Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Booze and Bereavement

Thank you so much for all your kind messages yesterday after the death of my friend, Q.

It has been a very hard couple of days.

I have never seen my old Etonian, stiff upper lipped husband cry before, even during the whole cancer thing, but several times I've caught him quietly sobbing.

Mr SM and Q first met when they were at boarding school together at the age of seven, and there's something about wrenching young boys from their families, and subjecting them to inedible food, cold showers and the public school 'fagging' system that forges incredibly strong ties.

#2 picked up Mr SM's iPad yesterday and it opened on a site named 'coping with bereavement.'

I'd always thought that if a close friend or family member died I would play my 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. Nobody can be expected to cope with grief without booze, right? Alcohol was practically invented for this - it's medicinal. It numbs the feelings and makes everything bearable.

But I figure that drinking now would be like closing the front door on a house fire. You might be able to forget, temporarily, that it's there, but at some point you have to open that door again, and the fire won't have gone away, it'll just be more out of control.

Instead I've discovered nature's way of dousing the flames: weeping.

I've been doing it a lot. Twenty or thirty times a day. Every time I pick up the 'phone to another friend, but also at random times. The fact that I might be out on the street or in a shop doesn't seem to stop me either.

And, you know what? It really helps.

It feels like a safety valve that clicks into action just when you think that all those feelings building up inside are going to make you explode, or spontaneously combust like a character in a Victorian novel.

The children, who are at home for the holidays, have got used to Mummy randomly weeping.

I've explained to them that grief is an entirely good thing, as it's a sign that you have properly loved, and a life without having properly loved is no life at all.

They get this. What they would not get, and not like is if Mummy were also drunk and incoherent.

Oddly, I don't really want to blur the edges. I feel it would be doing Q a disservice. I want to remember all the times we shared in glorious technicolour. I want to properly grieve for all the new memories I thought we would make in the future.

Plus, I want to be there for his wife and children, my friend and our Godchildren, not just by sharing a few bottles of vino late into the night (which I am sad I can't do), but by helping with the housework, the cooking, the childcare and so on, which I couldn't do drunk or hungover.

One thing I am terribly grateful for is that I don't have any regrets.

The thing about someone dying unexpectedly and suddenly is that you don't have time to prepare. To make time to see them, to tell them that you love them, to show them how much they mean to you.

Had this happened in the Drinking Days I have no doubt I would have been riddled with regret. I'd neglected my old friends for years.

But I'd seen Q a lot recently. He'd been to stay with us in London, we'd seen him up in Scotland. I'm pretty sure he knew how much he meant to us.

I'm weeping again.

SM x


  1. I have always been someone who doesn't drink in a crisis (my habit was just that - a habit). Like you I always want to be strong and able to help others at such times. We're off kilter enough without adding being drunk into the mix. You must all still be in shock. I really feel for your husband too. Sending you big hugs. You've just got to get through. X

  2. Thanks for taking time to post. I was thinking about you and your friend and worried that alcohol might seem a good choice at such a difficult time . What you say rings so true. I am of Irish descent where alcohol seems to play a large part in mourning, but I remain unconvinced that it shows respect to the person we've lost or gives any real solace to those left behind . Thoughts with you at this time . Xx

  3. Dear SM, you continually show what a strong and wise woman you are....thank you for sharing,,,you are so of your earlier posts often comes to mind for me. "Can't go round it, can't go over it, just got to go through it"...thinking of you all....xx

  4. I'm sure that your friend knew how much you loved him. Life is so cruel sometimes, so keep hold of the good memories and give extra hugs and kisses to those close to you. Its times like these when you realise you need to cherish every moment, and being booze free will give us more precious moments and memories. Sending love to you and your family SM. X

  5. Dearest SM - so sorry to hear this dreadfully sad news and thank you for sharing at such a tough time - we all so need reminding to seize each moment and hold our loved ones close whilst we can. Thinking of you and your family, he and his family. And so proud you didn't use your get out of jail free card. Lots of love SFM.

  6. Sending you lots of love - it is so hard. Crying is such a wonderful thing and it really does help (also exercise for me) - my husband didn't want us to cry infront of the children after Littlest's diagnosis but I have made a conscious decision to be honest, to show that I have feelings and that we need to acknowledge them and cope with them even though it is hard. Embrace the memories and the sadness, it means that this is someone who was big in your life and will leave a gap - gentle hugs x

  7. I'm thinking of you during this sad and difficult time SM. Sending you love. A x

  8. Grief is one of my drink again excuses. Thank you for showing me that there is an alternative that is much better. Hugs to you.

  9. So sorry for loss. He sounds like an amazing man. I think the grief we feel is commensurate with the love we shared. Thank you too for such an insightful post, this is the way to show the highest respect and regard to your friend and his family...totally present.

  10. Dear SM
    I haven't posted in a very long time, but I do read and lurk..and I just wanted to say I am terribly, terribly sorry to read this. Much love Clare

  11. I love the burning house analogy, SM. When my husband died, and the grandchildren were so upset, I told them that crying was a good thing - that it lets out the sadness and makes room in the heart for all the good memories.

    Hope all the hugs and love from your online tribe here gives some small measure of ease through this sad, sorrowful time.

  12. Stories like this make me weep. But, like you, I think that is a good thing. When I read a story about a stranger, and tear up, I feel that I am in some way showing caring to someone I don't even know. Celebrating the life of someone lost. The lack of alcohol has made me even more of a cry-baby at the news or posts like yours. I think weeping at the unfairness of life cathartic and sure beats getting angry!

  13. Oh SM...your grief is palpable. I am so very sorry. I also have told myself that if someone close to me dies that I would drink. Reading it from your perspective shows me how strong NOT drinking makes us. Your family and your friends family are in my prayers. xo

  14. Oh what a dreadful time and dreadfully shocking loss you are enduring. I admire your determination to be strong for Q's wife and children and your desire not to blur the edges. This is real living, when we feel deeply and authentically whatever emotion pops up. I have a friend who lost her daughter aged 3, she didn't, couldn't drink for 18 months as she was too scared to miss any feeling or memory. Well done, you sound like you've got this, even if you might feel otherwise. Hold your family, and Q's close. Sending love and strength. xx

  15. I also think you are at a good enough stage of being AF to know avoiding it is best and that it would actually be the worst thing to do right now. Drinking makes us selfish and it would end up being all about you rather than your friend's family. Well done xxx

  16. I also think you are at a good enough stage of being AF to know avoiding it is best and that it would actually be the worst thing to do right now. Drinking makes us selfish and it would end up being all about you rather than your friend's family. Well done xxx

  17. Another day. Thinking of you SM and your husband and your friend's family. Big hug.

  18. I am sorry to hear of the death of your friend. Very sad time for all of you. So sorry.