Many people have asked me what to do, who to contact and how it’s expected for you to be when your person dies, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned during the last 6 months.
What to do? Be hysterical. Be calm. Be whatever you need to be. There are no rules when your person dies.
Me? Mum called me. I heard her before she spoke and I knew. No parent should ever outlive their child. No-one should be widowed at 40.
My life as I knew it ended with that call.
I couldn’t breathe. I was hysterical. I howled. I hit the deck. I was inconsolable. All I remember from that moment on is my good friend from work, Steve, staying on the phone whilst bestie, Mrs Potato (Jess), abandoned work and made her way to me. I can only apologise to Steve for what he heard. I continue to have nightmares about that day, I suspect I always will.
I needed a slap or a shot. Jess took me to hers because I was in no fit state for anything and most certainly should not have been on my own. I certainly couldn’t have driven to Cov and, in Friday rush hour, a lift up wouldn’t have ensured I got there in time before Mark was taken away from our home. It was left for me to make decisions, from afar, when I couldn’t even process what had just happened.
What happens with an unexpected death?
The Ambulance are called, as are the Police. Death is confirmed, and the Police need to ascertain if any foul play or third party is involved. The Ambulance arrived sharpish. The Police took hours.
I’m called countless times with questions. My brain doesn’t work. My mouth struggles to get the words out.
The one question I distinctly remember is what Funeral Director did I want to use? I had no idea. It’s not something we had discussed. A suggestion is made and I go with it.
It’s so clinical in those first hours.
My only advice at this stage is do not be alone, and start writing stuff down.
Where had they taken Mark? No-one seemed to know. I called the Funeral Director and was told that it was their out of hours number and to call back the next day. When I asked where my Husband had been taken, I was told “I don’t know, but he would have been taken to a hospital or mortuary”. Thanks, most helpful. Not.
Mum had been given a leaflet and booklet on making arrangements. Branded by the Funeral Director we used, so a sales brochure in a way.
As Next of Kin, I had the right to see Mark at any stage following his death. I didn’t know that.
Your person doesn’t have to go into the care of a Funeral Director either. You can take them home until the funeral if you wish. I didn’t know that either.
I called the Funeral Director the next day, Saturday, and was told pretty much the same as before, but assured that someone would make some calls and come back to me. They did. I now knew where Mark was but I didn’t know what to do, where I should be, what I should be doing. I was in a daze.
Who Do I Need To Inform When My Person Dies
This will be a lengthy read. I have noted down my own experiences and also collated useful information from other websites, Gov.uk and Martin Lewis ( I was only made aware of this two days ago – I only wish this was more readily available and easy to find 6 months ago).
As clinical as it sounds, a checklist is needed for the weeks and months that follow.
I can only speak from my perspective now. Mark’s death was unexpected so my experience here, as his Wife and Next of Kin, might differ from others. I will do my best to share what I have since learned but you may wish to refer to the links below for more detail.
For unexpected deaths, the Police will be called. This is totally normal. The Coroner will be informed and a Post Mortem will be required if the person hasn’t seen a Doctor in the 2 weeks prior.
If the death was expected, and the person had received medical care within the last two weeks, the Doctor will issue a Medical Certificate with cause of death.
First Few Days
Depending on the findings of the Police, if applicable, the funeral may have to be delayed. If no third party or foul play involved, your loved one will be released into your care, via the Funeral Director if you so choose, so arrangements can be made.
When it comes to arrangements, share the tasks out, don’t do what I did. The emotional weight of shielding family and friends came back and bit me in the arse.
Tell friends and wider family; everyone who needs to know. Given the digital age we are living in, a FB post may be the best medium to tell anyone else who’s details you don’t have, and are not able to inform directly.
Next tell the GP. Then the employer; don’t forget your employer, too.
Employers. I could go all Ranty McRantyson here. Many bereaved have shared their experiences with me following the death of their person, a dependent; that includes spouses, children, and parents.
Let me start by saying that sharing your Employee Assistance Programme number just won’t cut it.
Show you care. It’s the best thing you can do.
