I don’t write much about Mr. Bokker- or to give him his full title, The G- on my blog. This is partly because a relationship is by definition private, and also because it makes me feel a tad queasy when bloggers sport their relationships like the latest It Bag.
But I find myself laid up with a nasty virus, and my boy has been looking after me in the most caring and attentive fashion. It puts me in mind to write a post about love, and how it can survive even when one partner needs looking after in ways far more complex and long-term than filling a hot water bottle and fetching tea and hugs.
It’s hardly surpising that relationships don’t face great odds when bereavement strikes. I can’t imagine what it must be like for parents who are in a relationship when a child dies. But I do know what it’s like when a sibling dies. One of the frustrating things about losing someone you love is that people look at you and say “she’s coping so well”. The truth is that there’s no option but to cope, short of never getting out of bed. But while the person themself may be holding together, it’s probably the case that elements of their life are falling apart: work, social life, looks (in my case, weight control), and, if great care is not taken, love.
G was there when I found out that H had gone, and though the exact course of events is a blur, I know that he literally picked me up off the floor, calmed me down and pulled things together in order to get me back to my home town. He stayed by my side for days, when I couldn’t even have a bath on my own. There have been times when he has persuaded me to get dressed, and countless occasions when he’s just let me cry and cry. He has never told me to stop crying, or cheer up, or that I should be doing better. Whatever I’ve been going through, he’s accepted.
In a way, though, the nurturing is the easier part. What has been harder for both of us to cope with is the nitty gritty of grief. The irritation, the grumpiness, the feeling that I don’t want to talk to anyone but her, and she’s not here. The blackness, the early days when it was all I could do to get home, have a glass of wine and a bath and go to bed. The fact that each of us has had our own grieving process and nobody can understand anyone elses’ grieving process. The listlessness and unpredictability of how I- or he- would feel on any given day. Nobody tells you that grief brings out the worst in people, and we’ve seen the worst in each other at times.
But wouldn’t it be sad to let death kill something good? I believe that loss is make or break for relationships, and if you make it, you can be stronger and richer and have something which goes deeper than it did before. It’s been very tough going at times but each hardship we’ve faced is another thread binding us closer together. I suppose this is the case with any relationship over the course of years, but with something as big as bereavement it’s faster, more intense, more extreme.
G has been instrumental in helping me to balance loss with moving forward: in creating a lovely home together for us to share, in building a future, encouraging me in my career and just having fun in the usual 20-something ways. This light is so important to offset the shade.
And a final thought- one thing I love is that G loved H and she him. She was 12 when I first introduced him to my family and quite shy. But she accepted him straight away. They bonded over computer games and sandcastles on the beach, and she made fun of his hair. They knew each other for four years and I know they would have been closer than ever had she lived. He misses her too, and that means a lot to me.
This post isn’t intended to be showy-offy at all. Make no mistake: neither of us are perfect and we have all the usual bickers and snags of any relationship. I’m not claiming that losing H has made us into this all-embracing, zen-like Super Couple. I’m just saying that we’re proof that a relationship can survive a traumatic loss and be stronger for it. We’ve faced the worst, and we’re making it.