A GP Writes…
I was all fired up to write about how the non-widowed view any new romantic relationships we widowed folk make, when I remembered something else I wanted to share with you, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer for my soapbox rant about how dating after death doesn’t make everything fine and dandy, because if it did, surely the NHS could save money on counselling and anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds and all sorts of other drugs to treat the illnesses that crop up when your body has been battered by bereavement, and simply hand a new widow a subscription to match.com or point them towards Tinder.
Enough. For now.
For life insurance purposes, I recently had a medical to check that I wasn’t going to promptly peg it the moment the underwriters accepted my first premium. Of course, as far too many of us reading this can testify, I could fall off my perch from something a blood test or breathing into a tube can’t detect, but at least if I did, I’d have some life insurance, something my late husband didn’t as he refused to acknowledge that he wasn’t immortal.
The insurance company sent Doc C to my house, a lovely man, a retired GP, the sort of doctor straight out of central casting if a film script called for a ‘Kind, family old-school doctor with a wonderful bedside manner wearing coloured trousers and a tweed jacket’. An hour of prodding and poking and blood-letting and breathing later, Doc C and I got chatting over a cup of tea about books, life and death, but particularly death. As you can imagine, as a family GP for more than forty years, Doc C had a wealth of experience of dealing with those in distress. We got on very well. I can honestly say that Doc C was one of the most wonderfully warm and inspiring people I have ever met.
After our meeting, he sent me a lovely chatty letter reflecting on some of the things we had spoken about, and I wanted to share with you the last few paragraphs of his note. I found it comforting, and depending on where you are on this journey across the stony alien landscape of Planet Grief, you may too. This is part of that letter:
“One of the sparks I held onto was the story you told me of your friend who deliberately avoided any relationship after her husband died. If I had met her, I would have asked her one thing: “Would your husband have wanted you to remain alone/lonely?” For in the tragic loss of your own husband, I am absolutely certain he would never have wanted you to waste the rest of your life in such a way. I certainly would be quite upset if my wife spent her remaining years moping over me, something my own mother did for my father.
One of life’s great imponderables is “what might have been”. You touched on this when you were describing your awareness of the war memorials in the school chapel. It is the key question when a love affair ends. In a sense your course of life was irrevocably altered by your husband’s untimely death, but you have in fact begun a new life in which you seem very happy and for which I can only warmly wish you all possible happiness. In a sense you have entered, or been bounced into a parallel life. I must admit I have never believed that there is only one potential spouse out there – very rare but not unique, and it is very much a question of timing and proximity if one is to meet them.”
Crash landing on Planet Grief or bounced into a parallel life: it amounts to the same thing, a sudden and enforced change of life for which we are ill-prepared, but for which the way forward – after a period of trying desperately to cling on to what we know, to keep things as they were – may include a new life with a new love, a scenario which brings with it all manner of complicated feelings and issues not just with friends and family, but for other widows too.
See you soon, on my soapbox.