In with the New

untitled (6)The great thing about building a new life in a new place, with new friends, a new dog and a whole new capsule wardrobe, is that you are able to trick your psyche into thinking you’re in control of your grief.

Sure, you continue to think about the old life, the one that ended so savagely, so suddenly on an idle Saturday in 2012, but if everything around you is ‘new’, you are spared reminders of the gut-wrenching reality of what has really happened.

New things serve as a shiny length of gauze over the gaping wound around your heart. They have no trace of your spouse’s DNA in them; they don’t conjure a memory of His laughter, a throw-away line He may have said.

Then a reminder from your old life comes blundering in and plants a turd in your carefully constructed shelter of denial, catapulting you back to the blubbering heap of two years ago. (Actually, that’s not strictly true – I wasn’t a blubbering heap two years ago – I was a functioning automaton. It took at least six months for my nervous system to catch up.)

So there I was this weekend, taking afternoon tea in celebration of the sixtieth birthday of a friend from said ‘old’ life. The finger rolls had barely touched down on the table before I felt the slow rise of despair in my gut.

I had failed to anticipate how being surrounded by a gaggle of twenty women from my former life would make me feel. They knew me before I met Mark. They followed us through our courtship. Some were guests at our wedding. Some were mourners at His funeral.

I looked around the table at these poster-girls for a happier time and wondered how much longer I could hold out before ruining my dear friend’s party with an unsavoury outburst of grief.

Finally I took my leave and veered off homeward in my car, barely able to see the road through the torrents of my new mascara.

I didn’t stop until I arrived back outside my new house, with its newly-rendered fascia and new front door.

12 thoughts on “In with the New

  1. dear lucie,,

    the kind of emotional set-back you so painfully endured is what keeps us so confused and feel like fools – just when we start asserting that we welcome the thought, the desire to be happy, something like a tea party with old friends manages to shake it’s bony finger and admonish, “I’m not done with you quite yet.” most of the time we knew that, but it’s still a blow to be pulled under that big wave. I, too, met with friends this week-end – ones who go back 30 years – for dinner out. on the way home I had to pull over to weep and gnash. the reality of being with them, without Him just felt sooooo wrong. in the throes of all the crying, I tried to tell myself it WOULD end and I would feel better – but apparently, that’s not what grief wants to hear while it’s shaking one like a rag doll while holding one’s head under water. but goddammit, after I dragged myself to shore, I muttered to myself, fuck you, grief – you had your way with me and you will again; but that does NOT mean you can obliterate whatever baby steps I’ve taken to finally get to the place where I sometimes feel the desire to be happy. I guess I have to work harder in the “in between” times, and bank up all my resolve and savor any sense of well-being, still knowing i’ll be walking wounded for a good long while. grief can and will take me where I need to go when it suddenly catches me in it’s great, gaping maw – but it can’t ever take away what I keep close to my heart – that which allows and whispers promises that I will not be consumed, that there is hope, even if only fleeting glimmers of the light of that hope. so here’s to you, lucie, and to all us widowed ones, may we keep on holding one another up on our hind legs, championing our progress however measly it may seem, and celebrate the hell out of any good times we feel more encouraged. I love you, and I am always here for you.

    much love and a whole lot more light to help us find our way,

    Karen xoxo

    • I love the way you describe grief as a living, breathing entity, for that is exactly what it feels like. It is like a barnacle, a parasite, feeding from those of us who are bereaved. I too find myself having conversations with it – “you won’t get the better of me tonight, you bastard!” – but inevitably it always gets its way, sooner or later. I guess we have to give in to it, because it is, ultimately, more powerful than we are. I have succumbed to it tonight. I’m hoping it will leave me be for a while now…til the next time. Much much love Karen. Xxxx

  2. Sorry to hear about your recent experience. I can completely understand how sometimes the “old life” can so cruely come along and bite us on the bum. I also completely relate to how a “happy & relaxing occasion” can suddenly and without warning turn out to be a “sad and upsetting occasion” so cunningly disguised we went headlong into it, hopes raised and confidence high, without a second thought. Family “get togethers” tend to do it for me. Its the time I’m most likely to look around for that missing person and feel the huge husband sized elephant in the room. I also felt exactly like that recently at my work Christmas “do” (another story!). Once thoughts start to drift, then it’s trying to find the excuses to get out without creating a scene. Yes its becoming horribly familiar. Surely this will get better. It has to. Well done though on building a new life, moving house and area, which can’t have been easy but shows you can look to the future and make decisions. You owe that to yourself and your daughter.

    • Hi there Zoe. I feel it less acutely at my own family gatherings, but if I have cause to see mark’s family I find it incredibly difficult. Avoidance is my only defence – not ideal, but I have had to harden the carapace. Self preservation I guess. Thanks for your warm and supportive message – and of course for reading. Xx

  3. It’s the not knowing when it’ll strike that drives me nuts. You think you’ve had a good spell and can cope with meeting old friends etc, and then the grief monster slaps you in the face.
    I hope it was a temporary blip for you Lucie and that your positivity is able to make a reappearance. Much love & hugs xx

  4. Hi there

    I am a new member of that club no-one wants to join – widow-hood. My beloved, wonderful, sexy husband died on November 22nd after a two year battle with a weird cancer that hardly anyone ever gets and one they don’t know how to get rid of. He was 37. I am now trying to negotiate this hell along with my two little boys aged 10 and seven. I just want to say i’m so glad to have found your blog. Not glad at all that this has happened to you – I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Its just that reading your posts has felt like someone talking my language for the first time since he died. I wish you all the best and I will keep reading. Kirstie x

    • Hi Kirstie – and thanks so much for the message and for reading. Firstly, I am so sorry for your loss and for the fact that you have had to join one of the shittest clubs on earth. You sound as if you have been through a horrendous two years – and are now dealing with the aftermath. November is heartbreakingly recent too. I wonder how you’re doing? I am so glad some of what I am rambling about resonates with you though. This is so uniquely isolating, I think only those of us who have been through it can fully understand what it’s like. In solidarity and with love and strength – Lucie xx

      • Thanks Lucie. I don’t know how I’m doing really – I know I’m functioning but it feels very much like an out of body experience and I simply can’t get my head around the fact that I can’t talk to Matt anymore. Its too enormous and I know the journey ahead is going to be a painful one. Like you I lost my very best friend (we were together for 17 years) and its hard to know how to go on. I am just really lucky to have two lovely boys and they force me to keep going (even when I don’t want to sometimes). You are so right about it being uniquely isolating and that is why your blogs are amazing to read – to know others understand without you having to explain offers some comfort. I recently joined WAY too – it was in their newsletter that I read about your blog! Thanks again for your blogs and for taking the time to respond to my comment. Sending you all the very best wishes I can muster! xxx

      • I think that’s a good analogy – it being like an out of body experience. I’m not sure if you ever come back into your body actually – I think I’ve dropped into someone else’s. It is certainly very, very weird, especially in those very early days. (Sorry, I used to hate it when people said ‘oh, you’re in the early days’.) You will never get your head around it. I think you just learn to turn it off, otherwise it drives you totally bonkers. Glad you have your boys to keep you going. I really, really feel for you. X


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