I was suddenly widowed two and a half years ago while living in France and returned to the UK shortly after.
My daughter died 20 years ago this week from meningitis when she was 23 and my brother died in April of last year.
My only family is my niece and I moved to live in the same county to be close to her. But as a pediatric consultant at an NHS hospital, she is very busy and I don’t see her often.
I didn’t know anyone when I moved here and made an effort to make friends by joining WI, U3A and a knitting group, and met other dog walkers (I have a springer spaniel).
But all the friends I’ve made have partners/spouses/kids/grandkids and I still feel incredibly lonely, especially on the weekends. While I try to be cheerful and interested in their lives when we meet, I don’t think either of them realize how hopelessly sad I feel when faced with days where I spend all my time alone with my dog.
I have tried to connect through Facebook and other local Internet sites with other people who, like me, do not have family nearby, but with no success.
I’m not looking for another life partner after 43 years of marriage, but I’m wondering if I should look into dating apps for seniors!
Most weekends I end up in tears, crying over what I’ve lost and longing for someone to hold me and reassure me that everything will be okay. I read his column every week and it has taken me months to work up the courage to write.
This week, Bel Mooney counsels a woman who asks if she can ever get over her lonely grief.
Her brave and sad email came a week before a longer one, with a similar pain in her heart.
Another widow, JB, reflected on the accumulated pain of previous bereavements, which led to the loss of her husband four months ago. Here she is:
thought of the day
Some issues were stubbornly unresolved because that was life. Not all the uncertainties we faced were able to be resolved: many threads remained untied.
Extracted from The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, by Alexander McCall Smith
‘This is the first time I’ve lived alone. From a large family, I met my husband when we were 16 years old, we got married at 20 and had three children. When they left home we still had each other, soul mates, together for 58 years. I hope you can give me some reason to keep trying.
Many people have said how strong I am, but I don’t feel it. I just keep going. I get up, put on my makeup and get dressed. The house is clean and tidy and my little dog is a comfort. But now I ask: will I get over it?
Over the years I have received so many letters like these two, from men and women alike, wondering how to get on with life after the death of a beloved partner or spouse.
What’s more, in my personal life I have shared conversations with many friends who tell me that after a duel like this it is difficult to know if you can muster enough strength to get out of bed in the morning and if it is worth it.
Some of them may be blessed with loving families and good friends and neighbors, but still that silent specter called ‘Loss’ follows them wherever they go and walks up the lonely stairs with them at night.
You, Joanna, are desperately seeking company and have tried with admirable strength and energy to make new friends. JB wants to know if it’s possible to ‘get over’ the loss of a soul mate and wonders if it’s humanly possible to get used to living alone.
My heart goes out to both of you and (as I have so often written this column that I love so much) I feel completely helpless in the face of your pain.
However, JB specifically asks me for ‘a reason for continuing to make an effort’ and I must try.
Because, let’s be honest, even if such honesty may seem bleak, finding a reason to live is at the very heart of the human condition. And it’s not always easy.
At midnight two weeks from now, we’ll all put our clocks forward one hour and start daylight saving time. Yes, it can still be cold. Yes, there can be frost in April and May.
Yes, it is possible that the lighter nights make us melancholy, reflecting on the passage of time so quickly and watching people in the street. Yes, the blossoms on the trees can be so ruined by heavy rain that we miss out on fully enjoying the pink and white beauty.
All these things can happen, as you know, just as some of us get bad news from the doctor, others get something that elevates them to the peak of joy… and all this is about being human, accepting life and facing the veiled future. The spikes of daffodils can look cruel as they pierce the earth or look absolutely glorious, filling hearts like Wordsworth’s with delight.
And so we stumble forward, taking advantage of it while we can and, other days, wanting to give up.
But the reason to continue is found in not-knowing. The promise of what could happen, the hope that sings through the scruffy bird on the branch, the flash of a smile on the street. These things (and many more) are the reason we get out of bed. Why the movement of the dog’s tail urges us to take care of other living beings as much as ourselves. Look outside, always.
Believe me, I hear the pain and loneliness in both letters, from you Joanna and from JB, which moved me so much.
Countless readers will reach out to both of you, because they understand what you’re going through. And there’s nothing to do except what they’re both doing: keep dating as much as possible, pretending to be strong, and just trying. I offer the small consolation that appearing strong can and will become a habit that, over time, lessens the pain. And that the hope of making new friends is real, as is a gradual adjustment to life on his own.
