No Wonder Woman

Since Col died I have had many versions of the following said to me. “You’re amazing. I couldn’t do what you’re doing.” People often follow that up with, “I would simply fall apart if [insert their various partners’ names here] died.” Really? Do you think so? I am not so sure. I wanted to fall apart and yes I actually did a little bit in those early weeks. I wept inconsolably, instead of looking after my children I crumbled and let others take the brunt of their care, I didn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I saw no future and I had split seconds where I thought as there is no future  I will walk out in front of that car. But not keeping on going just wasn’t an option and most placed in this horrific position manage to do so too. It’s not like I was sent this particular life challenge because I am more resilient, amazing or otherwise than the next person. I am not. If or when your life takes this awful turn you too will keep going, albeit by the skin of your teeth, and you will also be told you are amazing. I am not one to turn away a compliment, of course, so every man and his dog can tell me what a fabulous human being I am if they want, but I know that there are countless men and women like me, just keeping on going in this life as best they can just when they don’t want to anymore.
However, in low moments, when I think I am a static lump of unachieving widowness, I also pat myself on my back for some of my amazing feats in the face of death. Just as you should too when it happens to you, if it hasn’t already of course. And if it has done, well I am so sorry for your loss, but please do this list as you’ll see at the end of it that you are amazing too. Oh I know my list may not look like much to some but these are giant leaps for widowkind in my little world of survival. These are the things that will make me believe it a tiny bit the next time someone tells me how fabulous I am for being a grade one, expert widow who is doing so fantastically well, better than anyone ever who has ever trod this path before. Aye right.

Just some of my amazing Widow Year One feats:

1. Keeping on breathing. 

2. Waking up everyday. 

3. Bringing up two children under two. OK that’s getting easier as Evie is nearly three now but hey I managed to breastfeed a baby while grieving a husband. I like to think that’s quite an achievement.

4. Driving. I’ve always been a rubbish driver. Colin was our designated driver while I was limited to trips to soft play centres or supermarkets. I have now driven the length of the UK several times and that’s astounding in itself. Nevermind that Col pretty much died at the wheel of our car. In the week after his death I got back in and drove and didn’t let my head think about the hands that had gripped that wheel less than a week previously. I simply had to because I wanted to be the one that took his suit, his shoes, his cufflinks and his tie to the funeral directors. It was the last thing I could do to care for him. So I had to drive that car. I had to be in control of the hideous task at hand. And I know that I am not alone.
5. Seeing his body. I went to see his body at the funeral parlour. I had to do this. His death was so unreal. He hadn’t been ill for months. He walked out the door fully healthy and didn’t come home. I wanted to see him from the moment I learnt of his death but had to wait almost a week. It was horrific. His body was not him. I could barely touch him and had to almost turn and run. But I had to have that last goodbye.
6. Speaking at his funeral. I stood up in front of 400 plus people and spoke to Colin as if I were talking to him directly as I said his eulogy at his memorial. I knew all those people were there, judges, barristers, his clients, his colleagues, our friends and our families, but as I spoke I felt like it was our personal conversation.
6. I bought a house. Negotiated the price and bought a house. I packed us up and moved us out and moved us on hopefully to start a new future.

Amazing old me. Back slap. Back slap.

19 Replies to “No Wonder Woman”

  1. When do you start accepting the word ‘widow’? or, somehow even worse, ‘widowed’?
    I can say “My Husband died” or even “I lost my husband….” (although that does make me seem terribly careless!) but can’t face the W word.

    1. I have been the same probably until this week. And when I said ‘I lost my husband’ I always wanted to add that tag on of ‘how bloody careless of me’ too. Now widow seems more doable but I won’t be dropping it into that many conversations still!

  2. First off, let me say I am sorry for your loss. I lost my daughter two months ago, and I identify very strongly with your words “people kept telling me I was amazing.” I’ve been told much the same. “You’re so strong.” “you’re amazing.” “I don’t know how you do it.”

    As if I, or you, or any of us that lose someone, have any real choice at all. In your case, children to look after, in mine, a wife who needs me to look after her as she struggles with an auto immune disease.

    I also delivered the eulogy at her funeral, as you did at your husbands. The hardest thing to do. We should not have to bury those we love, so long before they should die.

    I wish you all the best.

    1. I read your eulogy with tears falling out of my eyes. I am so sorry for your loss. I wish you all the best too. Not strength because I hate being wished strength. But what else can people say? Not much until they too suffer an untimely loss I reckon. Nic

  3. i also lost my husband with 2 kids under 2. i was 9 mos pregnant with my 2nd child. i totally agree with this post and appreciate you posting it. even though it has been 8 plus years for me, it still really resonated

  4. I have just come to the 3mo mark of my husband dying. People say that I am strong and amazing all the time…this post really rang true. I am not amazing or strong, I am just trying to get through the day. People also saythe whole “I don’t know how you do it, I would be a mess, not getting out of bed..”…etc. I just smile and say thanks but what I really want to do is tell them that no, you would find a way to get through too. I wish I could stay in bed forever and cry but life goes on….even if we don’t want it to.

