It was my greatest fear. Having had no children, the thought of my husband dying first and me being left alone in the world was something I simply couldn’t bear. Even if I had had children, the idea of my best friend, lover, business partner and companion leaving me behind was unbearable.
So I didn’t think about it – or when the thought came to mind, I just banished it as quickly as I could.
And then my greatest fear came true. Philip was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October 2010. In the end, we had 14 months together from this point, which rather surprisingly became one of the best years of our marriage. We were forced into living in the ‘present moment’ much more than we had ever been, and found a greater depth of love, joy and peace as a result.
But then he did die. And I was left alone.
Another surprise laid in wait for me, though. I discovered that the fear I had experienced was just that – a projection of thoughts into a future that I did not want. When it actually came to pass, I coped. I managed. I unearthed strengths in myself I had no clue of before.
Sadly, though, I also discovered that I had been withholding love from Philip without realizing it. At that point, I promised that if I were fortunate enough to have another relationship one day, then I would make a point of keeping my heart fully open all the time.
If you’re afraid of being abandoned, to go all out with an open heart to love seems like a mad idea; it’s counter-intuitive. And yet it is the thing to do, because that is the one thing that will help you experience the fullness of life and love right now.
Here’s my tips to help you:
- Acknowledge they will die at some point. That in itself lessens the pressure, because when you try to push away a fear, it simply hangs around, waiting until you do recognize it is there.
- Let the feeling in. I now recommend to people that when any feeling comes knocking at the front door that we don’t like, our job is to open the door. Welcome it in (even if you don’t like it). Open the windows of your house and let it fully in – but also open all the doors at the back of your house, so the feeling can easily leave as well. It will do that – this is exactly what happened with all the rage, the tears, the bewilderment, fear, worry, depression and insecurity that I felt. That’s how I can speak so authoritatively about this now.
- Keep your heart open. You can learn to do this. I did it (and still do) by meditating every day, using a chakra meditation. Others can sense energetically when their heart is closed and can breathe into it and open it up again. No matter what method you use, you can instinctively tell when your heart is open, and to what degree, simply by tuning into your heart and asking the question ‘How open is my heart now?’ Practice this in all sorts of situations and, as with any practice, you will get better and better at tuning in to yourself.
I promised myself after Philip died that if I had the chance to meet another man, I would open my heart fully, and keep it open. I would reap the benefits from that new relationship in honour of the time Philip and I had had together. (And it has happened – about 3.5 years after Philip’s death, I met a lovely widower with whom I intend to spend the rest of my life. We can easily talk about our spouses, and in fact, feel that they are both in this new relationship with us).
All of this has led me to be able to be truly grateful for Philip’s life, and the 20 years we shared together. But also to feel truly grateful for his death, and what I learnt about myself as a result.