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Why? Who? What's this blog about? It's about MEEEE!

Being a Widow

My experience of dealing with grief as a widow


About Jane's brain tumour journey: Astrocytoma.co.uk

Someone's missing at the Christmas table

26 December 2012

So Christmas has come around again. Last year was horrible without Jane and yet great with my friends in New Mexico. I thought: I am going to have to face a 'normal' Christmas without Jane next year and it will be HORRIBLE.

And here it was: Christmas Day. I spent it with my family in Holland. And I was sad to be there without the person I love.

But it wasn't Jane I was sad about. It was Girlfriend. The love that I did not expect to meet this year. (Or any other year because what are the chances of meeting someone as compatible again so soon. Or ever?)

Today I spent time on and off on Skype with Girlfriend, who stayed in England to spend Christmas with her own family. We pathetically opened a Skype video call and simply left the connection open 24/7 and just popped in and out of the rooms with our respective laptops and sometimes we were at the laptops at the same time and had a short little chat. We both did not want to be away from our families too much because it seemed rude.

Jane was not mentioned at Christmas today. I am sure we will talk about her over the remaining 2 days of my visit. Maybe my folks did not want to bring her in to the conversation since things were going so well and it was nice to have a relaxing Christmas once again. After all, the past 4 Christmases have all been pretty shitty.

In 2008, we were upset and scared about the imminent radiotherapy. In 2009 we were upset that the radiotherapy was not working. In 2010 we were grateful that Jane was still alive to have a Christmas with us and in 2011, I ran away to the USA because I could not face my first Christmas without her.

Does that mean I dodged the bullet of Horrible Christmas for Those Left Behind? If so, then I shall breathe a sigh of relief and count myself lucky.

It is not that I don't think about Jane these days. I did think about her today. But I just expected to feel very sad about my first 'proper' Christmas without her. And I didn't. Although, now that I am writing about it, it makes me feel sad. (Note to self: Write blog post about how weird it is that I don't get sad when thinking fleetingly about Jane but that I can get utterly distraught on moments where I actively make time to think about missing Jane and the pain she and I went through. And does that mean I SHOULD actively make that time to evoke such feelings and what purpose would that serve? Are they emotions that need to come out or are they emotions I am conjuring up in an artificial kind of way?)

I feel strange for not having been sad about Jane this Christmas. Is that callous? Does it make me a cold-hearted bitch that instead of being distraught about my first real family Christmas since her death, I am talking about how much I miss Girlfriend? And reveling in my little nieces asking me constantly why Girlfriend did not come from England to celebrate Christmas with us and can she please come next year?

How long is the 'right length of time' before it is OK to not think about your dead spouse and get all sad about the time you *could* have had together if only they had been present at a particular occasion?

I guess nobody knows what the right or wrong thing is.

In a REALLY weird way, I sometimes wish this was all much harder than it has been so far. Because I seem to have picked my life up again fairly quickly. And I worry sometimes that this only helps to keep the myth alive that losing your partner is not as gut-wrenching, soul-destroying and all-encompassing as people make it out to be. I worry that it will strengthen the thought that many people have that after a few months, people really should pick their lives up again and be able to move forward and get on with things and stop dwelling on the sadness of their loss.

I now know that the speed at which widows 'move on' is in no way related to the amount of love they had and the amount of pain their loss has caused them. The pain was deep. It was raw. It was frightening. It was worse than I ever imagined it would be. And yet, picking my life up has been much easier than I imagined it would be. Actually, I did not have any imagination of a life beyond Jane. I thought I would just be dragging myself from day to day in an eternal hell of loneliness and dullness.

But it isn't. Life is beautiful again for me right now. I am loved by someone with an incredible understanding and acceptance. I love someone with the same total abandon that I felt for Jane. That is not to compare the two. It merely to say that losing Jane has not in any way made me afraid to love someone else. Nor has it made me feel I should hold something back for fear of losing it again. I wouldn't even know how to do that anyway. It is all or nothing.

And I feel that this Christmas, it is clear that my life has shifted from Nothing to All again. Yay.

Merry Christmas.

*PS: This long ramble may or may not have been fueled by Bordeaux, Limoncello, Port, Bacardi Oak Spiced & Pepsi.
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02 December 2012

Dear Jane,

You would have been 29 today. Nearly back in the same decade as me. We used to joke about it. When we started seeing each other, you were 19 and I was 27. When you turned 20, I told you I was happy that at least we were now in the same decade (at least until I turned 30) so the age difference no longer looked so big. You told me that once every 8 years, we would get to celebrate the event of you catching up with me, at least for a few years. We only got to be in the same decade once. You never made it to your thirties.

Would you be happy for me if you were able to know how things are going for me now? I would like to think you would be. You were always a generous woman. I seem to remember you once told me to grieve short and hard for you but then just get on with life and be happy again.

As life is settling down, I am thinking of you a fair bit again. Not in the sense that I am unhappy without you. I am happy with my life as it is. Girlfriend is wonderful. You would have liked her a lot. She looks after me extremely well and is the most understanding person I could ever have hoped to meet. You probably would have gotten pissed in The Racehorse together and laughed at the idiotic things I do. You would have asked her if I still interrupt people all the time. You would have laughed at Girlfriend rolling her eyes at that one.

At university, I learn more and more about bodies, health and dying. This obviously means I think about you a lot. How you were not healthy; how you died. How your body worked. How it did not work. What the medication and chemo did to you. I try not to think too much about how learning more makes me feel I should be able to apply that knowledge retrospectively to what happened to you. I did not know any better.

Did I treat you with enough respect when you could no longer make your own choices? Did you understand when I said: No more chemo? Did you want to shout: BUT I WANT MORE CHEMO, YOU ARE KILLING ME? Did you realise you were not drinking and eating? Did I understand you enough? Did I have enough patience to wait for you to form an answer in your head when asked if you wanted to die at home or in the hospice? You said hospice. Then home. Then hospice. Then home. Basically, did I listen enough when you were trying to tell me something? Out of all the things that happened, that question will forever haunt me. I know you were going to die. I think you knew it too. But did I treat you with respect. Did you feel I abandoned you and just sent you to a quick death? I know you would never have thought that I wanted you dead. But I hate the thought that you might have been angry or desperate to tell me not to give up on you.

Dammit. I was jut going to write you for your birthday. Because I never talk to you anymore. I did a lot just after you died. But I stopped feeling the need to do that.

I guess I just wish I could somehow tell you that I am happy. That I am doing fine. That somebody loves me. And that I can love somebody again with all my heart. But that none of that means I don't think about you anymore.

Today I am working with R. She looked after you when you were still home. Seems fitting that on your birthday I am working with the people who helped me to look after you and who helped me to be sure I wanted to go to university.

I went to the Birmingham Christmas Market today with Girlfriend. I remember when we went for the last time in 2010 when we were grateful you even made it to celebrate another Christmas with you. And last year I met Rachael and your mother there. I should speak to them more.

My folks came over from Holland last week. My dad said it was wonderful for both of them to see me happy again. Because all their previous visits in the last 4 years have been when there was a reason for them to worry about you or, after your death, about me. It made them happy that this time they visited me and found me my chatty self again. That this time there was nothing sad about the visit. That they could see I am happy. And this in turn made them happy.

I wish I could let you know not to worry about me. I guess that is as good a birthday present to you as anything.

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