We will all encounter loss and grief in our lifetime.. Rob Barnes has written this moving account of his own experience of losing his wife and the support he found in the weeks and months following her sudden death.
In Memory of Dee.
Have you ever played that game where everyone has to describe themselves in exactly three words?
I’ve played it twice in my life. The first time was many years ago. My answer at the time was “happiest when running”. I was such a keen runner that I couldn’t conceive of happiness without running being the centre of my life.
That all changed.
I now can’t run at all, thanks to various injuries I picked up along the way. These days I have ankle and foot problems which make my life a misery if ever I’m reckless enough to break into a run.
The second time I played that game was a few years later. This time, my answer was “devoted to Dee”. Dee was my life partner, my soulmate. I could not conceive of a life without Dee, let alone a happy or contented life.
That changed too.
At the beginning of 2018, after 30 years together, suddenly one Sunday morning she died in my arms.
I’m not saying it’s the worst thing that ever happens to a person. When you set up home with someone, deep down you know you have about a fifty-fifty chance of being the one who’s left behind.
It’s not like losing a parent or a grandparent. At some level you know you’ve always assumed that was going to happen. On the other hand, it’s not like having to bury a child, which nothing can prepare you for. But losing your life partner is bad enough.
There were early days, when some people rallied round and proved they were better friends than I ever imagined, and others fell away, perhaps not knowing what to say, perhaps avoiding me so as not to be reminded of some pain of their own. But those early days were busy ones, with a funeral to plan for, and much paperwork to do.
The hard times began after the funeral. Again, friends rallying round, and others conspicuously invisible. But this is of no concern. You have more important things to think about, such as how you’re going to get through the next 24 hours… and why you should bother to get through the next 24 hours.
For a while, I thought I was doing OK. But then several good friends told me I was not. People kept mentioning Cruse, the Bereavement Care charity.http://Cruse, the Bereavement Care charity
I sent them an email.
It wasn’t quick – Cruse West Wales stress that they’re entirely run by volunteers – but a few weeks later I was offered a series of six weekly sessions to talk through my grief. At the end of the six sessions, I had a bit more perspective on my loss. My way forward seemed to be a bit clearer, and I was happy to end it there.
My Cruse counsellor said I should get back in touch at any time if I ever needed to talk again. My one regret was that I wasn’t allowed to give them a gift to thank them for their help.
Grief affects everyone differently. I seem to have come out the other side, and my life again has meaning. I know others take much longer. Some find that grief affects them for the rest of their lives. I’m lucky. I realise that. But I’m not sure I would have got there without Cruse.
If you’re suffering a bereavement, don’t suffer alone. You will have found out who your friends are, who you can rely on and who not, but you might still need some outside help.
Get in touch with Cruse via www.cruse.org.uk/west-wales-area
I hope this advice can help others to find a way through their own experience of grief. Oh, and my other piece of life advice is: don’t do marathons. You might find they mess your body up so much that you can never run again.
And by the way, my three-word description is now “doing OK, thanks”.
Written in memory of Dee. Born April 3rd 1955; died January 7th 2018.
The Cruse Bereavement Care Freephone National Helpline is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers, who offer emotional support to anyone affected by bereavement.
Their volunteers are trained to help people talk things through. They can also help you to find your local Cruse service, or signpost you to other services and useful sources of information.
The helpline is open Monday-Friday 9.30-5pm (excluding bank holidays), with extended hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, when we’re open until 8pm.
The number is 0808 808 1677
To request bereavement support in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire or Ceredigion
West Wales administrator: 07979 711092 (for all non-support matters)
West Wales helpline: 0800 288 4700
PO Box 34