Losing a Partner

In acknowledgement of Valentine’s Day and the stark reminders all around for those who are grieving their partner, Cruse Scotland Director of Client Services, Nicola Reed, offers some understanding and words of comfort.

February 07, 2024

With Valentine's Day approaching, I began reflecting on how, during a time when many express their love for their special person, it can be a difficult time for others. It made me recall a blog I wrote a few years ago and I thought it may help to share it again as we approach a date that can be hard for many...

I recently met a friend for brunch. She is a friend who I hadn’t seen since her husband’s funeral just over a year before. It was a rare trip out for her. She is a friend who has walked through some really painful seasons of life and to whom grief was not a new thing. Over the messages and conversations that we had in those months, since his death, she has shared that nothing had prepared her for this grief – for her, it has been a pain like no other. It is mental, physical, spiritual, emotional… It is exhausting. And it is hard.

There is no hierarchy of grief

There is no hierarchy of grief – no grief is more, or less, important than the other. We cannot compare one grief to another – each grief brings a different impact and its own individual pain.

Complex feelings

The death of a husband, wife, or partner brings many, many layers of loss which are all tied up in one messy, complicated, place. Our relationship with that person is multifaceted – they might be our childhood sweetheart that we have grown old with; it might be a relationship young in years but with plans and dreams of a life to spend together; they might be the one that remembers the family birthdays; the one that keeps the finances in order; the one that plans the social outings; the one that takes the bins out; the one who cooks the meals; the one that makes the first cup of tea in the morning; the one that mops that floor; the one that calls us that special name that no one else even knows; they may have been our lover and our closest friend.

Or the relationship might have been complicated in different ways – perhaps there were things unseen to the outside world – abuses … addictions … debts … difficult parts of the relationship that no one, or very few, may have known about.

Rediscovering our own identity

When that person dies, all these things that were part of our relationship with them, are gone from our life. We miss not just the person, but all that they were to us. We are thrown into this strange place of needing to work out who we are without that “other half” and all that they brought to the relationship.

This is a lonely, isolating, disorientating, frightening place to be - an unfamiliar, unwelcome, land to try to rediscover ourselves from.

In his book, A Grief Observed, CS Lewis coins some of this well:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”

This Valentine’s Day if you are grieving the death of a spouse or partner, be kind to yourself. Take some time to remember them and what you enjoyed together – perhaps even write that down as if it were a Valentine’s card between you both. You may want to even treat yourself to a little something that you enjoy.

Remember. Celebrate. Mourn.

Nicola Reed, Director of Client Services.

If you are struggling today, or any day, with your grief, call our free bereavement helpline: 0808 802 6161 or start a webchat. 

Losing a Partner