I sometimes feel like I'm living two parallel lives. The one where Tim is still alive. The one where the what ifs weren't ifs. The one where I loved only him. And then there's the one that I am in now, without Tim but with my wonderful wife Dee.
This new relationship started about three and a half years after Tim died. Last year Dee and I got married, and we are about to buy a house together.
I still love Tim. I always will. But I also love Dee. And I don't think that's a problem. The way I look at it, is – I have a cat. Dee arrived with two dogs and a cat. I didn't stop loving my cat because new animals arrived – I simply love them all. I am the youngest of five siblings, but my parents didn't say "we can only love the first child", their love expanded for all of us. In the same way, I can love Tim, but I can also love Dee, and my love for her is no less for that. Love isn't like a piece of pie that is cut up into slices, it's infinite like the universe.
As widows, we should be proud of ourselves. We have got through some of the worst possible experiences.
Be proud of what you have achieved today.
Today may be a bad day, and if it is, be proud that you are still here. You have survived another day.
Today may be a okay day. Be proud that you are clean and are drinking tea (other beverages are available).
Today may be a good day. Be proud of looking after yourself, looking after other people, going to work, shopping, acting, singing, creating something, changing your life, changing the world.
Whatever you have done, however small, however huge, you did it. Be proud. I'm proud of you.
I've never been very good at asking for help – even as a kid I would say "I can manage it on my own". When I was widowed, I hated asking for help even more.
Sometimes I just couldn't frame what I was asking for because I was so low. Sometimes I didn't want to face people. But sometimes it was pride – I was ashamed that I couldn’t do it on my own. It was also pride that I didn't want to ask people into the house. It was a mess – because of the amount of stuff there was, because I wasn't looking after it and myself, because I didn't have time as I threw myself so deeply into work as a way to cope.
Slowly, I learned that it really is okay to ask for help, and that there is no shame in asking. That helping makes people feel good, and it helps them to grieve too. And that refusing help can mean that people don't offer to help you, or others, in the future. I still don't find it easy, and I can be clumsy in asking, but I am a little better at it now.
Hearing "what can I do", especially in those first few blurred days and weeks, is such a hard question to answer. One of the most useful suggestions from a friend when Tim died was to get a pad of sticky notes and a pen and to write down what I needed help with, and stick the note up on the wall. Then when people asked, I could just direct them to the wall.
, and that's bittersweet.Things have been quiet here for a while. And it's… complicated. Just as I was settling down for Christmas, I got flu. Thankfully it wasn't as bad as it could have been, as I'd been vaccinated, but it wiped out Christmas and a couple of weeks afterwards.
I've been having a lot of work done on the house. It's very old (potentially one of the oldest in the village) and everything went wrong at once. A ceiling needed repairing. A section of roof needed replacing. Damp needed sorting.
Over Christmas, my wife and I decided that it was time to think about buying somewhere together, as she has been living in what was mine and Tim's house. This was a tough decision for me, but it is the right thing to do. It's part of moving forward, and Tim will come to the new house with me. Because he is always there. As part of this process, I'm selling Tim's books, and that's bittersweet.
February was the five-year anniversary of Tim's death, but also the day I discovered that Tim's father was dying. And so I've been to another funeral.
And finally – I have ADHD. This makes me very easily distracted. And all of the above have been pretty distracting. But I am now back. Thank you for bearing with me.
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.