Survival of the Unfittest


Paris, August 2014. This is the part of me – and Mark – that survived

I’ve never been much of a sportswoman.

The subs bench of the netball team was about as far as my career in Phys. Ed. went – shoved reluctantly on court when the regular Wing Defence was off playing first team hockey. I blame my low centre of gravity and the fact that I am a lover not a fighter (give them a bib with letters on and women turn VICIOUS).

It continues today – I’m the one in the swimming pool who does two lengths with a pinched expression, then gets out with entirely dry hair.

As an evolutionary theory, ‘survival of the fittest’ is open to interpretation, but if it has anything to do with physical prowess, I’m done for.

Imagine my surprise then, two years and seven months post-sudden death of husband, to find that I have survived. But not just survived. From the broken pieces, regrowth is underway.

Grief textbooks tell us that the success of our ‘recovery’ depends on many things – support networks, family, friends  – and our individual ‘inner resource’. The latter is an elusory concept; you don’t know the depth of yours until you are required to plunder it with your bare hands.

I continue to plunder mine; I still haven’t reached the bottom, thank god, for whilst I have survived and flourished up to now, I am only too aware of the duplicitous nature of grief. It could have me back on my withered arse tomorrow if it so desired.

But when I reread the desperate diary scrawlings of two years and seven months ago – the diary entitled ‘Random Ruminations Since We Parted’ – I feel a distance from those thoughts. I still recognise them, but they don’t stoke the fire in my heart in the way they used to.

In fact, if the fittest are the ones who survive, then I consider myself the Jade Clarke of the grief circuit. (That’s British Netball’s Wing Defence and Captain to you).





30 thoughts on “Survival of the Unfittest

  1. Your daughter looks very happy, which must be a compliment to that inner resource of yours that you referenced. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again; your writing and strength are inspirational. I’m so glad you are finding a way forward.

  2. Hi Lucie. Nice to see the occasional post still pop up. You both look like you’re enjoying life in that photo. I’ve got to say that as time goes on grief doesn’t swamp my whole day as it used to, also I’m glad I persevered with devil dog as he’s an angel now – most of the time. I hear you have another. That’s just brave. Might see you again at Rachael’s fund raiser 😋xx

  3. Lucie, so pleased things are more positive for you. It’s no more than you deserve. Hope the re growth continues and flourishes my friend. Love & Hugs xx

  4. What a lovely picture and post! Delighted to hear that you are beginning to flourish and that you feel distanced from the early painful thoughts. Your progress is an inspiration to the rest of us traveling this road behind you. Thank you for keeping us updated.

  5. dear Lucie,

    I was so thrilled to find you had posted! and I am so grateful to know about your progress in moving forward – it gives me great hope that slogging through this miserable existence and doing the work of it all I will someday have some semblance of a life again. at nearly 17 months out I am feeling a slight shift that is encouraging. I love the photo of you and your beautiful little girl – I wish you both many more sunny days to bask in feeling you’ve survived…

    with much love,

    Karen xoxo

  6. Dear Lucie,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now, I find your writing hilarious, soulful and touching. It led me to buy your book, which I’ve just finished reading. I wanted to congratulate you, it’s a brilliant book. Mark sounds like wonderful guy, I’m so sorry for your loss. Since January of this year I have been grieving for a loved one. My partners father suffers from MS and is completely paralysed and incapacitated. On the 21st of January his mother went missing. Two months of searching and it was discovered that his mother ended her life. He has no brothers or sisters, or grandparents to support him. I’m 24 and he is 22. I wanted to share this detail, because I appreciated the raw honesty/dark humour in your book. Sometimes when you read about grief, or “coping with grief” none of it seems real. I know our situations are completely different, but I felt like I could relate to you…

    Maybe because I am also fond of a bottle of vino. Take care, and keep writing.

    Also, like yer Gran – I’m fae Dundee!

    All the best.

