I’m at that difficult stage of writing a book where I’m absolutely sick and tired of reading my own words. It always happens at some point; the sparkling prose that gushed from the tips of my fingers now looks constipated. Disheartened, I start doing the grammatical hokey-cokey: You put your right comma in; your right comma out; in, out, in, out; move it all about. I take a break and read a book, only to be filled with despair at how brilliantly everyone else writes. I browse Facebook and notice that other bloggers have millions of ‘Likes’ on their page and wonder if I should cheat and ‘buy’ a block of fake fans to look popular. I start to worry that if I hate reading my own story, everyone else will too. I gnash my teeth that I’m in a position to write about death and its aftermath, instead of frothy novels about teenage girls snogging spotty boys.

It’s a desperate time and I know that it will pass because it always does, but this book is putting me through the emotional wringer in a way that writing fiction never has. It’s also made me realise that during that first year (at least) on Planet Grief, I was completely and utterly bonkers, way above my normal baseline of bonkers, so bonkers in fact, I felt I ought to warn my readers not to believe anything that they are about to read. I have written a disclaimer as part of the book’s introduction stating that just as grief doesn’t follow a straight line, nor does my writing, which back then was all over the place, just like my mind. One minute, I was never going to move house, the next I was planning on living in Ireland to sit in a bar and drink Guinness. I was never going to take my wedding ring off (I did), wear a bikini (I did), go on holiday abroad (I did), fall in love again (I did) or move out of London (I wish I hadn’t).

It wasn’t just me. We were all a bit bonkers. Reviewing the blog material, I’ve read comments from other widows who felt the same way. I smile because I know how their lives are panning out. So crushed by losing their partners, in the early days they could barely get out of bed. These lost souls have gone on to sail the world, climb mountains, have babies, re-marry, start businesses or simply get to a place where they can admit (sometimes with a tinge of guilt) that life has become good again, despite being adamant that it never would.

So, on reflection, I can completely understand why people were always banging on about not making any major decisions in the first year of widowhood. I don’t just mean other ‘been there, done that, bought the coffin’ people, but non-widowed strangers too, people I sobbed over in the street, at the bus stop or in supermarket queues. “I think the most important thing is not to make any decisions in the first year,” they would say gravely, studiously arranging their huge family shop on the conveyer belt in Sainsbury’s as I stood clutching a microwaveable meal for one and three bottles of cheap plonk, tears running down my face. Such was the desire to flee from my grief, it was entirely possible that I could now be living on a Greek Island, married to Stavros – a twenty-five year old olive-skinned god – and be working in the restaurant that his family own, but which I am bank-rolling. On the other hand, that doesn’t sound that terrible…

But seriously, ‘wait a year’ is a good rule of thumb. However together we think we are, it’s only when we look back that we realise that we were literally insane with grief. If I hadn’t written this blog, perhaps I wouldn’t have remembered just how warped with pain my mind was unless someone reminded me. I remember going to a meeting very soon after JS died and thinking how well I had done, how professional I had appeared. Months after that meeting, one of the people I had met confessed that I had appeared ‘manic’. I was so desperate for it to be ‘business as usual’, I obviously overdid the fake smiles. I do remember that I got on the bus and cried.

And now? For me, life is good. It’s not all rainbows and puppies, but then that’s life for all of us, widowed or not. At over four years, I still get pangs where I look up at the sky and think, “JS, come back and rescue me! The big experiment is over. You can come home now.” It’s not all roses round the door for those sailing/mountaineering/go-getting/baby-popping men and women, either. As someone wrote to me recently, “The more I do, the more I achieve, the further away I feel from him.”

We are all a work in progress, aren’t we? I’m pretty sure that I’m not as bonkers as I was during that first year, but who’s to say I won’t look back on the blogs I write now and think, “Goodness, I was bonkers back then…”


image via


caroline mason
Reply April 30, 2015

Climbed a mountain but still bonkers and missing my old life

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 11, 2015

    Caroline: You were the person I was thinking of when I wrote the comment. I remember the picture of you - with the picture - at the top. Inspiring.

    Keep climbing.

    Big hugs mountaineer. x

Reply April 30, 2015

Oh goodness, the things I contemplated in the first year. Selling up and moving was a more sensible one, others not so.
The second year unleashed an Aston Martin of all things but that, although a boost to the ego and no small indulgence, did nothing for the heart. Bonkers? That's just the public facade.

    caroline mason
    Reply May 1, 2015

    Selling and buying a canal boat, giving everything to charity etc etc bonkers, only thing I learnt is that it takes time and only you know the pace.

      Planet Grief
      Reply May 11, 2015

      David: An Aston Martin isn't bonkers, it's wonderful, although in my case buying one would have been as I'm rubbish at parking, it would (back then) have been parked on the street and I would only use to run to the shops and back.

      Caroline: You may have seen from my personal Facebook page I long to have less possessions and live a simpler life. I wanted this before JS died. After he died, I thought this would give me the opportunity to put my 'life in one bag' dream in to practice. I seem to have acquired MORE stuff. For those not on my FB page, this is what I posted:

      So GGHW and I read an article in The Independent about a couple (the same age as us) who are selling up and disposing of all their 'junk' so they can sail around the world. They are having a yard sale of everything including the family car this weekend. "How freeing!" I say. "How wonderful to have less stuff. I don't want to sail around the world, but I would like less junk. I am going to aim to have less junk."

      They live only a few miles away.

      We went to the yard sale this morning for a look around.

      I came away with three of their chairs.

      There is no hope.

Reply May 2, 2015

I didn't know PG had a FB page until you just mentioned it but I have now added my "like". Quandary now is where does one comment?
The +ve thing is that you have started the book. I can only dream of getting to that stage. Totally different subject matter, I hasten to add. Not so much Writer's Block but very feeble "lack of time" excuse. I am now forgetting what research and materials I had accumulated. My random filing systems are dependent on feats of memory. Returned (specialist subject & out of print) FIVE books back to the library after a sequence of renewals lasting, ehm, probably 18 months (!). They remained a depressing reminder that I should get on with the project. Bonkers not to - given the time and cash already invested.
Does Stavros have a sister?

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 11, 2015

    Chris J. Only just got the FB page up and running, but commenting here is still very good as comments get a wider audience. I know from the stats there are a lot of readers who don't comment (Shy Planet Griefers) and so by commenting here, you are helping others. Thank you.

    Re the book? I have heard this 'no time' excuse over and over again. At least you have been man enough to admit your excuse is feeble. I read recently the following: if you don't want to do something you will find an excuse not to do it; if you really do want to do something, you will find the time to do it.

      Reply May 11, 2015

      I did comment in the Book of Faces to Holy Basil. That version of PG can also be seen by non FB users. (Link at top of PG home page).
      Yes, you are totally correct. But, this is something I want to do VERY much hence the ongoing dilemna and inner conflict. When required I can write a few paragraphs and pages at a time on a particular subject - which is good - but I cannot seem to do this in the literal context of a joined-up book. Weird, Yes? This being just one chapter of my personal bonkerisms.

Lynsey Spurling
Reply May 7, 2015

H, you continue to make me smile, laugh and nod all the way through. I am still highly capable of 'bonkers' but I now do bonkers in an OLLI way instead of manic mad desperation. Bonkers is good :) xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply May 11, 2015

    Lynsey: Glad you are channelling a good form of Bonkerism. xx