Emmy Award-winning news anchor Maria Quiban Whitesell discusses her book, “You Can’t Do It Alone: A Widow’s Journey through Loss, Grief, and Life After.”
Maria shares that her husband was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer, and passed away 18 months after his diagnosis. “Sean was 52 when he died,” she says. “We lived a lot of life in those 18 months. I didn’t think we could get there, but we were able to find joy. We were actually able to make memories for not just us, but for our young son. He had just turned 5 years old, and two weeks later Sean died.”
Maria explains how her faith helped comfort her during that difficult time. “I remember going through a period of anger, a lot of frustration, and really just denial of it all. I was angry at the world. I was angry at God, actually. There were many moments, and I still catch myself sometimes these days, where I just raise my fist to the heavens … I felt like we didn’t deserve it. Why was God punishing us? Our priests here at St. Paul, and particularly Father Eric Andrews helped me. I really look to him for guidance on how to navigate my feelings and how to draw from strength … There was a moment where it kind of clicked for us. One of Sean’s doctors told us very frankly, and it was very sobering, at one of our appointments, ‘You have to look at this diagnosis as a gift.’ When he said that I wanted to punch him in the face. I said, ‘What kind of gift is this?’ He was right because he said there is no guarantee on how much time we have on this earth.” Maria explains that her perspective began to shift when she realized that life is not promised to anyone and she could die at any moment as well, so they decided to live and continue to create memories, and practice gratitude at the end of each day.
“We never gave up hope,” she says. “We never gave up the idea that there would be a miracle or some clinical trial that was just around the corner for him. It was carefully balanced, our hope for him to be around for much longer than what his prognosis was. But we were also grounded in the reality of his disease and the statistics that were not on our side.”
Maria shares advice for those dealing with grief during lockdown, “It’s such a difficult time right now. It’s extra challenging for people who are like me who have just lost a loved one … I can only say that you need to reach out to someone. We are afforded the technology that we have today. Reach out to your priest, reach out to your family, a therapist or counselor. Find that village that we need as human beings. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I have a support group that I was so fortunate to have found during the time that I was caregiving for Sean, and without them, I know it would have been so much more difficult.” Maria encourages those navigating grief to seek community and assures them that there is life after loss.