I was married to Bill for 14 years, though we’d known each other for much longer. He’d had a history of heart disease and from 2011, became more seriously ill, leading to many trips in and out of hospital.
Bill passed away in hospital in 2013. I felt so lost without him, it was overwhelming. You go through lots of thoughts and emotions and for me it was, ‘Why didn't I do this, why didn't I do that…’ I gave myself such a hard time.
I remember I just wanted so much for his funeral to be right for him that I pressed pause on my own emotions and just focused on that. But, of course, after that busy period was over, everyone left. They’re lives went back to normal but mine didn’t. I was just looking anywhere and everywhere for some help. Grief is the loneliest journey. It really is.
I realised, on reflection, I’d been in a state of hyper vigilance for nearly two and a half years during his illness while I was caring for him. Whenever I left the house, even if it was to go around the corner to the shop, I was in a state of terror.
No one wanted to talk about it
After Bill died, I was on my own and I’d never lived on my own. My family were incredibly supportive but sometimes they found it hard to deal with my grief and said things that unintentionally made me feel very alone. As well as feeling sadness, I also experienced guilt, regret and anger. I wanted to talk about this, but they sometimes dismissed my feelings by saying things such as ‘Don’t say that’, ‘You don’t mean that’ and ‘It’s early days’. No one wanted to talk about it.
I had face-to-face bereavement counselling and, in between this, I also had a few calls with a lady who offered free telephone advice over Skype. I just needed to be able to express how I felt to someone without a stake but who had a greater understanding. One of the loneliest things for me was not knowing anyone closely enough who’d been through what I was going through.
I also went on to an online forum every so often where people were sharing their experiences of grief. It helped because it distracted me and made me realise that it’s happening everywhere. All of this support was useful but I also think that grief is a process of gradual adaptation. There is no switch.
I would say to anyone whose partner is ill, have you thought about anything you would love as a treasure, a keepsake? It would have been so helpful to have sat with Bill and recorded his stories and his voice. That would have been wonderful.
And to those who are bereaved, I’d say everyone has their own way. Talk about it to someone you trust. If there’s no one you know, there’s support out there. And don’t expect too much of yourself.
Independent Age have written some advice for coping with the five stages of grief, which you can read here on Gransnet
For more stories like this one, visit our Talk About Death campaign homepage.