Pity the men who suffer in silence

Men get less support from their friends than women in the aftermath of a bereavement

Share
Related Topics

Heartfelt thanks to the readers who, following my recent column on treacherous husbands, reminded me of faithless wives, and thanks also to the 17 widowers who described their grief without remission, usually suffered in silence. Now the BBC’s Business Editor Robert Peston has broken that silence.

His wife and “best friend”, novelist Sian Busby, died of lung cancer last September, aged only 51. The previously vigorous and erudite Peston looks thinner, older, sadder, says he feels a “huge emptiness” and will not get over the loss. He has written a foreword to A Commonplace Killing, the last novel penned by Busby, as she was dying, a tender tribute. Another new book, Mum’s Way, remembers Angie, the wife of ex-miner Ian Millthorpe. She died of cancer in 2010, leaving behind eight children and a manual on how to raise them. For Millthorpe, “It is still as raw as the day she died”. Tears fell on every page I turned.

Julian Barnes cannot let go of his wife either. She was the literary agent Pat Kavanagh, who died in 2007. In his new book, Levels of Life, Barnes relives the time they had together. It upsets him that some friends have erased (or buried) all memories of Kavanagh and behave as if she never existed. The novelist reminds me of writer and academic Martin Jacques, who lost his beautiful, young wife Hari in December 1999, mother of their little baby boy. I had never before witnessed such wrenching, masculine sorrow. He too bravely refused to be a man and move on after a couple of months as was expected.

One of the widowers I mention above, only 39, wrote to say that if his heart still felt as if it was “being kicked to death” on the anniversary of his wife’s death next January, he would step under a train. His daughter is five. He didn’t give his name or address. I pray he doesn’t orphan his child.

We don’t commonly acknowledge true, everlasting, male fidelity, perhaps because it is quiet, not dramatic. Lucky are those whose love is as deep as the earth beneath their feet. But not when death parts them from their partners. They carry on of course – working, playing, raising children, even finding new lovers, but never stop mourning for that one person who was truly their other half, in body, heart and soul. Widows, in some ways, cope better because they have friends to lean on for emotional support. Real men don’t do that.

The great Noam Chomsky, 84, was in London last week talking about wars and injustices. Carol, his wife of 60 years, died in 2008. He once told an interviewer that his best male friend had not once talked to him about Carol. Women, he said, managed bereavement better because they “talk and support each other”. Tragic, but true. In the darkest of times we women are luckier than men.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas