Dead Weight

In the past two weeks two friends have lost husbands. Suddenly and unexpectedly. The men long shy of their 3scoreandten, their wives much too young to morph, over night, as widows. I cannot feel their loss for, mercifully, it is not mine to feel. But I can empathize. My dad was 47 when he died. My mum just 44. We, at 19, 18 and 13, were the ages those newly fatherless children are. So I call the one friend and I can hear her brave stoicism wobbling which makes me want to cry. I ask her when her beautiful daughter will arrive home to be with her, I ask who is with her now, I want to know if she has support for the unbearably horrible consequences that must be dealt with in the slaying aftermath of a death, the grim practicalities. I tell her to try to remember to eat. I remind her to get some rest when she can. And after that I don’t know what to say so I tell her I am thinking of her (‘Thank you’, she says, because she is graceful even now) and I put the phone down. And then I cry. Not because her loss is mine but because I know what a long road she has ahead of her and so to offer platitudes isn’t easy.

Yes. It will get better but it will take a long, long time. Yes the pain will recede but first, after the numbness of shock, must come the sharp sting of realization, every single morning, when she wakes, that he isn’t there. Yes, she will laugh again but before that she will cry as if she is never going to stop.

When my dad died an older, wiser friend told my young London flatmates, ‘for you, her dad died today, for her he will die day after day after day for a long time to come’. That is what I must remember now, and remembering that will make up for my inability to salve any part of her enormous pain by saying things that I know aren’t true unless I quantify them with the harsh realities that I understand:

It will get better.

But it will take a long, long time.

Instead I will drop her short emails and send her brief texts (for grief will steal her concentration) to remind her that I lurk, useless in the ether, for I cannot bring him back.

You cannot rescue a friend from the cold, alienating grip of grief. But you can prop them up a little as they limp their way through. That’s the best you can do.


The days are heavy here. A torpor descends as the heat rises and by early afternoon the house is kiln hot, I imagine I could make meringues on the verandah. A fan lazily stirs the leaden air. I lie sprawled on my bed, heavy limbed, heavy lidded, a starfish trying to find a cool spot. Life has been arrested. I am not entirely certain of what the outcome will be. Uncertainty is a difficult commodity to manage. I can’t pin life down so that I can get on with it. Instead I meander, inertia arrested. I blame the heat. It’s easier that way.

16 Responses to “Dead Weight”

  1. KXJ Says:


  2. ThresholdMum Says:

    Memsahib, I know you only through your writing here, but your messages reverberate and linger on for me, long long after I’ve read them. Your beautiful post on your daughter returning to school, this wise piece here. I would love to read a book of them. I hope you are seeking other places for them to be read.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      That’s very kind, ThresholdMum, thank you. Sadly rather given up with publishers … did have a long, concentrated stab but not winning. So it’s very nice to know there are people like you out there who enjoy my odd scribblings.

  3. janelle Says:

    love from the hill….xxx and pole sana sana.

  4. Connie Says:

    Ditto threshold mum. A beautiful post. Your writing is so beautiful.

  5. Ann Says:

    I, too, love your writing Memsahib. I started following you when my husband was so ill before he died three years ago and took comfort from reading your words from so far away in such an exotic and sometime chaotic place. I agree, you should write a book. I’d love to meet up with you for a coffee sometime when you are in England.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      It’s a date then Ann. Coffee when I’m in England 🙂 Hope you are keeping warm. And dry!? Send some of that wet weather our way!

  6. Addy Says:

    Speaking from experience (2 years, 8 months, 2 weeks and 4 days) it is good to know people are there for me. Taking one day at a time and keeping busy are also immensely helpful. It does get better, but every now and then a big wave comes along and completely drowns you. The trick is to bob about in the water until the wave recedes.

  7. Ivor Says:

    Hi Memsahib, im not sure how many men follow your blog but i do via Google Reader and always look forward to your descriptive and engaging pieces from a land i know nothing of or have never visited. I shared this one with my Friends on Facebook as your understanding of both personal and anothers grief was wholly accurate. As someone who lost their step father 25 years ago , the pain doesnt go away but just gets more manageable….and you apply the same skills when grief visits again , this time with a good friend who passed away a year ago. What we must always remember is that we never get the chance to say goodbye properly and that sharpens the pain. Yet when our loved ones and friends are grieving we know that we can and will be there in the long haul and be there to listen and more when the time is right for them. Like your friend Memsahib , you are waiting patiently as a good friend should , visible on the horizon , ready to move to their side when shock subsides and the pain grows.
    Thank you for your blogs and please keep writing – regards from a very wet central scotland 🙂

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you for reading Ivor. and for dropping in. a friend once described grief as a big black hole. to begin with, she said, the compulsion to walk close and stare in was overwhelming. but with time, you learn to walk at a small distance from it. I thought that was about right.

  8. Mama D Says:

    Beautiful! And so terribly devastating for your friends…they will be in my thoughts. Cannot even imagine the scope of such a loss…it knocks the breath from my lungs to contemplate it. Wishing you strength as you prop up your friends, especially since you understand the grief they face.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you Mama D. When my dad died, we had mum to shield us and prop us up. I was a young, self involved 19 yo then. I feel for my friends for they are in the lonely place she must have found herself, propping up children whilst trying to grope her way around a very changed world.

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