Employers need to have a long look at themselves. When you lose your person, is a few days, a week, maybe two, an acceptable time period to grieve and be back to work? Everyone is different but, simply, no it isn’t. Should the bereavement leave afforded change based on who the person or relative is? It depends on individual circumstances, but how much time does your employee need? Ask them. All the law says is a “reasonable” amount of time – who decides what is reasonable, given the specific circumstances of each bereavement will be different?
I hate the wording of this, but this is the legal view – There is no law dictating how long leave should be, unless a child dies. 2 weeks off if the child was under 18, or are stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
If your employee wants to come to work, that’s OK. Support them as they need.
If you have a good employer, you will receive full pay until after the funeral. If you are not able to return to work afterwards, you, possibly, might be moved onto sick leave and pay is as per policy. Policy. You grief is managed by a fucking policy. Some have not been able to, financially, stay off work any longer than their full pay is afforded. Some have even been managed when they have returned because their performance wasn’t at a satisfactory level. No shit Sherlock. If, as an employer, you do this, or have done this, there is nothing more cuntish you could have done. Some people who have shared their experiences with me have felt suicidal when treated this way.
I suspect most employers have a people related value and it’s included in their mission statement. Live up to those values and those statements through your actions, not just words. In short, from what I’ve heard, do better.
I doubt I’ll be going back into the sector I’ve spent almost 20 years in, even if I was fit and able to do so. I’m ashamed of my profession, given how poorly so many people have been treated in their hour of need. It may be a minority of shitty HR, but most stories are sounding far too similar. Birth, specifically Maternity Leave and, in some cases, Company Maternity Pay followed by Statutory Maternity Pay, support is better thought through and financially supported than death. That’s just wrong.
Just because I feel that I do HR differently, and I’m told this by employers and employees; entirely people driven, tailored by person, and not by policy, doesn’t mean I can change anything. That’s a sad realisation. Some of the conversations in Widow groups I’m a part of really upset me. There hasn’t been a single positive HR experience when bereaved. HR are everything Mark always said; “except you, fluffy and pointless”. That’s after Mark spent 36 years in employment. Not one decent HR experience.
I really hoped these stories were in the minority, but I sense not. I’ll continue to campaign for positive change where the support of the bereaved is concerned.
By The End Of The First Week
If the death was expected, you need to register it within 5 days. If the death was reported to the Coroner, you don’t have to do this. The Coroner will do so when they have concluded their investigation. I should note that, for me, this took 12 weeks and was only completed after the inquest.
Whilst the Coroner is investigating, you will be issued with a Interim Certificate of Death (10 copies were issued to me). These serve the same purpose as a Death Certificate so you can inform companies and authorities.
If the death was expected, you can order additional Death Certificates when you register the death.
Is there a funeral plan? We had never discussed such a thing so, in my case, the answer was no.
Mark’s Post Mortem was completed within the first week, and he was released into my care. The cause of death undetermined. There was nothing immediately obvious to explain why Mark had died so the Coroner would complete more tests, take samples and complete a toxicology screen. Let me prepare you that the Coroners office has to ask Next of Kin’s permission to take samples, and they will explain where those samples come from. There’s no fluffing this up, we’re talking specific organs, eyes, blood, urine etc. They then ask you what you want to happen with those samples once the testing is complete. Did I want them returned to me? I mean, how the fuck was I supposed to answer that?
I was informed that the samples are fingernail size and the Coroner could dispose securely if that’s what I wanted. I had awful visions of how they would be returned to me, so I agreed that the Coroner could do what they felt was right.
I could now contact the Funeral Director. Like I was ready for any more phone calls, but they needed to happen. This was the week before Christmas and the earliest appointment I could get to discuss anything was 30 December 2019. This also meant that any funeral would be delayed because, in their words “it’s a busy time of year”. Mark didn’t want a funeral; he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered in our favourite places. He didn’t want a fixed place where people felt expected to visit. That was his choice and I was adamant to fulfil his wishes. I had 10 days to reflect on this before meeting the Funeral Director.
What I didn’t know was that you could call different Funeral Directors for quotes. Even if I had known I wouldn’t have done it, but apparently the prices can vary significantly so something to be aware of.
