My name is Rod and I am 64 years old. In November 2020 I lost my wife Linda to bladder cancer at the age of 57. It was a rapid period from initial diagnosis to Linda passing away being 7 months which was brutally quick.

And it happened in the midst of the pandemic which exacerbated the situation. Everything was a difficulty from health appointments to visitations, even down to the 20-person funeral. Without exaggeration her funeral would have been 10 times that size with Linda being well known with many friends from over the years. It was surreal, not the big send-off we would’ve wanted. But what we had, it was done well with personal touches from the funeral directors.

My grief:

Since then I’ve just been making it up as I go along, trying to support the 3 children too. Nobody prepares you for it, nobody trains you for it. I felt in a daze. You’re going through the motions. One of the really difficult things is that there is so much paperwork and official bodies that have to be contacted in the immediate aftermath of a death. The last thing you want to be doing is calling and explaining time after time that your wife has died and name her and give her date of birth. You have to stand back and take a deep breath to stop your voice breaking on the phone.

Physically, sleep was ridiculously bad. Linda always used to get annoyed, in the past I’d be snoring before my head hit the pillow. But since she passed sleep went right out the window. Physically in grief at first I felt sore- all my muscles tight and achy as if I’d been hit by a bus. Appetite wasn’t there at all either initially.

Grief ambushes you. It’s funny wee things. Just recently I was walking through the Buchanan galleries and there was a guy selling really nice paintings. Some were of a female, walking from behind. Tall, slim and long blonde hair. In my head it was Linda. It floored me.

I’ve always been dead emotional. The kids have always laughed, when I’m sobbing at speeches. The tears have never been far away in the first year. I think we need to let it out. People can be taken aback- they say “oh Rod I’m sorry”, and I just say “don’t be”. I’m comfortable crying.

The people around me:

Family and friends were great. You do find out who your true friends are. In my darkest moments, the kids have pulled me back. My 2 sisters have been fantastic, they live in the city centre and they are like a comedy act, the female equivalent of Still Game. My experience of support from friends was mostly positive. People just jumped in cars and came to the house which was great to have.

The Scottish drinking culture is funny. It’s easy to fall into that habit and it’s not productive. I don’t think grief is helped by alcohol- it brings up the deep maudlin thoughts. I did it from November to February and it wasn’t great, physically or emotionally. I put a stop to that, still going out and having a drink, but cutting right back.

Funnily enough I was out with my son and a friend at the weekend. There was a big guy at the pub at the bar who had lost his wife. And in a rare wee moment of compassion and acknowledgement he said “I’m going to put you two together because unfortunately you’ve got the same thing in common”. It was nice talking away to him.

Taking some big steps:

As time moved on with grief, I had to deal with work. My concentration had been badly affected. The last job I was in was training branch staff on selling building products. With grief basically my brain was muddled. The technical side got a bit much. I thought I was muddling through but my director called me after a meeting and said “you’re really struggling”, and got me to go to the doctor who signed me off work. My employers were very good with me. We came to the conclusion that I couldn’t do the job any more.  I left and it gave me some time to breathe without worrying about work. But after a while I had too much time on my hands and that made the grief worse.

Linda and I had always planned to move back to Glasgow and down size. Unfortunately, I had to do it myself. The day I moved, it was a horrible day. The build-up was hard- putting Linda’s stuff away. I’m a minimalist. Linda was a maximalist! And part of me felt like I was just giving more and more of her away. There’s a guilt there which was difficult to deal with. On the day itself as the vans were loaded up, me and Fraser (my son) just stood outside and hugged each other in the garden in tears. It had been such a great family house.

Getting settled in felt lonely. Sitting having dinner yourself is the worst. And people will say “are you settled in?” And I think, “yeah, but I’m not happy”. I’m content that I’ve got the way I want it. I kept myself busy with the painting, and papering that wall took ages. But there comes a time where there’s nothing else to do and its quiet and that’s when it hits you the most.

Filling the day to day:

Bottom line is I live alone. And alone is a big word. So I’d say don’t refuse too many invitations. You don’t always feel like it but just get yourself around people. Reconnect. Have things in the diary.

Keeping active helps you clear your head. It helps with the grief. You’ve got to keep occupied. If I just sat here in the house day in and day out, I would never improve. I have a really good feeling when I’ve been swimming. I do 45 minutes then have a sauna and shower. Physically I feel good and the endorphins are flowing and that become a mental feeling too. That also helps the sleep incidentally.

I’m getting out and about. I was at the Doone the Rabbit hole festival recently. Saw 10cc- they are 50 years old. I saw them at the Apollo in ’76. That was a good day. Doing that kind of thing, getting up and going out is a big help.

I lost my wee dog in the November too- 15 years old. He was Linda’s dog but he came to me once he knew Linda was going. Dogs know how you’re feeling.

Looking ahead:

In terms of how I’m doing and progressing with my grief, am I moving forward? I suppose I’m not crying every hour. Am I more positive and optimistic? Honestly no. Just steady and trying to look after myself. I don’t think there will be a day where I’m jumping for joy. Joy is a big word- too much. But I do think day to day there is more pleasure and happiness. Do you know what’s funny though- when I’m out with friends having a laugh, enjoying life, I feel bad. I feel tremendously guilty because Linda isn’t here.

What does the future hold? Keeping fit, maybe a wee dog, I’ll keep working for now, I’m scared mentally of stopping work. Linda and I liked to travel and I’ll keep that up. Funny thing- the other day

I’m trying to write a book too- a crime novel so that passes the time and is a good focus.

I’m scared of the winter coming. The dark nights. I always get a bit of the seasonal affective disorder. And Linda died on the 13th of November. The whole period coincided with the dark winter days and nights so that’s going to be hard.

What advice would Rod give to others in a similar situation?:

If there is any advice I can give - reach out to professionals who are compassionate and experienced if you need to. Don’t knock back too many invitations. Try and mix with other humans but also be kind to yourself when you need time. Be as active as you can, honestly it helps. And don’t be afraid to have a good cry, just go for it and tomorrow is another day. 

Thank you to Rod for sharing his story with us. 

There are a range of different types of Strathcarron support you can explore, if you need it. A listening ear may be just what you need. If so, please just call 01324 826222 and leave a message for Bereavement Support with your name, loved one's name and contact number.