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'His illness didn't prepare me for the grief': Patrick Swayze's widow Lisa shares her pain

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Lisa Niemi described her loss as "like an animal all on its own" but said "part of me believes I will see him again"
 Photo: © Getty Images

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Patrick's widow made the emotional speech at the Women's Conference organised by California First Lady Maria Shriver (second right)
 Photo: © Getty Images

28 OCTOBER 2009

There was not a dry eye in the house as Lisa Niemi spoke for the first time about the pain of losing her husband of 34 years, Patrick Swayze.

The 53-year-old opened up about her grief at Californian First Lady Maria Shriver's Women's Conference, telling the audience that the loss "is like an animal all on its own"

"I thought during the 22 months of my husband's illness that it gave me all this time to get used to the idea of losing him,' she said.

"And I found for myself, when I actually got to that point, I said, 'N-n-n-n-n-No.' It wasn't the same at all.

"It made all the sadness and grief previous to that look like an intellectual concept. This sadness was on a cellular level."

Despite telling the actor many times every day that she loved him over his last few months, Lisa admits: "I've spent two thirds of my life with him…My regret is that I didn't tell him that I loved him enough over that entire 34 years."

She continued: "I am so grateful for what I had and my connection to him, and part of me believes that I will see him again, and I'm just going to have to go on until then."

Lisa told how since Patrick's death from pancreatic cancer last month she has relied on a close group of friends to help her through the really tough times.

"I have a few girlfriends that are just amazing. They have made themselves available to me 24/7. They say, 'We don't care if it's 2 in the morning, call me'," she says.

"I was in the middle of a full-blown panic attack one evening ... and I picked up the phone and called one," she recalls.

"Which is really hard for me to do because I'm used to being so self-sufficient and taking care of myself. But the very act of picking the phone up to call someone helped to calm me."

Following Patrick's death, Lisa says she had conflicting feelings about how to move on with her life alone after three decades of marriage.

"I wanted to, at some point, feel like I had the courage to go on and have a good life,' she said.

"And in the first few days I felt like that would almost be a betrayal…That I would be letting him down somehow."

"It's a brutal truth that you have to go on without that person, but unfortunately, that’s what happens in life," she added.

Lisa's advice for those coping with loss was to reach out to others.

"It just enriches the whole tapestry of life when you connect with other people and it just helps you so much," she said.

Click here to read more about Patrick and Lisa's amazing love story.

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