Finding a path through bereavement

By Max Bolka

When my wife, Julia, hurt her back on the first day of our new life in Victoria, we were completely naïve about what was coming next.

Six months later, she could not lift her arm to feed herself, because tumours were pressing against nerves in her bones. She was eventually diagnosed with a rare cancer, and we put all our efforts and intentions into beating it. But Julia died on February 4, 2023.  

Just like when Julia got sick and we couldn’t see the road before us, I had no idea what my life would be like after I had lost her. I was completely blindsided.

For many days I could not get out of bed. And when I did, I was alone. I can’t express the soul-crushing magnitude of the loneliness and pain of separation. There are no words for it. When I was able to get out of the house, I couldn’t believe people were going about as if everything was normal.

I wanted to say, Hey, everyone! Don’t you know what’s going on? Julia has died.

There’s life “out there” and there’s life “in here”. My life in here has changed forever.

We hope our closest friends or family members will support us in grief. Often, they’re not capable of it, and it’s hard for them to see us in pain. They just can’t understand our experience.

I found people who knew what I was going through at a Victoria Hospice bereavement workshop.

I managed to get out of bed and show up that day, but when it was my turn to introduce myself, I couldn’t even say my name.

But I was with others who were going through something similar. The bereavement counsellor, Heidi, said while we all go through the experience in our own way, we might follow certain patterns in a natural process of grief. It was a huge relief to hear I wasn’t going crazy.

Later, I joined the Walking through Grief Support Group led by Heidi, and Maureen, a long-time volunteer. We gathered in an opening circle and said our names, except for one, who couldn’t get the words out. And I thought, I’ve been there.

Grief changes, but it doesn’t go away. Part of it means exploring who we want to be in the world after the loss. Walking beside Heidi, Maureen, and members of the group helped me see that.

That’s why I wanted to share my story, and help in any way I can. We’re all going to be touched by death and grief at some time, but it’s too hard to heal in isolation.

I have a long way to go, but I felt my experience shift during my time with the walking group, and I want to express my gratitude from the bottom of my heart – to you, and everyone who supports Victoria Hospice. This vital service is so important.

I am so thankful for the kindness and compassion I found at Victoria Hospice Bereavement Services, and their specialized, professional expertise that helped me through some of my darkest days.

Victoria Hospice is a bright light on a path through grief and loss.

We are grateful to Max Bolka for sharing his story of love and loss. He’s pictured here with volunteer Maureen Dixon (L) and bereavement counsellor Heidi Wigmore (R).

Emotional, spiritual, and bereavement support services at Victoria Hospice are entirely funded our generous community. Please donate today.