Painful Pleasure


 

WARNING!

Tales of underwear and men ahead!

You!

Yes, you! I’m talking directly to you, the woman whose life is so shattered she begs to die rather than go on living without her husband.

Or you, who stood in the shower this morning, so shell-shocked you walked out and got dressed in dirty clothes that hang off you, a cloud of shampoo still in your hair.

And to the lady who stands in the park screaming at the sky, “Where are you? Give me a sign to say you’re OK! Anything! Please!” before crumpling in a heap on a memorial bench and sobbing until you vomit, step away from your computer screen now, I beg you.

Because all of those women above were me, and during those terrible raw times I didn’t want to read a post about relationships, and nor do some of you, if the vicious war of words that broke out last Friday night on one of the Facebook forums I belong to is anything to go by.

A regular contributor whose deep grief I have witnessed through her anguished posts, began a thread about internet dating. It was light-hearted, poking fun at the plonkers she was encountering, and there was plenty of good-natured banter, something I badly needed. A miserable Friday afternoon had turned into a very miserable sofa-slumped Merlot-sloshed Friday evening, the sort where I not only looked around my living room and thought, “JS, where are you?” but noticed the cobwebs and the paintwork and the leak in the conservatory roof and felt overwhelmed.

But then, in amongst the light-hearted and supportive comments came darker posts dripping with distaste, the general gist of which was that a grief forum was not the place to mention new relationships. Like porn on the top shelf in a newsagent’s, such discussions should be taken out of the gaze of those who wear the veil of widowhood and have no intention of ever lifting it, not even for a peck on the cheek let alone a snog. Those who had joined in the fun were admonished for encouraging such posts, slapped down for ‘revelling’ in the details of dating.

The atmosphere on the board changed as the charges were set out against those who had the temerity to think about forming a new relationship: We were hiding from our grief; settling for second best; ‘crowing’ about finding a new partner (‘Look at me! I’m so in love!’), ramming new relationships down others’ throats. It transpired that some widows had pulled out of attending a recent meet-up when they discovered they would see something undignified and distasteful: widowed couples newly in love.

The blue touch paper was lit and everything exploded with a bang, the aftershocks of which were still rumbling on the board days later. Words can wound, and people cornered (or perhaps plastered) lashed out. I was watching the fight unfold on my iPad and might have joined in if I could have sat up to type, but it meant moving The Hound who was lying across me, legs akimbo, plums on display, snoring contentedly. Also, I was a bit squiffy and in danger of lobbing a nuclear bomb into an already flaming forum.

Wise and experienced widows tried to calm the situation, but the newbies, still raw and with the self-righteousness of the recently bereaved, carried on scorning the life-choices of long-standing members.

Self-righteous? I know that in the early days I had a very ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Clearly, my grief was greater than anyone else’s: I had no time to say goodbye to my husband or ask him what the password for the Virgin Media account was; I’d seen him drown in front of me, on a beach, on holiday, thousands of miles away whilst wearing a bikini. I had no children to get up for and pull me through. I’d worked for JS so I lost my job and my husband. I couldn’t just go to work and sit and do my job and be surrounded by others who would make me tea and jolly me along. I had a financial and business minefield to unravel. My parents let me down. I couldn’t join a counselling group because JS didn’t die in a local hospice or hospital, yadda yadda yadda.

It was a load of bollocks, but at the time I believed those things just as I believed I would never again be happy, be able to put the bins out without sobbing, or read the Sunday papers. If we can’t imagine ever doing something as simple as laughing again, how could we possibly imagine a new relationship? And if one comes along when we are least expecting it, when not only are we not looking for one, but we don’t want one, when we are still banging the drum of life-long marriage, even if our partner is now in a box on a shelf rather than on the sofa beside us, what then?

Through Facebook and the aforementioned grief forums including WAY, I had been corresponding with widows and widowers since before JS’s (much delayed) funeral. These people were supportive and warm and often bleakly funny. Some fell by the wayside as their lives moved forward and they distanced themselves from grief, but there remained a core group who dragged each other through significant dates: anniversaries and birthdays, social events attempted alone and so on.

