I’ll always talk about him really naturally – Emma on life beyond death

Wednesday 05 January 2022

Maggie's Manchester

Guy and I shared the same sense of humour, and he never failed to make me laugh. We became inseparable, and married in Manchester in 2009 – it was the happiest day of my life.

My husband, Guy, was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in June 2017 and died on 5 March 2020.

We were both in our 30s and had been looking forward to our life with our two young children.

It took me a year to get round to actually face it, before I even wanted to touch what my grief was like. I still don't think I really know it.

Bereavement support

Robin from Maggie’s Manchester emailed, and he suggested I join a bereavement group.

He recognised I’ve always liked being around people in the same position, and suggested it would be good for me. And it was really good.

I met some lovely people who really understand, even though their grief remains different.

I was shown that the things I was doing were what everybody else was doing too.

The weird parts of grief, keeping all of his stuff exactly where he last left it, was normal.

That feeling that I didn't want to get rid of anything could be explained. Everyone else in the group just said, “Yeah, me neither.” There's nothing better than finding people who make you feel a bit less mad in these situations, because it is a bit mental.

Dealing with grief

I had thought I was a bit crazy, especially when I was having quite horrible memories of the last three days of Guy’s life in the hospital, which were really unpleasant, and were playing quite a lot in my mind.

We unpicked all that science of grief that is your brain trying to process what's happened, to try and file that memory in the right place. Because it’s a really traumatic experience, your brain doesn't know where to put it.

Your normal memories of what you did last weekend, the brain files them away neatly. But death, it doesn't know what to do with it.

Every time something triggers it, and I remembered something unpleasant, that was it trying to file that memory. Do I keep it in here with driving the car with that song, or do I find it in cooking tea? No, that's not where it's meant to me.

We always said, even when Guy was first diagnosed, that we would be really honest with the children on what was going on, even though they were very little at the time.

Talking about Guy

Since he died, I’ve made the decision that I would always talk about him really naturally.

We did a memory journal together: Cora was only 5 or 6, so it was important to write down her experiences.

And I like to just drop him into general conversation, and I say that with friends too.

People can shy away from it because they assume that it might be painful, but it's not for kids. They just want to talk about him. Sometimes it's really painful for me and I have to steel myself to talk about him and not be upset.

In the early days, some of what they said would completely floor me. But I’m better now.

It was really nice to look at my grief a little bit more scientifically and see I'm not going mad.

And actually, it's perfectly normal. And eventually it will file itself into the horrible experiences in life section.

I know that it doesn't get sorted out in a year, or 10 years, or 20 years; it will always be there and always be something that I'll have to work out.

I think it took a year, though, to even be turn to face it. What I’ve learned is that's quite common—a year or two years to just process the shock. I still feel like I don’t fully, fully believe he'll walk through the door tomorrow.

Robin, at Maggie’s Manchester, when I first talked to him, said, “Guy is imprinted in your lives.”

I think because they've supported me to deal with my grief, I've got the emotional strength to help the girls in their grief and in our future too.

We're here for you

If you or someone you love has cancer, Maggie's is with you. 

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at enquiries@maggies.org.

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