Losing a Partner

In acknowledgement of Valentine’s Day and the stark reminders all around for those who are grieving their partner, Cruse Scotland North & East Area Manager, Nicola Reed, offers some understanding and words of comfort.

February 14, 2022

Last year, between lockdowns, I took the opportunity to meet a friend for brunch. She was 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 have 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.


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

Losing a Partner

About the Author

Nicola Reed - Head of client services

Nicola, after a 20 year career as a chartered accountant, joined the Cruse Scotland staff team as an Area Manager in April 2019. Alongside this shift from the corporate to the charity world, she also embarked on a counselling diploma, clocking up some of her placement hours with Cruse as a volunteer. This is all not as strange as it may as seem - for many years Nicola has been actively involved with a local Dundee charity which offers pregnancy and baby loss counselling and listening support - so her passion for seeing people well supported through bereavement has always been a driving force for her. In her “free time”, Nicola enjoys lots of different things – cooking, writing, crochet, parkrun, church and sometimes she even spares a bit of time for her husband and two girls!