Towards the end of last year, I was walking through the women’s underwear department of M&S when out of the blue, I had a seriously X-rated thought about one of the widowers I corresponded with. I stood amongst the lace-trimmed push-up bras and matching G-strings horrified, shaking my head as if a wasp had flown into my ear, trying to rid my brain of such a disgustingly inappropriate thought.

I walked on.

It happened again.

I was rocked to my core. There had been absolutely no hint of anything remotely racy in our emails. Unlike other widows who found themselves at the end of saucy messages asking what colour underwear they were wearing, and graphical anatomical pictures of male genitalia, our conversations on Facebook Messenger went like this:

Me:      Got to go as going to have a bacon sarnie for lunch.
Him:    Red or brown sauce?
Me:      Mustard!

I rushed out of M&S into Oxford Street, got on a bus and wept. I felt sleazy, guilty and ashamed. My heart said I had been unfaithful, that I had broken my marriage vows. My head told my heart to bog-off and get real, that my vows were until death us do part. I was frightened and bewildered that the part of being a woman I thought had died along with my husband had returned whilst surrounded by mass-market underwear. I was disgusted at Media Man when he pounced on me, but this was far worse: I was disgusted with myself.

Only being an hour up the motorway, The Widower and I had talked about meeting up to walk The Hound, but after the M&S incident, I stalled. We’d meet up before the end of the year. Or not. Maybe never. I encouraged The Widower to start dating whilst hating myself for hoping he wouldn’t. Our correspondence continued, witty messages that I looked forward to receiving. When one morning my first thought was to reach for my phone and smile at a Good Morning text The Widower had sent me, rather than look at the empty pillow beside me and howl for my husband, I plunged into a spiral of despair, confusion and later that day, whisky drinking and loud rock music.

I told my bereavement coach about what had happened in M&S. She was delighted and felt it was a shift in my grief, a new stage in the process. I was freaked and scared and confused. How could I be sobbing over my husband one moment, yet having lustful thoughts over a stranger the next? I looked at photos of JS around the house and my face burned wondering if he knew what my brain was up to.

As it turned out and due to a genuine misunderstanding between us, I met The Widower when I was least expecting to, as demonstrated by my outfit. Instead of the carefully thrown together, glossy-haired understated tons-of-make-up no-make-up look, we first came eye-to-eye when I was wearing shrunken tracksuit bottoms, bare feet, a stripy dressing gown, wet hair and no make-up.

After months of messages it was good to meet him. Very good.

That first meeting and sitting outside a pub, I laid the law down in no uncertain terms. I did not want a relationship. I was not going to be anyone’s girlfriend; the odd date with a lawyer or a rich banker, maybe, but never again would I have a long-term partnership. My advice to The Widower was that he should sow some wild oats and then settle down with a lovely woman. He deserved a lovely woman, but that woman wouldn’t be me because as I had clearly stated, I would be racing around with lawyers and bankers.

It was quite a speech, worthy of Churchill or Martin Luther King.

It was also totally inappropriate as the poor man had only come to walk The Hound with me.

It’s a mark of the man that he didn’t tell me to pull my head out of my own butt and stop being such a stroppy self-centered princess, but instead, listened with calm good humour.

And then told me he was not the slightest bit interested in a relationship either.

Just to ram my point home, after he left I emailed him a copy of my speech.

Was I telling The Widower that I didn’t want a relationship or telling myself? I know that at the time I meant everything I said. I talked again to my bereavement coach. She asked what I liked about The Widower. I reeled off a long list of his qualities. She asked me what I didn’t like. There was nothing about him I didn’t like. What I didn’t like was that he had come into my life now. It was too soon, not part of my plan. She said, “OK, don’t see him for another eighteen months or two years or whatever time scale you think is appropriate. Then look him up and when you find he is happy with someone else, we’ll deal with your tears of regret then.”

If he finds someone else before I’m ready, then that’s fate, I told myself, trying to ignore the fact that I would be devastated if in one of my “You should date lots of women!” conversations The Widower had confessed, “Actually, I’ve found someone I really like…”

There was more dog-walking and deeper talking and at some point we agreed to go out on a date. Traipsing across Hampstead Heath in wellies was one thing, but a proper grown-up date in good clothes was quite another. It ended in tearful angst-ridden disaster, and an acknowledgement by me that it was all too soon.

