I never realised life could be so tough, so painful or so challenging. I have grieved for my father, Robert’s sister, my aunt, friends and pets, and thought those days were tough. We have gone through health scares together and coped with a pandemic. The loss of Robert though; my beloved partner, best friend and lover is a whole new level of bereavement. It is tough, really tough and I know a long journey still lies ahead.
It is now just over two months since I returned home to find Robert dead. He had collapsed from a massive heart attack after taking his cup of tea upstairs. Some mornings or afternoons I cannot believe he has gone. I imagine him suddenly coming home, and that the past few months will have simply been a horrid dream. Other mornings or evenings I find myself staring where I found him, feeling numb or overwhelmed by grief. And then there are the moments when I find myself talking to him, or talking about him with family and friends. Enjoying the wonderful memories of an incredible life together, and the positive impact he had on so many lives. No wonder so many have donated in his memory, and so many plan to attend his memorial on 25th May or watch it by zoom. He will be missed by many, and we want to acknowledge that shared loss as well as celebrate just how amazing he was.
I hesitated about sharing exactly how I am feeling here as I am discovering that many, particularly those who have not suffered a close loss, don’t quite know how to react when I answer honestly to the question ‘how are you?’. However sharing helps me, so I am going to continue to share here and in person when you ask. If you cannot cope, then that’s absolutely fine, but suggest you either unfollow my blog or don’t ask me when you see me! I don’t want to make things awkward for you or more upsetting for me.
I have also discovered, as have my extraordinary step-daughters, how our culture really doesn’t prepare any of us to know what to say to a grieving widow or daughter. I therefore thought it be helpful to share with you some tips, although even these take with a pinch of salt as there is not one right way to approach a person overwhelmed by grief. Our wants and needs change throughout the day, and what works one day may not work the other. Bereavement is not a linear journey, especially when it is still this raw and this close. However hopefully you may find these helpful;
- Don’t say ‘I know how you feel’ as unless you have been widowed it won’t be the same, and even then grief is different for every person. So also be cautious about sharing your own experiences of grief, especially if recent. I am not in the best place to listen.
- It is however absolutely fine to say ‘I’m so very sorry‘ or to say ‘I can only imagine how hard it is/how awful you feel‘. In fact I encourage you to say ‘I miss him too‘ and also to share your stories about Robert. I want to talk about him.
- Do stay in touch. The random texts and emails I have been receiving mean as much as the regular check ins. And it doesn’t need to be a counselling message, I love receiving photos of things that matter to you, a silly GIF or just a hello. There is no time limit on grief, so if you can over the coming weeks and months keep walking the road with me by occasionally send a message. Sometimes I will reply immediately, other times it is just good to know you are thinking of me. One small request though if you drop me a line after a break, please don’t say qualify it by saying ‘I’ve been busy’ or ‘life has been hectic’.
- Be specific with offers of help, whether that’s a date for a catch up or a task that you have identified that needs doing. I have a list in the kitchen for the latter!
- Please bear with me if sometimes I change my mind about meeting up, leave early or say I cannot chat right now. Occasionally it is overwhelming to socialise, but the next time I will almost certainly say yes.
- I am beginning to adjust to my new normal but it is going to take time. So please don’t ask about the future. I may bring it up and then you can listen, but now is not the time to be asking me to think ahead nor is it time to offer solutions of your own.
- Don’t think there’s a ban on laughter. Laughter helps me heal, and occasionally losing myself in happy moments gives my mind and body a break from the rawness of grief.
- And if you have a moment do research grief and bereavement too. There are some amazing books, guides and blog posts out there. Not only will they help you around someone who is grieving, but they will probably help you with your grief too. For the latter a great place to start is CRUSE and for more tips check out how other people can help.
As you may have gathered by the length of this post, this morning is an okay morning for me. It helps so much knowing you are all there listening. So thank you all for being there, and for enabling me to share this post.
Robert was an amazing man, the absolute best.