Pat and George Higgins were married for 47 years. They brought up a family and did everything together.
So when doctors told George he had just months to live, he and Pat agreed there was nothing to say. They couldn’t speak about life without one another, but unspoken words between them cemented their love and finally George died last summer at the home he and Pat shared.
Pat says her initial grief after George’s death was literally heart-breaking and she truly thought she wouldn’t be able to live without him.
But as the months have gone by and a wedding anniversary and the first Christmas have past, Pat is gradually feeling a little stronger and she wants to encourage newly bereaved people that there are brighter days ahead. ‘Losing a beloved partner after so many years of marriage is absolutely shattering,’ says Pat (77). ‘George was diagnosed with lung cancer just four months before his death. He decided against treatment and was told he had between four and six months to live.
‘I looked after him at home and we spent a lot of time just being together - George sat and watched TV and I did puzzles or read magazines. We were just always together.’
When George died at the age of 81, Pat admits she felt like giving up. ‘I just didn’t think I could go on,’ she says. ‘Apart from very occasional nights, we’d never been apart. When my family left after George’s funeral I really worried about how I’d cope. It sounds silly but at first I was frightened of the dark, so I bought a little night light to keep by my bed.
‘I stayed up for as long as I could then went to bed and just hoped that sleep would come.’ Like many other bereaved partners, Pat has faced many other challenges on her journey. ‘Cooking and eating a meal on my own was very hard at first but I’m diabetic and have to make myself eat properly,’ she says. ‘Going out and seeing other couples holding hands like we used to is hard, too.’ But now, as spring is just around the corner, Pat says things are very slowly getting less painful and she’s made the decision to move back to her roots in Essex.
‘George and I retired to the Fens; we loved the rural life after living on Canvey Island, Essex and we had ten happy years here but now he’s gone I feel lonely. I’ve got marvellous neighbours who helped me so much during the first few months, but I want to move back nearer my family now.’
Pat is planning to sell her bungalow and move to a retirement property somewhere near Southend. She says she’s gradually feeling able to look back on some of the many happy holidays she and George shared and remember the good times they had.
Pat joined the Yours Bereavement group and she’s in touch by letter and email with other people who have been bereaved, which she says is a great help. She’s also found great comfort in her little dog, Benjie, who makes sure she goes for a daily walk.
‘Once I move, I may even think about a holiday,’ says Pat. ‘I never ever thought I’d cope without George, and I miss him so much, but I have coped. My advice is to do things your own way Ð there are no rights and wrongs in coping with loss.’
- The Yours Bereavement group is a free service which gives people the chance to be in touch with others in a similar situation. Many people have found friendship and support.