There were no more funny emails, no witty texts. Life felt even darker than it was already.

I missed him.

After a gap, we went back to uncomplicated dog walking.

One day, it was muddy on the Heath and The Widower got stuck in the mud. I was laughing so much I doubled-up and could hardly breathe. When I straightened up he was still trying to pull his wellies out of the mud and laughing and I thought, I don’t want to lose that man from my life. Which is the moment The Widower became Gorgeous Grey-Haired Widower.

I suspect that those who have been widowed and look on as others make new relationships feel (as I would have done) that a new partner erases grief, but the reality is much more complicated. I don’t want to speak for GGHW, but what I will say is that I doubt there is any widow or widower out there who hasn’t struggled with the idea of a new relationship, and the problems and unexpected feelings it brings.

The first weekend GGHW stayed with me we had a lovely time, walking The Hound, going to the local farmers’ market, reading the Sunday papers. When GGHW drove away that evening I was happy. I was happy as I made something to eat. Then, suddenly, I became convulsed with hysterical sobs. I stood in the kitchen shouting into space, “JS I’m sorry! I’m sorry, but you’re not here! You’re not bloody here!” whilst waving a wooden spoon aggressively in the air. It frightened me and it frightened The Hound.

And then there is the fear of the future. Whichever way you look at things, there will be upheaval and angst. If things don’t work out then it will be heartbreaking. If they do work out and we live happily ever after, the cruel reality is that one of us will be widowed again. When I first thought of this, I burst into tears and wept that I couldn’t do it all over again. Always calm and optimistic, GGHW pointed out the fun we would have in the meantime. But still…

I also firmly believed that if I did ever date again, I would be forever comparing JS to other men and that other men would always fall short and be second best. It has been a shock to find out and painful to admit that in some areas, the tables are turned.

And then there is the most distressing part of the entire dating a widower process, and something I still find incredibly difficult and painful to cope with.

GGHW has two gorgeous sons who have been nothing less than welcoming to me. They are tremendous and I adore them, but in amongst the laughter we have when we are together comes terrible flashes of why I am there: I am there because their mother isn’t. It should be Gorgeous Son No 2’s mum sitting at the kitchen table as he recounts his day. It should be Gorgeous Son No 1’s mum visiting him at university. Sometimes it all becomes so overwhelming, I feel as I did in the early days of grief when I used to sink to my knees and cover my head, waiting for the tidal wave of despair to wash over me.

I remember one night at GGHW’s house sobbing and saying that if I had my car with me I would leave, even though it was the early hours of the morning, such was the overwhelming grief I felt for everyone. GGHW put his arms around me and said that if I really wanted to go home he would drive me. I stayed. The terrible truth is that me not being there won’t bring the boys’ mother back, however much I long it would, but sometimes the practical side of me becomes swamped with emotion and I weep for what should have been for those young lads and their lovely mum.

All these emotions, is it any wonder that some of us simply decide we can’t face any further upheaval and pull-up the drawbridge?

To those who think that finding new love means we no longer have a place on widow forums, the truth is that whilst it is undeniably lovely to have someone who cares whether you’ve got home safely, new love doesn’t erase old loss and neutralise grief. It brings with it new issues and painful reminders. It holds up a magnifying glass to past relationships. It makes you examine how you behaved and uncovers deep hurts and unresolved regrets. After the lows of bereavement, the highs of a new relationship are undeniably heady, but when you come home to an empty house and legal wrangles and a cold side of the bed and a wardrobe still full of your husband’s clothes and wake alone and anxious after yet another terrible dream and you still can’t get the little movie of your husband walking into the sea and all that happened in the moments afterwards out of your head, I promise you, life can feel just as bleak and despairing as ever.

