A Patient Story: Robert Merlin Miller
My Beloved husband, Robert Miller, and I were married for ten years. We were the proverbial two peas in a pod. Our connection was so deep that we often knew what the other was thinking even without saying a word. Both of us were previously married, and we often wondered why we couldn’t have been blessed with finding each other sooner. I am blessed and grateful for the beautiful love we shared during our marriage.
In 2017, Robert was diagnosed with a serious cardiac condition, and the doctor initially told him that he had one day to live. Both of us refused to believe it. We were both deeply spiritual, and we knew God would help Robert pull through. Even through illness, Robert was strong willed and very resilient. He always bounced back from his health challenges; so, we both believed he would always bounce back. Sadly, the last illness was unexpected and he didn’t bounce back. We decided to transfer him to Doey’s House, and Robert passed away peacefully on January 18, 2022. After my husband passed away I was numb, in shock, and in denial. Each day afterwards brought more unanswered questions and many unresolved emotions. I blamed myself for things. I blamed others. I felt abandoned. My husband’s death left me all alone. I had no support system at all. My pea in our proverbial pod was gone.
The week after Robert passed away I received a call from Maria Reed, one of the HWC bereavement counselors, offering condolences on behalf of the Hospice team. Shortly thereafter, I started my grief and healing work during sessions by phone. I am grateful for the blessing of being able to partake in these calls with Maria which, looking back, have been incredibly helpful. Initially my sessions were a struggle. However, the sessions and my life started transforming over time with a lot of patience and courage. One of the suggestions was that I might benefit from journaling and possibly from working with grief and bereavement books. I resisted to both and then relented. I recently pulled one of the books from the bookcase and reviewed the work I had done.
I can’t begin to describe how it feels to see where I was just a few short months ago when I felt broken and totally lost, to where I am today. I have been exploring creative and unique ways to express my grief and memorialize Robert.
Just when I thought I had no creativity left in me, I allowed myself to take a chance and attended the first Craft Workshop facilitated by the HWC Bereavement team. I was pleasantly surprised when I made a beautiful picture frame covered in Robert’s shirt. I was inspired by the first project, so then I turned a stool that was about to go in the garbage into art with a pair of Robert’s pants and many of the greeting cards that we had exchanged over the years. Working with my husband’s clothes has helped me reconcile his death and has brought me closer to peace and healing. Looking at this art helps me feel like he is still there in some way.
If someone had told me I’d be working with dogs a year ago, I would not have believed it. As a child, Robert’s family re-homed stray dogs. So, when I got the opportunity to volunteer with the Mid Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue, I saw that as a perfect way for me to honor Robert’s memory while continuing my grief work. I recently fostered a 4-year-old German shepherd named Willow. Having Willow with me has helped me to stay focused and cope with daily life. Willow is very intuitive and if I’m struggling emotionally, she is there by my side. My relationship with this beautiful girl is a symbiotic one. Willow also has scars from her past of neglect and abuse and also needs love and patience in order to heal. Willow has helped me recapture the childlike wonder of silliness. It’s what my husband used to call “the tickle of joy”. One day, I was working with Willow and felt this overwhelming feeling of love in my heart. I started feeling giddy and silly, which lead to me laughing so hard I couldn’t stop. Then, I felt (intuitively) that Robert was with me and I could feel his love in my heart. But, just as quickly, the laughter turned into tears. All sorts of emotions were bubbling up, and I was being forced to feel them. These releases are very important, because I know if I don’t acknowledge and work through the pain it will only be more difficult later. I’ve had a lot of days when I feel like I’m stepping backwards instead of moving forward, but on August 18th, 2022, I took a HUGE step forward when I adopted my faithful canine companion, Willow. I feel truly blessed and look forward to both of us sharing a long and healthy life together.
I have been attending the Hearts of Hope meetings where I share with other individuals who are going through similar losses and experiences and we help uplift each other knowing that we’re in a safe and confidential environment. Each month I also look forward to the Social Brunches. It’s always nice to see familiar faces, share progress, and allows all of us to offer words of hope to each other. These programs remind me that I am not alone and that there is light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel.
Today, I continue working through my grief. My husband and I spent most of our time together. So, when it gets quiet, I start to struggle with thoughts and the love that I miss. I’m also dealing with the mixed emotions of joy or laughter, and accepting that feeling joy does not mean that I don’t love my husband or that I don’t miss him. Is it really possible to feel broken, yet feel whole at the same time? I did not choose this path, but now I must make the best of it. Over the last few months, I have met many wonderful individuals who have understood my grief, helped nurture my pain, and I’ve even made a few new friends along the way.
I recently read the book Grief Day By Day, and reflected on the last few months. A quote by Mary Potter Kenyon really stood out for me. It’s interesting that I never noticed this quote until now. It accurately captures the travails of my grief journey; it inspires me and gives me the courage to keep moving forward even on those days when I might be feeling lonely and scared:
“In the midst of the darkness of loss, I found light…
As I stumbled over the roots of hopelessness and despair,
that light grew to illuminate my path,
a path I sometimes felt very alone on.
At some point in the journey I’d turn around, and there was God.
That, is grace. There is always light.
Grief may blind us to it, but it remains.
If you sense even a small spark of light, pay attention to it.
Nurture it and wait for it to grow stronger.
Faith lights the darkness. Grace shows us the way home.”