I Am Widow – Hear Me Roar


It’s been a shockingly sobby week and weekend. As well as sobbing in the privacy of my own home, I’ve sobbed the length of Oxford Street; at the bus stop and on the bus; all over a poor woman walking her dog on The Heath (I bet she wished she’d never asked how I was); on the phone; and in the changing rooms at Uniqlo whilst trying (without success) to find a pair of jeans to fit my skinny butt.

At five months to the day yesterday, I thought the days of the Widow’s Wail had gone, but I was wrong. Along with sobbing and feeling completely overwhelmed by the terrible past, my frightening present and a bleak JS-less future, that uncontrollable guttural roar of grief and frustration returned to further knock me off my already unsteady Converse-clad feet. 

On Friday lunchtime, I was gently sobbing whilst frying some out-of-date halloumi cheese, when suddenly I couldn’t stand at the stove for a nanosecond longer. I felt incredibly restless and anxious and began pacing the kitchen crying out, “No! No! No!” and clenching my fists. Then – “WAAAAAAHHHH!” The noise was so loud, such a lion’s roar, it sent The Hound ricocheting through his cat flap in a barking frenzy.

The Widow’s Wail is perfectly acceptable (if horrible) at home, but a bit more difficult to deal with when out and about.  I remember some months ago sitting on a public loo, weeping, when one suddenly emerged. In an attempt to get myself under some sort of control I tensed up, only to realise that I was beating my thighs with my fists whilst making squeaking noises. It sounded as if a chimpanzee was locked in a cubicle in John Lewis.

So it’s been a bad time recently, not helped by the fact I’ve got a sore throat and The Hound is going crazy being kept in because he might have Kennel Cough. Anyway, I had been sobbing and wailing and feeling incredibly Sunday Nightish when someone emailed me this article, and I stopped wailing long enough to read it and think: Gosh, at least I didn’t have that to cope with! Poor Ingrid!

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34 Comments

Sue
Reply August 1, 2011

Oh my god do I remember the wailing, the body shaking, the face pulling, the noise ( have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror...well don't, not a good look). I said to a fellow widow friend " I seemed to have developed this ridiculous cry" and she said " yes me too". Its so unexplainable, we kind of laugh about it now although I know its not funny when you're experiencing it. I'm sure you will continue to wail for a while yet........at nearly 4 years I can still wail.....when the need arises!!! Keep posting HB...love it!!

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    Sue: I try not to look at myself in the mirror too often as my face seems to have fallen in with the weight loss. I was actually going to blog about it. I did look at myself in the mirror in the changing rooms at Uniqlo and was horrified to see my Great Great Grandmother staring back at me. I've never met her, but the woman in the mirror was so ancient she had to be her. xxx

      Hat
      Reply August 1, 2011

      Ugh, it's a sorry day indeed when you look in the mirror and see traces of your father staring back at you... especially as my mother was the beauty of the bunch. xx

    Julia Cho
    Reply August 6, 2011

    i've looked at myself in the mirror- truly horrible.

      Planet Grief
      Reply August 6, 2011

      When I went to the hairdresser before the funeral, I had to ask them to blow dry my hair with my back to the mirror; I couldn't bear to see myself looking so grief-stricken. I've lost even more weight since then! PG xx

Steve
Reply August 1, 2011

As a male of the species, "Widower's Wail" is probably a even less publicly acceptable than "Widower's Wail". I find it helps to plan ahead and visit the nearest theme park and ride the roller coaster - screaming there seems to be far more acceptable in a controlled environment. Although it pays to check the size of the roller coaster before visiting - I visited one a few days ago where the roller coaster only went about 5 metres in to the air - this made the screaming even more bizarre and somewhat ironic - still - it made the kids (and everybody else) laugh. Keep the posts coming :-)

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    Brilliant Steve - Can just imagine this diddy roller-coaster and you roaring. Feels like it should be a scene in a Mike Myers' movie or something. Keep the comments coming too! :-) PG

      Hat
      Reply August 1, 2011

      Go Steve!

