Thursday, 24 April 2014


When your partner is your best friend, it can be all too easy to loose touch with others.  Especially when everyone begins to pair off and settle down.  So when you lose your best friend you can find yourself very alone. 

I was as guilty as the next person of not keeping up with friends – letting things go a bit.  What with working full time and living with your partner, doing things with family, friends often fall by the wayside.  When times are good and everything is right in your world you feel like you don’t need anyone else.  Having a loving partner who listens to your problems and shares in your happiness seems to be all you need.  But it’s a false economy because if you don’t look after the people who care about you in good times, you can hardly expect them to be there through the bad.

We all know that people come and go in our lives.  That’s fine – it has a natural rhythm to it.  In ages past you would probably know the same small group of people all your life, but these days we tend to spread out a lot more, whether for the best jobs or lifestyle, we all scatter and so a pattern of coming together and moving apart develops.  At every stage of life there are whole new groups of people to meet and friends to make.  But you can’t keep up with everyone on a personal level – in spite of facebook and twitter, email and facetime.  So the people closest to you changes and evolves.  When you have a partner you maybe share some friends, but also have your own and so widen your group further.  It’s all part of life and what keeps it interesting.

When hit with the loss of your closest friend – your partner, husband or wife – is when you will most need those other friendships you have developed, but it’s also a time when many of those friends seem to drift away.  You have changed. Like it or not, you are no longer the person you were – not entirely.  Grief changes a person – and it’s not just the partner and family that is affected – it’s the friends too.  Some friends may simply find it too difficult to keep in touch.  That’s fine.  Again – it’s just how things are.  But when facing the darkness of losing a partner you do need friends around you – to help pull you through.

I have been very lucky.  I had a few good friends who helped me through.  Came to visit and kept in touch.  Not all the time, but they did think of me and that meant so much.  But no one really lived close to me, so I did still feel very alone.

About three months after losing Robin I started post natal classes at my local health centre.  That was such a lifeline, because suddenly there were these lovely ladies who lived near me and who were all dealing with having a new baby – although at that stage they all had partners.  We would go out after the classes, and when they stopped we would still make a point of meeting up for walks, lunches and even the odd night out.  Leaving them was perhaps the hardest part of leaving Raynes Park.

When I arrived in Bournemouth I had a few old friends visit me, but because life (and distance) gets in the way, that dwindled.  I found it quite hard to make new friends at first.  Taking Sophie to play groups helped, but those mums had already formed groups and I felt like an intruder.  However, over time I got closer to some of the mums and started to feel more settled.  I then was introduced to a creative group and that opened a whole new world to me.  This was another lifeline as it was time for just me, away from Sophie – out in the real world!

I’ve been in Bournemouth for 7 years and 8 months now and Sophie has been at school 3.5 years too.  She’s been going to clubs and lessons – and all the while I’ve been meeting new people and making friends – some closer than others.  The street I live in has many lovely families and we have become friends – our children play together and go to school together and we see each other most days at least briefly on the school run.

More recently, since starting open water swimming, I have met yet another group of lovely people and this time we share something else in common – we are all at different stages of life and many have children whilst others are single, some are older and some younger, but all are friendly as we share a passion for the sea.  Now some of my closest friends come from this group of special nutters.

Friendship has been so important to me, and such a light in times of darkness – whether related to my loss or just to other problems.  Friends have been counsellors, comedians, cinema buddies, creative sounding boards, advisors, babysitters and so much more.  And I have to say, for each and every one of them I am truly very grateful.

So my advice is to cherish those friendships, remember to get together and laugh (possibly with a glass of wine) because those friends will be with you when men leave, or jobs fail, or children are ill or just to share in some celebration.  Don’t judge those that fall by the wayside, just relish in how rich those people in it make your life. 

