Two and a half years ago I was suddenly widowed while living in France and returned to the UK shortly after.
My daughter died of meningitis 20 years ago this week when she was 23 and my brother passed away last April.
My only family is my niece and I moved to the same county to be close to her. But as a pediatric consultant in an NHS hospital, she’s so busy and I don’t get to see her often.
I didn’t know anyone when I moved here and tried to make friends by joining the WI, U3A, and a knitting group, and I got to know other dog walkers (I have a Springer Spaniel).
But all the friends I’ve made have partners/husbands/children/grandchildren and I still feel incredibly lonely, especially on weekends. While I try to be cheerful and interested in their lives when we meet, I don’t think any of them realize how desperately sad I am when faced with days when I spend all my time alone with my dog.
I’ve tried using Facebook and other local internet sites to contact other people who, like me, don’t have relatives in the area, but to no avail.
I am not looking for another life partner after 43 years of marriage, but wondering if I should look on dating apps for the older person!
Most weekends I end up in tears, crying for what I’ve lost and just longing for someone to put an arm around me and reassure me that everything will be okay. I read your column every week and it has taken me months to work up the courage and write.
This week, Bel Mooney counsels a woman who asks if she can ever move on from her lonely grief
Your courageous, sad email came a week before another, longer one, with a similar sadness at its core.
Another widow, JB, reflected on the cumulative pain of previous deaths that led to the loss of her husband four months ago. Here she is:
Thought of the day
Some cases were stubbornly left unsolved, because such was life. Not all the uncertainties we faced could be resolved – there were a lot of strings untied.
Extracted from The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, by Alexander McCall Smith
“This is the first time I live alone. I came from a big family, I met my husband when we were 16, married when I was 20 and had three children. When they left home, we had each other for another 58 years, soul mates. I hope you can give me a reason to continue doing my best.
“Many people have said how strong I am, but I don’t feel it. I just keep going. I get up, do my makeup and dress well. The house is clean and tidy and my little dog is a comfort. But now I ask: will I get over this?’
Over the years I have received so many letters like this, from both men and women, wondering how to move forward with life after the death of a beloved partner or spouse.
In addition, in my personal life I have had conversations with many friends who tell me that after such a death, it is difficult to know whether you can muster enough strength to get out of bed in the morning and whether it is worth it.
Some of them may be blessed with loving families and close friends and neighbours, yet that silent specter called ‘Loss’ follows them everywhere they go and climbs the lonely staircase at night.
You, Joanna, are in dire need of companionship and have tried with admirable determination 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 you both and (as so often in writing this column I love so much) I feel utterly helpless in the face of your grief.
Yet JB specifically asks me for “a reason to keep making an effort” and so I have to try.
Because – let’s face it, even if such honesty may seem bleak – finding a reason to live is at the heart of the human condition. And it’s not always easy.
At midnight, two weeks from today, we all move our clocks forward one hour and daylight saving time begins. Yes, it can still be cold. Yes, in April and May it can freeze.
Yes, we might find that the lighter evenings make us feel melancholy, when we think about time passing so quickly and see people in the street. Yes, the blossoms on the trees can be so blown away by heavy rain that we miss the chance to fully enjoy the pink and white beauty.
All those things can happen, as you know, just like some of us get bad news from the doctor, while others hear something to bring them to a pinnacle of joy… and this is all about being human, coming to terms facing life and the veiled future. The daffodils can appear cruel as they tear through the earth or look utterly glorious, filling hearts like Wordsworth’s with delight.
And so we stumble on, make the best of it while we can and feel like giving up on other days.
But the reason for continuing lies in not knowing. The promise of what might happen, the hope singing through the disheveled bird on the branch, the flash of a smile in the street. These things (and many more) are why we get out of bed. Why the wagging of the dog’s tail urges us to take care of other living things as well as ourselves. To look out – always.
Believe me, I can hear the sadness and loneliness in both letters, from you Joanna and from JB, that moved me so much.
