These Widow's Shoes

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Gone public

This is just a quick post to let you know that the blog is now accessible online without being necessary to have a personal invite. The URL is

I won’t be doing the big sell on Facebook for now, but I’m happy for anyone who’s interested to read it and for you to pass it on to others if you wish.

It’s still a bit basic, and I haven’t got round to the ‘About Me’ page yet (difficult knowing how to ‘nutshell’ myself), but it’ll do for now.

Thanks for reading. XXX

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Memories of when I fitted into these shorts…

It’s funny the unexpected situations that can bring back memories of Ben. Here I sit in my bedroom, surrounded by clothes as I figure out what to take on holiday. As I’ve hunted to the back of the drawers and wardrobe and tried on my old beach holiday clothes, I’ve realised that a lot of these things haven’t seen the light of day since our honeymoon in Bali in 2008. There’s the surfer girl top that we bought there, that Ben loved so much that when the colours ran in the wash he secretly hunted for hours on the net to find me another, the shorts that I bartered over (i.e. got bullied into buying by a formidable Balinese saleswoman), and the slinky, sequin top that I used to save for our dates. Putting on these clothes after all these years feels like putting on an old self – more naive, younger, slimmer!

It’s sad, but comforting. I said in a post back in May that I’ve struggled to really feel memories from before last year. When I’ve thought of our happy  times – our honeymoon, our wedding, first moving in together, holidays – the memories are there but the emotions aren’t. It’s like the emotional equivalent of a blurred or faded photograph – I’ve been numb to those memories. The memories that I can feel are mostly the many grim ones from last year.

Except in this quiet little moment of looking through old clothes, which has brought back happy memories, and lovely, very welcome feelings, along with them.

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Last night I made a bit of a hash of publishing a new post called ‘My Beloved Monster and Me’ and ended up publishing an old draft of it before I published the actual post, which may mean that those of you who receive notifications by email/RSS have received two versions. Please ignore the first! I’ve also added a great YouTube of Eels singing the song now if you look at the blog itself,

Have a fabulous day ladies and gents!

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My Beloved Monster and Me

My beloved monster and me
We go everywhere together
Wearing a raincoat that has four sleeves
Gets us through all kinds of weather

She will always be the only thing
That comes between me and the awful sting
That comes from living in a world that’s so damn mean

My beloved monster is tough
If she wants she will disrobe you
But if you lay her down for a kiss
Her little heart it could explode

She will always be the only thing
That comes between me and the awful sting
That comes from living in a world that’s so damn

This was one of Ben and I’s songs. It was played during our wedding ceremony and I also included it in the funeral service. The Eels were one of the few bands that Ben and I agreed on – so we treasured them.

I confess that I never thought too deeply about the lyrics and had always seen it as a love song, influenced (I confess again) by the fact that I first heard it during a pastiche ‘falling in love’ montage in the film ‘Shrek’.

Of course it can be a romantic love song, but suddenly for me it’s not about Ben and I, it’s about Saskia. She is my most beloved monster and since Ben died she has been my talisman. The joy she exudes soothes the ‘awful sting’ so perfectly. And there are other ways in which these words are absolutely about Saskia, but perhaps those of you who know Saskia, or who are parents, can imagine.

Here’s a link to the gorgeous Mr Mark Oliver Everett (the Eels dude) singing the song.

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The only thing I get sad about is remembering how Ben suffered last year. My love…he went through such pain, and fear, and uncertainty, and frustration, and humiliation, and just, shit…

Those memories make me cry.

Last year I didn’t cry about it – well, sometimes, with Ben, we had a cry together. But it wasn’t the same as this reflective sadness borne out of memory. Then it was raw, ragged, immediate, borne out of togetherness in that moment.

Otherwise crying to myself or with friends was rare. Everything was too practical, visceral and everyday for tears.

Poor Benj. It would be lovely if he could see us now – Sas and I, and his family and friends, all well and surviving and looking after each other – and take pleasure in it. I don’t have any reason to believe that, but I wish it. After all the suffering of that last year he certainly deserved(s) it.


I knew the day was coming…

…and today was it. Saskia asked ‘Where’s Daddy gone?’. She asked it first this morning. We were sat in the garden with my mum-in-law and she just said it, apropos of nothing. I stared at her for ages, tongue tied and baffled about why she was suddenly asking, and unsure whether she was actually asking what it sounded like. I’ve forgotten what happened next – I think my mum in law fielded with something vague and Sas quickly went back to bouncing on her new trampoline. Toddlers can be so unnerving.

This evening she asked again – this time she was more insistent and there was no doubt what she was asking. She looked at the picture of Ben next to the dining table and said “My Daddy”, then “Where’s Daddy gone?…Where’s Daddy gone Mummy?…Daddy lost”.

Well, though I’ve thought and thought about what I should say, I hadn’t come up with something that sounded right, so today I had nothing prepared and blundered through a number of things that came into my head…”He had to go away…He still loves us very much…He’s taking care of you” were all things I said I think. With her three-second attention span she was already thinking about something else by the time I’d garbled these words – she’d noticed some toy or other – and that was the end of it.

However, I suspect that having formed the question in her mind now, and verbalised it, it will be coming up again. I really have to figure out what to say. It’s so hard – I don’t believe in heaven, but already I’ve fallen into the trap of talking as though I do to Saskia. I want to be able to tell her what I believe – that Ben has gone but his love lives on in us and the people who’s lives he touched. But she wouldn’t understand that – it’s far too abstract. Should I say ‘Daddy’s died’? Her only knowledge of death and dying is from insects in the garden – would she be scared or upset by this comparison, or would she actually be matter of fact and simply accept it? Judging from the books I’ve read on explaining death to children, it seems important not to skirt over the basic facts of death – ie that the body stops working. So maybe at this stage I should go for the actual facts and not worry too much about the abstract stuff.

I just don’t know – it’s a really hard thing to do. I guess I’ll just have to feel my way and hope I don’t upset or confuse her.

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Grief is a strange creature

I still find the way the grieving process is working its way out in me to be very strange and unexpected.

Lately I’ve realised that one of my ways of coping with Ben’s death is by throwing myself into doing things ‘in his memory’…staying up late thinking of ways to increase readership of his blog, working on turning the blog into a book, fundraising for the hospice, writing my own blog, posting melanoma awareness info on Facebook, putting up pictures he took, or of him, around the house…and it goes on.

I guess it’s good – positive and pro-active. But it’s also prone to getting obsessive and unhealthy – as I lie here in the middle of the night writing this, unable to sleep because I’ve spent all evening working on and talking about Ben’s blog and my mind is racing.

It reminds me of how I used to be about work, before I gave it up for the much less stressful life of being a full-time parent. It seems that in the absence of a job, I’ve unintentionally turned widowhood into one  – a new life  of campaigning, fundraising, event planning, publishing and blogging.

It wasn’t a plan – it’s just happened this way. Do I want it? To be defined so entirely by what has happened to me? Recently I was given the grim epithet ‘skin cancer widow’ in a local newspaper headline – do I really want to encourage that label and wear it like a Macdonalds badge?

Not especially – but I don’t have a choice, it’s what I am – and for now I think it’s helping me to counteract the sadness and loss by being busy making and doing things for Ben and for his memory. Though it’s not necessarily conducive to relaxation or getting enough sleep!

So anyway, not what I thought grieving would be like – but I suspect this ‘work’ is part of the process for me.