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Old 06-11-2016, 19:25   #1
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Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

First, I am referring to the loss by death, not by divorce. I loss my wife, best friend and partner of 22 years this summer from an unexpected asthma attack at a young, vibrant 65 years. We sailed winter seasons first on the the Pacific coast and Mexico and then the Caribbean for the last 13 years on two classic and beautiful ketches. We planned at least several more.
The boat was our home for 4-5 months of every year. We enjoyed the sailing, swimming and snorkeling, meeting cruisers and making lasting friendships, the people and places ashore, and upgrading and taking care of each boat. We looked forward to going to the boat in the fall as the winter snows closed up our ranch, and we looked forward to getting back to the ranch and mountain activities and jobs in the spring. We saw and experienced so much with this adventure that we would not have, had we just stayed home. We threw off the bow lines, sailed away from the safe Harbor, and explored our dreams.
Life for me is in turmoil as I try to sort out my future. Do I keep the boat, or is it time to let that go....? If I go to the boat, all of her things will be there. If I go to the places we frequented the memories will be painful and the waves of grief will flow. And as winter approaches, I have feelings that the boat is now more of a hobby, than a home. An expensive one. Yet I still read the forums and check on what's new in equipment and sense I want to get south, out of the snow. I still anticipate the tropical lifestyle we had for this part of the year for so many years. But I wonder at becoming a single-hander, after so many years of having a mate with whom I got along so well 24/7, as you must do on the boat, sharing so much.
So I am looking for advice, and perhaps sharing your experiences with a similar set of circumstances, or of someone who has been there. Do people keep on going? Or is it enough of a game changer that most move on?

Thanks, Lou of s/v Secondhand Rose

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Old 06-11-2016, 20:00   #2
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

Lou, from Secondhand rose,

First, let me say I am sorry for your loss. I am lucky to still have my partner, and it is really scary to me to think about what I'd do if Jim suddenly died. .......

You will grieve wherever you are. There is nowhere you can escape your memories. My advice on that is to feel your pain, and release it. The more you push it away, the longer it stays around. You will find it hard work, emotionally, but it is the direction of healing, and it is important work to do. Perhaps you will find some friends with whom you can share your feelings.

If you are able to maintain the boat, I do not think there is a pressing reason to sell it at this point. Furthermore, the usual advice is to make no major decisions for at least a year after your loved one's death. There's nothing magic about the end of the 12th month, but there is a whole lot of stress that happens with major changes, so it's wise to limit the number of them you make.

So, if you are still able to maintain the boat, go to it. Prepare it for an easy cruise. Take someone with you as crew, perhaps a young backpacker, for the overnighters, if you don't want to single hand. Go where your heart leads you. We never know what the future holds, but if you follow your heart's guidance, you will at least enjoy the time, and learn from it.

Enjoy the warm waters, the swimming, the light meals, and the change of scene. Your wife will often be in your thoughts, talk to her there, share with your memory of her what you feel. Imagine her comforting you, laughing with you, whatever's right.

Expect to weep when you remove your wife's things from the boat: and, do keep something special of her to hand. You'll do what's right for you. You may not realize it at the time, but afterwords, you'll be able to explain to yourself why you made particular choices. Give most everything else, to relatives, thrift shops or charities, or the dumpster. Make it a bachelor boat, plus you'll need room for crew, if you decide to go that way.

One friend of ours, who lost her husband, decided to focus the rest of her life on sailing, to honor his memory. This is just one example of what one woman chose, but so will your choices be your own, and what others have done is less relevant than what you want. From your post, I think you want to go to the Caribbean again, and to that I say, well why on earth not?

Good luck with it, my friend,

Who scorns the calm has forgotten the storm.
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Old 06-11-2016, 20:01   #3
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

You're ripping my heart Lou. Makes me sad. Terribly sad.
I've had nobody in my life since 1988 because no Lady has ever been of the same ilk as my wife Trish.
If you really, really love the boat, "for itself alone"......then don't sell. aboard without your Lady is going to keep you in a state of perpetual grief??
Time MAY tell on that one.
If you sell what then? O/S travel by plane? Hoping to find her in someone else?
Really really tough decisions and they will take time. So no rushed decisions.
The boat will still be there to sell or single hand in a few months from now so how about you go on the Canadian Pacific or see the Taj Mahal. Or sail 'round Vancouver Island.....go somewhere but maybe NOT to the boat for now maybe.
Fwiw It took good man to spill his guts the way you have.
Keep us informed huh?
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Old 06-11-2016, 21:23   #4
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate


The 8th of November makes two years since my cousin, and one of my best and dearest friends, lost his wife of 27 years. We're close in age and have maintained a relationship that is closer to being brothers than cousins our entire lives.

