Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas

 

I had been married for only three years when my husband died suddenly.

We were just about to start a family – and now it's all over. It's been a year now and I'm still feeling desperately lonely. I've joined all kinds of clubs, had counselling, and I do some voluntary work – all along with a full-time job – but every time I'm on my own at home I feel not only so bereaved but so alone. Everyone says I'll find another man, but firstly, there's no sign and secondly, I'm not sure I want one at the moment. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Deirdre

Virginia says... Of course you feel lonely. You're bereaved – and if by any chance it's almost exactly a year since your husband died then you're probably suffering from something called Anniversary Bereavement. This can hit bereaved people years on, when they imagine they've "got over it". Suddenly the date of their loved one's death comes along, and they can't work out why they feel utterly frightful, often getting not just depressed but ill – until they remember the date and everything falls into place.

So do wait a few months before you get professional help – which you might need if this feeling goes on unrelentingly. In the meantime, you've been absolutely amazing by joining all these organisations and keeping yourself busy, but it seems to me that you haven't left much time for yourself, alone at home. It's no wonder you feel upset when you're alone. You're practiced in getting away from yourself, but not in being with yourself.

Of course you don't want another relationship right now. But what about a relationship with yourself? And with your home? After reeling off a list of relations he described as "his family", my small grandson recently asked me what my family was. Startled, I said that it was much the same as his. He seemed doubtful. Then, struck by a revelation, he said: "Your family is your house!"

And I was struck by the truth of it. After all, you don't just have relationships with people or animals (though actually a cat might be a very comforting companion, despite this being rather an old-ladyish suggestion). No, we also have relationships with things. When you're next alone at home, ask yourself what you're having a relationship with. It could be with the food you're cooking for yourself and eating. It could be a relationship with the wall you're painting. These inanimate objects can't talk back, but you're having a relationship with them, changing them, despite that. I think if you try to see what you probably now think of as things connected to mundane tasks as, instead, friendly companions, you might feel that life on your own is less pointless.

You make an impact all the time, not just when you're doing good or socialising.

If you think this is just a lot of barmy "om" stuff, then fair enough. But at least give it a go. And don't forget Cruse, a wonderful organisation that has volunteers to help bereaved people like yourself.

 

Readers say...

Take it slowly

 

There is no specific time frame for grieving. I'm glad you have had counselling and maintain an active life, but please don't feel you have to "pull yourself together". I speak from experience, having lost the father of my children. You will never get over it, but learn to live with it in your own time.

Christina Burton By email

 

Be easy on yourself

My heart goes out to you. It really isn't very helpful of all those people who say you will find another man. You will never find one quite like the one you lost and it was the relationship you lost, not the man so much as what was between you. Your personal existence does not depend on having another man: you are still a whole woman, but a grieving one.

It sounds as if you have done all the right things, except perhaps giving yourself time to mourn, until you are all mourned out and can laugh again. There will be something you used to enjoy doing on your own before you married. Go do it, and begin to live again, for yourself.

Mary Harris By email

 

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

Ever since I married four years ago I've wondered whether my husband's the right man (we have a small child we both adore). He's totally undemonstrative, a workaholic, and doesn't understand where I'm coming from. We were going to go for counselling, but then I got a job that means I work nights three times a week and though I'm tired, we're getting on better – probably because we don't see so much of each other. I'm worried, though, that the job is just a distraction, a plaster stuck on, and we're not facing up to the real problems. What do you think?

Yours sincerely, Celia

 

What would you advise Celia to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent. co.uk, or go to independent. co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (finewine sellers.co.uk)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us