    • Hey Heather! Thanks for the beautiful message. What a heart-rending time you are going through. I am so glad the book has resonated in some way – and thanks for the lovely observation about my Mark, he was indeed a wonderful guy. I hope you and your partner are finding some way through – that is a lot for young shoulders to take on. Do stay in touch if you’d find it helpful. (Gran would have loved you – right to the end she was fiercely Dundonian!) Have a glass o’ wine for me! Xx

  7. hello Darling Girl,

    just a little love note to say I am thinking of you, always wishing the best for you, hoping your daughter has had a gentle re-entry into the school year and that you in your unique and inspiring manner are reaching multitudes of widows who so need to know the story of you and your beloved Mark through your book. tomorrow I am starting treatment for PTSD and have high hopes it is going to help me.

    much love and oceans of hugs to you,

    Karen OxxO

      • hi Lucie, when I got to the next appointment we were all set to do the EMDR, but I had some really bad days leading up to my time with her, so we both thought we needed to do a little more talking, i love my new therapist, and am so grateful i found someone who wants to be sure she understands every nuance of my very complicated and traumatic grief. the PTSD treatment will take some time – perhaps 6-8 weeks, but until we really get into it we really won’t know. i guess it depends upon how i respond. i will keep you posted.

        in the meanwhile, i have been so devastated – i can no longer recall Hugh’s voice. no matter how hard i try to “hear” him in my memory, it’s just simply gone. it took ages for that niggling notion to surface, and when it finally did, i cried so hard and so long – so fucking angry and heartbroken that something so precious to me has been taken away – his voice, and all it’s qualities and variations during intimate moments, when he would call me just to say he missed me, when he cooed at each new baby grandchild as he held them in his arms for the first time, speaking with a ring of laughter in his voice, and when he said, “i love you, Karen” so many time each day. did that happen to you, too, Lucie?

        thank you for checking in on me. i love, love, love you – to the moon and back! i hope you are having happy times with your daughter and family and friends, knowing you carry your Dear Mark in your heart, holding him close to you. and i hope you are on the cusp of bazillionaire-hood with your book! OOxxOO, Karen ps if you ever get across the pond, i live 30 min. from NYC – what i wouldn’t give if we could meet in person!

      • :((( This is quite a bleak post Karen. I’m wondering if you are coping at the moment. Re: PTSD, you must do it when you are ready, sounds like you have a fab counsellor who is attentive to your needs. Re: HUgh’s voice, I know what you mean: whilst I am able to conjure his voice within the context of a remembered phrase or saying, it’s the convrsations I miss, even the mundane ones about a TV show – I do wonder what he would say. One thing I am so pleased I did in the early days was to write a list based on ‘thanking’ Mark for things, so ‘Thank you for giving me Bea’, ‘Thank you for the time you told me that’ etc, I now look at it and it helps me to remember things I would have otherwise forgotten. I also wrote a list of his sayings and jokes we shared, which no one else would understand or say, this also helps. Sadly I fear this is just another one of those shit grief insults – it takes everything from us doesn’t it?
        Sedning you warm hugs Karen, from this side of the pond to that! XXX

  8. Lucie, I’ve just finished reading your book. It is superlative. In fact it was unputdownable.

    I lost my wife in January this year after a 2 year fight against stomach cancer. She was just 41 and liked to remind me during our marriage I’d done well to land her, being an old codger (by just 4 years). But it was too young and like you I do feel robbed of a shared future (s*d the exponents of perpetual positivity I’m afraid).

    There is so much in what you write that resonates deep inside of me (I’ve always been in touch with my feminine side!). You express it so well, so clearly and so painfully truthfully that quite a few tears have been shed by reading your words.

    No two people are the same, no situations alike; not even the shared pain of losing your closest loved one can bridge different personalities. But I recognise in your experience much of what I am going through. And it’s been far more therapeutic than all the standard grief texts.

    So, now I’m Super Dad (not a term I’ve coined) to our 3 kids. It’s always an irony I think that when a husband takes on the mantle of looking after a family he becomes an all action hero, but when it’s the other way round, the wife remains just a Mum.

    I wish us both luck as we battle the headwinds of life ahead. I’ve no idea what they will bring, but I did want to say that sharing your own experiences has made me laugh, nod sagely, empathise and of course cry. It’s also made me drink more red wine and also contemplate taking up smoking again!

