I recently read a book entitled When Bad Things Happen In Good Bikinis which, from the title had all the hallmarks of an easy women’s fiction read, after it was recommended by a friend on Facebook. On the day I downloaded it I heard the author on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour talking about it, so by the time I read the first lines I knew that it was neither laugh-out-loud, nor a page-turner that you would pick up in the airport departure lounge.
And yet, it was all of those things. There was humour- the sarcastic quips made by fellow widows and widowers to insensitive comments made by people they knew. The moments when I laughed out loud, of course, greatly outweighed by the moments when I sobbed big snotty tears, clutching dozens of scrag-ended tissues to my busom. I found I couldn’t put it down, either, turning page after e-page late into the night because I wanted it to end well. The book is a walk-through of the darkest time in Helen E Bailey’s life- the hours, weeks, months and years after her husband drowned whilst they were on holiday in Barbados in 2011. Based on posts written on her popular blog Planet Grief, the book is beautifully written. In part it’s a love letter to her beloved JS. It’s part simple fact. But it is also peppered with experiences of others, quotes from those whom Helen has been in touch with during the past few years, detailing their experiences and thoughts on grieving. Thus, in part, I look at it as a manual, an educational book of some kind.
I have lost grandparents in my life, uncles, but never someone terribly close. I do not know what it feels like to lose a husband, a parent, a child. I know that most people put that to the back of their minds, thinking of other things, making plans for the future. I don’t think Helen gave it much thought at all until she was in the centre of the storm.
I know a woman who lost her husband to cancer a few years ago, when our babies were still babies. Another woman I knew lost her husband unexpectedly when she had a toddler and a baby. I am so tremendously proud of these women: they are raising children, starting new careers, moving houses, doing all the things that people do. They are doing it without the person that was supposed to be with them through it all. I cannot imagine I would ever be able to do that in the same situation. I can only suppose they would say they have no choice*.
Knowing these two women has made me very aware that the life I have could be gone at any moment. I worry that DH will die. I worry that I will die. I worry that we will both die, and then who will raise our children? I cannot bear to think that I may have a life beyond theirs. I cannot bear to think that they will have a life beyond mine. I write letters to my husband and The Girls and I tuck them in the most random places, adding odd little gifts every once in a while. I video tutorials of how to do things like plait their hair, because I worry that DH will not know how.
But I never worry that they will be provided for, because DH and I have Wills in place. We put them in place whilst I was pregnant with Dimples. I don’t think that there was a day of the whole process where I didn’t cry. I agonised over who should become their parents if we were not around to do the job; I wrote long letters asking them to love my darling girls; we picked executors and listed our funeral requirements. It was very upsetting indeed; I am welling up just writing this, in fact. I know that I cannot pick when my end will come, though in all likelihood I won’t be wearing a bikini when it does. But at least I know that when it does, my loved ones will be taken care of.
November is Will Aid Month. Please use this month to put a Will in place, so that your loved ones have one less thing to worry about whilst they learn to live with grief.
*I suppose too that I sound somewhat patronising talking about them in such terms, and for that I apologise. It was never my aim.