People were calling and texting, all the time; “What can I do?”. What could anyone do? It’s a default question asked, I believe, along with how are you? and are you OK? Back then the answers were Nothing, No and No.
Screaming in my head “just leave us the fuck alone to make sense of our loss”.
You’ll be truly astonished who comes out of the woodwork when they haven’t bothered with your person, you or your family. Make of that what you will; I have my views, and they include guilt and shame mostly.
People will do one of two things; they distance themselves because they don’t know what to say or do, or become overbearing. I didn’t want to speak to anyone else but immediate family.
For me, and our family, this was the time we went through Christmas on auto-pilot. Sympathy cards started to roll in and condolences received. I have no idea how we got through that time. Being together was the only way we knew to be at Christmas, so we cooked dinner at Mum and Dad’s. I don’t remember anything else.
Karen and I met the Funeral Director and, whilst a kindly and compassionate person is assigned to you, this is a process. Flicking through brochures of coffins like it’s a Next catalogue just doesn’t feel real. How can we be talking about all this for Mark? He was 52 for fucks sake. We had to decide cars or horses, hymns or not, flowers or not, chapel or not, piper or not and, the most difficult for us, curtain closing at the end of the service, or not.
Dad’s 80th birthday followed in the first week of the new year. We went out for a meal, like we always did as a family, but it felt flat and odd, like we shouldn’t be doing it.
Karen and I met the officiant 4 days later to discuss how we wanted the service to run. This would be Mark’s day, not mine and not our family’s.
Everything then hit me so suddenly, I broke. I checked into the Priory and it was the best thing I could have done for me. When your person dies, the one person you forget is you.
Weeks That Follow
If you have joint accounts, I bow down to you. We always chose not to and, in making that decision, sorting Mark’s affairs was so much more difficult than it really should have been. I cannot even begin to imagine the challenges children, dependants or family members have when they are not next of kin, or are a group of people who all consider themselves next of kin, or executors of the estate. I did’t have that experience, so I can only speak for myself.
The organisations, I started to work through and contact (this took 5.5 months to compile):
- Financial Advisor (was also a family friend)
- Bank – Santander, immediately amazing, compassionate, and sorted within a week.
- Mobile Provider – Vodafone were amazing. Immediately sorted.
- Passport Office
- Life Insurance Provider – Zurich. Really straight forward.
- Pension(s) Providers – the MOST difficult people to converse with. Pricks.
- Car Company (if company car) if not, car Insurance – straight forward.
- HMRC – numerous departments because, shock horror, they don’t talk to each other. Self Assessment, PAYE and the Bereavement Team (I wasn’t even told they had one until hours of hold music and conversations made me lose my shit. This is the company who sent me a letter to say I owed £6k on behalf of Mark to, after an hour of waiting, discovered they owed me £7k for Mark’s estate. You couldn’t write this utter bollocks. Get it right first time, how hard can it be? A very close second of a shitstorm to have to deal with.
- Credit Cards – all bar one, AmEx, really brilliant, in the circumstances, to deal with.
- Home phone and Broadband – Plusnet – immediately sorted.
- Investments – Zurich. As above, very good company to deal with.
- ISA – Zurich. I’m now becoming very grateful that Mark had chosen Zurich.
- Council Tax – Immediate and compassionate.
- Water – Immediate.
- Gas – OutFox The Market. Painful. Beyond painful. Only sorted now, 6 months on.
- Electric – As above.
- Sky – Immediate.
- House Insurance – Direct Line. I wasn’t able to confirm actual date of death which made this impossible to reconcile. I ended one Insurance because it was in Mark’s name but, because I couldn’t be specific on date of death, they couldn’t re-issue in my name. So I had to end it, then call them back to ask for new insurance starting the same day. Utter wankpuffins.
- Doctors (if not already done) – We had, but I did it again because a letter was sent. #RollsEyes
- Barber (or hairdresser, just in case future appointments have been made). You don’t think about this shit. Not just for the person who has died, but parents, siblings, family members, yourself!!
