Friends and family are without doubt the safety net for the hollow-eyed young widow and her small child; they protect against the buffeting of the fiercest waves of grief, and can make the difference between survival and drowning. Even those who admit they ‘aren’t very good at the emotional stuff’ are, by their provision of wine and a Bridesmaids DVD, keeping me afloat. I’ve received parcels, books, cards from both expected and unexpected places. New kinships have been forged and other have dropped off.
There is a tendency for some to chivvy me through it, as if it were a particularly bad hangover. Others can’t resist but ally it to their own experience. At Christmas, for example, I told people I wasn’t sending cards – for me, it wasn’t Merry or Happy, and the omission of M’s name from the card provided yet more incontrovertible evidence that he had gone. One friend nodded sympathetically and said she hadn’t sent cards the previous Christmas for exactly the same reasons – it was the year H had left her for The Other Woman.
Friends and family just want ‘the old me’ back. I can sense them, waiting patiently for me to turn the corner, to come to terms and move on. A day without tears is progress. The healing is well underway. But the old me has gone. I died with Him.
So I am becoming acquainted with the new me. And I am discovering a disconcerting set of new traits: I am at once reckless and anaesthetised, but also surprisingly strong, resourceful and independent. I laugh often and cry infrequently.
The void is permanent and unrelenting – an unmistakable M-shape, branded onto my heart. So friends, be there for the new me, but don’t wait for the old me to return. That departure is as definitive as M’s.