Tell Me About It

The love of my life has died and I can’t even tell anyone

Tell Me About It: She never put pressure on me to leave my wife and was content to share only a part of my life

Problem

I have had a deep, deep love in my life that I would never wish not to have had. However, we could never be explicit about it because my wife has been invalided for such a long time and I could never leave her. I worked a lot in another part of the country and I met the love of my life there. She was incredible; she never put pressure on me to leave my wife and was content to share only a part of my life. It was not a public affair but it was not secret, either, as we went out as friends when we were away from my home and people could see how real and true our relationship was.


She died about a month ago and I am bereft. I feel as if my life is now a shell of what it was and I am so very alone. I no longer go to where she used to live as it hurts too much. I have no support.


How do I prepare for the rest of my life and how do I get through the grief, because nobody acknowledges that this was the love of my life? I got to go to the funeral because I was a public friend, but I could not sit up there and be acknowledged as the most important person in her life. How am I allowed to grieve, because no one acknowledges that this was such a big part in my life?

Advice

You are in the throes of grief, made all the more complicated by the lack of acknowledgement and support from a community around you. My guess is that you have spent a lot of your life double-thinking everything, and now as your lover has died, the need to pretend has deepened and this is adding to your suffering.

We know that it is possible to recover from grief, but this is usually accompanied by compassion from a lot of people plus public acknowledgement of the enormous loss. It might be that because you do not have this, you will struggle to recover and will find that your mental and emotional health deteriorate.

As human beings, ritual is central to the manner in which we celebrate both living and dying, and this might be something you could think of in terms of creating your own letting-go ritual. Was there somewhere you and she went to celebrate your life events? Perhaps a restaurant or a place that was meaningful to you both? Could you include a few close friends in your confidence and ask them to come to a meal or event with you in remembrance of your loved one? Preparing a speech about your life together might offer you a chance to be heard and to have your life together validated.

Marking the events of your relationship are important, and again you might let those close friends know so that you can meet up for the purpose of speaking and honouring the memory of this important love in your life.

For your own wellbeing, it might be important to create a life where you no longer have to pretend or be deceitful. Those around you (who are not in the know) can empathise and understand that you might be going through a tough time as someone who is a carer, and so you can speak somewhat truthfully about feeling low and being in need of support.

You may need to discuss the future and your need to have a meaningful life with others, as it would seem that some things need to change for you. Try not to make any life decisions for at least six months to a year, as your grief will make it very difficult to have access to clarity and wisdom. At that stage you might need assistance to talk at length about your life’s needs, and if you have no one who has the time or compassion around you, you might consider some bereavement counselling.

In the meantime, grief follows its own path and this often includes anger, depression and periods of despair. The person you would have shared this with is gone, and the loneliness can be devastating. Connecting with other groups – such as local sports, drama or other activities – will keep you functioning even though your heart is unlikely to be in the social event. We do this so that we have a pattern of connection during the long and lonely road to acceptance and recovery. Have some faith that in time you will find a life worth living and take solace in those close to you. There is truth in the saying “this too will pass”.