A long silence from Cold Comfort Cottage, I know, but I have been slowly working up to saying a farewell to my Mac friends who have helped me through the very worst. 

 It was – literally - a life ago that I began this blog.  I was tentatively reaching out to the Mac world.  Blogs?  What were blogs?  I didn’t really know and got into all sorts of trouble because I questioned the motives of those who felt the desire to let in all spill out into the cyberspace. (Do any of you remember?)  But there you were – so patient – so understanding.  I thank you, most sincerely. 

 Here is the last installment: 

 About eight weeks ago The Hounds were off for a ‘trial’ night with some people who take dogs as boarders in their house – a very humane alternative to the dreaded kennels about which we always had moral objections.  (Well – those high standards have come back to ‘bite’ me!)

 Unsurprisingly, I was delaying going home to a completely empty house and found myself lurking, in a depressed sort of way, amidst the clothes rails in one of the only shops in this area frequented by women who like to keep vaguely ‘on trend.’  

 I was looking, halfheartedly, for something to boost the tired wardrobe (what is suitable for work, dog walking, doing the ancient Aga, etc, etc … ?) and I was delaying, delaying going back to what now passes for home.

There was a smart, middle-aged woman purchasing something at the checkout.  She was about a decade or so older than me. I glimpsed a glimmer of pink platforms with extreme heels being carefully swaddled in tissue paper before being slipped into a carrier bag.   

 Part of her conversation drifted over to the rails. 

“After the cruise …  Couldn’t do the dancing … Not since my husband … I have got to reinvent myself.” 

My newly acquired widow antennae were on alert and, before I knew what I was doing, I found myself wandering over to her.  I have to say that this is completely uncharacteristic behaviour for me – but not much about me seems familiar, even to me.

“I know what you mean about reinventing yourself,” I said, recognizing a sister in widowhood. 

And then she began unleashing her torrent of advice, so glad to find someone who was in a similar situation.  And we do want to talk, us widows, don’t we?  And why wouldn’t we?  We have only the walls to talk to at home – we have lost our best listener.   

“If you suddenly feel like crying – in the middle of a shop - just do it,” she said. “I found myself doing this more than once.  Who cares what others think?”

My upper lip was stiffening at the thought – no crying in the middle of shops for me – just wailing and banging my head in the privacy of my own four walls (the bathroom basin is a favourite spot – I think it has now been loosened from the wall). 

 “It does get better,” she continued.  But she was crying by this point.

 And then she uttered the words that chilled:

 “Beware the three year ‘wall.’ ”

If she had punctuated this with a pointy, witchy finger I would not have been surprised. 

The ‘three year wall’?  As I understand it, you can be coping quite well, busily re-inventing yourself, spending the life insurance on Carribean cruises (HA! HA!) but, after three years, the reality really sinks in; they are not coming back. Ever. 

 She had been told about the ‘three year wall’ by her widowed ‘friends.’  I don’t know about you, but I feel that her friends were not being very friendly. 

 So here are some of my last lessons in widowhood for you:  there are a lot of others out there who will welcome you to this growing ‘club.’  And I do know, only too well, it is a kind of bereavement that only those who go through it can understand.  However, I have been learning that there is also lot of unhelpful nonsense out there as well as a degree of schadenfruede.

 I have done a little homework on ‘grief.’  Why wouldn’t I?  I know all about those neat ‘five stages’ which are so readily rattled out to the bereaved.  But I know that grief does not fit any easy template.  Stages?  We can go through all of them in about half an hour.  And again. And again.  And more. 

I also know there has been great deal of reinterpretation and ‘debunking’ going on since Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first made her seminal study on which the ‘five stages’ are based. (For the keen students amongst you, you will find that she did her initial study on the terminally ill – I am glad I did not know that two years ago).  

 So I have searched and searched for some understanding of what I have been going through but in all that I have read I have not yet come across anything about a ‘three year wall’  - not even the most bogus new-age psychologist gives it a mention.  

 What you need to remember is the completely obvious -  you are unique, your relationship was and is unique, and so your grief is also unique.  We can go some way to understanding the experience of others and you will find that those who have lost a long-term partner will understand much better than most.  But don’t let the bad advice of others make things worse – there are always those who will wish to weave you into their patterns of despair.

 I am resolved I will resist any ‘three year wall,'  try to ignore any of the other unhelpful psychobabble that I might hear and, if I am to learn new patterns of living, I will resist the temptation to talk to strangers buying pink platforms.

However, I will be here for you should you need me. 

Lots of love to you all, my very brave friends and thank you. 



PS  The case to the Ombudsman progresses.  That is something I will let you know about, as appropriate. 


PPS  Dog hotel was a huge success.  Happy dogs.