Who Am I Without David?

David, my partner of nearly 30 years always said that I was his ‘right arm’.  

When he died suddenly while we were overseas, just over four years ago, I felt as though all I had left was my right arm.   

My whole body, my whole sense of self, had completely turned on its axis.  Nothing felt complete.  Nothing felt right.

When you have been with someone for a long time, the relationship become symbiotic with the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  

David knew the bands and the singers; I knew the words.  

He knew the time and place; I remembered the people we met.  

He planned overseas holidays; I planned domestic issues.  

He was into history and geography; I was into psychology and sociology.  

He was the driver; I was the navigator. 

 We finished each other’s sentences and answered the questions before they were verbalised.

Together we made a mighty fine whole!

When I was returning to Australia after he died, having just checked in at Rome airport, I realised I had never been in an International Airport without him.  No staff member could accompany me. I was completely on my own with an addled brain and shattered heart.  I had no idea how to get to the lounge to wait the ten hours for my flight.

Step by lost step I found my way by asking myself: ‘which way would David go?’

That question has been with me for the past four years.

I was fortunate in retrospect that David and I had led very independent and individual lives while we were a couple.  We did things together and we did things separately.  So, I knew how to be an individual; I just didn’t know how to not always come home to him – both literally and metaphorically.  He was always there for me waiting for me to return or me waiting for him to return.  Without him, for a very long time, I had no idea who I was.

Changes to company and friendships

It is also difficult for couple friends.  They too have trouble working out who you are without your partner.  Dinner invitations dry up.  Spontaneous phone calls to come on over stop happening.  Mutual holidays are no longer planned.  Of course, Covid lockdowns speeded up and perpetuated this process.  Life became very isolated.  If I didn’t know who I was without David, how could anyone else?

In my grief counselling work, I used to talk to bereaved clients about how the relationship with a loved one who has died, inevitably must change.  The relationship doesn’t end; just the physical one. “Just” is a bloody big word!  Much bigger when it’s your own relationship.  But doing and being with Good Grief! requires that change.

For me, he’s perpetually on my right shoulder and I do sometimes ignore him.  He wasn’t always right!  He is my first greeting in the morning and last at night.  If I have a dilemma to solve I ‘discuss’ it with him and if I am frustrated, I can swear with him to my heart’s content.  I am finding that new relationship.

PS  I recently went back to Matera, Italy, where David died, to thank the hotel staff for looking after me so well and to show them that I am still standing.  David was with me every step of the way.

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