Countless readers will extend your hand to both of you, because they understand what you are going through. And there’s nothing to do but what you both do – keep going out as much as you can, coming on strong and just trying. I offer the small consolation that appearing strong can and will become a habit that will lessen the pain over time. And that the hope of making new friends is real, as is a gradual adjustment to life alone.
What do our loved ones want to kill for us? That we continue 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 in
Something that will admit no conclusion
Insists that we start forever.
I’m half mad with forbidden lust
I have been married for 27 years in my late fifties. My wife is a wonderful lady, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in love. Why am I married? It seemed right at the time.
We haven’t had sex in about five years, although I think she’d be willing if I did. Two years ago I got involved with a woman at work who found out her husband was having an affair.
Our closeness meant hugs and cuddles (and a little bit more), but I said I couldn’t leave my wife, so she took her husband back.
I was devastated. Because of my mood, my wife suspected something was wrong. So I admitted that I fancied that other woman.
My wife asked me if I had left for her if she had not returned to her husband? I couldn’t answer truthfully so remained noncommittal. But the question looms, even as my wife tries to make our marriage work.
I still see the other woman at work and occasionally in my car. We have not had intercourse, but are thrilled in each other’s company.
What shall I do? I love my wife but am not in love with her and can’t bring myself to make 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 it won’t work and I’ll be left alone.
When we’re not together I’m unhappy, I feel guilty and I can’t sleep because I don’t think this can go on like this. But then I just want more of her. I would appreciate your opinion?
My first reaction is that being so sexually obsessed is exactly what the doomed opera diva Violetta sings about 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, worry painfully into the wee hours of the morning, fantasize about a love nest with him/her in which you can have hot sex most of the time, and turn your back on the poor person who is your husband. is. You lie, feel guilty, and then lie a few more times.
People reading this who have never experienced that madness should consider themselves lucky. It is an old madness and always will be.
All I can tell you is that I know exactly what it’s like and over time if you stay married the madness will fade away and you will move on with the life you have.
And yes, as the days turn into months and then years, the life you imagined in the heat of passion gets fainter and fainter until it completely fades away.
But make no mistake, right now you are cruelly punishing your innocent wife. If you love the other woman, it’s fair to take the chance and move in with her.
OK, so you’re “scared,” but to cling to that fear and let it dominate your actions is weak.
You enjoy your teenage awkwardness in the car, but you can’t face your lover or your wife with the honesty of a grown man.
You are monstrously unfair to both women, so I suggest you make up your mind.
And finally… I feel completely powerless – and furious
It came as no surprise that so many people applauded my article last Saturday, in which, based on a new book, Hags, by the journalist Victoria Smith, I pounced on those foolish younger women who have made themselves servants to the cause of men, willing to sacrifice hard-won women’s rights for completely meaningless slogans like ‘Trans women are women’.
Please contact Bel
Bel answers reader questions about emotional and relationship problems every week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all the letters, but regrets that she cannot engage in personal correspondence.
It’s fine to be tolerant and proclaim “Trans women are trans women,” but don’t go against all logic and insult those who disagree.
That’s not a problem for this column today, although the subject has cropped up in previous letters. But what’s a problem is the sense of utter helplessness I feel all around.
Those who wrote about that article called me “brave” for “speaking out” and “giving us a voice,” and then asked why the world seems so crazy and/or misguided.
I had a similar reaction when I recently wrote about author Roald Dahl’s “awakened” rewrite.
The issue is different, but reading some of the leaked WhatsApp exchanges during the pandemic between former Health Secretary Matt Hancock and other ministers and officials, I was also aware of a profound disillusionment.
In this article, I’ve often written difficult pieces that challenged rules that seemed arbitrary and cruel to me, but the bottom line is that I, and so many of you, feel powerless.
We know in our hearts that we are badly governed and that both Keir Starmer cozying up to Sue Gray and Boris Johnson giving up his father for a knighthood are insults to us.
Likewise, we know that a tulip cannot become your real daffodil and the word “black” is not racist.
And that young children should not be taught about sex fetishes at school.
Realizing that there is nothing you can do, you feel alienated in your own beloved country. And it, for one, absolutely enrages me.