When I was first widowed, I often felt uncomfortable when people asked me how long Chris and I had been married. Although we were a couple for 11 years, we married in 2014 and so had only just made it to our 4th anniversary when he died. I felt that telling people of our short time together somehow undermined the depth and strength of my grief.
I now understand that most people weren't asking so they could judge how sad I should be, but as a way of opening up a conversation and allowing me to talk about him, and us. It’s strange but true that most people assume you don’t want to talk about your loved one after they die, when the opposite is the reality. I have seen a meme that covers this perfectly - you’re not reminding us that they died, but helping us to remember that they lived. One of the liberating things about spending time with other widows is having the freedom to talk about your person without worrying about the listener’s reaction or if they will feel bad if you get emotional!
What I have also learned is that not only is the time you were together irrelevant in judging how sad you are entitled to be, it is always never enough. This week, the Duke Of Edinburgh died, leaving the Queen, his wife of 73 years, a widow. This morning she will have woken up to a familiar but unfamiliar and somehow ever changed life. Everything will feel “off” and wrong and unstable. And I am sure that she will wish that they could have had more time.
No matter how much we can rationalise and tell ourselves that we will all die, comment that 99 is a good innings - the truth is that when we love someone and they die, the time we had never feels enough. My 11 years with Chris, my mum’s 52 years with my dad, the Queen’s 73 years with Prince Philip - when you’re the one left behind from a loving relationship, it’s not ever enough, we want more, we want them back, even for just one more day.
I feel enormous sympathy for the Queen as she has become a widow this week. However, I am really struggling with the tributes and the ceremonies and the wall to wall tv coverage.
My Chris was an awesome, kind man. He had a list of major achievements and impacted positively on many lives; he was quick witted and funny but he did not have a "good innings".
Although I understand protocols and traditions, and I know it’s not rational, I can’t help my heart from asking - Where was Chris’s 41 gun salute, or the entire TV programming devoted to his obituary? Why didn't the church bells ring out that he was gone and that the world is forever changed? When did the flags fly at half mast for him?
For all of those triggered by the coverage, feeling the same confusing feelings of resentment and sympathy, I just want you to know that you’re not the only one!
Yesterday, as I listened to the guns, I wasn’t just thinking of the Duke of Edinburgh. I was also thinking of Chris, of my dad, of my cousin Al, and of all the husbands and wives and partners of my friends from WAY, who I never met, but who I feel I know because I know their widows. I remembered all of us who were robbed of the people we loved, whose relationships were cut short, for whom there was not enough time, and who didn’t qualify for the national mourning that our hearts felt they deserved.