Surviving the Death of a Spouse
“If you’re going by hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill
Linda Palucci, widow of Eugene Palucci, did just that when she lost her husband to a brain tumor and cancer on March 21, 1992 after a long, desperate struggle. She went by Hell, yes, but she kept going.
After her long, stress-filled ordeal trying to cope with Gene’s illness and death, she felt it was important to continue writing down her thoughts to help work her way by the aftermath. She later felt that her experience could, perhaps, help others cope with their grief after the death of a spouse. That’s why she decided to publish the story of Gene’s experiencing and her own very personal struggle throughout his illness and after his death.
Linda tells her story openly and vividly by her tears, often taking from the diary she kept throughout that horrific time. Chipmunka Publishing Co. of the United Kingdom, an organization dedicated to mental health issues and “improving the way the world thinks about mental health,” published Linda’s story recently in an eBook titled, “Out of the Slippery Pit.”
“I sat there with tears I could not restrain, running down my cheeks,” Linda relates in her ebook. “It has been almost one year. When do you begin to feel like a person again?”
She tells of joining a group for widows and widowers called THEOS, an acronym for They Help Each Other Spiritually, noting, “It’s helpful to associate with those who have survived widowhood for various lengths of time.”
“I believe only someone who has experienced the death of a spouse can really understand the pain and confusion,” Linda wrote. “Maybe only children, as I am, can adjust simply because we start out alone. We had only ourselves to depend on when we were young. I don’t know if this is true or not, just a personal theory. Or, it makes us feel more alone.”
Gene Palucci was a personal friend, and a neighbor, when we both lived in Darien, Conn. The only son of Eugene and Margaret Palucci, he was a native of nearby Stamford where he grew up with his sisters, Audrey and Geri.
He was a likable, happy-go-lucky guy with a good disposition and a great sense of humor. He and Linda raised four boys, Russ, Scott, Chris and Greg and a girl, Cheryl, in Darien. Later they moved to nearby Bridgeport.
A quintessential family man, Gene was a Little League baseball manager for more than 10 years in addition as a Boy Scout leader. Despite his other numerous activities, he served as a volunteer firefighter with the Noroton Fire Department, one of three volunteer departments in the town of Darien, which lies between the cities of Stamford and Norwalk.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Gene learned to excursion large rigs when he was in the service. Linda says he joined the U.S. Navy because he loved the water, but he was stationed in Tennessee. He told Linda the only time he saw any ships were in the Hudson River when he drove over the George Washington Bridge. As a civilian after his release from the Navy, he drove a variety of trucks, moonlighting often as a limousine driver, taking travelers to the LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in New York.
Linda, who was born in 1940, daughter of Larry and Ruth Northrup, lives in Trumbull, Conn., near Bridgeport, where she works part-time in a gift shop at the Beardsley Zoo She began her work career as a long distance telephone operator. Since Gene’s death, Linda has had to confront her own physical challenges. She is a cancer survivor, but first had to undergo a laryngectomy.
In discussing her ebook, Linda said, “This is my story of the death and first year of widowhood. It is all true. I wrote it to try and make sense of what was happening. It nevertheless hurts; that is the best way to describe it. It Hurts! A pain in my stomach like someone punched me, took my breath away. I really did not think I could go on alone. You never know, you just never know.”
She also talks of how her world changed when, in the doctor’s office with Gene, they learned the reason for Gene’s headaches and double vision.
“It’s a brain tumor, inoperable,” the doctor declared.
She said her happy life fell into “The Slippery Pit.”
“When we lose our spouse,” she said, “we are not ourselves any more. After 32 years, nowhere near enough time, I would be alone again. I could not already grasp it. My mind could not accept it.”
In her ebook, Linda tells of meeting three other “gals” at THEOS and of going to a few singles’ dances. She describes her experience at that first dance as “rough.”
“I sat there wondering what am I doing here? The men were not alluring, and the music was too loud. I felt dead inside.”
“Rosemary, the proprietor, asked why I was not dancing. I burst out, ‘I can’t feel the music!’ This was true; the music was gone. Nothing seemed important.”
“In the beginning a widow can sit at home and cry,” Linda said. “After a while, ‘they’ say she must get back into the world, pick up the pieces and make a new life; like the Phoenix from the ashes of before.”