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51 Comments

Catherine Parcell
Reply May 17, 2012

You are brilliant at writing, didn't want it to finish, very well written, interesting and to the point. I'm at 12 yrs, just turned 50, had three encounters since Andrew died. Curiosity drive me into the arms of a Homestart helper, curious as to having sex with someone else! (Andrew was my first and only). He didn't want a relationship, just sex, which at the time suited me, but in my depths of grief I knew I deserved more and better than this, do backed away.
Our close friends were struggling through MS and in trying to show friendship and support through his struggle I was misread and kissed! Now I am sure you will agree and understand that half of me thought no, no, but the other half thought why not? I am struggling with grief, four children, broke, sad and lonely, so why not? Again I realised that this wasn't for 'me' on my terms, but for him and his lust, so again kept my distance!
An old friend from school asked me for a drink, we started very slowly dating, he had a messy divorce years before, in time I saw he wanted a housekeeper, childminder and someone to look after him, I wasted two years.
Through these experiences I realise that I had a man who really truly loved me. If I die at 99 I had the love of a wonderful man.
I'm at that stage were I would rather be happy and alone than in a relationship and miserable.
Well done for writing this piece, and thankyou.

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Catherine: Thank you for your supportive comments and for sharing your experiences.

    Early after JS died I had some people tell me that I was lucky to have found a man who had truly loved me, looked out for and looked after me etc, because they hadn't ever experienced anything other than a string of lying cheating conniving snakes, or words to that effect. At the time I thought: F off! That doesn't help me now! but there was truth in their comments. Catherine, we have both had the sort of love others can only dream of. I also know that JS's death has uncovered truths about other marriages which in drink soaked reflective late-night conversations with others has shown what we both know: that we would rather be alone than in the wrong relationship.

    Yesterday, someone on another forum posted that they were upset that it was inferred you needed a new relationship to feel complete. I posted this, the last quote by Carrie Bradshaw in the final episode of Sex & The City. I love it because it sums up what I have always felt (single, married, in a relationship, whatever):

    "Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous."

Samantha
Reply May 17, 2012

PG,
Thank you for such an eloquent and searingly honest and self-deprecating post. I had been thinking of you and wondering how you and GGHW were doing.
I can totally empathise with the emotions in your post, though I am not so far along this journey as you. Whilst I am not yet in a place to consider a new relationship, I think what you describe (guilt, headiness, justifying myself to Phil, face burning in shame in case he reads my thoughts) exactly how I will feel - though in my fear about the future I worry I will be alone forever, a Miss Haversham figure.
I do however have a new all-consuming love helping me - and it's one without the guilt and confusion and tumult of emotions that a new partner of course brings. I adore our son, when he is happy I am happy, when he is sad or I am worried about him that also consumes me. Having said there's no guilt, there is but in a different way - now the last thing at night and the first thing I think of in the morning is Pip (like you and your anticipation of GGHW's text) and not Phil, I do feel guilty. I think I am acclimatising to this new normal and I feel bad. Like you say, embarking on this new phase doesn't mean everything is easy now, but to me it is helping to slowly heal the enormous gaping wound, gradually threading the stitches to turn it into a jagged scar.
Thanks as always for posting and all the best to you and GGHW.
Sam x

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Sam: Every time you post a picture of Pip on Facebook I smile. He's gorgeous.

    As I've said in my post to Catherine above, I don't believe you need a man (other than Pip, of course!) to make your life a fulfilling one (and I need a dog), but if in time you meet a man who loves Pip as much as Phil would have done, who whatever happens to your relationship with each other will always look out for Pip and want the very best for him, a man who is kind to you both and a man who makes you both laugh, well, that would be just fabulous! xxx

      Samantha
      Reply June 6, 2012

      Thanks PG - I am glad his photos raise a smile. And to find someone who loves us both and makes us laugh would be beyond fabulous! It's a bit lonely admiring and marvelling at him by myself, but family and friends have been amazing. And he has brought colour back into the world, for which I'm eternally grateful.
      Hope all well with you, GGHW and the Hound - love the Jubilee photos on FB, looks like fun xx
      Ps I think I am now in tune with your post Facebook: Friend or Foe :)

        Planet Grief
        Reply June 11, 2012

        Sam: I think the whole Facebook thing is part of the process. A widow said to me early on that it was important that people don't get stuck in that world, that it wasn't healthy to become too immersed in others grief.

        I contribute when I can, but I feel that perhaps sometimes I am too perky for the newcomers. I know that I would have wanted to slap someone like me about the face with a wet kipper had they come over all Pollyanna-ish in those dark days.

