because I wanted to. I felt guilty because I was laughing. Then one day you laugh, you genuinely laugh; it feels good but emotional. I also remember waking up in the morning and could not believe he was gone. Sometimes randomly through the day, I would get this gut sick feeling and say ..”he’s gone!” This is your life!

I struggled with figuring out who I was and what I was going to do….and how I would do everything. I was trying to manage the family house and another property on my own. I soon realized how much my husband did after he was gone. We each had our roles. He did so much. He fixed everything. I would tell him something was broken, and the next thing, it was fixed. I remember saying “Franko, this cord is broken or this door doesn’t close properly, or the oven wasn’t working”….on and on and soon the problem was solved. I used to experience anxiety when anything needed to be fixed after Franko died. I would cry as I struggled to cope. My brother recused me during these earlier times. As time passed, I learned to problem solve as the mental fog lifted. I learned to reach out to others for help which was difficult for me. I also learned how to fix things myself. I remember trying to fix the shower tap. It took me three hours, several YouTube videos and a couple of trips to the hardware store, but I DID IT! I was so proud of myself. Franko would have completed the job in 15 minutes, but that’s ok because I was navigating a new way.

Everyone’s journey and healing are different. In March 2019, I became aware that something had changed. I felt a peace. Something had lifted. I surfaced. I have learned I had two choices: live your life, tuck them in your heart, carry them with you, OR stop living. I chose to live.

Five and a half years later, I can say I am thriving. I turned to yoga after he passed and continue it today. I found it to be an amazing healer! I can reminisce and smile. Sometimes tears! I still talk to him, carry him with me, but live in the now and think about a future. A different future from what we had planned, but it is bright.