Are you part of the silent club?

I have spoken to many male and females who have been widowed over the years and it’s like we are the silent club. We all acknowledge there feels something different when you are left sole and single parenting, widower, or have a parent die when you are young or a child pass away. There’s a scar that the loss of a wife or husband, partner, parent or child leaves that’s unique. And unless it’s happened to you, no one really understands.

I listened to an interview by Mia Freedman on the Mamamia No Filter podcast with William McInnes an Australian actor, whose wife who he clearly loved and had a wonderful relationship with, died. I myself find these type of interviews interesting because I can relate. I listen and think that’s me, that’s how it is, he gets it too. William McInnes talks about the hole in your life when someone you love dies that you cared deeply about. He says, ‘they were someone special in your life and it doesn’t mean you don’t go on and live a life. ( the hole) it doesn’t get any shallower it’s always as deep, sometimes it doesn’t rear up, but then when you fall into it, it’s just awful and then you just have to go with it and keep on going’.

I don’t feel I say to my divorced friends my loss is different, my husband, the person I loved dearly is dead . We did not choose to be apart, either of us, I feel I am diluting what’s happened to them. Especially if they were the one who didn’t want the marriage dissolved. Having said that I don’t think anyone leaves a long-term relationship lightly. Even the person who ends it. There’s often a lot of emotional pain and grief for a failing relationship before the person chooses to end it. Generally speaking no one enters a relationship wanting it to end in hurt and pain. Unfortunately however in relationships we as people are constantly growing and evolving and learning about ourselves and others and some relationships don’t last the distance. For the person who is left by their partner their pain and grief often worsens or begins once the relationship is over. There is no doubt the end of a relationship is shattering.

I can’t say what it feels like to get divorced, what emotions are like at the time or ongoing long-term, but I feel my emotions long term are different, and I don’t say that out loud because, I really don’t know what they are going through so feel it wrong to say anything.

That’s why it’s like you exist in the silent club. I feel some people think they know but they don’t know what the death of someone you loved and really cared about feels like and that’s not their fault. So you stop trying to explain and you live on silently with the loss, the longing and the missing, and the wondering what life could’ve been like. My children can never ever, see their dad, go looking for their dad, be disappointed by their dad, can choose to or not to have a relationship with their dad. His life is not going on somewhere else. He simply doesn’t exist anymore. He can’t disappoint then, and he can’t love them. He can’t be a good dad or a terrible dad. I don’t have the resentment for him that women may have for their partners that have let them down, who don’t do what they feel they should to help with the kids, who have been irresponsible fathers who won’t pay their family maintenance ordered by the courts. I never had to go through the stress of a property settlement or mediation . We have not experienced what many people face in a divorce situation. In a divorce there seems to be a lot of disharmony, a lot of disappointment because someone isn’t doing what another person expects of them. For the individuals involved all their lives are continuing and relationship dynamics are constantly at play. Some divorces are more amicable than others but they still involve hurt. Children are torn between parents, parents complain about the negative influences each parent puts the children, there’s a financial resentment often towards one of the parents. A lot of emotions that are different to my situation.

There’s just an indescribable loss, that no one will ever replace. Good people can come into the kids lives, be mentors, good role models but no one will replace Harry. No one can ever replace another individual. When families lose a child, having another child doesn’t replace the child that died. Each individual human touches our lives and this universe in their own unique way.

Do you ever wonder if that one thing hadn’t happened ……

Death is so finite. The person is no longer on this earth living their life. They ceased to exist in any tangible sense the day they took their last breath. Comparing divorce or separation to death isn’t useful, Neither is worse than the other, just different.

I feel comforted when I meet another widower especially who is a parent. We have an instant connection, no words needed. It’s quite a unique feeling. You know they just get it. You know they know how it feels to be part of the silent club. To be living everyday with a feeling most people can’t understand. No doubt some of the emotions and struggles are very similar for single parents but our reason for being single is different.

I recently spoke with the mother and partner of a person they loved who took their own life. I will never fully understand the grief they feel with suicide, but death is death, and loss and sadness as a result of that death is raw and the ability to sit with another in that rawness, in that sadness, and hear their pain and feel their loss is empathy. It’s an understanding that comes from having experienced the depth of emotions at a level that death takes you to.