Jane
Reply August 1, 2011

Feeling very in tune with you..... 2 weeks back at my 5 months I had a monstrous dip which dug in and clung on to me until the school broke up 4 days ago, and now it's kind of squashed. I have room to cry but not scream or wail....( so come sept I may need new windows.) I always feel I've done some high quality grieving when my voice is croaky and throat is scratchy from the out poured primal anguish.
Love and hugs always x x xj

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    "High quality grieving." copyright Jane 2011

    Brilliant description.

    I have had a sore throat for days - been swigging TCP and eating zinc lozenges, but perhaps it's a grief thing? I totally lost my voice in Barbados after the accident.

    Maybe I am having a five month dip? Dreading the six month low if it is worse than this... PG xx

      Jane
      Reply August 1, 2011

      I'm hoping we're just ahead of the game and doing it at 5 instead of 6. Plus I'm foolishly off to the fjords with an excited ten yr old in one month....uuugggghhhh. That'll teach me to make plans at 8 weeks on Wedding Ann- grief and merlot bad combination for any decision making process.
      Jxxx

        Planet Grief
        Reply August 1, 2011

        Another one who is under the care of Dr Merlot! I have been flirting with Prof Pinot recently, not to mention Mr Grolsch (but only when I have a microwave curry).

        You could write a report for PG about your first trip away! PG xx

Al
Reply August 1, 2011

Hi Hels, I'm 7 months on 9th August and was only saying to Hat the other day that I'd not cried for about a week and I was worried but I shouldn't have been should I, in a moment of madness I've booked to go to Ireland to see B's parents for a week (a week?? jesus!) I'm taking my friend (B's bestman) Roo with me, B's Mammy loves Roo. Well the widows howling and wailing came back with a vengance, from Thursday onwards I've been sobbing, I'm terrified about leaving our home and being so far away, away from the cats, my garden, my security blanket, the only trip further than the shops I've done is to Shell Island for the day to scatter B's ashes and that was hard enough, the main purpose of the visit is to see B's headstone, his folks have bought a family plot in their hometown of Naas and have buried half of B's ashes there and had a headstone and the sundry things around (B's is not best pleased, I think this as I've not felt him at all for nearly 2 weeks, he was not religious in anyway and hated fuss but he's not here and I had to give his poor folks something of their first born and only son didn't I) so this sunday Roo and I are driving to Holyhead for a 3 hour boat trip to Dublin, we were going to fly and just go for a couple of days but I felt bad for Roo draging him all that way and not showing him anything of where his best friend was born so I said lets make it a week and have a bit of a holiday (I blame the bottle of white Burgendy!) Lovely Rose is looking after Frank and Jim and I had a very tearful chat with her last night about how the cats would cope without me, she was expecting the chat bless her and I know that as always they will be just fine with her but I'm still scared stiff about going.
Sore throat remedy - good flower honey, Gloucestershire or Hereford seem to work the best) Fresh lemons
2 or 3 big desert spoons of honey, 1 whole lemon squeezed in to mug, top up with boiling water, let cool and sip. do this 3 or 4 times a day
Also get some Vitamin C - I take 1000mg a day at the moment to boost my imune system, that with the Echinaciea seems to do the trick.
I hope you the hound feel better soon
Love Al xxxx

    Hat
    Reply August 1, 2011

    Big Hug Al xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    Thanks Doktor Al! PG xx

Hat
Reply August 1, 2011

Hi Everyone, With a nervous little JR I'm finding that I am now fully trained in the art of Silent Wailing. I shut myself in the bathroom and wail loudly ...silently, if that makes sense. It scares the dog when I wander around crying out to my husband and she will come and search for me and she has been through enough in her little life(rescue dog), so I try and do it quietly.