What do our dead loved ones want for us? Let’s go on and be happy if we can.
As the late poet Brendan Kennelly wrote:
Although we live in a world that dreams of ending
That always seems about to give way
Something that won’t recognize conclusion
He insists that we start forever.
I’m half crazy with forbidden lust
I am almost 50 years old, married for 27 years. My wife is a great lady, but I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love. Why did I get married? It seemed right at the time.
We haven’t had sex for about five years, although I think she’d be up for it if I was. Two years ago, I became involved with a woman at work who found out that her husband was having an affair.
Our closeness meant hugs and kisses (and a little more), but I told him I couldn’t leave my wife, so she took her husband.
I was devastated. Due to my state of mind, my wife suspected that something was wrong. So I admitted that I liked this other woman.
My wife asked me if she had not returned to her husband, would I have gone for her? I couldn’t answer honestly, so I didn’t commit. But the question comes up, even though my wife is trying to make our marriage work.
I still see the other woman at work and occasionally in my car. We haven’t had sex, but we are aroused in each other’s company.
What should I do? I love my wife, but I am not in love with her and I dare not make her love to her. The other woman is waiting for me to leave my wife so she can leave her husband and we can be together. But I’m afraid in case it doesn’t work and I’m left alone.
When we’re apart I’m unhappy, I feel guilty and I can’t sleep, thinking that this can’t go on. But then I just want to have more of her. Would he welcome her thoughts?
My first response is that being so obsessed with sex is exactly what the doomed opera diva Violetta sings of in Verdi’s La traviata: “A cross and a delight.” Or (if you like), an agony and an ecstasy.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
You think about making love to the forbidden person 98 percent of the time, you meditate painfully in the wee hours of the morning, you fantasize about a love nest with him/her where you can have hot sex most of the time, and you turn your back on the poor man who is your husband. You lie, you feel guilty, and then you lie some more.
People reading this who have never experienced such madness can consider themselves lucky. It’s an old folly, and always will be.
All I can tell you is that I know exactly what it is like and that in time, if you stay married, the madness will subside and you can carry on with the life you have.
And yes, as days turn into months, then years, the life you envisioned in the heat of passion becomes more and more confusing until it fades away completely.
But make no mistake, right now he is cruelly punishing his innocent wife. If you love the other woman, the honest thing to do is take a risk and live with her.
It’s okay, you’re ‘scared’, but holding on to that fear and allowing it to dominate your actions is weak.
You enjoy your adolescent clumsiness in the car, but you can’t face your lover or your wife with the honesty of a mature man.
You are being monstrously unfair to both women, so I suggest you make up your mind.
And finally… I feel completely helpless and furious.
No wonder so many people applauded my article last Saturday in which, based on a new book, Hags, by journalist Victoria Smith, I tore at those foolish young women who have become servants of the cause of men, willing to sacrificing women’s hard-won rights for the sake of utterly meaningless slogans like ‘Trans women are women’.
Bel answers readers’ questions about emotional and relationship issues each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email email@example.com.
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all the letters but regrets not being able to enter the personal correspondence.
It’s okay to be tolerant and proclaim ‘Trans women are trans women’, but not to go against all logic and insult those who disagree.
That’s not an issue for this column today, although the topic has come up in previous letters. But what is a problem is the feeling of utter helplessness that I feel all around.
Those who wrote about that article called me ‘brave’ for ‘speaking up’ and ‘giving us a voice’ and went on to ask why the world seems so crazy and/or deluded.
I had a similar response when I recently wrote about author Roald Dahl’s ‘awakened’ rewrite.
The matter is different, but when I read some of the leaked WhatsApp exchanges during the pandemic, between Matt Hancock, former health secretary, and other ministers and public officials, I was also deeply disappointed.
Many times in this article I have written harsh articles challenging rules that seemed arbitrary and cruel to me, but what matters is that I, and many of you, feel powerless.
We know in our hearts that we are misruled and that both Keir Starmer flirting with Sue Gray and Boris Johnson presenting his father for a knighthood are an insult to us.
Similarly, we know that a tulip cannot become a real daffodil and the word ‘black’ is not racist.
And that young children should not be taught about sexual fetishes in school.
Realizing that he can’t do anything, he feels alienated in his beloved country. And he makes me, for my part, absolutely furious.