I think death where you were blind sided, that happened at a time in their lives that was totally unexpected, and where the person was very significant in your life, leaves dreams that will never come to fruition, experiences that will never be shared together, the loss of a connection you may never have with another, a fulfilment no other can meet, a bond forever gone, a love never to be felt and shared again. They had become a part of you fused into your soul.

They had impacted significantly that when they go, a part of your soul goes with them. A part of you is gone that can never be again. So you move forwards leaving a part of your very self behind. That’s why you are never the same again. Part of you died and then had to regrow. The regrowth exists because of the past. The remainder of you not forgetting the past that has gone but continues on with the new growth of self evolving into who you are today.

‘……. you have to accommodate your past into your persona

….. it HELPS you reflect on what you are now’

David Bowie

How well the new growth is nurtured by yourself and others around you, depends of how healthy and beautiful it becomes. Moving forwards can be a time of positive and effective personal growth but it takes hard work. There’s no denying that. Now 19 years on and reflecting on the years gone by I find myself compartmentalising my life.

My carefree years before Harry’s death, my sad years the time between Harry’s diagnosis meeting Ted, and my life with Ted.

Those sad years were the years my children were growing up. I now wonder how did that impact them as young children. Did I screw it up for them. I tried my best to keep life as normal as possible. I watched Christmas recordings when the children between the ages of 2 and 12 a while ago, my life was now in a better place. I’d found the DVD’s cleaning through stuff so decided to view them. I sat and watched the kids remembering how sad I felt at those times but tried my hardest to put on a happy face for them and family sake. I remember watching those recordings feeling like I hadn’t been there. That now I could watch see and feel the happiness or unhappiness of my children. But at the time, in real-time I was numb and doing my best to be a happy mum. A normal mum, but really it was like I wasn’t there feeling any of this joy. I was there in a physical sense and that was about it.

It’s difficult to describe. I wasn’t depressed at the time. Grief is a different emotion to depression. And for the first couple of years my grief was overwhelming. It’s not like every day was doom and gloom, that I felt no joy. I could honestly say as time passed that I had a happiness, my new happiness, but this new happiness had a void that was always with me. A longing for love. A missing and sadness of what my children had missed out on and for what Harry missed out on. So on those special occasions and achievements I was sad. Sad for all those reason, not having Harry share these beautiful joyous and proud moments, and sad for the kids and Harry for what they were missing out on. That sadness would at time over power the happiness of the occasion. I can’t pinpoint when the happiness overpowered the sadness. But as the years passed there was a shift where I was once again able to feel the joy of the kids and their achievements for them. A love and joy. But with death it always taints to some degree that joy, there is always some emotion that knowing that this happened to us and now he, because of it, isn’t here to enjoy it with us through no fault of our own, or his own. That this horrible thing happened and took him away from us. And that I feel cheated because of that. I feel envy of those who have no idea how that feels. How my innocence was taken. That we as a family do not live that same life anymore. That we got a membership into the silent club.

I think some people feel you should be over it. They, I am sure are tired of hearing it. That’s why we are part of the silent club, because we get the vibe, hear comments. We in the silent club know it’s never over for us, there will never be closure. So we go on in silence not wanting to burden our friends with the same old same old.

We confide in only our closest friends or another in the silent club. We’ve learnt how society expects us to move on and we try to accommodate that by going silent and blending back into the mainstream in a manner people think we should behave like.

It’s taken me 19 years to feel I can reflect. To understand how this never-ending grief thing goes. To have insight. To feel ok to write about it, but even now I am nervous about publishing this because I don’t want to upset anyone who in their own experiences have felt enormous loss and pain through a divorce and for those who have been tremendously supportive of us seem ungrateful for that. Without that support I wouldn’t be in the good headspace I am today. Life is now great, I’m happy now, but (and I think those words will always be followed by a but), I will forever feel for my kids and what they lost, what life Harry missed out on and for that reason I will never be over it, but I understand the expectations of society, to let it go, it’s been a long time, so I feel and be quiet about it. I am a member of the silent club.

Love Lucy x

When death comes knocking at your door on some idle Tuesday afternoon.

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