It's nearly three weeks now since Tony, my dear husband of 46 years, died, and I think it's time for an update. Not everyone will be interested in this, but some women facing similar issues may find it helpful.
The main thing I want to share with you is that for me, the dreadful anxiety and stress that I have lived with for these past two years are over, for both Tony and me. He is at peace; and I have found that the grieving I have done already has taken the edge off the pain of bereavement. There is even a term for this: "anticipatory grief", and now that I know it has a name, I understand better what has been happening.
Of course there is still pain; there are still times of helpless weeping and overwhelming grief - but they come in waves and are short-lived. I am still a bit fragile, but much of the time I can function quite normally. People think I am being brave, but it took much more bravery to face up to Tony's initial diagnosis and live with the uncertainty and anxiety it entailed. The actual bereavement is not as acutely painful or incapacitating as I had expected. There is also a huge amount of support that is suddenly on offer, sometimes from the most unlikely people.
Yesterday we had a lovely memorial ceremony for Tony. His wish was that we should not waste money on an elaborate funeral, but give him a happy send-off, with food and drink for everyone. So we planned a "funeral" which did not involve either religion or the presence of a body. Here, for anyone interested, is how we (my two daughters and I) did it.
I arranged a direct cremation for Tony. This means that his body was taken to the crematorium by the funeral director, without any mourners or family present. Then, nine days later, at a time that suited us, we hired the village hall and held our ceremony. Over 70 people turned up. The first part was a more serious "saying goodbye", with affectionate and sometimes humorous tributes by several of us. We heard some of his favourite music, a couple of moving peoms were read out, and our granddaughter sang "The Parting Glass". Some tears were shed. Tony's ashes were displayed in a splendid stainless steel mini beer barrel from the local brewery (he would have loved this!).
Then the youngest grandchild blew out a candle, after which we moved the chairs, and drinks and refreshments were served, to background playlist of some of his favourite music. Friends and family were exchanging fond memories and anecdotes, such as:
"He used to call me a silly old bugger!"
"He taught me to scuba dive"
"He was so helpful to me when I had my hip replacement, telling me about his, and how he got fit again."
"He came to the beer festival with me and his carryout bottle leaked beer all over his trousers!"
"We had some great arguments about politics"
... and so on.
The occasion had, by this stage, a really positive buzz about it. I think Tony would have loved it and been proud of his family.
I hope my experiences can help other wives and partners in a similar position, and perhaps also offer some reassurance to men who are worried about how their families will cope when they are gone. There is a lot of support and goodwill out there, and I will tap into this to help me find is a way through it all. Although my journey has only just begun, I am hopeful that I will learn to cope with the grief, and make a worthwhile life on my own. Tony will always be in my heart, and the happy memories of almost 50 years together will give me strength and comfort.