I should also mention another very special group of friends I have met through WAY – the organization for people widowed young.  There are a surprising amount of us across the country and we all stay in touch online and at gatherings.  It’s a huge support network where you know there’s a good chance someone else is going through exactly what you are – whatever stage that is.  If you know someone who has been widowed young – please put them in touch this group because at some stage or other of their grief it will be an immense help. (

Now go hug a friend ;)

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Moving On

There’s plenty of speculation about how long a widowed person should wait before moving on and finding a new love.  This is mainly because there is no right or wrong answer except – when you feel ready.  The trouble is it’s not easy to work out when that is.  You might be incredibly, painfully lonely, so your brain plays tricks and tells you it’s time to move on.  You never really know for sure until something goes wrong – which it invariably does if it wasn’t right in the first place.

It was just after the second anniversary of losing Robin that I met someone who liked me.  I enjoyed his company and found him intriguing and I was so very lonely.  I wasn’t sure from the start if I’m honest with myself, but I thought it was worth giving him a chance.  I was lucky in many ways.  He wasn’t a bad person and we were together for around 16 months.  He didn’t leave straight away when he broke it off  (he’d moved in) because he had to find a new home and so it was about another 4 months of living together – mostly nothing changed, but his departure loomed and became a dread.  When he did leave it was very sudden and with no goodbye. It was a wrench.

Instead of doing the adult thing and dealing with my emotions I developed a kind of self-destructive ‘fuck it’ button, which meant I said yes to a few things I really shouldn’t have which only led to more heartache. The loneliness got bad again and a friend ended up setting me up with a chap she knew.  All the warning signs were there, though not all from the beginning – he was very charming at first, but I was in some kind of downwards cycle and though friends warned me I felt this chap cared for me, but perhaps more enticingly I felt he needed me and I could help him.  He was an alcoholic with no real job and expensive taste.  But he came across as vulnerable and made me want to nurture him.  I helped with career plans and a new website, but a pattern developed and there was always a new venture.  He was selling books at fairs, but not making the money back because he really didn’t understand the business side of it.  He relapsed in the summer, and whilst drunk admitted to being unfaithful with a mutual friend.  I left him for a while and went on holiday with my family.  But he talked me back and made all sorts of promises.  The drinking got worse and there was really very little in it for me at all – but I stubbornly thought I could still help him.

Turned out I couldn’t.  Also turned out he’d been cheating with an ex and another girl who had apparently just wanted him so she could have a child.  When I finally had enough and left him for good he still owed me around £1000.  But in many ways it was worth losing that money (which I couldn’t really afford) to be rid of him.  My fingers had been burnt.  I had learnt my lesson and would not make those mistakes again.

It didn’t make it any easier to find a good man!  After years of avoiding them I finally gave in and joined some internet dating sites.  I found a couple of nice men that just weren’t for me, but found plenty of idiots too.  Most just ignored me and I started to wonder if they were real people or added by the site to make it look like there were more members than there really were.  I mean – what is wrong with all these guys?  I got the impression having a child already was an issue.  I was also by now thinking I didn’t want to have any more children which ruled out plenty others.  I just wasn’t finding anyone nearly suitable.  One of the major problems with those sites is that you tick all these boxes which makes it so easy to dismiss people that might actually be a fantastic match in real life.

I decided to give up; to concentrate on Sophie and me and just enjoy life.  We could be happy together, we had good friends and I knew that finding a man didn’t necessarily mean I would have my happily ever after.  After all other things were fine – work was up and down, but I was branching out and finding new ways to make a little living – Sophie was doing really well at school and we had our little routine.