I've been married 25 years now. I couldn't imagine life without my wife or begin to process the emotional weight. It's just not something I am willing to face until the day comes. Maybe I'm selfish, but I hope if we don't die together I die first. Mostly because the grief would be unbearable.

I want to tell you a little about his experience as I've been able to observe. His wife was 49 and after a bad fall was initially diagnosed with a stroke. About a month later and after extensive testing it was realized that she had ALS. It's a cruel debilitating disease that gave no signs before the fall. Within the year her body shut down and the struggle was over. The last three months were the worst.

Depending on him for every need and not being able to communicate he became her sole provider and care giver. That takes a great emotional toll on a man who is barely over 50. He pressed on and although near retirement after his FMLA ran out was forced to retire early taking a huge financial hit on a 30 year career.

He'd lost his job, was losing his wife, and this is when he realized he was losing his identity. Everything he'd been doing for the past 27 years was around getting to a point that his kids were grown and moved out and he and his wife would be able to grow old together. All of his friends were the friends they made together. Now many of them distanced themselves from him and his circle began to grow very small.

About a year ago he went on a trip to see one of the few friends he had left and met a woman who had lost her husband about the same time. After many months of trips back and forth they decided it was better to get married and try to move on with life. When his wife died he had plenty of insurance and had saved his whole life for retirement, so he won't have to work again ever. She was married to a wealthy man who was worth millions when he died. Together they would have a hard time spending the money they have.

Although he's moved out of state now we still talk several times a week. Last week he was telling me how he's lost his whole life and although he's got a new wife and a new beginning he still very much is distraught that the anniversary of her death is this week.

He said that one of the biggest reasons he moved away was because everywhere he went he saw his first wife. There were memories everywhere. He felt that if he moved on he could find peace from the last two years. Now, he realises that it just doesn't work that way. Selling his house and giving away everything he had when he moved didn't change the way he felt. Even having a new wife wasn't a replacement for the empty feelings of his first.

All very much beyond his control you see. There's nothing material that he could want that isn't within his ability. He told me that what has helped the most this past two years has been letting go of the plans they made together and finding something to do with his life. He's talking about going back to work, despite not needing the money. He's able to compartmentalize his time with her and the present. That seems to be a good coping tool that allows him to not associate every mundane activity of the day with a heart wrenching breakdown.

Although I've never personally been where you are in life, I know it isn't easy. I believe that the more you can do what was along your plans together the easier it will be to accept the way things are now. The more routine in your daily life the easier it will be to process things in your own way.

That being said, were I faced with a similar situation I do not know what I would do. My first thought would be to give up. That's not in my character though. I feel as though I would continue to do the things that I found pleasure doing. If it were sailing South in the winter, I'd be headed South right now. I'd do my best to put any decisions out as far as possible that were life changing. Give it some time for the shock to wear off and some sense of reason to begin to take shape. I'd make those long term plans, even if I didn't expect to live long enough to get them done. We never know what tomorrow holds. If we're not reaching for something what purpose can we serve?

I do hope your grief is manageable and that you find comfort in knowing that you're not alone in feeling loss. When I read your post I felt sadness for you and with you also. If you end up near Pensacola, look me up. I'll go sailing with you, show you around, and offer my company should you want it. There's plenty of old salts around here who could entertain just about anybody.
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Old 06-11-2016, 21:33   #5
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

My condolences, Lou. I hope it is some small comfort to read the incredible responses you've received, no matter what you decide to do. Hang in there.
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Old 06-11-2016, 21:52   #6
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

Like Ann and the others deepest condolences for your loss...

....just a thought for the future, maybe when the time is right, you can find a way to 'pay it forward' with your boat to those who deserve a chance to experience what you have would be a great way to honor your wife.
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Old 06-11-2016, 22:09   #7
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

Lou, as others have said it is sad that you have lost your wife, I can very much relate as I lost my wife/best friend/soulmate after 13 years of marriage. She was just 38 years old.
I just didn't know what to do but I didn't bail from our home (mind you the three kids did preclude that ) but I am glad because even still I find that I draw comfort from the knowledge that this was OUR house, and every so often I just know that her spirit has been visiting. Others in the same situation that I have come to know have asked if she has been "visiting" and we have a good chuckle.
So I guess I am trying to say, don't rush into any decision that you may later regret, take some time and revisit some of those places that you both enjoyed and you will know when the time is right to either move on or continue in the same vein that you did in the past.
If your experience is anything like mine, you will just know.
Rob aka Uncle Bob Sydney Australia.

