Mrs & Mrs Sinfield’s Story

My married name is Helen Sinfield, but I rarely used it, partly because we worked together and I liked to keep my own identity in the workplace, but partly because there had been two Mrs John Sinfield’s before me, one dead and one divorced, and I used to joke to JS that being Mrs John Sinfield was unlucky. Who’s to say I am wrong? Here I am, the widowed wife. Hat trick.

Sinfield is an unusual name, and JS was very proud of it. He took great delight in hearing of other members of the Sinfield clan such as Kevin Sinfield, the Leeds Rhinos and England Rugby League captain, though I do remember him coming across another Mr Sinfield and grumbling that he didn’t feel the man deserved to be a Sinfield. I never got JS to explain why he felt the honour of this surname was misplaced, other than mutterings that the man had shifty eyes and a high-pitched laugh.

Sinfield might be an unusual name, but it is very straightforward in its spelling and pronunciation: SIN-FIELD, but JS was often referred to as Mr Seinfeld (thank you Jerry), Mr Swinfield (which given that the derivation is from swine-field, is close enough) or any combination thereof: Sinfeld, Swinfeld, Singfield and so on.

So, given that Sinfield is an unusual name, my heart skipped a beat the other day when a new submission to the ‘My Story’ section of Planet Grief came through from another Mrs Sinfield. The way these submissions are set up is that I need to view and turn them into a blog post on a ‘proper’ computer, not my phone, so being the worry-wort that I am, I convinced myself that someone had come across my story and was writing to lambast me for publicising the name Sinfield, sensationalising it even. Because it doesn’t matter how carefully you speak in interviews, how sensitive you are in giving material out because you don’t want to hurt those you are close to, however much you trust the journalist grilling you, you have no control over a sub-editor taking a line out of context and using it as a headline, as happened recently with my interview in The Guardian where they pull quote was: ‘It was awful…He wasn’t this man on the pedestal that for those 20 years I thought he was…’ which if you didn’t read the article could mean that I’d discovered my husband was a serial philanderer or conman or Paedophile, instead of what I meant, which was that I realised JS was human and full of the faults and foibles we all are.

But that was not the content of the story at all, and here it is. I had a jolt when I saw the name Sinfield in the title, so I can only imagine the shock Iris must have felt on reading about the death of another John Sinfield, her first husband. I am so grateful to her for contacting me and for her wise words in the third paragraph. In recent interviews I have been asked to give advice to other widows, and I have surprised some of the journalists by saying quite firmly that I have no advice; we all have our own journey across Planet Grief and what works for one person does not work for another. I never give advice, I just tell those in pain that I promise them that it will get better, that they won’t always feel this way, that they don’t need to believe me when I tell them this, just trust me.

Here is the message I received from another Mrs Sinfield. Thank you Mrs John Sinfield.

Lots of love,

Mrs John Sinfield. xx

When I read your account of the dreadful loss by drowning of your husband it not only struck a chord with me but reading your husband’s name caused me quite a shock. My husband died of cancer twenty-five years ago. His name – John Sinfield.

Even though I met someone a few years after his death he was definitely not a “replacement” just a different dimension to my life. When he too died of cancer nine years ago I felt grief but not the pain of losing John , who was too young to go.

Every loss has its own feelings which is why I never say “I know how you feel” to someone grieving. No-one knows how someone else feels. You just reach out to them and listen, listen and listen again.

You don’t need to publish this. I just wanted to share my story with another Mrs Sinfield.


Elizabeth Smyth
Reply October 20, 2015

Once again I am struck by how very genuine you (Helen) are. I agreeentirely about not giving advice and that each person's journey is unique. I don't cry so much now, after 3 years, but still grieve silently.

Elizabeth Smythe
Reply October 20, 2015

..the story's Mrs JS also spoke from the heart. I gain so much from reading of other widows' experience. I can't begin to imagine the pain of a second loss.

Reply April 21, 2016

I hope u are ok. Please let your loved ones know. Please get in touch

Dee D Somers on Facebook (uncool)