It’s been about six months since longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek passed away due to pancreatic cancer. And his wife, Jean Trebek, is still feeling “waves of grief” after his death, she said in a new interview with Today.
Alex first revealed that he had pancreatic cancer in March of 2019, and his earliest symptoms were actually visible to others. During a trip to Israel in December 2018, Jean noticed that Alex’s “coloring seemed off,” she wrote in an essay last year, likely referring to jaundice, a condition that causes a yellowing of the skin due to a high level of bilirubin in the body. He was also experiencing stomach pains, she wrote. After some medical tests, his doctor diagnosed him with stage IV pancreatic cancer—and revealed that it had already spread to Alex’s stomach lining.
He passed away at the age of 80 in November 2020, nearly two years after his cancer diagnosis. “I absolutely have moments, waves of grief, that just come over me,” Jean told Today. She is still feeling “really disbelief that he’s gone. I miss him a lot.”
But the grieving process isn’t always predictable and there isn’t one “right” way to grieve. For some people, the process might last only a few weeks, while others may feel it last for months or years. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there are so many other stressful things happening in our lives and it’s more difficult to have traditional gatherings to mourn with loved ones, grief can be complicated. Even after the acute, immediate stages of grief have resolved and you’ve found a way to adjust to your new normal, it’s not unusual (and, actually, perfectly normal) to still have those feelings of loss bubble up occasionally.
Throughout his illness, Alex continued to work on Jeopardy! and was honest about what he was going through, including when he felt depressed. And that honesty was one of his greatest gifts, Jean said. “He wanted to empower people to move through whatever challenges they have in life with a sense of inner strength, inner dignity, and love.”