It’s a little over 2 years since my husband died, aged just 53, and left me a 45 year old widow. I am still picking up the pieces of my shattered life, and discovering who I am without him, when all my future plans will be different to how I imagined them, because he won’t be in them. I have learned that this grief is now part of who I am even if I am not defined by it.
And then just over 3 weeks ago, my dad died and a new process of grief started.
This morning I was on a Cosy Coffin Company podcast hosted by my friend Jannine, a fellow young widow and she asked me how this grief was different. I‘m not sure my answer did it justice.
For me, losing a parent does not feel the same as losing a husband. In my case, my dad was in his late 70s, and so it doesn’t feel like an out of order death, although it is still a life ended too soon. I loved my dad, but he wasn’t central to my life in the way that my husband was. We didn’t agree on everything, but Dad was a constant presence, always in my corner and cheering me on. His being gone and the finality of it is unfathomable, even as my logical brain reminds me it is inevitable – none of us is getting out alive!
The last 3 weeks have been mostly filled with disbelief. I sat in the funeral directors feeling like I was having an out of body experience, and I have had to walk away from discussions about flowers and caskets because I cannot understand how I am involved in organising another funeral already. Revisiting some of the planning left me second-guessing the decisions I had made for Chris in those numb early days. I worry that I am coming across as cold and unfeeling, when I am just going through the motions and trying to comprehend the loss of both these men who have contributed to so much of who I am.
What has been strange for me is that I initially felt that my “Chris grief” had intensified in the aftermath of losing Dad. I now realise that actually I am grieving my dad, but those feelings are familiar to me from losing Chris and so it’s all tangled and intertwined – I am sad and my life has missing pieces, I am grieving now for both the most important men in my life. I have been floored in the supermarket seeing something that would have been a nice gift for my dad, to remember that I won’t need to buy him a Christmas present ever again.
But I am almost ashamed to admit that even in this grief for my dad my overwhelming recurring thought is that I need Chris. I want to talk to him about memories of my dad, I want him to give me a cuddle when I’m feeling sad, I needed him to hold me up as I read a poem at the funeral. I feel that this grief for my dad would be so much more bearable if only Chris was here.
I see my mum trying to make sense of it all. After 52 years of marriage, how do you learn to be alone? I know from my own experience that nothing I can do or say will make her feel any better, because I can’t bring him back, and yet with all my widow wisdom I still want to try to find the words that will magic her pain away. At the moment the best I can do is to offer her an escape to the beach whenever she wants it, and I'm looking forward to hosting her later this month.