- Royal Mail – fucking shit storm. They sold Mark’s details after I arranged redirection of Mail, and I started getting junk mail.
- Land Registry – Complex, see “Six Months In”
- LinkedIn – Really easy
- Facebook – Really easy
- Email Provider – Really easy
Ball-aching process that is Probate (if there is a will) or, in my case when there wasn’t, Letter of Administration (this is also granted to next of kin, which happened to be me). You need to value the estate. Report on the value of the estate and when that is done, apply for your Probate or Letter of Administration. It’s the same process but it’s the ending that differs. As Mark’s Spouse, I didn’t have Inheritance Tax to contend with because Mark’s estate passed to me. If you aren’t married, and there is no will, sadly, the process changes and you won’t, automatically, be entitled to any aspect of the estate.
Letter of Administration is granted to the person who will formally be recognised and authorised by the courts to deal with a person’s estate. I was very fortunate in this regard. With the exception of Land Registry, it was accepted, as Mark’s Wife and Next of Kin, that I had authority to deal with his affairs. If I wasn’t recognised like this, I dread to think how difficult this would have been. It was hard enough for me, and I was Mark’s Wife FFS – Painful, beyond words.
Almost everyone required an original Death Certificate or, in my case, the Interim Certificate of Death plus my original Marriage Certificate. Only having one Marriage Certificate means notifying these organisations would take an ungodly amount of time and, what I didn’t know, every company also emails the Coroner to substantiate the situation and to confirm no third party was involved.
The Tell Us Once, Government Service? Only possible with an actual death certificate. Didn’t work for me. I parked the vast majority. It could wait.
During this time, I had also reflected on Mark’s wishes not to have a funeral. 4 weeks on, we were advised by the Funeral Director not to see him given the amount of time that had passed. That broke me. It was in that moment, selfishly, I made the call that we would have a celebration of Mark’s life. If that was the only time when we could be close to him again, it was happening. I discussed with our family, obvs, and we were decided. It was a close call to not follow Mark’s wishes, and I still feel guilty now, but I’m pleased we did. At every stage, I was supported by Mark’s Sister, Karen. To be fair, we have always been like Sisters rather than in-laws. We were always in agreement.
When I say celebration of Mark’s life, that’s exactly what it would be. A Sex Pistols themed Coffin, Horse Drawn Carriage to bring Cov to a standstill, a Piper belting out Flower of Scotland on our way in (Mum is Scottish, and we love our massive Musselburgh family), and Mark would be late. Mark was late for everything. It was a standing joke that he’d be late for his own funeral, so he was. A good 15 minutes late. This did mean I had to book a double “slot” at the crematorium – standard times for a service in entirety is 45 minutes, and that includes entering and exiting. It really is a conveyor belt so, if you can, go double to afford yourself as much time as you need.
In addition to funeral plans, what are you going to do after? This needs to be organised also. We had to consider:
- Open Bar or Not
- How would this be an extension of the celebration of Mark’s life?
- How am I going to feel seeing people I was really angry with?
- What’s the right thing to do?
Simple. This was Mark’s day. I’d have to reign it in and put on fakery face with these people. I tried my hardest to just avoid them if I’m honest.
We were very happy to have had been allocated an officiant who was previously an actor and comedian, and boy did he milk the fact Mark was late. I heard later, it was a bit awks watching him look at the clock, pacing up and down and tutting. We found this most amusing, as Mark would have done.
A non-traditional service followed, remembering the joy, love and laughter Mark brought into every persons life he touched. The service would feature Mark’s favourite music; I’m not saying were were given signs but, every time Karen and I talked about Mark, his playlist on in my car constantly randomly played certain songs. We were decided; Green Day – 21 Guns, Counting Crows – Perfect Blue Buildings and Mr. Jones, Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares To You (I hate this song) and to exit, The Sex Pistols – My Way (explicit version).
The Piper saw us out to Highland Cathedral.
We then moved on to the Pub where Mark and I met, and the bar was open. Photographs of Mark covering every one of his 52 years were everywhere. We drank, we recanted memories, we laughed and we cried.
