real life

'Not long after we separated, my ex-husband died. I felt like I'd lost him twice.'

The following is an edited extract from Kate Christie’s The Life List: Master Every Moment and Live an Audacious Life, published with the permission of the author and Wiley.

A month after I turned 50, my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Eleven months later he was gone. We were separated but not divorced and I was still getting used to calling him my 'ex'. Grieving the death of an 'ex' husband is a complicated grief. To start with, what do I even call myself?

After Dan’s death, most people didn’t really know how to engage or interact with me and so they carefully tiptoed around me. Mostly they asked after my children, but they were at a loss as to how to touch on my pain, and so they didn’t. They engaged with me purely as the mother of children who were grieving. And I completely understand this, because I had already lost him as my husband.

But my loss and grief were and continue to be very deep. I grieve for losing him twice. I grieve for my children’s loss of their dad. I grieve for the years we don’t get to co-parent and to rebuild our friendship. I miss him.

Loss and perspective.

With the passing of time I have the capacity and the perspective to look at the end of my marriage and my ex-husband’s death through multiple lenses.

There is the lens where I realise that we just weren’t in love anymore. And it was okay for him to want to feel really loved again, by someone else.

There is the lens where I realise we had wonderful times and awful times and now I really just prefer to remember all that was wonderful. Part of my job as a mum to grieving children is to help them remember the wonderful too.

There is the lens where I know I did all the heavy lifting with our children during our marriage and after our separation. But that was a gift to me — because I got to spend all of my time with the most amazing people in the world. I have the memories, the love, the joy, the laughter, the pain, the scars and the angst. I have all of that and I treasure it.


There is the lens where I realise that after we separated we were solid at making parenting decisions together. We may not have always agreed with each other or enjoyed the other’s parenting style, but we presented a united front to the kids on the tough stuff.

There is the lens where my ex-husband told me how sorry he was for what he had done to our family by leaving our marriage. He was so very sorry too that he would not be there to help me help our kids deal with the grief of his death and the loss of their dad — ‘I’m leaving you with all the shit to clean up,’ he said. He was of course also grieving his diagnosis and rapid decline - he was acutely aware of what he was losing and the ramifications his death would have on us. He was devastated at the loss of everything he would no longer get to experience — like seeing his kids' turn 21, walking his daughter down the aisle, standing alongside his sons when they married, holding his grandchildren, celebrating life with them. Right towards the end he dressed up in a tuxedo and recorded a father–daughter dance with our 17-year-old daughter for her to play at her wedding. None of us has been able to watch it.

There is the lens where the lowest and most at a loss I have ever felt also made me the strongest I have ever been.

And then there is the lens of knowing, really knowing in a visceral way, that putting things off until later might well be too late. Life is too short. It’s too short to be sad, or mad, or angry, or lonely, or unfulfilled, or stagnant or resentful or bored.


Growth and new beginnings.

With perspective comes growth and a fierce determination to make changes in my life. After losing Dan for a second time I set about creating a ‘Life List’ - a list of everything I want to do and experience while I am still young enough to enjoy it. To ensure I absolutely live my best life. I am living out my Life List every day and it is glorious.

Because life is too short and later might be too late.

The Life List: Master Every Moment and Live an Audacious Life by Kate Christie is now available for purchase, here.

Image: Supplied.

Feature Image: Instagram @katechristieloves.

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