At 7 and a bit months I found myself trying to garden last week and just having to sit on the lawn and sob my heart out loudly to the daisies, who just nodded knowingly. It just creeps up on me sometimes and I have no idea when it will strike. He should be here, and he isn't and its wrong.

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    It's that wretched Grief Monster, isn't it? Just when you think you can have a few days peace it kicks you in the gut, the heart, the head - no organ is safe! I feel a bit like that man in the You've Been Tangoed advert, but the Grief Monster inflicts much more damage. I don't have any daisies on my lawn, but the geraniums have a knowing look to their petals. PG xx

    Julia Cho
    Reply August 6, 2011

    yes- with a two year old- i have done the silent wail- know it well.

Paula
Reply August 1, 2011

Hi coming up to the six month mark on the 7 August We are going to stay at centre parcs Steve would have been 45 0n the 18th we all agreed we had to do something none of us wanted to stay at home Steve and us, our four girls loved Centre parcs we have lots of happy family memories .Its going to be hard for all of us he was the main man being the only man lol Its so wrong he wont be with us but i feel like i need to cry ill jump on my bike and wail in the forest.

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    Paula! Be careful of wailing in the forest! They might think a beast is on the loose (the Center Parcs Yeti?) and hunt you down.

    I shall be thinking of you and your girls on the 18th (my mother's birthday so easy to remember) and also Steve. Forty-four is no age to leave.

    PG xxx

Dianne
Reply August 1, 2011

I wailed so loud & long that it used to make the dog howl.
Brilliant writing.

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    Dianne: Looking at my diary it was a full moon last weekend. Perhaps that's why I was doing so much wailing over the weekend: I'm not just a widow, I've turned into a werewolf! PG xx

D L
Reply August 1, 2011

PG
You probably have Widow's throat !!!! I have had stress related Laryngitis since Ted died, some days I have a voice, others just the warble of my vocal cords desperately trying to make a sound !!!
Just another cross to bear, sore throat, no voice, can't answer phone some days as no one can hear me !!!!!
I also seem to have an overactive sinus problem, caused no doubt from constant tears, blowing my nose and yes the wailing WHY WHY WHY.
I don't see my great great grandmother when I look in the mirror, but definately my Mother, who I have NEVER looked like before !!! always taking after my Father prior to widowhood.
I read the Ingrid story yesterday in the Mail (or was it the Times - can't be sure now) not sure how one would cope with finding that out.
Are you sure the Hound has not got Widow's throat as well, instead of suspected Kennel Cough ?????

Keep posting, I so look forward to each one.

xxxxxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    DL - It was The Mail. I always thought Ross Benson rather dishy - obviously so did lots of women!

    I've barely spoken all day because I didn't go out, but when I did talk to someone on the phone earlier I was surprised how hoarse I sounded.

    Widow's Windpipe I think we'll call it. As for The Hound's Kennel Cough, I'm beginning to doubt the diagnosis.

    Yours, hoarsely, PG xx

PMR
Reply August 1, 2011

Oh PG, I completely relate. This past couple of weeks have been awful for me too. Just passed the 6 month mark, oddly the anticipation of it was less painful than the time after it. Just started a new job where I was meeting lots of colleagues of both my husband and me shortly after was 5 year anniversary of a good friend's death and my impending 40th is making me severely ill, not at the thought of the big 4 - 0 but being forced into having some form of family get together, I just hope that there are no baloons or cake, however champagne (or indeed anything fizzy) will be welcome with great gusto.
Last week, thinking that the loos at work were empty, whilst having a sob, I let out a massive wail, only to hear one of the other loos flush..... I only normally wail in the house, that's me learned a lesson. Been sobbing lots in the car, in the supermarket, walking down the street. I don't think I have cried so much out of doors.
I wish I could say I looked like any of my older relatives, but at the moment, when I dare to look in the mirror I see my old piggy bank looking back at me. He was a penguin in a red and white stripy football shirt and had big black eyes, wiry, black fuzzy hair and a huge beak (it was gold but mine is most definately red).
Hope you and the hound mend quickly. xxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 1, 2011

    PMR - even in deepest grief we must force ourselves to sip champagne or Prosecco, though I draw the line at asti spumante. The thought of forced celebrations sound grim; so much going on in your life without a milestone birthday.

