Grief Part One: I Don’t Much Like This Widowing Thing
17th April 2017
My first post in over 18 months, following the deaths of my sweet friend Don on 11th September 2015, my youngest brother Edward, on 10th January 2016, and my husband Mike, on 8th April 2017. This is going to be raw. It’s purely personal, not much to do with my core work, except that right now there’s little work and a lot of this. And I can’t think of a more suitable place to post this. So here goes.
I remember my cousin Araba saying that, a week after Charlie, her second child, was born, James, her eldest, said, “okay mummy – Charlie can go back now”.
I feel like saying that now – 9 days and a bit after Mike died. “It’s okay – enough of this widow trial – let’s go back to how things were before. Tried it. Doesn’t work for me. Experiment over”.
It’s dawning on me now that Mike’s gone. Why does it take so long, even if you know someone’s dying? And is it really dawning on me or still not yet? Is it yet to dawn? I’m sure I’ve barely started with the dawning. And if this is dawning, then what is full midday sun going to be like? I will hate it. I am keeping my sunglasses close by.
What “helps” it dawn on me is people’s visible concern, dropping in, staying that little bit longer, the lingering questions in their eyes. I could fool myself that Mike is only off on a business trip. Many times we were apart from each other longer than we have been apart this time now.
Many times a day I look for Mike, clock something I will tell him later, show him, play him, read to him, laugh about with him, complain about with him. My heart thumps down every time.
People ask how am I doing, like I can even know, and that even if I did know, I might be able to articulate it. I realise what a daft question it is. It should be banned. I answer now with one of two answers: “I don’t know”, or “In this moment, okay”. If I am in the garden, I am okay. If I am downstairs and answering the door, or picking up the phone, or feeding the kids or doing my emails, I am probably okay. If I am not okay, I am in my bedroom or out on a walk, or writing these kinds of notes – to whom, for whom, I don’t know.
The platitudes are suffocating: He’s at peace. He’s all around you. Sending love and light. Wrapping you in my love. Thinking of you all the time.
I don’t mind that kind of stuff in principle, but in practice it’s fuck all use. I want Mike here, and I want him to help me get through these shitty shitty days.
I want to go on a run with him and just laugh with the wind in our hair and the sun in our eyes and then shower together afterwards and make love. I want to decide what to cook and eat with him and for him. I want to sing and play piano with him. I want to share out the jobs with him. Feed the pets and pick up dog poo. Do the washing and change the light bulbs. Unload the dishwasher and sweep the path. Simple mundane stuff that gave substance to our lives.
I want him to be there for Megan and Ben’s important birthdays – today and in two weeks. I want to sit side by side in this big bed and read our books, separately, occasionally nudging the other with a bit to read out loud. Or stifle a giggle if the other is reading a much more serious book. I want to plan a little for the days this week – the weather is gorgeous – and I fancy getting up the Jura. But who would go with me at short notice? I have offers of a pad in Chamonix and a chalet in Grimentz, and I am just not as brave going out on long runs, or mountain walks if I am on my own. That extra risk in mountains, and no-one to share the views with. Just not as good alone.
Part of me feels so lousy at my strategy for remembering that he’s truly dead. I bring his very ill self to mind – barely able to open his eyes, barely standing, eating, drinking. Lower part of his body swollen with water retention. He didn’t look his best. He took ages to die. It was so hard to watch and yet he was so sweet. Among his last words to me were “yes please”, in response to did he want some water. Before that, the day earlier, I asked if I could jump into bed with him at the hospice, and he said quietly “most definitely”. Always so accommodating. He knows I loved him, that I love him, and I know that he loved me, that he loves me. But it’s not frigging enough now. I need the real thing. Flesh and bones, heat and sweat and breath and blood and heartbeats.
When I think of him healthy, see pictures, some just a few months old, I can’t believe it all over again. He’s just gone a little while. A mistake has been made. All the classic stuff you hear about new widows/widowers. How have people been going through this for eons? How does the world survive?
And how to contain things enough to be able to help the kids? I can’t begin to imagine what they will experience – in time – when they allow themselves.
Pause for Thought
- It might not be as dramatic as the loss of a loved one,
but we all experience grief, on and off, all of the time. It might be a missed opportunity, kids leaving home, redundancy, not getting a job offer or promotion, an accident. It’s around us all the time in the people we live and work with.
- How can you listen and watch out for the signs? What is really in the answer “I’m fine” that someone gives you?
- How can you explore your own grief, and that of others? How can you get more comfortable with grief, letting go, and loss – these “permanent” things among life’s impermanence?