I’m 32. My boyfriend died when I was 29. Boyfriend never seems the right word for him because he was so much more than that, he was my life and my future. We had been together a year and a half and he had supported me beyond words when my Dad died of Motor Neurone Disease in 2009.
Gareth was diagnosed with ALL in June 2010, just after his 31st birthday and passed away at home in Wigan in September 2010.
After he passed away my Mum, Aunty, friends and Gareth’s wonderful family looked after me and I would not be here today without the love, care and laughter they gave me. However, the feeling of loss or of being lost cannot be described & nobody can take that away. I scoured the internet many a long lonely weekend to find other people in my situation who I could relate to without success.
I felt society didn’t see me as a widow because we weren’t married and hadn’t been together long but I was. The internet has many amazing support groups for ‘young widows’ but I found a young widow is generally classed as someone under 50 and I didn’t feel I could relate in anyway to a 48year old woman, married for twenty years with three kids. We hadn’t lost the same thing, neither was better or worse but those people had got to have the wedding & children that we would never get to experience.
I wanted to meet people my age who I could relate to, who would want to go for a night out and not to a camping weekend in the Lakes full of mums and their kids who’d lost husbands. I knew doing that would only remind me of everything we didn’t get to do. I wanted to meet people who understood what it was like to live this life at that age & I didn’t know anyone in my situation which led to huge feelings of isolation and loneliness.
I saw a bereavement counsellor for 6 months after Gareth died which was the best decision I could have made. I was desperate to feel normal again, not the girl whose boyfriend died and just be me and Counselling helped me start the path to get back to this point. It’s not for everyone but I would highly recommend giving it a go.
Someone told me once that there are seven stages of grief. I don’t know if this is true but I definitely experienced an enormous variety of emotions. Some days, high as a kite at how well I was coping, some days unable to get out of bed because I felt I had nothing to get up for. I learnt that this is normal and a healthy part of the grieving process and one to be embraced and not resisted. Once I started to get my confidence back, about 6 months after Gareth passed away I started to go out a lot and did everything I could to have fun. This was part of my grieving process in trying to be a normal 30 year old and I believe so strongly that whatever you feel you need to do it to get through that day or week or month, do it. As long as it’s not causing harm to you or others and it makes you feel better, do it, whatever it may be.
People will always have opinions on your behaviour and chosen coping mechanisms and people did with me but largely these people don’t know you well and have little understanding of the situation you’re in. Anyone who knows me well and carried me through that time did nothing but support me and you learn very quickly who is genuinely there for you. It’s a hard lesson to learn but a worth while one in the long run.
I sometimes used to go and visit Gareth’s grave after work if I’d had a bad day, just to tell him about it or even just to put off going home to any empty house. It worked for me, always made me feel better and that’s all that matters when you’re in such a desperate situation.
If you are reading this because you’re in the same situation as I was I hope this goes a small way to make you feel that you’re not alone and there other young people going through the same experiences and emotions as you may be.
I can’t say it won’t be easy because it wont, it will be so hard and it’s a long journey, but take your time, surround yourselves with people who make you happy and most importantly look after yourself and you will get there. I will never ever forget Gareth or stop loving him and probably never completely get over what has happened but I’m now at a point where I can look back on our time together and smile at how lucky I was of all the people in the world he chose to fall in love with me and I would never change that for anything.