Finding happiness in life after the loss of my husband

The scars of loss never disappear, but another state of being is possible

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by Jaime Christmas |

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It’s summer here in Auckland, New Zealand, and as I look out the window at my weed-filled lawn, not only am I reminded that the grass needs mowing again, but also how time flies without qualms or quandary.

It’s been 19 months since I lost my husband, Aubrey, to hereditary ATTR amyloidosis. People say that time helps us heal, but I don’t think that’s entirely correct. The passage of time doesn’t eliminate the scars left behind by the loss of a loved one. Instead, I think time lends space for respite. And as the weeks and months pass, this space grows a little larger, allowing pangs of grief to become less hurtful. As with any space in life that’s broadened, it’s up to me to decide what I want to fill it with.

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Deciding to start again

As a caregiver to Aubrey, I found it difficult to accept that I’d eventually lose him to a terminal condition. That was a hard pill to swallow. I struggled for a long time and coped in unhealthy ways. I bottled up my fears and worries and turned to alcohol as a means of escape. I refused to acknowledge how difficult it was to transition into a future that Aubrey wouldn’t be a part of.

We both tried hard to normalize family life with our four children, despite the visible change staring us down, until we couldn’t avoid it anymore. Amyloidosis is a vicious condition that gradually robs people of every sense of normalcy. Because of the multisystemic nature of the disease, it upends life. Before Aubrey died, his heart was thickening and his autonomic nervous system and gastrointestinal tract were compromised. He grew weaker by the day until he finally passed on May 22, 2022.

A selfie of a woman wearing stylish dark sunglasses, a gray scarf, and a black leather jacket. She is standing on a city street and blows a kiss to the camera.

Columnist Jaime Christmas, who lost her husband, Aubrey, to hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, says she’s now determined to find happiness again. (Photo by Jaime Christmas)

In retrospect, I can see that I began grieving for him the day I accepted his prognosis. I didn’t want to, but I had to. Now that time has passed, I’m finally at peace with life on my own. I’ve made a conscious decision to start again. I’m now living life with the intention of being happy.

For a long time, I’d forgotten what happiness is. As Aubrey’s caregiver, I’d been living with a persistent dark cloud over my head. The darkness was never far away, and each time I tried to be happy, it reminded me of the impending loss I would suffer. I felt joy on occasion, but happiness was fleeting.

Many of us tend to think that joy and happiness are the same, but there’s a crucial difference, at least to me. Joy occurs for a brief, defined period, while happiness is an ongoing state of being.

American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson wrote that our “greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.”

From now on, I’ll live life in the pursuit of happiness. I want to live every day as if it were my last. I want to invest in love again and grow old with someone holding my hand. I need to feel the sun’s warmth on my face and express deep gratitude to God for all he has given me, despite the losses I’ve suffered. Life is worth living, and I’m determined to be happy once again.

Note: FAP News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of FAP News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to familial amyloid polyneuropathy.


Josie Fultz avatar

Josie Fultz

Thank you, Jaime, for sharing with us your journey. It's good for me to hear it and also to know that no one walks this journey alone. I pray you do feel the sunshine on your face again and find the deep gratitude to God for all he has given you, even in your losses. Healing is a journey. Josie


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