Ask Dr Tim: HOW was I supposed to be the one who ended up “killing” my husband?

Ask Dr Tim: HOW was I supposed to be the one who ended up “killing” my husband?


My 73-year-old husband died last week. He had been in a coma for several weeks and was on a ventilator. The doctors said there had been no brain function for about two weeks. I kept hoping against all odds that he would miraculously just wake up. Then the day came when the doctors had “the talk” with me. My husband would not be getting better. The doctors ask if my husband had any medical directives of which that the hospital was unaware? Yes, he had some, but I had not wanted to tell the doctor about them. In the directives, it was clear that my husband didn’t want to be a “vegetable”. What was not clear is HOW was I supposed to be the one who ended up “killing” him? It was the worse decision I have ever had to make. How do I come to grips with this?



Dear Megan:

You have just described many people’s worse nightmare. Likely, some would say that the only worse thing is if it were your 7-year-old child rather than 73-year-old adult. But WHO is keeping score with grief? To be clear, the pain from these hard issues comes from a very deep place. It is not about reasoning or debate. No, this just plainly hurts.

I encourage you to feel your grief to its greatest extent. This is not the time to be tough or distant from hurt. Those who play dodge ball with grief tend to eventually get smacked in the head with it.

Having said all this, I feel it is important to note something you mentioned. You did say that your husband’s desire was “to not become a vegetable”. Again I repeat…this was your husband’s desire…not yours! It sounds to me that you were simply following his desires…as horribly difficult as it was. I call that being an extremely good friend.

Dr. Berry

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