Warning. Some sweariness.
One of the first, and wisest, things someone told me about the impact of bereavement is that it is three-fold. We lose our past, our present and our future. This helped me a lot. However, I wasn’t prepared for how much the death of a partner changes us. How much we become different people.
Grief rewires our brains. This rewiring may be temporary, as we go through the fog that is widow’s brain. Some of the changes may also be long-term, or even permanent. For example, bereavement can lead to heightened anxiety, where everything seems like a threat or a potential catastrophe. I am actually less anxious about myself after bereavement, because I realised that I dealt with the worst thing that could ever happen, and I survived. I have more confidence in myself (well, most of the time), because I rebuilt my life on my own. However, I do worry about other people, and I no longer believe in the permanence of anything.
I think it now takes me longer to accept change, as there have been some many changes in my life. I am more patient with other people and their pain and sadness. But I have lost the ability to tolerate fools gladly (not that I was ever that good at it before Tim died). To quote Hank Green, “Behold the field in which I grow my fucks. Lay thine eyes upon it and see that it is barren.”
All of this doesn’t mean that you will never be happy again. Your sadness day to day will lessen. You will feel less angry. You will find yourself smiling or laughing at things. You will go out with friends or go to a party and have fun. Your grief will remain part of you – mine does – but you will start moving forward.
I am happy – not the kind of happy that I expected. After all, one version of my future was taken away from me when Tim died. But I am a different kind of happy in a new version of the future.
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.