Life after death: Surviving the loss of a loved one

After recovering from the loss of his wife, Freed takes lots of time to travel the world. Here he poses for a photo during a mountain adventure.

After recovering from the loss of his wife, Freed takes lots of time to travel the world. Here he poses for a photo during a mountain adventure.

By Joel Wittnebel/Active Senior’s Digest

Hope was gone. For months, no matter what Dennis Freed did, it seemed like nothing made it better. The suicidal thoughts were strong and the group grieving sessions only pushed him further into despair. Instead of shining a light to some happier place, they turned him inwards
only to focus on exactly that he was trying to get around.

Freed’s wife of 31 years, Hope, was dead, and Dennis was lost.

“I never cried until my wife got cancer,” he says. “I wasn’t allowed to cry.”

Dennis needed to put a bright face on things as he watched his wife, diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005, battle the disease for nearly 7 years. Hope, a former teacher, passed away in 2012 at the age of 53.

The two had been married for 31 years, and had been married since Dennis was 22. For Dennis, it all happened so fast.

“We fell in love quick,” he says.

After three months of dating, the two were engaged, seven months later they were married.

Freed's past wife, Hope, smiles for the camera after shaving her head during cancer treatment. Freed says the picture is a perfect example of the type of person Hope was, still smiling after years of treatment.

Freed’s past wife, Hope, smiles for the camera after shaving her head during cancer treatment. Freed says the picture is a perfect example of the type of person Hope was, still smiling after years of treatment.

It was the way they lived, Dennis says, that not only pushed them closer together, but grew their love as well.

“We grew up the hard way. No money, saving, prospering together,” he recalls. “We raised a family and went through all those hard times and the loving times, and then just as we’re about to be ready to be done, my last son is graduating, she dies.”

Now, in his 50s and a widower, Dennis says he had no idea how to recover from not only being a caregiver to his wife, but also how to find happiness and love again.

“Unfortunately, dating at 18 and dating at 54 is a terrible situation.”
For that reason, at the recommendation of a life coach, he decided to write about it, starting with writing letters to his dead wife.

“The pages just kept coming and  coming and coming and the book developed,” he says.

“The writing actually helped me heal.”

The end product, entitled, Love, Loss and Awakening: (Mis)adventures on the Way Back to Joy, is Dennis’s part memoir, part self-help book on dating in your 50s and finding love after the death of a spouse.

“It’s never too late. You just need to decide what you want,” he says.

The book has also gained attention from a much younger crowd then Dennis may have expected: lovelorn young adults.

“I get a lot of kids in their 20s and 30s that want to talk to me about it,” he says. “The reason being they can’t find love the first time.”

Author Dennis Freed sits with his new wife Lisa. Freed met Lisa after the death of his former wife Hope, who after being diagnosed with cancer, passed away after a long battle. He details the experience of recovering from the loss of his previous wife Hope in his new book Love, Loss and Awakening: (Mis)adventures on the Way Back to Joy.

Author Dennis Freed sits with his new wife Lisa. Freed met Lisa after the death of his former wife Hope, who after being diagnosed with cancer, passed away after a long battle. He details the experience of recovering from the loss of his previous wife Hope in his new book Love, Loss and Awakening: (Mis)adventures on the Way Back to Joy.

Now, Dennis is happily remarried, and says that the choice to move on is one that is different for each person.

“Nobody can comment on the way a person recovers from being a caregiver or an illness because each experience is so different,” he says.
“It’s a very individual choice and there’s no right or wrong.”

More information on Dennis’s book can be found on his Facebook page and copies of the book are now for sale on Amazon.

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