Laura’s Story

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.



Reply October 27, 2015

Dear Laura... I was, like HB disgusted that folk who compared their divorce to my grief but like HB I am further along in this journey and have most likely gained some perspective, Laura you are early days, you are I suspect punishing yourself and blaming yourself and all these things are 'normal' ahem whatever normal is.... You will live again, you will be happy again .. maybe not tomorrow but trust me. My Husband of 8 years dropped dead on our dining room floor, he was 42, I wanted to die there and then, but here I am nearly 5 years on and I am living, I have a good life, a great job and a gorgeous man in my life, I am not the same person as whe Married, I am different but a good different. I for one am pleased you found Planet Grief and I hope all our contributions will help you understamd that the feelings both physical and mental are all here and we've got the t-shirts... Please keep in touch Laura, there will be many here that will help. Take care and remember to eat! Food will help you heal... Al xx

    Laura Bates
    Reply April 21, 2016

    Thank you so much for your lovely words. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply - i didn't come back to the blog until recently when i heard about HB. I'm incredibly touched by what you've said and am glad to hear about you're life 5 years on. I am coming out the other side I think. Thinking of HB and her family and hoping she is safe. Lx

Laura T
Reply October 27, 2015

Hey Laura!

Wanna be friends with another Laura? I'm nearly 7 years into the loss of my husband. And two years ago when my new partner said to me that his kids were suffering from his divorce as much as mine were from their Dad's I nearly ripped his throat out! BUT .. I've changed ... Different is not the same but is still SHOT. This weekend I attended a wedding with him and his kids and watched them struggle to connect with their mother ... Who left them when they were babies ... And I cried ( inside) for their loss. I would love to be an ear for you ... You deserve a good life xx

    Laura Bates
    Reply April 21, 2016

    Hi Laura, can't thank you enough for your kind words. They mean a lot. I would LOVE to be friends! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply - i didn't come back to the blog until recently when i heard about HB. Thinking of HB and her family and hoping she is safe. Lx

Deb Murphy
Reply October 28, 2015

Laura thank you for sharing your story. I'm so sorry for the pain you're going through. I just recently realised that having a broken heart is sheer agony, whether it breaks through death or divorce. My thoughts are with you

    Laura Bates
    Reply April 21, 2016

    Thank you Deb. LX

Planet Grief
Reply October 29, 2015

Good to see comments on this post. Thank you. I think we forget that many people don't feel comfortable commenting on Facebook where our profile pictures can be seen. I was listening to a podcast about blogging recently and the bloggers said that they had decided to turn off comments because so few people commented directly on the blog nowadays. Won't happen here, I can assure you.

For me, my feelings about this subject have ebbed and flowed depending on where I was on this journey and, to be quite blunt, who I was talking to. A divorcee full of humility and pain has my total sympathy; someone like the woman I write about in the book, the Pool Princess, deserves a good slapping.

At the end of the day, however our hearts are broken, as Deb says, it's agony. xx

Reply October 30, 2015

Hi Laura
Firstly, I would like to give you a big hug. Secondly, things will get better - but it will take time. My husband chose to depart our life, after just over 31 years. To say I was devastated, and completely poleaxed is the understatement of the year. It took me years to feel " semi normal " again. Be kind & gentle with yourself. Give yourself little treats. Do eat, I know it's tedious - but you must try, the same goes for sleeping. I found swimming helped enormously, it helps keep your head clear, and over a period of time you will view things more clearly. One step at a time.

    Laura Bates
    Reply April 21, 2016

    Thanks so much for you comment. I'm very touched by this whole thread. I will try all those things you've mentioned. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply - i didn't come back to the blog until recently when i heard about HB. Thinking of HB and her family and hoping she is safe. Lx

Jean Bright
Reply November 18, 2015

As a divorcee,I find wedding anniversaries very difficult.The DAY is still OUR anniversary and always will be but I am alone and HE is spending the day with his new wife and family.

    Planet Grief
    Reply November 18, 2015

    Jean: I have great sympathy with your comment and I appreciate your taking the time to post. I do address this in my book in the chapter 'Competitive Grieving'. I know from divorcees that I have spoken to that whilst the widowed feel that The Grim Reaper has taken their life and their marriage, divorcees feel that someone else has stolen their life. There is an added layer of anger which comes from being rejected by someone we love in favour of a new life, a new love. Whatever our reason for grieving (death or divorce), the harsh facts are that we can't have our old lives back and all the wishing we could can't change that. It is, as it is, however unfair.

Laura Bates
Reply April 19, 2016

I can't believe I've just seen this. I saw news about Helen missing and looked to the blog to see if there was any news. Helen, you did a wonderful thing by posting this, I had no idea you would or did. I hope you are safe and come home to those who love you very soon. To everyone that commented, I cannot thank you enough for letting me share this space. I am now divorced and the pain is not less, but different. Again, Helen. I'm thinking of you and your family wherever you are and please get home safe. Laura. Xxx