Most people struggle with what to do and say and the worst thing to do/say to a person grieving in my opinion, is to say nothing.
I have been told that the reason people say nothing is because they worry about drawing attention to the elephant in the room or upsetting me. As if I might have forgotten James is dead and by them mentioning, I might suddenly remember. Believe me when I tell you that I have not forgotten.
So what to do?
Approach me, if you have been thinking of me/us, then tell me. I am not a mind reader I will not know this or anything else unless you tell me. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are leaving me in peace because, chances are, I will think (probably wrongly) that you are not really giving us a second thought. If you feel uncomfortable, then try to get over it, it can be no worse than what I am feeling.
And if you can’t give emotional support then do something practical. Cook a meal, make sure there is rinse aid in my dishwasher (thank you Ross). Hang a hammock with a bowline knot, then have my children for entire weekends despite the fact that you live 90 miles away. (Thank you Alex K), drop over a chocolate and Guinness cake and leave it on my doorstep every week, not even knowing if I will be in to receive it, do this without wanting any praise for it (thank you Weezey). Teach my son to make a fire as if he were your son, even though you have two sons of your own. (Thank you Tim). Send me calming aromatherapy oils through my letterbox (thank you Dee). Spend weeks staying up ‘til 2am cutting and pasting 36 years of video footage to a beautiful soundtrack so that Flynn and Celeste will know who their father was and how much he loved them (thank you Adam, thank you Mungo). Take my kids on the school run everyday for months because I can’t face it, despite the fact that one of you has four children of your own and is going through the most challenging things in your own life and the other one of you is expecting your second baby and has your own school run (thank you Gautam, Mel and Tara).
Make it your life’s ambition to never let my husband’s memory die by dedicating every second you have setting up a charity in his name and vowing to make some\any sense of his death, despite the fact that you have your own job/life/family (thank you Harry)
Get on a plane every six weeks regardless of cost or inconvenience just to make pancakes for my children (thank you Grainne). Stand and wait on my doorstep every single time I go away for the weekend so that I don’t have to come back to an empty house (thank you Alex F). Come and see me and bring me cake days after James died, despite the fact that you have just lost your own wife (thank you Paul). Write me an email telling me how in love James and I were to you as an observer (Thank you Georgie).
Panic if you have missed a single call from me and call me back within minutes in case you can stop any pain that may be coming (thank you Cinders).Take a call from me at midnight on Friday where I am in a panic that J’s phone has been disconnected and I can no longer hear his voice on his voicemail greeting and somehow have this reinstated less than 24 hours later (thank you Josie). Create a one off piece of art in memory of James, spend days on this despite the fact that you have just finished all the artwork on Coldplay’s new album and are crazy busy and have two kids of your own(thank you Mila).
Create an angling fly and in James honour call it- The Gumby Crab. (thank you Pete Mcleod). Take Flynn out to the park to play football despite the fact that you are still drunk (you know who you are). Publish a book with a photographic record of James and my romance over the course of ten years, which tells the story of us, for Flynn and Celeste (Thank you Vivi).
Call yourself my cultural ambassador and write me a monthly email listing the best film/book/play out because you know this is what James used to do and I am bereft without it (thank you Brett). Put my bins out (thank you… no idea who did this).
Talk to me about James. Talking about James will not make me feel sad it will make me feel a wee bit better. He wasn’t just mine; if I can take any of him from you then please let me have it. I will take any tiny piece: the extras. My memories are my most treasured possessions and all I can now offer Flynn and Celeste. If you can add to this then please do. Let me know what you thought of him, remember of him. It just adds to the tapestry of his life. I can be my own face licker.
For Cinders who has taught me what true friendship really means.