Ten lessons on life after loss

July 2019

WAY member Lizzie wanted us to share some lessons she has learned in the five years since she was widowed:
"I am now officially in Year 6," she says. "It's five years since Phil died. I wanted to share this with everyone. Phil's life and death legacy is the lessons I have learned. They carry me forward every day."
Ten lessons on life after loss
1. Time does not heal all wounds. I will never forgive the universe for the hand it dealt such a kind, loving, gentle and loyal man. I don’t have to forgive. It is okay to feel bitter. It is okay to feel cheated out of the future we had planned and the hopes we had for a long life and old age together. It will always be shit. Time makes none of it ‘less shit’.
2. If you have a wonderful family who have done their very best to support you even when your grief has made you act selfishly and you have been utterly unbearable at times (not to mention the cause of worry to them) then you are very blessed. I feel blessed.
3. Some old friends are awesome. They don’t make judgements on how you should be feeling or assume that because the new life you have created for yourself is good that you are finally ‘over what happened’. You never get over losing a great love – you learn to live with it. 
4. Some people who were friends when everything was going well in your life, disappear when the shit hits the fan. Some of your ‘best friends’ you will never see or hear from again after the funeral. Whilst it is surprising and disappointing when this happens, you come to realise that it is quite common and then find a strange joy in realising that it just gives you more space and time to devote to the people who matter. 5 years on that is liberating.
5. You stop trying to rationalise the poor behaviour of others. Poor or cruel behaviour is often rooted by guilt or misplaced jealousy. You come to an understanding with yourself that you did all you could in the most traumatic, life-changing circumstances. Your partner chose to live the rest of their life with you and trusted you implicitly. Other people’s guilt is not your problem so free yourself of it. 
6. People who tell you that you should have ‘moved on’ are really saying that YOUR grief or sad memories make THEM feel uncomfortable. You can be happy yet still find key times like a birthday or your wedding anniversary or the date of his passing bloody difficult. The people that manage to acknowledge this without suggesting you need to ‘move on’ are special people. Don’t curb your feelings for the sake of making others feel comfortable with the way you still grieve.
7. The wonder of falling truly, madly and deeply in love again is as equally indescribable as trying to explain my feelings of loss. I am acutely aware that there is a 50/50 chance that my world will collapse again, and it has happened to lovely friends that I know. Because of this, I appreciate fully what I have, I focus more on the moment and less on the future and I make sure as the moments stack up that I value them. If I am left alone again then I know for sure that I will not be in doubt that I was loved unconditionally by the man who is now by my side. That is awesome. 
8. Spending time with other widows is amazing on so many levels. Many people do not understand that the reason why I have managed to build up my life from scratch is fundamentally down to forming deep, lifelong friendships with so many people who have had to do exactly the same. People you don’t have to describe your pain to because they know how it feels first-hand. If you want to survive then you need to surround yourself with survivors. These people are whom I draw my inspiration and strength from. They are a source of understanding, of laughter, of bat-shit craziness and many a hangover. It is a club that nobody ever wants to be eligible to join but I cannot imagine where I would be without them.
9. My own journey has brought a glimmer of hope to some other men and women that have lost a partner under the age of 50. I think this is a legacy of Phil’s life and death. Without such pain, I wouldn’t be in a position to offer some hope. My kindness, love and compassion are a result of him not being here. That is both sad and comforting.

10. Time moves on. Some weeks whizz by now and occasionally a ‘sad’ day still drags. June and July hold awful memories but they do become hazier and easier to manage. I desperately try and remember the better Junes and Julys we had together. I don’t want to make too much of tomorrow being the date Phil died. Because he lived. We lived well. He was loved. And he loved me. And isn’t that the most important thing? The most precious thing.

Thanks so much to Lizzie for giving us permission to share her wise words.