        Big kiss to little Pip. xx

Sue Smith
Reply May 17, 2012

A lovely post as always Helen, I was thinking about you the other day and missing your posts......now I can see why. Well done for writing this. I wasnt around when the recent spat kicked off on FB but I have caught up with it since. I havnt felt the need or dared even to dip my toe onto these dating sites but would not knock anyone that did. We all do what we do.....and opinions are like noses everyone has one!!! It can be such a dreadfully lonely life this widowhood and I personally dont feel anything negative towards those that look for friendship/a relationship. Good on ya I say, good luck and I hope you find happiness and much more xxSuexx

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Sue: I wish I could say that the reason I hadn't posted recently was because of being totally loved up with the GGHW, but it has been more to do with an energy-sapping anxiety-producing bill-inducing legal situation which (with a heavy heart) I'm about to walk away from.

    I am not sure that I would ever have dipped so much as the tip of a (pedicured) toenail in the online dating world for no other reason than I am a firm believer in fate (which isn't always a good thing), and also because I am not sure I would have the confidence to know that there might be men out there slagging me off in the way me and my friends do when we peruse these cattle-market profiles for a laugh. For those that do, like you I say, Good on you, but just don't give out any money! xx

Jay
Reply May 17, 2012

Rather good post Mrs B :)

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Jay: If I knew how to send you a smiley faced wink back, I would!

megan
Reply May 17, 2012

Love this. I was missing you. And lady, I love this post so much.

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Thanks Megan. Should be back on a more regular roll now I am calling the dogs off to chase a total sleazebag for money. Wish I could be more explicit, but I can't.

    xx

Marieke
Reply May 17, 2012

Dear HB, I have missed your posts. And this one made me both laugh & cry. As you know, I too have found someone recently. And it crept up on me. Usually I start to feel something for someone and it grows. In this case, it grew without me noticing. Part of me was still so busy with being a widow that I simply did not notice another part was busy falling in love. So when I did realise, it was like being hit in the face with a sledgehammer. From feeling like a widow one day, I suddenly felt like a teenager in love the next. I was so obsessed with this new love that I forgot to think about J. Now things have settled down and I am coming up to the 1 year mark, I am thinking about J. more often again.

And your post describes so well that things are not so simple as just loving someone else. Loving someone else does not mean the Old Love has been dealt with and is no longer part of the present.

Not sure what I want to say, other than that I love how you can so eloquently put in to words what I feel too. You would almost start to think that perhaps grief journeys DO follow a certain path for most people. That we should perhaps listen to those further along the road and not be too proud to say: Yes, it might well be like that for me too but right now it isn't. Other people's happiness is not an insult to new widows. it should serve as an inspiration. Maybe it is up to us 'oldies' to explain that better.

Did I just call myself an 'oldie'? Geez, it has not even been a year....

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Marieke, again I think you are right. Our grief is all different in how it manifests itself, but I do think that this journey does follow a path and currently my path is a little emotionally rocky trying to incorporate a new life with my old, and the horror of the abrupt way that old life ended. I have problems with people leaving to go on journeys (car, holiday whatever) and wondering if I will see them again. I know that others who have lost their partners to illness fear that same loss.

    I do think it is worth listening to those further along the road. We don't have to believe what they say, but I do think we can trust them.

    Here's to cheese my dear! xxx

Christine
Reply May 17, 2012

Good for you Helen, I wish you all the happiness in the world. Well done for helping me through this terrible time, reading your blog has helped me. Thank you. xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Christine: Thank you for your lovely words. This blog was started just for me, to prove to myself that I could write again when I never thought I would and to write-out the pain I was/I still feel. The fact that others have found some balm in my words is very healing to me. xxx

Ceri
Reply May 17, 2012

Thank you - this is such a brilliant post. My first relationship after my husband died has just ended and I am devastated and the thoughts and feelings you have expressed ring so true.
I am so glad you found happiness - I thought I had and thought by new partner had also found happiness, after his wife died, but it was not to be - it's about seizing those moments and living life to the max. Something I wanted to do by my GGHW(!) didn't feel he was ready for
Thank you
x

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Ceri: Elsewhere I have read about your story with (forgive me) your GGHW turned Bastard Grey-Haired Widower (BGHW).

    Who knows what will happen with GGHW? I know what I feel will happen, but as with any relationship things could collapse faster than a souffle from a hot oven.