    Good luck to you

    • Comments like this one make it all worthwhile! Thank you so much Rupert, I’m just delighted that the book has resonated with you. I’m so sorry to hear about your wife – and now as we enter the dark months of the year, you face an anniversary in January – I’ll be thinking of you. I love the thought of us being in a shared headwind, it’s such a good analogy. I wish you love and luck in the months and years to come. My only regret is that your red wine and cigarette quota has gone up since reading the book – although my mantra in is has always been that there are no rules in this, so if it helps, temporarily, then so be it. Love to you and your kids. X

  9. Thank you for such a very warm and empathetic reply Lucie. And concern about my health….I’m hoping the wonderful years I spent at Durham Uni have hardened my capacity…if not my arteries! Ok, perhaps that’s a little glib; but I suspect you know where I’m coming from.

    By way of balance, I’ll share a quote my wife Chandree wrote down and gave me shortly before she died. I can’t profess to have “got there” yet…indeed, far from it. But perhaps it’s a state of mind we, and others like us, can aspire to: “Joy is of the will which labours, which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph”

    Go well, Rupert

      • Better late than never to reply……No, I’m no longer in the North East. I came back down to London after Durham. I do miss it – the Castle Eden beer, the windswept old concrete pier at Hartlepool (a sort of poor man’s version of the French Lieutenant’s Woman), Quicks kebab shop at 2am, the catherdral view and the quick wit of many a local. “Are you winning, pet?” being the favourite catchphrase of one favoured haunt. Now, there’s a question. Writing this, one thing is sorted for sure – I shall do a reverse Roger Whittaker and hotfoot it back very soon….Rupert x

  10. WOW. I think I am a latecomer to your blog (I may have scanned it in one of my fuggy/foggy phases over the past 22months) I found you again last night and have read it all from the start . Your words and those within the replies have given me a different view of myself, perhaps I’m not as unusually mixed up as I thought. Everything about being a widow brings mixed emotions and sets a mind storm loose which can almost seem physical within my head. For every positive event there is huge element of sadness that I have had to cope or that my other half isn’t there to share it, for every bit of a “new me’ I find I question what bit of ‘old me’ has been lost to make way for it? and does that mean I am losing some of the ‘us’ . 22 months in and I still don’t know who I am going to be, I never had to think who WE were going to be, even through 7 years of Chemo I always new who WE were. Your daughter is fantastic , my son is older but had to start living in a ‘cancer household’ from the age of thirteen, he had initial counselling at 14 (associated with his dad having cancer) and has had recent counselling sessions 14 months after his dad died .These sessions have helped him make sense of his current adult self and his coping mechanisms as a teenager.Feelings were almost never shared with either myself or his dad. Children have to survive on instinct because their experience base is low so perhaps it’s instinct which tells her you understand but other people need to be shown the feelings to include them in her experience-you aren’t frozen out you are already firmly fixed in her inner circle as an instinct which is natures way of keeping us safe.
    Here to the future with all the turmoil it probably includes. Xxx

    • Hiya Kaz! I’m so pleased the blog and the commentators on it have shed some light on how you are feeling right now. There is no such thing as ‘normal’ in this, hell I’ve been so mixed up and continue to be! It’s only by reaching out and finding others out there in the same position that one realises how universal a lot of these feelings are. Re: growing up in a cancer household, I thankfully have no experience of this, but a very good friend of mine does and recalls it being a very different kind of upbringing, but it gave her a level of emotional intelligence that some people will never have. Hopefully this wil be the case for your son. Thanks also for the comment on the rockin in the free world post, the good thing is I can see myself a long way on from the person who wrote that post all that time ago – I am proud of the progress I have made, and you should be proud of yourself too – we all should. Here’s to the future indeed, turmoil and all. Sending you a big hug! XXX

  11. Lucie, Whether you receive this or not is anybodies guess. I hate to say this but you don’t realise what you have done by introducing me to blogging. You have opened a Pandora’s box! Quite frankly I don’t know if the world is ready for me. To be serious (I can be when I try really hard) I intend doing a blog every Friday and hope to show how much I learnt from your class. I loved your book. It was poignant without being syrupy, serious when it needed to be, very humourous at times and for me, by knowing some of your background a fascinating study of how a real person copes with grief. I liked you as a character in the book but having now met you, you are exactly the same in real life!!!
    Having said that your writing I liked the best , T-shirt weather is brilliant.
    Good luck with all your writing in the future.

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