Ugh. I hate that phrase because it’s either being said to me in a sympathetic, pitying tone with a gentle head tilt, or I’m saying it to someone else who must be in so much pain having suffered a close loss. Both these things happened this weekend.
On Saturday, I was performing at Boy Widower’s black tie charity ball with my band. We got to glam up, go on a road trip to a big country house hotel, stay overnight and play to a large crowd. My fellow vocalist has regularly described BW as ‘buff’ since she first met him a few weeks ago, and the whole band concurred. Even the straight blokes. Ha. BW did indeed look buff in his black tie, and I looked super glam in my ball gown and diamante accessories. We would SO match if it weren’t for the whole me being allergic to penises thing. Aaaaanyway, getting sidetracked by my sexuality confusion.
Back to the main story. BW’s charity was set up in memory of his late wife who sadly died of cancer only eight weeks after she was diagnosed (how shit is that?). It’s fantastic to see him channeling his grief in a positive way, into helping others, and I’m very proud of him for it. I’m also proud be able to support him by donating my band’s time and talents. It does also help that I look super fit and alluring, love winding him up, and love being on the stage – it’s my own way of dealing with my grief. However, the whole event was bloody exhausting.
Why? Well, first, there was all the intense rehearsing to learn an hour’s worth of repertoire, ranging from Abba to Bruno Mars, in the space of a fortnight, complete with diva strops (not from me, surprisingly). But more exhausting was that, for the first time in a very long time, I had to out myself as a widow about eight times in one night. I fortunately had widow second bestie with me as wing woman. She was also on ‘don’t let me sleep with Boy Widower’ alert . When asked by other guests, ‘How do you know BW?’ our response was simply, ‘We met through a young widows network.’ This then led to questions of how long ago it was, what happened, how long were we married, la la la. ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ is always the standard response.
I realise that I’ve gotten much better at telling people the truth, that she died of suicide, when they enquire how she died. No longer do I well up – I’m equipped with ‘act like a robot’ coping skills – and no longer do I go for the dramatic shock factor overshare of ‘she hung herself in my bedroom with the cord of the dressing gown she gave me for Christmas.’ That one tends not to go down so well with people, and let’s face it, I need all the friends I can get since the last lot all fucked off when wife died. It still remains the case though that, when talking to people with whom I don’t want to cry, so much of my energy is consumed.
Once I’d navigated my way through the introductory polite chit chat with strangers whilst standing around looking at canapés that I can’t eat because I’m a vegetarian, I thought I was home and dry. I was sitting at BW’s table (was that a strategic decision on his part?) in between widow second bestie and BW’s widower bestie (are these nicknames confusing you enough yet?) so I felt comfortable knowing that I wouldn’t be bombarded with questions again. Phew. Yummy starter came. Made eyes with BW. Yummy main course came. Got embarrassed at making eyes with BW. Chatted with friends. Nearly spent £2000 on a holiday in an auction.
Then, pre dessert, my fellow vocalist discretely came up to the table and told me she needed to speak to me urgently. Our bass player’s mum had just died. Fuck. Understandably, he had rushed off to be with his family. Cue panic – visibly among the band, and underneath the facade in me – as we were due on stage in half an hour. Bless him though, BW was extremely understanding when I explained that, at worst, we wouldn’t be able to perform. If there’s anybody who’d understand how shit goes wrong suddenly, it’s us. It is what it is, and he and I accept that.
Long story short, I had to check everyone was ok, focus a bunch of shocked musicians, figure out what songs in our set would still possible without a bass player, rope in a random guy who happened to be there and play the bass guitar, verbally run through the structure and keys of numbers that he knew, and encourage everyone to hold it together and get up on stage. The show must go on. We did our set, but only half of it, and I am bloody proud of the lot of them. For my band mates, I think seeing me in such an environment, keeping my cool, channeling my energies, having fun with young widows and widowers was very eye opening. It has hit home with them how fucking resilient I am.
I got to 3am and cried when I finally reached my room door.
What this experience has made me realise is that a) I am brilliant (!) and b) others are shocked when a sudden death happens too and with that comes an utter helplessness. I know that sounds ridiculous and obvious, but I’ve never really thought about it before. It hasn’t, until now, crossed my mind how our acquaintances must have felt upon hearing the news of my wife’s death. Disbelief. Sadness. A desire to help but lack of knowing what to do. What did happen on Saturday though was that everyone rallied together, showing that our relationship extends beyond just being band mates, to being friends. This makes me smile. These people are wonderful and I’m honoured to share a stage with them. In my case, when my wife died, the people who should have rallied together with me, namely my in laws, ran in the opposite fucking direction and channeled every bit of hate they could muster (which was a lot) in my direction. It continues to this day.
Today, I sat with a pen and paper and wrote a letter to my friend who lost his mother. I haven’t yet lost a parent so I cannot relate, but I know better than to write clichéd statements such as, ‘she’s in a better place’. I didn’t say ‘let me know what I can do to help’ because he won’t have a clue at this stage what he needs. Also, quite frankly, I’m not capable of helping. I did, however, say ‘I’m sorry for your loss‘. because I am. I am sorry that he is hurting because even if it’s only half of the pain I’ve felt, it’s fucking shit, and I would never want a friend to feel that way. Not even my worst enemy, in fact.