    GGHW has (jokingly) banned me from Googling relationships after death as I am always coming up with stories where after a couple of years a widow or widower wakes up and out of the blue says: "I can't deal with this any more/can't commit/never dealt with the grief/was kidding myself etc etc." How much is still grief related and how much is an excuse? Don't know, but heartbreak after bereavement must be particularly painful. I have heard others say it felt like another bereavement.

    Get the lippy back on, slip into a pair of heels and stride out lovely Ceri. His loss. I'll stick him in a future book as revenge if you like! x

      megan
      Reply June 11, 2012

      Ha. That is fantastic.

      Ian
      Reply June 11, 2012

      You were not jokingly banned from Googling relationships.

      x

        Planet Grief
        Reply June 11, 2012

        Ha!

Deena
Reply May 17, 2012

As always entertaining PG !!!

Funny, sad, poignant, but above all full of hope.

I think last friday's fracas, pushed those of us who are ready, to move to a different Lane, I, like you refrained from commenting, just sat with wide open mouth in disbelief. Those of us who started the journey and have supported one another through the past year and more will always share a bond, that goes beyond grieving togethe,r to an all together different plain. Your sense of humour has encouraged us to find our own once again. Thank you Dear PG.

On the GGHW, I can't help but feel the Yorkshires played a small part in this !!!! You know how happy I am for you both and the other MWs who have found something to smile about again.

Love xxxxxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Deena: Big hugs.

    In the early days I remember sobbing to my bereavement coach about how perfect JS was. This of course was plainly untrue because he was human; grief had blinded me to all the things that used to have me mentally packing a bag including always thinking he was right which cost him his life. But still. At that stage he was still Saint JS, an angel with a set of golf clubs and an electric golf trolley. "Isn't there anything you would do differently another time?" she enquired. "Any other quality you would look for in a relationship?"

    Next time and IF I ever met anyone else I said (looking around for flying porkers), they would have to cook, JS not being the slightest bit interested in donning an apron.

    Deena: You have seen the Yorkshires.

    xxx

Alison Wright
Reply May 17, 2012

Hi HB - as always a great post and read. Have missed you so its good to catch up with you via your blog. Wishing you lots of happiness. Take care xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Early days Alison and still lots of hassle at my end (ashes to be scattered, suitcases to be opened, business issues and legal issues ongoing), but when I say this to GGHW he calmly says, "Between us we'll cope."

    And I believe him.

    Love to you and the cats. xx

    ps The Hound says he hasn't sent any love to any cats.

SETI
Reply May 17, 2012

As usual H, you banged that nail foursquare on the head.
As you know, I have a new partner and it doesn't denude the love I still have for my departed wife. Until it happens, you can't imagine they could co-exist, yet they do.
Could I have dated a None-Widow? Hmmm now you're asking.... I think not, but that's another story.
Whatever we have before us, I shall meet it head on with my head held high. There is no guilt, only regret. I can honestly say if I could "magic" my partner's "ex" back into her life I would, without hesitation. Would I be sad, heartbroken even? Damn right but that's how much I love her. Funny place isn’t it?

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    SETI: Your last paragraph hit home. If I could magic the GGHW's late wife back I would, not just for him but for his boys and for the family unit that was fractured when she died. I would try and persuade him to have an affair with me on the side though!

    Seriously though, there is no road map for this strange life is there? I keep feeling that my head hasn't always caught up with my life, so radically has my world changed since late morning on the 27th February, 2011.

    At this stage in my grief I would say that it would be difficult for me to have dated a non-widower. It would take a man amazingly secure in his own skin not to feel threatened when tears engulf me and so on. GGHW has a perspective on grief where he knows such emotional breakdowns are not reflection on our relationship. On the other hand, there are widows out there (Holly, where are you?) who have found wonderful partners (Jamie!) who have not been bereaved, but show compassion and understanding. I suspect that without his experience, GGHW would also have been a 'Jamie'.

    xx

Jed
Reply May 17, 2012

Great piece Helen and I am so glad that you decided to take the plunge. I'm not ready yet and although the loneliness is often painful at times, the lack of self confidence that widowhood has brought with it weights heavier than the loneliness. Hopefully one day I'll have the courage, but in the meantime wishing you both lots of happiness and please keep writing.

