Bereavement: the hardest thing
By Robin Thomson . Published 2020-09-24
Robin Thomson's very personal and moving story about letting go
28th December 2018. It was 7 months to the day since Shoko died; 7 days until what would have been our 50th wedding anniversary. I wasn’t looking forward to that day. Our two children and their families had come for Christmas and I had just seen them off. As I walked back into the house I noticed a small book that had been sitting in the bookcase for a few years: Learning to Walk Alone, by Ingrid Trobisch (IVP, 1985). She had been married to Walter Trobisch, writer of some amazing books on marriage that we had read long ago. He died very suddenly, aged 55. I had found the book somewhere a few years ago but had not read it. I thought it would be useful to give to somebody who might need it. Now I needed it.
The book was moving. I spent two intense days reading, reflecting, making notes. There were many striking insights and I cried at several places. One passage stood out to me:
“I was married to Walter Trobisch, and what I have had will not be taken away. But now death has parted us. I must let go in order to move forward.”
I realised: “I was married to Shoko… but I am not any longer... what I have had will not be taken away… but I have to let go.”
I was already struggling with this. Whenever I went out, to a family gathering, to church, even to the shops, I was on my own. We had always gone together. After years of being ‘Robin & Shoko’ I was just ‘Robin’. It was no longer ‘our house / daughter / son / grandchildren…’ but ‘my house etc…’, which I didn’t really like.
I needed to find a new identity.
And this was the hardest thing. With Shoko’s Alzheimer's, there had been plenty of time for us as a family to recognise that the end was coming – though we could never know when. We were mourning her loss over many months, as she began to disappear before us. That was hard, but it gave me time to reflect on our life together, with so much joy, but also with regrets and repentance at my failures. I had time to confess to God and to Shoko, as far as she could understand. I was very secure in her forgiveness and her love, which she expressed right up to the end.
So I had already done a lot of the ‘work’ that is part of the grieving process (as the professionals tell us). But I wasn’t prepared for this ‘work’ of finding, and accepting, my new identity.
Those two intense days with Ingrid’s book began to show me some of what I needed to do. When the anniversary day arrived, I woke full of thanks for all that Shoko had given me over the 52 years we had known each other, which would ‘not be taken away’. But I still had a lot of learning ahead, through friends and family and through other experiences, to discover that new identity..
There are some great resources on the net here are but a few
The NHS has some support and advice to be found here
Cruse bereavement care is available at this link
MIND can be found here
Thanks go to Robin for his incredibly moving pieces
And, to Patrick Fore on Unsplash for the amaziig photo