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Old 06-11-2016, 22:32   #8
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate


I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like and feel like for you. What I would do, and remember.. it's just what "I" would do and I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to anyone without them knowing that this is what would make me happy and only me:

Follow your heart and continue your tradition! I love traditions! I know she won't be there, but I would do my best to do a single-handed thing and follow the history that my wife and I have created. At the end of the day, at night, when docked, or at anchor, or on a mooring ball, I would look at the stars, make myself a strong drink, and say cheers to my loving wife and say "Baby... I'm here with you and I know you are here with me in spirit".

Then, again... I am a sucker for romance
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Old 07-11-2016, 01:01   #9
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

Hi Lou,

Man, my heart really aches for you, truly. What you said is so touching. I can't help but feel some relief in imaging you must have expressed yourself and shown so much thought, care, devotion and obviously LOVE to your wife that she surely felt it, especially when she passed on.

Thank you for sharing and reminding us couples in the cruising world how perhaps the greatest treasure is just that - companionship on the water.

I am a person who learns from questions. Therefore, in times like these that's what I do.
Do you want to continue sailing?
Is it okay to be out there alone without her physical presence? Or can she be with you in a warm breeze, a sunset or a playful dolphin? Or will those experiences pain you too much of her loss? Or can you really know until you try? Perhaps, can you go out, crew on a friends boat to give it a try, baby steps I suppose?
I know money may be a factor, but please don't sell what sounds like a treasured boat, not too quickly at least. Putting her on the hard might help financially, right?

If I we're in your shoes, I believe I would try to channel the loss with making her memory last without spending so much on her that i forget to keep my needs met. Maybe thats easier said than done. Finding a few close friends to guide you in that can probably help a lot.

One last thing about why, imho, you should not move on from your ketch, just yet.
There is something very special, unique and perhaps odd, like a cold wind that gives warmth, in sailing by yourself. Beyond the sense of independence and self-worth a place of peace and knowledge seems to emerge and often from something simple and perhaps obvious while out there.
Idk, it's what I have experienced before.
That won't replace her, but it may eventually give you answers, peace and a place to go from....
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Old 07-11-2016, 05:09   #10
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

Lou, I lost my spouse in a boat accident in 2008. Its hard, but it does improve with time.

I discovered that a surprising number of friends had also lost spouses that I did not know about. Talking with those who had similar loses was a big help for me. Their lives went on and so did mine.

I also learned that we all grieve and cope differently. Take the time and space you need to heal. Dont let well meaning friends and family deprive you of that. Probably best not to make any major life decisions during that time.

Re cruising. In my case, I met someone else and continued cruising. I know others who have done the same and others who swallowed the anchor. Give yourself time and then decide whats right for you.
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Old 07-11-2016, 06:43   #11
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

My deepest condolences Secondhand Rose. My former mother inlaw passed away last year. My in laws had been married for 57 years. My father in law struggled as you are now but over the last year he has been able to answer his questions for himself. He does feel better, there is less grief now. Take your time. Be kind and forgiving to yourself.
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Old 07-11-2016, 07:42   #12
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

first , r i p to your spouse.
second-- please do something to rid you of the supreme sadness. therapy, activities--something.
it is most easy to find self in a deep and terminal depression over loss of spouse. it seems the what if's and i miss are soo strong folks feel they cannot complete their lives.
mourning is a stage of recovery.
celebrating life is a way to make room in life for forward momentum.
please find something that makes you smile and pursue that, what ever that is.
yes it is difficult. but then so is everything worthwhile in life.
life is an adventure meant to be LIVED!!!!
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Old 07-11-2016, 08:08   #13
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

Do you have a better alternative to cruising? Would you prefer to sit in front of a TV in some retirement home growing fat, bored, and sedentary? I'm constantly amazed at how healthy and alive older cruisers seem. One 80 year od told me last winter "When I go home all my friends talk about are their last doctor visit and the pills they take. I don't take any pills".

A marina is a far, far better community with more interesting friends than a retirement home full of other fat, bored and sedentary people.

Have you considered selling the boat and buying a new one perfect for single handed cruising? Maybe a stern thruster? OF course, bring a few mementoes from the old boat to remember the great times cruising with my wife.The project would keep you busy - and engaged - all winter.

While I haven't lost a wife, I've found in my own tragedies that I mustn't drift. I have to set goals - challenging goals - to force me to re-engage with life. Do you have any doubt that your wife wouldn't have wanted this?
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Old 07-11-2016, 08:14   #14
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

Prayers out. Surely she's with God now. A good place to be.

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Old 07-11-2016, 09:49   #15
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Re: Continuing cruising after loss of your mate

Ann, you put the answer heart goes out to Secondhand Rose ... wishing you well...take your time...don't rush into things if possible.
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