"The pain of grief never really goes away. You just learn to wear it. But it's so raw for so long. And the awful year of firsts. And not being able to move things because they were the last person to touch it. And the more things that you move, the fewer things you have that they've touched last, and you feel like you're inadvertently erasing them. Hoping their clothes will retain their smell but they don't. Grief is so so complicated."
The time after they die is so full of firsts. That first time you go to bed and there's an empty space next to you. The first time you wake up in a world where they are no longer. The first time you do a load of washing that only contains your own clothes. The first meal for one. The first time that you change the bedding, and the bed no longer smells of them. The first shop that doesn't contain that little extra something that you always picked up.
Moving past the milestones
The milestone dates – your birthday, their birthday, Christmas – are tough. These are things that should be full of joy, but instead they trigger memories of what we have lost, and they remind us that our people aren't here. There are also the anniversaries of their diagnosis, admission to hospital and death.
When I came up to the day before the first anniversary of his death, I honestly didn't know how I was going to get through the next 24 hours. A friend from Widowed and Young told me that I had survived the day of his death, and that no anniversary could ever be worse than that. That helped me a lot.
For me, the first New Year was tough. This was partly because we had been going to the same New Year's Eve party, dating back to years before we were married. But most of all, it was because it heralded a year that Tim would never see.
The firsts don't necessarily end after a year. There will be others – the first wedding, the first time a friend or relative has a baby, the first death of someone close.
In my experience, the run up to the milestones are worse than the days themselves. For me, the length of day, the temperature, the weather, the emerging of the snowdrops, all remind me of the time of year and the anniversary of his death. People reminisce about the Beast from the East, and that was around the time he died. The milestone day dawns with a small sense of relief.
Coping with the firsts
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.