Monday, 22 March 2010


After 19 months and 17 days, I thought I was an old hand at this being a widow business.

By this, I don't mean that I have all my feelings under control. I certainly haven't managed that trick yet. But the benefit of time means that the waves of emotion have become familiar. A flashback is very different from a flicker of sadness triggered by a piece of music. A lonely evening full of tears requires a different coping mechanism to the stabbing pain of a briefly-remembered moment.

What they have in common, though, is that I have experienced them all - many times - over the months, and now know what to expect and how to respond. "Know thy enemy" truly is a large part of the battle.

But a recent 'conversation' on an online forum that I visit regularly really knocked me for six. It is a place I go mainly to talk about growing vegetables and raising animals, not to discuss the big issues of life. But someone raised a question about childlessness and how it affected people, and I was astonished at the strength of emotion it raised in me.

As will be evident from reading this blog, R and I had no children.
When we were young, we were firmly in the militantly child-free camp, but even as we mellowed and our lives and work changed, the subject never reached the top of the agenda. I don't know why - timing, perhaps, or circumstances or just that we felt we had each other and didn't need anyone else to make our lives complete.

As I entered my 40s it became a mild source of regret in a ticking clock sort of way. This feeling has become stronger since R died as I would love to have a part of him still with me. And if I'm honest, it also raises worries about what will happen when I am much older - I always expected R to outlive me by a long time, so old age was never a concern.

The question created such a feeling of aloneness in me; probably more than I have felt at any time on this journey. I try very hard not to live in the past, but it is difficult not to wonder whether, if we had known what was going to happen, would we have followed the path we did? Would a child in my life make it harder or easier to cope with life now and think of the future with optimism?

Of course, these are all impossible questions to answer, but it doesn't stop them constantly running round and round my head. I hate it when thoughts like these penetrate the chinks in the armour I have dressed myself in to cope with the world. The best I can hope for from my life at present is calm, and this thought is like a piercing siren in the early hours of the morning, shattering my peaceful life.

I guess it is still technically possible as it is all still in working order(!), but it would be with the wrong person and an incredibly selfish act to have a child - alone - at an age when most women are looking forward to being grandmothers. And there is no shortage of children and young people in my life. Between us we had 7 nephews and nieces, I am godmother to one and surrogate auntie to many more.

No, that definitely wouldn't be the answer. I just need to stomp up yet more hills until I have worked out where to take this feeling. At least Moose will be happy.


  1. this post touched me in a way no other has. your thoughts about children and not having them makes me pensive.

    you and R had the lives you both desired and loved. you always wrote with such joy about your lives. who knows if you two would have done something different, but i am glad you have all the children around you. with your walks that you describe and the nephews and nieces, you remind me of Miss Rumphius in the children's book i have, "The Lupine Lady." she loved nature and the seeing the world, and though she never had children of her own (if i remember correctly she was too busy and traveled to much to think of marrying) she was a great confidant and inspiration to the children in her life.

    i hope that my comment does not sound awkward. it is well meant and i wish for you to have peace in your life.

  2. I have no words of wisdom but I hope you find peace with this issue after stomping about the hills.

  3. Isn't it awful how the losses keep on stacking up even after you kind of get used to the game?

    None of us really knows what our last years (or even the next few) will look like, who will stick around, who will still be loads of fun. While I don't advocate for impulsive pregnancies AT ALL, I'd just say.... try not to shove any doors closed. You have many adventures yet ahead and I know some of them will reward you richly, deeply, with the great love that you've had and shown to others.



  4. P.S. If you're on Facebook, this is the current topic of discussion on my page and I know others would love to share with you.

  5. @ WnS: I have never heard of The Lupine Letters, but I do like the sound of Miss Rumphius - she sounds like an absolutely splendid person. Perhaps I shall model myself on her from now on!

    @ SuddenWidow: Thank you. If nothing else, tired legs make for a good night's sleep.

    @ Supa: You are absolutely right - we can't change the past and can't know the future, so there is really no point in worrying too much about these things.
    I do have a Facebook account, but I don't use it at present. Perhaps I will pop over and have a look. Thanks.

  6. I know this is some weeks late and am not sure if you'll receive these words. When I first read your post it struck me to my core, heart and soul. I didn't want to respond right away but take some time to process your feelings. What I kept thinking about was how difficult it is to navigate life alone without our beloved partners by our side. Especially, when issues come up that involve mutual decisions made in the past with your loved one. Now you are the only one able to answer for those life decisions made in a former and far different time. I think that in the end all we can count on is the belief that what happened in the past was just and right.

    I know the following words aren't entirely applicable to your situation but there is some meaning that is similar. They come from my horoscope of March 18. I've kept the words out because they've resonated with me and here they are:

    "Refuse to spend one iota of mental energy on what-ifs. Instead, design a play that allows you to make the most of your available resources - the operative word being "available."

    These words have helped me focus less on my what-ifs of the past and believe me, I have many. What has also helped me is to realize that if I had it all to do again, I probably would have made the exactly same decisions as the ones that were originally made.

  7. @WitM: Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. You are right, of course, that there is absolutely no point in worrying about the what ifs and, as you say, it is unlikely that I would go back and change much about my life given the opportunity. Perhaps one or two things, but probably none of the big decisions.
    I don't know that I have properly resolved this issue yet for myself, but I am where I am, and can only carry on going forward.

  8. You seem to have your feet very solidly on the ground going forward as you are. As hard as it sometimes is, I believe it is better to wrestle with our demons openly rather than hide and act as if they aren't there. You are a strong spirit!