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Jed: Thank you.

    I wasn't ready and couldn't have imagined (and still can't) being in a position to actively look for a partner and date (see my post to Sue Smith above). Other than the one date disaster, we didn't seem to date just walk The Hound!

    I will cheer you on as you regain your confidence in yourself and in life.

    Please keep commenting!

    xx

Desiree
Reply May 18, 2012

I always find myself nodding along in agreement with your posts as I read them, and this one was no different. You have a way of articulating all the things I can't explain to people. Great writing and some good points well made x

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Paula: Like Marieke says (above) I do think that there are common points to all our grief journeys, even if our routes and destinations are different.

    Thank you. x

Paula
Reply May 18, 2012

Hi HB
Being waiting for your next post with bated breath lol I wih you every happiness with your GGHW Its strange journey this grieving game ,how you really want enjoy and feel some happiness and i regain some sort of normality and then other days where it floors me Still sat on the fence about dating I need to sort my head out first Your post and reading about others finding love again gives me so much hope
Life is for living xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Paula: I often have moments when what has happened takes my breath away. The annoying thing is, at the moment I find these moments are often moments after I have felt really happy. For instance, I was driving back down the motorway from the GGHWs the other day: happy; rock on the iPod; little Fiat 500 zipping along; a clear route. I started thinking about how proud JS would be of me, driving (which had become a problem for me in later years though I blame him!), sorting stuff out, trying to grab life by the scruff of its rapidly wrinkling neck, his lovely children who have been so supportive of me etc etc.

    And then I started yelling and crying about the unfairness of life and a whole list of stuff. If there had been windscreen wipers on my eyes they would have been going at full pelt.

    Life is for living, but gosh the emotion of living this life is draining at times, isn't it? xx

ChrisJ
Reply May 18, 2012

On a rare outing to PG I find your new post.
I must admit I was worried when you took a sudden and long break from writing last year. But, since there was nothing I could do about it since it was outside my control I was obliged to assume that you were OK. I had to rationalise my concern and avoid any dark thoughts. With 3 big sons this is something you get used to doing. I have to think that they are fine and that I really believe that their phone was really out of battery/credit/order. Although, in their case, it often seems to be a lack of appreciation or consideration. I mention this as an example to illustrate my slightly philosophical digression below.

I came across this (Epictetus) quote recently: "People are disturbed not by events, but by their opinions about events" – (changed "Men" to "People"). What it is saying is that it is your own individual perspective with its inbuilt, habitual and often subconscious value systems that often creates the problems. The trick is to realise that thoughts can be controlled and/or altered so that your perspective changes and thereby you avoid being disturbed by events. Amending your belief system (internal viewpoint) can change your emotional responses. Trying to change others thought patterns often creates cyclical and spiralling conflict since it challenges their individual belief systems and is seen as a personal attack. Hence you get regular outbursts, caused by simple differences of entrenched opinion, on internet discussion boards. This type of perpetual antagonism is reflected throughout human history and current affairs.

In previous posts, there was mention of grief being like a bubble that initially totally envelopes you and that you can’t see out of. Perspective can however be adjusted.

Nothing to add on relationships, as regular readers will know, I am, virtually, a lost cause probably beyond redemption but still somewhat ambivalent. I do wonder if I am taking the words of the Dalai Lama a bit too literally: ”Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.”

All know the Way, but few actually walk it.

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    ChrisJ: I doubt you are a lost cause or beyond redemption!

      ChrisJ
      Reply May 25, 2012

      Dare I say - being BLUE is not just about mood it IS THE COLOUR...
      Things happen that no-one could have predicted. It is a useful reminder to have faith and believe when all around you people have written you off. It is a strange game.

    ChrisJ
    Reply June 5, 2012

    What has an ancient Greek got to do with the modern world? I hear you shout.
    I saw the (above) quote in a review and knew I had to buy the book. Whilst browsing author's site came across this free excerpt:
    http://philosophyforlife.org/pol_pp25-29.pdf

    There is also a clip of Eckhart Tolle on the wisdom of Epictetus on above homepage and on youtube. ET is too new age/space academy for me and I have not read any of his books but the clip is OK.