I had checked out how the crematorium worked prior to Mark’s funeral; if the service ended before 1:45 then the cremation would be same day, and ashes would be ready for collection the day after. I opted for this. I needed Mark back with me as soon as was possible.
Funeral costs. It’s vulgar to talk about money, apparently, but in this context, I want to share openly and honestly. It can be a minefield.
A typical funeral is £3,700, according to Martin Lewis’ site.
We didn’t go mental, but the breakdown was:
- Professional Services – £995.00
- Bringing Mark Into Their Care – £215.00
- Preparation – £115.00
- Floral Hearse (we didn’t have flowers, per se, but it’s needed to manage traffic with the horses) – £200.00
- 1 Limousine – £200.00
- Colourful Coffin – £625.00
- Donation Tube – £25.00
- Cremated Remains Casket / Tube – £25.00
- Legal Probate Advice (not taken) – Free
- Total Funeral Director Charges – £2,400.00
- Officiant – £195.00
- Crematorium – £1102.00
- Order of Service x 100 – £125.00
- Horse Drawn Carriage – £900.00
- Piper – £150.00
- Total Disbursements – £2,472.00
Total Funeral Costs – £4, 872.00
- Open Bar and Catering afterwards – £1,800
- Full Costs – £6,672.00
Options for paying are, somewhat, varied. I learned, afterwards, that any money in the Estate like bank accounts, can be released to pay for funeral costs. Local councils may be able to help if the person doesn’t have family or are unable to meet basic funeral costs. This sounds awful, I get that.
I was told about a Bereavement Support Payment that I had no idea about. Give it a Google. This may help towards funeral costs.
The amount you’re entitled to depends on whether or not you’re receiving child benefit:
- Receiving child benefit?
You’ll get a first payment of £3,500, followed by up to 18 monthly payments of £350 each.
- NOT receiving child benefit?
You’ll get a first payment of £2,500, followed by up to 18 monthly payments of £100 each. You can claim for bereavement support payment up to 21 months after your husband, wife or civil partner’s death – but you must claim within three months to get the full amount.
If I wasn’t told, I’d have no idea that this even existed.
Two Months In
I start weekly therapy. Three days per week.
I’m still really angry. We do not know why Mark died. It haunted me, and the nightmares were brutal. Anxiety crippled me, and I felt like my life was over. How can we have come back from the trip of a lifetime in South Africa only 9 weeks earlier and now Mark is dead? What could I have done differently? Would it have changed anything? Guilt consumes me.
What does our family need from me? I took control. I needed a distraction.
Opting to afford our family time to process and grieve, I chose to work through the list of who to contact myself. In hindsight, don’t do it. I was becoming more ill and, whilst the pressure was just on me, if I had my time again, I would have asked people to help me.
Keep an eye on your family. This is the time when cracks appear. Check in, meaningfully, and if counselling, therapy or support is needed, get it. Don’t delay, get it. Proper help at that.
I found some apps that all helped in different ways:
I wouldn’t have managed with these alone. The Priory has been an absolute godsend. Definitely helped me when I needed it the most.
Three Months In
The Inquest was this week. I was sent the Post Mortem Report by email the day before the Inquest. Do not be on your own if you choose to read this. I was, like a dickhead. I thought I could handle that on my own.
There were so many errors in the content of the initial investigation by the Police. It wasn’t their fault because they had been told wrong information by the too many people at the house, leading to incorrect assumptions. This made me angry because I would have to go on record to correct this.
The Report is graphic, some come with photos. I opted to read it and share the fact that I had with the Coroner so I could request that the content wasn’t mentioned at the Inquest, and thus protecting Karen from hearing the details.
The toxicology was completely clear; no alcohol, no drugs. Organs healthy and no obvious signs of damage. The outcome was natural causes; Bronchopneumonia leading to Sepsis and Circulatory Failure.
Secondary factors had no bearing but we did learn about an underlying heart condition. Many people go their whole lives not knowing, and it often causes no issues, we were told.
I was still having weekly therapy. Schema and EMDR is planned to try to help deal with my complex trauma.
