After I appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour recently (and yes, Jane Garvey is just as witty, warm and welcoming as her voice would have you believe), many people contacted me and the programme because Jane and I had talked briefly about grief and divorce.
I write about widows and divorcees in my book, When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis, but in a later blog post I will revisit the subject because I find it fascinating the way it stirs up intense feelings from both sides. For that reason, I am sure that some widows and widowers reading Laura’s story will be incensed that I have included it, perhaps even turning away from Planet Grief with the feeling that it is no longer relevant to them. I hope not.
My view is that grief is the price we pay for losing anyone we love, and with it, of the future we thought we would have, the life we would lead and the love we thought we shared. Grief comes in many forms and many shades, though the woman who told me that she understood my grief because her pet rabbit had died certainly lacked some perspective (unless she had no friends other than a dandelion-eating lop-eared long-toothed buck, in which case she had way more issues than dealing with a dead bunny). Did I take that view in the early days when divorcees tried to align their grief with mine? Hell, no! The woman next door annoyed me so much, I fantasised about ripping off one of her Christian Louboutin shoes, snapping the heel off with my teeth and spitting it back at her. Do I now? I’m not sure whether I’ve mellowed or just gained some perspective. It’s complicated; my feelings ebb and flow depending on the situation, whether there are children involved and so on. All I know is that some of my friends are divorced, and as I write in my book:
‘Their route to sitting on the sofa alone and in tears night after night may have involved the slutty little poppet with hair-extensions and stick-on nails who works in accounts, rather than the Grim Reaper, but the outcome is the same.’
My overwhelming feeling is that belittling the grief of others or believing that somehow we have a monopoly on grief doesn’t soothe our own pain. Anyway, this is Laura’s story, not mine. For now.
I thank Laura for being brave and submitting her story. We’ve never met, but I think that if we did, I would like her a great deal.
I don’t really know how to start or even if I should write. No one died you see. But my husband and partner of nine years up and left one day without warning so, to me, it does feel like grief. I found your blog months ago but didn’t stay long for many reasons. Then I heard about your book and I’ve just started it.
I don’t want to liken divorce to actual, physical death but the similarities to what happened to you after that dreadful day are both startling and eerily comforting. The anxiety vomiting – reading about that I think has saved me from thinking I’ve either got some horrible disease or that I was going mad. Every single morning for the last year since he left I’ve been sick. More just heaving but sometimes full on sick. I can’t explain it, I can’t seem to stop it, and I thought it was just me.
A year in and coming up to the end of the official divorce I don’t feel much different. I believe people when they say that one day I will be ok but trying to hold on until that day is a chore. I still weep uncontrollably (today on the Tube over your book was the latest installment of tears) I still don’t cook, I can’t listen to my friends talk about their insignificant break-ups or how deliriously happy they are with their partner, I’m dreading the next wedding/baby, my family are all devastated and eternally sad as we all loved him. And I’m not even 30.
We were, I thought, happy. We had good jobs, we laughed all the time, we had friends and family and our cat (son) called Bernard. Then BAM. He didn’t want that anymore. He didn’t want to be married, he didn’t want the flat we had literally just bought. He wanted out. And out he went and I haven’t seen or spoken to him since.
I was left to clear out his remaining belongings, to take down every photo of us, to change all the bills to my name, to tell everyone we knew what had happened as he cut them out too. I had to start the divorce, and pick up the bill. I’m still trying to keep my flat. I can’t see an end to the pain at the moment, I think I’m just getting used to it.
Your blog and your book have made me feel less alone so thank you for that. I will trust that it will get better and that I will have a good, if different life.