    For those who are either fed-up of my posts (SORRY) or discount the airey fairey stuff; Epictetus influenced/inspired CBT nearly 2000 years later and the excerpt is worthy of a read.

      Planet Grief
      Reply June 11, 2012

      ChrisJ: I love ET and long before JS died used to try and do the whole Live in The Moment thing and found it wonderful. All went to pot later though!

Nancy
Reply May 18, 2012

Helen, such a great post. Once again, you've brilliantly summed up the incredibly complex feelings and emotions that widowhood and grief bring with them, this time casting your eye over the minefield of new relationships.
And I have to say, I did laugh at your description of the self-righteousness attached to new bereavement; of course my loss was much greater than anyone else's ;-)
Thank you so much for continuing to write....xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 24, 2012

    Nancy: Thank you. This subject does bring up mixed emotions and a huge amount of comment here and on the various grief sites on which this blog appears.

    Take care. Hx

Ian
Reply May 18, 2012

Reading about ones self is strange !! Helen you put it into words what we have been through, going through so beautifully.

The GGHW should just be GHW, trades description act.

Just want to say OLLIing with you is fantastic.
You are a special lady ( in so many ways ) and you are my special lady.

You are not only making my life complete again but my sons are so much happier with you around (and Boris of course).

There is a place in my heart and mind for the past
and there is a space (a big space) in my heart and mind for the future.

The journeys end is unknown but we are going to have fun getting there.

Love you
xxxxx

    Deena
    Reply May 19, 2012

    Ian

    What a beautiful post xxx

    KT
    Reply May 21, 2012

    "Like" :-)

    Sophie Day
    Reply May 21, 2012

    She sounds like a very special lady, and you a special guy. It is lovely to hear that you two have found each other xx

      Planet Grief
      Reply May 24, 2012

      Ladies and gents: I think when the GGHW says I am a special lady, what he really means is special as in 'Special Needs' ie the sort of kids at school in the 70s who didn't do 'O' Levels but grew broad beans (and other crops - ahem!) in the school greenhouse.

Sophie Day
Reply May 19, 2012

Indeed it can. I am on my second, and have just come off anti-depressants. Realised last week that I feel genuinely HAPPY for the first time since the accident. Never thought it would be possible. You're right about everything. The excitement of a new relationship doesn't replace my feelings for my soulmate. I would still rather have him, but I can't. And so. I am choosing to live life and love and enjoy it as much as possible. So are you by the sounds of it and it makes me feel proud to read your post. Positively engaging with the new stuff, and the hard emotions that come along with it is really tiring but really brave and very important in our quest to eventually blossom again and become happy. Mahoooooosive well done to you lady, and thankyou for this post. xxx

    Sophie Day
    Reply May 19, 2012

    oh yeah, you had a really important point about the lust thing. I remember feeling after about 6 months totally gagging for it and lusting after all sorts of inappropriate men. Didn't do anything about it for quite some time but I remember those feelings being really confusing and intense. Even when one's partner is gone suddenly, we are still living and breathing humans who need contact and have sex drives!!! So few people openly talk about this. I found it hard to discuss with my friends but one or two made it ok to talk about and I am so grateful for their unconditional love, and for being so un-judgemental. They just wanted me to be safe and not do anything reckless. Good advice. Anyway, late for dinner, lots of love! xx

      Sophie Day
      Reply May 19, 2012

      Then I had sex with my next door neighbour (10 years my junior, after a drunken snog over the back fence, I kid you not) and had to take the morning after pill. I should've listened to the advice. But it was one of the most liberating and consciously positive steps I took so not a single regret!

        Planet Grief
        Reply May 24, 2012

        Sophie: Three great posts from you in quick succession. Hurrah!

        Re: Neighbourly sex: At least the Walk of Shame was short.

        Massive love. xx

shelley whitehead
Reply May 24, 2012

Brilliant Blog! Courageous journey. SOOOOOO Proud of you!! Did I really say all that? :) xx

kate
Reply December 18, 2012

Thank you for making me laugh - 2 months in and of course my grief is worse than anyone elses etc etc, but I'm cheering on anyone who is able to find things and people that make them happy again. "The walk of shame is short when its your next door neighbour" - brilliant.