Then COVID hit and we were on lockdown. I had barely left the house since Mark died, and my PTSD diagnosis, so I was very used to lockdown. This is my reality.
As a family, we decided to have some memorial jewellery commissioned. There are a lot of companies out there but the most beautiful, with the most amount of choices, was a company called EverWith https://www.everwith.co.uk/
Still working through the list of people and companies to contact.
Questions I ask myself now.
- How am I ever going to be able to return to my job given how ill I am?
- How do I return to our house, given that’s where Mark died?
Four Months In
Still working through the list of people and companies to contact.
Fortnightly Psychiatry reviews by phone. Therapy is on hold. Medication is increased.
Five Months In
Almost every one has been contacted, and affairs settled. Probate / Letter of Administration outstanding.
Fortnightly Psychiatry reviews by phone. Therapy is still on hold. Medication is increased.
Six Months In
Fortnightly Psychiatry reviews by phone. Therapy is still on hold. Medication is increased. I’ve gone from being prescribed an antidepressant for bipolar by my GP, to medication to help stabilise my mood, manage anxiety, improve sleep and reduce night terrors.
Current medication as of today, June 22 2020, is:
- 200mg Lamotrigine
- Contraceptive pill taken continuously to manage Endometriosis
- 200mg Quetiapine XL
- 1mg Lorazepam is prn (as I need it)
- 200mg Lamotrogine
- 300 mg Quetiapine
- 2mg Lorazepam is prn
- 15mg Zopiclone (as I need it, particularly during hyper manic episodes)
What I have just learned is that I can pre-pay my medication for 3 months or a year. Given my meds have cost between £20 and £37 every fortnight since 13 December, my Chemist informs me that for one year, I can pay £105 and that will be for all prescriptions. They don’t tell you this, either.
Land Registry is the only thing outstanding now. This was the one area I sought legal guidance for and retained a Solicitor. Everything else can be done, if you so chose, by yourself or the family. It will save you a small fortune. Land Registry forms blew my mind, and I think I’m quite savvy. 3 forms completed and it’s the most helpful £700 I’ve spent. I begrudge it, of course, but the wording on these forms just doesn’t make sense. I don’t even understand what they’re asking. Our marital home, the property, was, arguably, the most important aspect of Mark’s estate, because we shared the house for 18yrs but didn’t jointly own it. Now I have seen what information needs to be on the forms, I could have completed it myself and it wouldn’t have been so complex.
What Support Is There?
I will list the obvious:
- Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org
- Citizens Advice – https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
- Gov.uk – https://www.gov.uk/after-a-death
- Martin Lewis – https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/what-to-do-when-someone-dies/
- Which – https://www.which.co.uk/later-life-care/end-of-life/what-to-do-when-someone-dies
Money Advice Service – Miscarriage, Stillborn and Shortly After Birth
- Bereavement UK – http://bereavement.co.uk/index.html
- ACAS – https://acas.org.uk
- Counseling Directory – http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/
- Cruse Bereavement- http://www.cruse.org.uk/
- Cruse Bereavement (Scotland) – http://www.crusescotland.org.uk/
The less obvious:
- Mark’s Foundation – https://www.markhewitsonfoundation.org
- What Widows Want – http://www.whatwidowswant.com
For transparency, these two sites are still in development but operated by our family in order to provide support when people need it the most. Sign up is free. Voluntary contributions encouraged.
Hot Young Widows Club – https://www.hotyoungwidowsclub.com
- Sign Up cost
- An App and FB page
- Death certificate has to be sent
Widowed and Young – https://www.widowedandyoung.org.uk
- Sign up cost
- Multiple FB pages
- No death certificate needed
The apps mentioned above:
Thank you so much for your support, messages, and, of course, reading my blog during this fucked up, and horrific period of my life. I have always been transparent in order to help others. Whilst most people keep their grief under wraps, that’s just not me. If you have questions, please just ask.
I am now developing a space where widows / widowers and their families can come together to ask questions, to share their experiences, or just be with people who have been bereaved. I have found that being with people, virtually, who have lost their spouse has helped me enormously. I can just speak my truth, honestly and bluntly. Something I’m not able to do with friends, family or people who just don’t get it.