    A piggy bank penguin is a new one on me - surely this should be a penguin bank? And since when did a penguin wear a football shirt? No wonder you are confused looking in the mirror, though I am thankful your nose is red rather than gold. Grief does terrible things to us (witness my shocking sunken phizzog), but if your hooter starts becoming metallic, I really would worry.

    Much love, PG xx

      PMR
      Reply August 2, 2011

      You are right PG, my penguin was no hybrid, but a football supporting penguin bankie, no piggy involved. It was very much loved, but sadly never held very much cash, although his golden beak could have been worth a few pennies. I tried to google whack him, he was from the Royal Bank of Scotland circa 1975 but no such luck. If you saw him, you might recognise me!

        Planet Grief
        Reply August 2, 2011

        PMR - Clearly the 1970's were a time of financial institutions producing penguin banks as I found this little waddler online. PG xx ps Hope the ebay link hasn't expired!

          Linz
          Reply August 2, 2011

          Oh no - the Widow's Wail is a terrible thing when it comes unannounced and won't stop. It was 6 months for me last week, and I got through the day with a normal amount of sobbing, but 2 days later I had an appraisal with my boss, and I think that I reached a whole new level of sobbing. I don't think he was quite prepared for it (the actual appraisal was pretty good, considering!) and he did not know what to do for the best. Bless him - I think he must think of me as a "challenge" and he probably puts "how to cope with crying widow" as an area for his own development!
          I hope you are feeling better. x

Gillian Lewis
Reply August 6, 2011

I am at 36 weeks last night, and just can't stop crying, I couldnt tell you what my face must look like because I havent looked in the mirror for months, but it feels like its totally withered maybe something like a old satsuma that has been left in the bottom of the fruit bowl where the skin is looser than the actual flesh and if you poked it your finger would go through it, if that makes sense. xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 6, 2011

    Gillian: Welcome, though of course I would rather you had no reason to be here.

    Satsuma features make perfect sense, right down to the orange peel effect! When I had a bit more meat on my bones my face was fatter and I think 'puffed out' the fine lines and flaws. Without the fat, my face has sunk. I'm only forty-six but I look like this.

    PG xx

Sophie Day
Reply August 11, 2011

One day you will look in the mirror again and see a bit of a glow, a bit of a sparkle in your eye. It is early days - such a terrible cliche, I can't believe I just said it. I can't remember much of the first year. I do remember the 6 month low as you put it. A lot of wailing, curling up on the kitchen floor after my mind and body gave way, not being able to reach out for any help - feeling beyond help. Keep wailing, it is really important to let it out. Once again, I am really impressed with how you have so lucidly articulated so many aspects of losing one's soulmate and dealing with the dreadful aftermath. xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 12, 2011

    Sophie: Can I quote you on this?!!

    Someone posted a photo of me on Facebook recently. I'd met them in London and was pictured hugging their puppy. I knew I had bags under my eyes but lordy lordy! Even if there was a bit of sparkle I think it would be cancelled out by the eyes. Sudden and dramatic weight loss isn't good for any bit of the bod, but especially the face. Much love, Haggard of Highgate. xxx

      Sophie Day
      Reply August 15, 2011

      Of course you can quote me on anything. Over the last year, the moments when people have told me I look beautiful tend to be moments when I feel absolutely minging. Totally haggard, tired and emotional. Maybe they can see my soul at these times or something weird like that. Maybe I get so past caring how I look or feel that there is not a flicker of bravery masking how I am. This is the only conclusion I can come to!!!!