Stan Cesaro’s world came crashing down on April 29th of 2010, when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Her decline was devastatingly rapid, and within just a matter of months, Stan found himself sitting in an empty house.
A Delaware Hospice team cared for her during her final days, and Stan felt that the staff was dynamite and the care was excellent, as he had expected. But what he had not anticipated was the after-care and support they offered him as he struggled to cope with his loss.
“A Bereavement Counselor was here the week after my wife passed,” said Stan, “and she was with me every week. She would come to the house, I would cry, and she would talk to me. We talked about what I should and shouldn’t do. I was ready to pack up and sell the house, because everywhere I looked, my wife was there. She advised me not to do anything immediately that I might regret later.”
He realized he needed to get out of the house, and he decided to attend one of Delaware Hospice’s six-week grief support groups. Then he learned about a monthly, drop-in grief group meeting nearby at MOT in Middletown, and he began to attend that group. Reading Delaware Hospice’s bereavement newsletter, he discovered another group that was meeting in Dover for monthly dinners and he began to go there as well.
Stan said, “I didn’t do much talking in the beginning, only listening. I was in a deep funk. But I just knew that I had to keep attending those meetings and getting out of the house.” At one point, Stan was trying to figure out how he knew the guy, Bill, sitting across the table from him at Franco’s in Dover, and Bill was wondering the same thing. He said, “Finally, when I attended the next MOT meeting, there he was again. I said to Bill, ‘I knew that I had met you, but I didn’t remember how.’”
Gradually, the camaraderie among several members of the group grew. Stan said, “I really appreciated the warmth of a few people, who made me feel so welcome and willing to return each month. Then, someone said, ‘Why don’t we get together and do this, or the other?’ All of a sudden, we started loosening up. I began to open up and participate more actively.
I met John, who lives right around the corner. We began planning dinners and luncheons on our own, and this social life began to move us over the hump. We started to focus on other things, and we had places to go and things to do. It has just mushroomed from there.”
It’s not been smooth sailing, by any means, for Stan. He tragically lost his son a year after the loss of his wife. He said, “That was very tough, but the friendships that I had with the people I’d met through the Delaware Hospice grief support groups really helped me through it.”
John Fahey also lives in Middletown, and his wife also became a victim of cancer, but struggled with it longer. John said, “She was going in and out of treatments. When they told us the medication was killing her faster than the cancer, we went home and Delaware Hospice came in. They came to the house, set up a hospital bed, brought oxygen and equipment. She lasted only three more weeks, but the hospice people were with us when we needed them. They were terrific.”
“Afterwards, the bereavement counselor called to see if I needed help. She told me all the options of support groups where I could go for more support. That’s where I met Stan and some others. By then they were further along in their recovery. Even though we had been through similar terrible losses, I could see they had a great humor about them. They always made me feel comfortable.”
The gazebo in Stan’s backyard has become a “man cave” for Stan and his new, fellow-widower friends. He said, “When these guys come over, the neighbors think we’re having a party. We eat, we drink, we laugh, and we go home, and it’s not so hard.”
Not everyone is at the same place in their grief journey, but they find great support and understanding among them. Stan said, “Both John and I met our wives at the age of 17 and experienced a long, wonderful marriage. We really know what each other has been going through.”
Stan will always be thankful to Delaware Hospice, not only for the care of his wife through her illness, but also for helping him along the grief journey. He said, “Delaware Hospice did it for me. I always found the meetings to be a sort of cleansing.”
John also credits Delaware Hospice for the impact on his life. “Losing a mate is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. It’s like half of your brain dies. The grief groups helped. At each session, we would go over various topics, talk through our feelings and thoughts. Everybody would listen, tell their stories, or give advice. I had kept a photograph of my wife which was on her coffin at the funeral. They advised me to take it down because it would always remind me of the funeral, which I finally did. Delaware Hospice was responsible for organizing those sessions that got us together. They got men out of their empty houses, and I’ll always be grateful.”
Story Credit: Beverly Crowl, of Delaware Hospice