40-ish Widow, Widower, Find New Normal Together

The similarities are uncanny. Both Andrea Albanese and Dave Rondeau met and married their spouses early in life. Both are parents of large, young families—Andrea has five children; Dave is the father of six. Without knowing each other, they had friends in common. And within a year, both would face the devastating deaths of their mates.

Yet thanks to a combination of fate, faith and friends—and some support from Capital Caring Health along the way—the two formerly lost souls found each other and new love.

The story starts with Andrea, whose husband Jim developed multiple myeloma, a rare and incurable form of blood cancer, in 2015. The next two years were intense for the family, as treatments failed and his disease progressed. When Jim developed tumors on his spine and lost his ability to walk, Andrea turned to Capital Caring Health for in-home hospice. Three months later, he died.

“Everything changed,” says Andrea. “Jim had been a ‘larger than life’ dad, very active, coaching the kids’ sports teams and just totally involved in raising them. And then he was gone. My children were struggling, angry and frustrated; I felt lost and lonely.”

The former stay-at-home mom tried to return to work, but found it was too hard on both her and her children, who ranged from 4 to 15 years old. To help them all get through their grief and heartache, Andrea took advantage of CCH’s free bereavement support programs. She began with regular counseling sessions for herself.

Finding the service highly valuable to her ability to move on, Andrea then enrolled her kids in CCH’s Point of Hope program, hoping it would do the same for them. The day-long program brings together children and teens of similar ages who have also lost a loved one, helping them process and express their emotions through group activities, shared experiences and just plain talk.

The services helped both Andrea and her kids through the painful period.

“Initially, my kids were really reluctant to go to Point of Hope, but they loved it once they got there, and really opened up about their feelings,” Andrea says. “In fact, my girls have gone three times now.”

Yet grieving takes time. And despite support from CCH, her friends and family, Andrea still struggled with life as a single parent. A friend mentioned that her son’s baseball coach, Dave, had lost his wife to cancer a few years earlier and was now a single father of six. She suggested that Andrea call him to see if he could share any advice or coping strategies.

That first conversation lasted 90 minutes, and has been going on ever since.

“We had so much in common, including our faith and values, that we just clicked,” Andrea says.

As it turned out, the similarities didn’t stop there.

“My wife spent her last weeks of life in CCH’s hospice care before succumbing to appendiceal cancer in 2016,” says Dave, an Air Force colonel. “Thanks to CCH, we also had a wonderful social worker who really helped my kids, who were between 7 and 19 at the time. She explained what was going on with their mother, prepared them for what was to come, and encouraged them to guide, support and help each other in the future.”

Today, 18 months after that first fateful call, Andrea and Dave now have dinner together twice a week, taking turns doing the cooking. They go on group outings with as many of their children as they can muster, including attending a Taylor Swift concert and Wizard’s game, both courtesy of CCH. And while they both remain deeply in love with the spouses they lost, they still feel joy in discovering each other and their new relationship.

“Neither of our marriages lasted long enough, for either of us,” Andrea says.  “But life moves forward whether you want it to or not.  We’re proof that it’s truly possible to fully live, and love, again.”