Every penny donated via www.whatwidowswant.com or https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/markhewitsonfoundation goes into Mark’s Foundation to ensure immediate support for people when they need it the most. Mark’s Foundation has raised over £6,500 so far, and helped people in their hour of need.
Where am I now?
I’ve written my Will, Registered Lasting Power of Attorney for both my medical and financial affairs, detailed all of my accounts, interests, NI Number, Passwords, you name it. Things I never thought I’d do aged 40.
Please, can I really REALLY encourage people who are in a long-term relationship, or are married, Next of Kin, or aged, to do this now. You will save so much anguish and help your family with these shitty processes if/when you become infirm, incapacitated, or after you die. Please.
I’ve ended friendships, been harassed and pushed people away. I just can’t deal with, or be around, people. I’m not feeling very talky anymore.
Main reason I’ve changed my circle is fakeness.
I held a lot of these people very close to my heart. These were the people I needed most, and they just weren’t there. I have avoided some, but mostly I have been really blunt and said that we can’t be in contact anymore.
People who came to see me, didn’t take no for an answer, or wanted to just listen and, at times, embrace the silence.
People who have avoided me, stopped using Mark’s name, or haven’t remembered key dates, I’ve lost my tolerance with. I’ve stopped being polite with these people and I’m not sorry about that.
What advice can I offer anyone who is close to someone who has just lost their person?
- Ignorance is not bliss – check in. Just say Hi, I see you.
- Please don’t treat them like they’ve died, too. They still exist. They must live this hell.
- Acknowledge their loss.
- Ask what you can practically do to relieve some of the pressure.
- Go see them. They are less likely to turn you away if you’re actually there.
- Listen to what they need from you. Do not listen with the intention of responding.
- Ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you can even possibly imagine what it’s like to lose your person, a member of your family or close friend?
- Remain true to your values.
- You don’t have to be too sombre – it’s OK for people bereaved to smile or laugh, albeit I feel guilty for doing so.
6 months on, what have I learned about me?
- I’m still angry
- I’m still in so much pain
- It still doesn’t feel real
- Still not able to leave the house, be around people, or work
- Still scared of my own shadow
- Petrified of going to sleep
- Acutely wondering what next shitstorm will befell my life
- Sobbing, uncontrollable sobbing, still hits at any time of day or night
- I wake crying and seriously distressed because the dreams or nightmares are so real
- I’m forgetful, and that’s really frustrating
- Not interacting physically with people has resulted in my speech being affected – I struggle to recall and get out the words I want to use
- Living in PJs is an actual thing, and I like it
- Drinking too much to forget doesn’t work, but I still do
- Eating too much for comfort doesn’t work, but I still do
- Not caring about what happens to me, self-care suffers
- Loss of patience
- I don’t care if I lose people from my life – could easily accept a life that is me, my cats, and I
- Drugs do work, as does therapy. Quality therapy.
- Counselling alone hasn’t helped me but the combination of the Psychiatrist and Psychologist at The Priory has enabled me to make sense of what I’m feeling, why I’m behaving the way I am and providing techniques, along with serious meds, to help me be better, not necessarily feel better.
Ultimately, I’m not in control of my life now, not like I was. There hasn’t been an upbeat aspect of my life for over a year now, and my life has been empty and hollow since 13 December. I feel like I’m in a sea of treacle and unable to move when the first wave hits, and then the second wave hits. It’s constant. I’m stuck. Drowning.
I reflect on the last 6 months and I do see baby steps have been made. I’m still getting into a state every day, but the time, frequency and intensity have reduced.
Poor sleep, visions, fearing the dark and scared shitless to fall asleep, are still areas I have difficulty with.
I’ve accepted that this is the way life is now. I only hope it gets easier. Time is not a healer; whoever said that is full of shit. Time just provides a space between the day your person died and how intensely painful you feel it.
It will always be shit. I suppose I’ll just learn to manage how I feel a little better.
Big loves to you and yours. Live your best life, like we did, and have no regrets.