  5. Amazingly spot on with my experience & feelings since being widowed in August 2008. Life as I knew it was blown apart, with me & our 3 children aged 5, 3 & 3mths being left 2 deal with the aftermath of bereavement with no warning! Numbness, disbelief & almost 2yrs before I could actually except there was no going back to the old me & my old life!!
    If I smiled it was questioned, comments such as she must be over it now & moved on. Time doesn’t heal, but you learn to cope in a different way. Same with the breast feeding, driving was massive for me, facing his cold hard & empty body was shocking. I used to be very shy but speaking out at my partner of 16yrs funeral has changed that also for me. It is a continuously hard journey but 4yrs on I do see glimmers of hope on the horizon. I will always love him but now I stride to take back some positive control of my life from the bereavement beast. Every day brings a new challenge & as our children grow new issues will hit hard at times. A widow at 30, my eyes have been opened to the important things in life, hopefully this experience will ensure that I live my life to the fullest as life is so very special & precious. Xx

  6. Although it must be hell bringing up your young children alone in some ways it is even more difficult for us ‘older widows’. My children are grown up and have their own lives – I don’t want to be a drag on them; my parents have been dead for years; I have no brothers or sisters; as my husband and I were each other’s ‘best friends’, I don’t even have a huge pool of friends to fall back on. Although people have all been very kind ‘looking out for the widow’ is beginning to lose its novelty. Many people don’t know what to say to me. (Have we all had the pseudo sympathetic look accompanied by “and how ARE you?”) Having been adored and indulged for over forty years learning to cope alone is incredibly hard. I do manage to fill up my days although, to be honest, it all seems totally pointless and I feel so guilty if something makes me laugh and I can’t share it with him.

    1. Trish, Hi, I am 53 and lost my husband last May, so not quite a year. All our friends have left me, and my husband was an only child so no family there, we had no children so nothing there. So like you I am trying to cope on my own and build a new life. I have recently attended 2 social events. After the first social I sobbed my heart out, because I had been happy for an evening and felt guilty, after the second social I did still feel guilty but did not cry. One thing I have done every night since he died, I hold a picture of him and talk to him, I say goodnight and kiss the picture. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I dont, but I do find it helps. However, I do have Low and sometimes very Low times, I can sob for a day, but my last low lasted for a week. I saw and spoke to nobody, and that is all you want, conversation about anything and everything. I fully understand how you feel. It is hard, and I do not have the answers, but at what ever age anybody is it is deverstating for the one left behind. I am in Medway Towns Kent and I organise a monthly bereavement group. Sometimes the meetings are tough, but mostly is good, people just want to get together and talk.
      Take care of yourself, be kind to yourself and this message is for everybody HUGS HUGS HUGS xxxxxxxx

      1. Hi Diane
        Thank you for your lovely reply. It made me cry – but in a good way. You are somebody who understands! I’m just coming up to 31 weeks and with each week he seems to be going further and further away. I have lots of photos around the house and talk to him all the time – I shout sometimes – well, quite often really. Hugs back. I admire your courage in running a group – I couldn’t do that!

    2. Trish, Hi, Diane here, just thought I would have a quick check to see if you OK, especially today.
      But to everybody, I hope today is a good day for you all.
      Us widows miss one thing more then anything, apart from our partners we miss HUGS HUGS HUGS xxx to you all

      1. Hi Diane!
        Thanks for your email! It was so sweet of you. Yesterday was ok – younger son arrived with flowers; elder son sent interflora bouquet and phoned. Foolishly spent the evening watching DOI, drinking brandy and crying. Feel (deservedly) rotten this morning. But sun is trying to shine so off to walk the dog!

  7. this comment annoys me as well although I know people are just trying to be nice but really… it just makes you feel bad for living life again right? and dont we have to do that at the very least in whatever way we can?

  8. I lost my husband three years ago suddenly in a construction accident. He was 29 and I was 27. Thank you for writing about this subject, because I feel like it is one of the hardest things to deal with in the after-mass of loss. To hear people say, “I can’t even imagine what you’re going through,” or “you are so much stronger than I could ever be” sounds more like an insult than a compliment. I know the words are spoken out of love, but they come from a place of ignorance that I am infinitely jealous of. If losing my husband is what it took to show the world I was a strong person, I would much rather be considered weak and naive. I am so happy I found your blog – it makes me feel not-so-alone in this crazy journey.

  9. First of all, I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband. I’ve read several of your posts, and they are heartbreakingly honest and beautifully written. I really relate to this particular post.
    My daughter died ten years ago, and at first I hated to be called brave. I wasn’t brave, amazing or any of the things people suggested, just because I wasn’t, at that precise moment, lying on the floor drowning in my own tears. Having other children, I simply had no other choice. Also, the comment, ‘I wouldn’t cope as well as you,’ always made me feel like I loved my daughter inadequately, and that the person was suggesting they loved and would grieve for their child more than I was for J.
    I wish you easier times ahead. They are a long time coming, but they do come. Colin sounds fantastic.

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