Patrick Swayze's widow has told a crowd near Los Angeles that the loss of her husband of 34 years has left her with sadness "on a cellular level."
Lisa Niemi, making her first public comments since Swayze's death last month from pancreatic cancer, told attendees Tuesday at a conference that her pain "made all the sadness and grief previous to that look like an intellectual concept."
Though she cared for her husband during his 22-month battle with the disease, Niemi says grappling with the 57-year-old Dirty Dancing star's death was still "an animal all its own."
Speaking at the Women's Conference 2009 in Long Beach, California, she told the audience, "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. 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.
"The actual loss — it's like an animal all of its own. It made all the sadness and grief previous to that look like an intellectual concept. This sadness was on a cellular level. You hear all these stories about men who die months after their wives and things like that. I can absolutely see how that could happen because ... when the grief (sets in), your body's not your own."
And Niemi is struggling to cope with the mixed emotions following his passing — because it feels like a "betrayal" for her to move on with her own life.
She adds, "In the first few days afterward, because Patrick and I had been so connected and I spent so much of his illness just absolutely devoting myself to him 150 percent, the most courageous thought that I had was that I wanted to, at some point, feel like I had the courage to go on and have a good life. And in the first few days (after his death), 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."
But Niemi is convinced she will be reunited with her husband one day: "I've spent two thirds of my life with him. And part of me believes that I will see him again. I'm just going to have to go on until then."
Lisa is expected to appear on Oprah tomorrow, in her first television interview since her husband's death. Check your local listings for time and channel information.