Losing a Loved One to Cancer
- Patrick Duffy, 74, lost his wife to cancer six years ago. After finding love again during the pandemic, he is now dating “Happy Days” actress Linda Purl.
- In a recent Instagram post, the actor shared a snapshot from some time spent on the beach, where they are sharing joy and laughter.
- Losing a spouse to cancer, as Duffy did, can cause immeasurable pain. Support groups, or connecting with just one other person, can make a major difference in helping someone feel less alone during a tough time.
- Even religious support, like the Buddhist faith, is something that can help with the feelings that come with loss.
- Dr. Marianna Strongin, a licensed clinical psychologist, recommends sharing your feelings with a therapist to cope with grief.
The Montana-born widower lost his beloved wife of more than 40 years, ballet dancer Carlyn Rosser, to cancer back in 2017. And despite saying he hadn’t planned on finding love again, Duffy connected with Purl in 2020.Read More
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Duffy’s post doesn’t specify where the photo was taken. However, in a mid-May post on Purl’s Instagram, a photo of the loving couple alongside some other beachgoers was captioned, “beach play date.”
Purl included the hashtag “#loveMexico” in the post,” along with: “#bodysurf,” “#beachlife,” and “#nevertooold.”
Finding Love After Loss
Patrick Duffy, who often shares entertaining videos with Purl promoting his “Duffys Dough” products, previously shared a fortunate life with his wife Rosser, whom he wed in 1974.
The actor, who shares two sons with Rosser, was heartbroken when she passed away at age 77 from cancer in January 2017—so much so that he didn’t even think about finding love after her.
In an earlier interview with Closer magazine, Duffy revealed he knew it [Rosser and his relationship] was forever from the time they met.
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“I was an immature college graduate touring as narrator with this dance production, and she was a beautiful ballerina 10 years older. We met on the tour bus and that was it — for life,” he told the celeb news outlet.
After Rosser passed away, Duffy was open regarding how he was affected by the loss, telling Closer, “I know what she would expect of me, and I try and live up to that. I feel close to her all the time, [but] what I miss most is her touch.”
“I still consider myself a married man,” Duffy said in 2019, showing us how grieving is an ongoing process, and that it’s ideal to be patient with yourself as you process your emotions after losing a loved one to cancer.
However, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Duffy and Purl’s mutual friends initiated a group text to bring to stay in touch throughout the new times of social distancing.
It was that group chat that initiated the reconnection of Duffy and Purl.
Once Duffy felt that and Purl had established more than just a friendly connection, he drove to visit her, where they quarantined together. “I loaded up my car and drove 20 hours and ended up on her doorstep just to see if it was real. We haven’t been apart since,” he told People magazine.
“I never thought I’d feel this way again,” he admitted, noting that he thinks his wife would be happy for him. “I feel quite honestly, that it is keeping with the desires of my wife, the fact that we are intended to be happy. So when it’s offered, think about it, do whatever you do, but don’t let it pass you up if it’s the right thing.”
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If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, or from any other mental health-related issue, check out SurvivorNet’s resources on taking care of yourself.
How Support Makes a Difference
Following Patrick Duffy’s wife’s death, the actor remembered his wife in a tweet, writing, “On this day 6 months ago my heart stopped yet I live on as she wishes We will be together eternally.”
On this day 6 months ago my heart stopped yet I live on as she wishes We will be together eternally Thank you for the love and concern ❤️🙏💃🍀
— Patrick Duffy (@therealpduffy) June 23, 2017
When asked by a fan on what they could do to help, Duffy said, “Keep her in your hearts.”
Whether you’re in the midst of a cancer battle, fulfilling the duties of being a caretaker or coping with the loss of a loved one, it’s important that everyone involved in a cancer journey gets the support they need.
RELATED: The Toughest Conversations: Losing a Spouse to Cancer
Support groups, or connecting with just one other person, can make a major difference in helping someone feel less alone during a tough time. Even religious support, like the Buddhist faith, something can help with the feelings that come with loss.
Making connections with those who have gone through shared experiences can really make an impact on how you cope as well as move forward with your life. In the case of Doug Wendt, who lost his wife Alice to ovarian cancer, he learned an important lesson in the difference between “moving on” and “moving forward” after losing a spouse to cancer.
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“We’re never gonna move on, I don’t even think I want to move on, but I do want to move forward,” Doug told SurvivorNet in an earlier interview.
“That’s an important distinction and I encourage anybody who goes through this journey as a caregiver and then has to face loss, to think very carefully about how to move forward.”
The Toughest Conversations: Losing a Spouse to Cancer
Keeping a Cancer Battle in the Family
Patrick Duffy hasn’t revealed the exact type of cancer his wife battled, which is completely normal. Health is a deeply personal matter, and it’s up to you, and only you, to determine who has the right and privilege to know about your diagnosis.
It’s important to do what feels right to you after your diagnosis, and not cave into any pressure to share your diagnosis with others before you’re ready or to share it more widely than you’d like. You have autonomy over your health and the sharing of any news related to it.
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,” Dr. Strongin said, “but to whom and how many people is up to the person (with cancer).”
There are plenty of people who have chosen not to share their cancer battle publicly. Although Dr. Strongin says that she encourages sharing, she also understands there’s also 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. The difference, Dr. Strongin says, is what’s the process of sharing versus not sharing.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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