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Friday, November 15, 2019

Eight weeks ago

Eight weeks ago today was the day that changed my life forever, the day my beloved husband, Nigel, died. It was a time of loss, of shock, of fear, and all of that has continued in some form or other since. Even though much of it has eased with time, the simple fact remains that I haven’t been the same since that day eight weeks ago, and I’ll never be that person again, not with half of me missing.

I’ve used these Notes to chronicle my journey, and my intent was to, as the saying goes, speak my truth, to share openly and honestly what I was going through—events, feelings, emotions, all of it. I did so to bear witness to what was going through in the hope that it might help someone else. I also had a more practical reason: The certainty I have that one day I’ll have forgotten many of the small details of this time, and I don’t want to forget.

Doing this has taught me how important it is to talk about our emotions and our challenges—a burden shared is a burden halved, as the proverb puts it, and sharing definitely lightened my burden. Trust me on this: Talking and sharing is probably the most important thing that someone in pain can possibly do, provided they do so with the right people.

I know that because I’ve also learned that the best way to respond to someone who is grieving is to just listen. People often say that they don’t know what to say to someone dealing with profound grief, but the reality is that none of us actually has to say anything—we just need to listen. A grieving person will need to talk about the person they’ve lost, to share their burden by talking about why the person they lost was so important to them. They also need to cement their memories of that lost loved one, and talking about them helps to do that.

Providing practical help is also important, though there’s a paradox there: A grieving person will most likely need help and support the most soon after their loss, at a time they’re also least likely to be able to think through clearly what help they need. Similarly, later on the process when they know what practical help they need, it may be harder to find, for all sorts of reasons.

In his final couple weeks, Nigel made me promise to ask for and accept help, so it was a bit easier for me than it might be for someone else, despite it being against my nature to do that. I was also lucky that we had an awesome family that rallied around to help me through this time—and, in fact, they still do. Next to talking, asking for and accepting practical help is the second most important thing a grieving person can do.

So, I’ve learned some good and valuable lessons from this experience, but I’d rather not have needed to learn them. Sound obvious? Of course it is, and that’s the point: Anything “good” that comes from a grieving process can never compensate for the loss. The acute pain will last as long as it lasts, and there’s nothing anyone can say or do that will change that. Some grieving people move on in their lives, seemingly relatively easily, and others live the rest of their lives within their pain. Most of us are somewhere between those two points.

I thought about all of that today, in addition to thinking about Nigel. It’s probably why this was the first Friday in eight weeks that I was okay, and I mean that literally: I wasn’t great, I wasn’t awful, I was okay, and that was good enough.

I still miss Nigel desperately, and sometimes I cry so much that my stomach muscles ache. But at the same time, I’ve gotten on with things even when I didn’t want to. I’ve also begun to figure out things for myself as needed, including technical stuff, and that almost surprises me as much as it would surprise Nigel. Actually, that’s not true: He had far more faith in me than I did.

As much as I miss him, though, I’ve also enjoyed sharing his story and more about him, because I want everyone to know how awesome he was, including people who never met him. It’s why I tell stories about him, like the one about him creating an electric gate for us.

But there’s so much more, and even now I continue to find things that make me proud of him all over again. For example, I’ve talked several times about the Kia Puāwai programme at Auckland Council, and today I saw something else about it worth sharing. In his regular email to Auckland Council staff, CEO Stephen Town said this today—exactly eight weeks after Nigel died:
This week, I’m pleased to share with you that Auckland Council has won seven awards recently.

If you attended one of my recent Conversations with Stephen events, you would have heard that I’m extremely moved by, and proud of, our Kia Puāwai programme. Well, now we have even more reason to be proud, with the programme winning the Community Award at the YWCA Equal Pay Awards on Tuesday night.

Initiated by our Customer Services department, the Kia Puāwai programme brings local people who are currently unemployed into our Contact Centre team…

Te Puāwai is an outstanding initiative and I’d like to recognise the late Nigel King’s vision, as well as acknowledge the work of Monique Oomen and her team. The programme is a wonderful tribute to Nigel's work and the legacy he left us.
My thoughts exactly. To see and hear others talk about Nigel’s work and achievements has been awesome, and it’s made me very happy. There’s been more said about him that I’ve heard about, but not directly, so I wasn’t able to quote it. That’s why I’ve been so glad to have been able to share actual words when I get the chance.

As good as hearing all the good stuff said about Nigel by others has been, and even as happy as that makes me, it doesn’t take away the sting of losing him, nor does it make it any easier to learn to live without him. Nigel was the love of my life, my soulmate, my best friend, and so much more. He is irreplaceable.

But today, eight weeks after losing him, I’m okay, and that's good enough.

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