How to Cope With Losing a Spouse
- Actor Damian Lewis paid tribute Thursday to his late wife Helen McCrory, who died from breast cancer last year. She was just 52 years old.
- The grieving and recovery process after losing a loved one to cancer, especially a partner or a spouse, is definitely not a “one-and-done” process.
- Moving on and dealing with grief is different for everyone; how Lewis is dealing with the grief of losing McCrory is different than that of others, and that’s OK. But it’s great that he’s willing and able to talk about his late wife and allow her memory to live on.
“She was a fabulous human being and people from all walks of life have been in touch to say what an impact she had on their lives,” Lewis, 51, told show hosts Kate Garraway and Ben Shepherd of his late wife.Read More
‘She’s with us again this year.’
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) June 9, 2022
“So, she’s with us. She’s with us again this year.”
McCrory was best known for her roles as the villainous Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and as matriarch Aunt Polly in the Peaky Blinders series.
Helen McCrory’s Private Cancer Battle
Helen McCrory passed away at age 52 in April 2021 after a private battle with breast cancer. The specifics of her case remain widely unknown (i.e. the stage and type of cancer she was diagnosed with, and when).
Battling cancer is an extremely personal experience, and so is choosing who to tell about your diagnosis. For some people, it’s a no-brainer to share their struggle and absorb as much support as possible, while for others, sharing the news isn’t so casual.
Dr. Marianna Strongin, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy Psychology, previously told SurvivorNet that whether someone shares this heavy news is their personal preference.
“I recommend sharing, I’m a therapist,” Strongin said with a laugh, “but to whom and how many people is up to the person (with cancer).”
Like McCrory, there are plenty of people who have chosen not to share their cancer battle publicly. While Strongin says that she encourages sharing, she also recognizes there’s a personality factor at play when it comes to whether a person shares this deeply personal news; some people are more willing to share, and some are just more private, Strongin added. The difference is in how the information is processed.
But remember, there’s no right way to accept your diagnosis. There’s no handbook, there’s no wrong way, either. So, regardless of what you decide, “everyone should focus on what makes them feel good,” Strongin said.
“There’s a difference between telling people ‘I’m sick’ versus ‘I was sick,’ and I think a lot of people want to wait for that moment,” Strongin added.
But the caveat in these situations, she said, is that you want to make sure sharing, if you choose to, provides you with support; a strong support system is fundamental when it comes to battling cancer.
“If it creates anxiety and burden and worry, that’s something to look at,” Strongin said; added anxiety and worry during a cancer battle is the last thing you need.
So, do what makes you feel good; it’s your fight and only you know the right way to navigate through it.
Losing a Spouse to Cancer
The grieving and recovery process after losing a loved one to cancer, especially a partner or a spouse, is definitely not a “one-and-done” process, many members of the SurvivorNet community have told us. One widower even told us that the idea of “moving on” is not realistic, or even desired.
“I don’t even think I want to move on,” Doug Wendt, who lost his wife of 25 years to ovarian cancer, told SurvivorNet during a previous interview. “But I do want to move forward, and that’s an important distinction. I encourage anyone who goes through this journey as a caregiver who then has to face loss to think very carefully about how to move forward.”
The point is that moving on and dealing with grief is different for everyone; how Damian Lewis is dealing with the grief of losing Helen McCrory is different than that of others, and that’s OK. But it’s great that Lewis is willing and able to talk about his late wife and allow her memory to live on.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a common cancer that’s been the subject of much research. Many women (like Helen McCrory) develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer, too — though it’s more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. (As previously mentioned, the stage and type of breast cancer McCrory was fighting remains unknown.)
Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors — the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor — can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors — I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell — they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2-positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
“The good news is there are so many different treatments and options available, and doctors really are attuned to trying to understand patients better, to figure out what are their individual needs,” Dr. Comen said.