It was then that I discovered some WAY members had set up a facebook group for people ready to move on.  A friend signed me up and it was fun.  It was mostly ladies, but we had fun with some banter and sharing experiences.  As there weren’t many guys signed up the organizers decided to let us introduce non-widowed men to the group.  That is how I met my most recent boyfriend.  He worked abroad so we really got to know each other by messaging before we met.  I totally fell for him.  He was fun and liked similar things to me; he treated me when we were out and was a real gentleman.  It wasn’t long before he told me he loved me and was 100% sure about us.  We introduced our children – he has a boy and a girl who are older than Sophie.  It all seemed so good.  We took the kids to a festival and he took Sophie and I on holiday for a week last summer.  We worked around the times he was away and though I missed him, it was OK, because we got on so well when we were together.  We started planning an amazing trip to New Zealand – a country he loves and wants to one day make his home.  I was so excited as I always wanted to go there – even before Peter Jackson increased their tourism nicely.  We were going in January.  My parents would come to stay at my house with Sophie and the cat.  Over Christmas he was at work, but I had a good time and we were always messaging.  My back problems, which had been in check, resurfaced in the holidays with all the visiting and lack of routine.  There was no time to sort it out, but I did get anti-inflamatories before we left.  It was fine if I could keep moving but the flights out were very painful – I was in tears and couldn’t sleep.  By the time we got to Auckland I was shattered and had been up about 40 hours straight.  But once I was moving around again it wasn’t too bad.  The trouble was it was a road trip for the most part.  Sitting in the car was painful after about 30 mins, and I got virtually no sympathy so just bit my tongue.  About half way though NZ I got some better drugs and my back eased off a lot.  I was having an amazing time and loving all the places we went, but could tell something was wrong, just couldn’t get him to share.  We had four nights in Queenstown at the end of the road trip – and on the surface things were fine.  We met his friends there and had more of a rest, but still things seemed a bit strained and I couldn’t get anything out of him.  He seemed colder and more distant but just said he was a quite person.

We came home via Hong Kong – which was also an amazing place to visit.  I stayed with him the night we arrived back in the UK before heading home to see Sophie – I’d missed her so much.  He went back to work, but our conversations had lost their sparkle.  He still refused to tell me what was wrong.  Then just before coming home again admitted he was annoyed with me for not sorting my back out before we went away.  Apart from me being in pain and him doing all the driving, it really hadn’t impacted that much on our holiday.  But I accepted that and thought things would be better.  They were on the surface and when we saw each other again the problems seemed to melt away a little.  Messages were still cool though.  After the second weekend when I’d been up to see him with Sophie things seemed a bit sour again and he cancelled his next trip down to us for fairly weak reasons.  That weekend things were strained.  Finally I suggested putting whatever it was behind us and starting over.  I loved him and was sure we could sort things out.  That’s when it finally came out that he had decided in NZ he couldn’t risk moving to be with me and wanted to concentrate on his kids.  So all that time when I knew something was wrong, it was.  What I hadn’t realized was how easily he would just discard me after making that decision without discussion.  We only live a couple of hours drive apart, but it turned out to be too far for him.  After planning to move to Bournemouth and set up a home with me, he now didn’t want to move until going to NZ and that wouldn’t be for at least 5 years.

It was the cruelest thing.  To show me this wonderful life that we could have over there – and I did love NZ – only to decide with no discussion that it wouldn’t be with me after all.  He wasn’t willing to risk investing in this relationship and losing everything again as he had through his divorce.  That’s how little faith he had in me after I had agreed to move around the world for him.

I’m still coming to terms with this – it’s only just happened after all.  I am still struggling to work out what happened really.  I guess this time it was him that wasn’t ready to move on.

So – dating as a widow has all the same pitfalls as normal dating, but perhaps it just hurts a little more because you know that you should never have been in this circumstance in the first place.  If Robin hadn’t died he would be with us and Sophie would have a Dad, I would know I was loved and wouldn’t be lonely, and Sophie may not have ended up being an only child.  It’s so hard to not go over all the ‘what ifs’.

So listen up men – you need to be good to us ladies.  We deserve to be adored and respected.  We deserve to be loved back as much as we love you.  Don’t take a heart and walk all over it – if things don’t work out that’s OK, but be nice about it and speak to us.  We deserve to know what you are thinking if you are thinking things are wrong.  Don’t give us hope of a better future to just throw it back in our faces.

All I can do now is lick my wounds, pick myself up and start living life again.  I don’t need to rely on anyone else for my happiness but me.  One day I would like to find my true Mr Right, but please next time let it really be the right one and not some pretender who just isn’t ready for something real.  And if having been widowed has taught me anything, it’s that I am capable of looking after myself and I am stronger than I think.  Moving on has all kinds of pitfalls, but I still believe in love.