An open letter to all widows and widowers everywhere

Losing a loved one is one of the most traumatic experiences you can live through. That deep, achy sadness you can’t paint a smile on. The feelings of gut-wrenching heartache, despair, anger, guilt and loss circling your brain and body, each one firing off at an unexpected moment, while you somehow have to organise the practical, mind-bogglingly mental event management of a funeral, and get up each morning and continue a normal human existence.

All you really want to do is weep and wail for that one person you loved so much, who you will never, ever see again. Or be able to speak to. Or hold their hand. Or hug tight and tell them you love them, one last and final time.

How you cope during this turmoil can change everything in your life. Bereavement can make you feel all on your own, like nothing else really can.

So, when the person you’ve lost was your soulmate – that special someone in your two-man team for what seems like forever – words can’t describe how that must feel.

Woman on a swing, with an empty swing next to her

It’s got to be so tempting, on the first day you manage get to bedtime without sobbing, to want to forget the past. To start anew in a fresh, newborn world, where all that hurt and pain doesn’t belong and can be left behind. You can get rid of all the reminders, move somewhere else, make new friends, even use a different name if you want. And then life can go on being easy. Or at least easier.

I so understand that need to be free of the pain. To be able to run and just keep running. Where new experiences can awaken your senses and make you feel something again. You long for a sensation that will slap you round the face and embrace the feeling of being alive.

Back in reality sits the rest of the mourning family. Heart after heart filled with sadness. And friends who don’t really know what to do or say, apart from asking how you are. And that can get difficult when nobody knows how to react if you tell the truth.

But please, hang in there.

Don’t move away. Stay close to those who love you. They will love you forever and you can surf the waves together. You will get to a point when you can genuinely celebrate an occasion without bursting into tears because a certain someone should be there. You’ll look back on fond memories and be able to laugh, not cry. By pushing your nearest and dearest away, life can seem a little easier. But ask yourself what the person who left you would want.

You can do all the other stuff if you need to. A new home is often a necessity, and a new partner, come to that. Just because you want to be with someone new does not mean you won’t remember the love you lost – and all your living loved ones know that. It might be hard at first, but fundamentally, they will just want you to be happy. And if that means finding a companion to share a new life with, they might just be OK with that.

If you’re honest and open, and you talk to and love your family, you get to have it all ways. You get to start anew, and try to make some memories to help heal some old ones. But you get to stay close to everyone and everything that bonded you to your old love too. The love that meant so much to you, it would be wrong to box it away and try to forget it.

So, this is a small piece of advice to anyone who’s lost – and anyone who does lose their loved one. Don’t forget them. Keep them alive by being with all the people who connect you. Spend time with your children and grandchildren, if you’re lucky enough to have them. Be interested. Learn new things about them. Stay in touch, in every sense.

And in time, you’ll discover that not only has the loneliness faded away, but you have a new chapter to embrace with both old and new friends – and you might just find they can all make you happy again.

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14th Aug 2018
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Exactly so embrace your family and your friends.
14th Aug 2018
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This article is so true, I lost my beautiful wife and soulmate after being together 37 years, she was 16 when we met, it’s been nearly a year now but the worst emotion I get is guilt, I feel guilty when I laugh or smile and guilty when I think I’m still alive and she isn’t, I don’t think that will ever leave me.
12th Jul 2018
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What a lovely article on "Widowers". Written with so much compassion and understanding. Thank you.

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