Issue #257 / October 2023

Grief I find people have a hard time talking about my pain, lost my husband of 45 years. I want to talk about him, it makes people nervous. What can I do?


Dear Noreen,

There is an uneasy truth that collects like a shadow over every long-term and loving relationship – that one must stay and the other depart. And that ultimate and inevitable departure of the other takes with it a fundamental piece of ourselves, a part of our being, leaving us with a terrible feeling of incompleteness. Loss brings its unhappy vacuum, and in our loneliness we reach out to people for comfort. But in our state of mourning we often find that not only have we lost the one we loved, but also those we reach for, as they instinctively recoil from our suffering. We have a desperate desire to talk about the person who has left us, to keep their memory alive, but at the time of our greatest need the world shrinks back as it sees in us that cold and uncomfortable truth – life is loss. As the nervous world retracts, we are left alone with the fading spirit of our beloved.

As the poet, Louise Glück, who died last week, aged 80, wrote in her beautiful poem, Averno –


It is terrible to be alone.

I don’t mean to live alone –

To be alone, where no one hears you.


Thank you for reaching out, Noreen, and I’m so sorry that you have lost your husband. That you were married for 45 years is an inspiring testament to the enduring potential of love, and a joyful affirmation to those of us who value the institution of marriage. What an extraordinary accomplishment. If it helps, and if you feel like doing so, please do write to me and tell me about your husband. I’d be happy to hear from you again.

Love, Nick


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