Five weeks ago, to the very evening, I watched Greg die. It does not seem five weeks in some ways; in other ways it seems a lifetime. We were together for forty years: thirty-four of those as a married couple. What is five weeks of widowhood compared to forty years as a couple? A mere drop in the ocean and yet already I am getting used to the feel of saying "I am a widow". Already I am becoming a dab hand at filling in the ubiquitous forms, registering my status as "widowed". On Kay's student finance form which we filled in again this week for the forthcoming academic year, I am now the sole parent. Overnight, years and accustomed years of being "married" are replaced with the dowdy label of "widowed". I suddenly feel like I have concrete restraints around my feet, pulling me downwards into a place where nobody will give me a second glance. I feel I should maybe be dressed in black wearing a black net veil or should sit amongst the cobwebs Miss Havisham-like. With the change of status, I feel a tremendous change in my very being. I suddenly feel a hundred and two years old with one foot in the grave. Greg's suffering may be over. Mine seems to just be beginning.
They say there are various stages of grief. They are:
Some stages last a few weeks, others many years or decades. I think I have gone through a fair number of those stages in the last few weeks alone! I certainly have gone through denial - imagining that Greg is still in hospital, as he was there so regularly in the past five years. Sometimes the reality hits me that this time he will not be coming back. I have often felt anger. Why me? Why did he let this happen? Why did he start drinking and let it get so far? Why could we not have looked forward to a long retirement together? Then there is the guilt. I should have not said some of the nasty things I said when my frustration flared up and overspilled into venom. I should not have bought the whisky for him, when he was too drunk to drive to get it himself. I should have done more to bully the medics into doing something to stop him. I have already seen glimpses of the depression I know will definitely hit me, once Kay has left for university again and I am alone with my thoughts and an empty house full of too many memories, good and bad. I don't tell her this, of course. I am putting on my brave I-can-cope-with anything mask for her. But in the last week or so, she has been out twice with friends and slept over at their house, giving me a taste of what is like to turn out the light at night and just hear the sound of my own breathing for company. Those different stages of grief are coming one after the other in quick succession like a roller-coaster at the moment.
On a more positive note, the funeral was beautiful. So many people came up to me afterwards and said how much they had "enjoyed" it. Over about sixty people were there. About a quarter were family; about a quarter were work colleagues; a quarter were friends from the past; the rest were neighbours, close friends of mine and close friends of Kay's. Two (quite separate) people even turned up all the way from Scotland - one, an old work colleague, whom we had not seen for thirty years! The actual chapel service was put together by Kay and myself. We carefully chose the readings, the hymns and the music on a theme of his life in different stages and culminated in the Joni Mitchell song "The Circle Game". I wrote the history of his life which the clergyman read out. The funeral director was extremely helpful and friendly. The Order of Service, designed and printed by Kay, had photos of Greg in different stages of his life too, so it all seemed to fit. A work of art. Greg would have been proud of us. Afterwards we gathered for refreshments at a local club and everyone said wonderful things about Greg. It certainly helped get me through the otherwise difficult day. Greg would have so enjoyed it. Who knows? Perhaps he did.