My husband's name is off our electricity and water accounts and the gas account, the phone account, the bank accounts and every other account I can possibly think of, except for one.
We're still 'married' on Facebook. I still go to tag him in things the way I used to, when we'd joust with words and ideas and swap links we knew the other would love, almost like our marriage was built entirely on, 'Saw this and thought of you …'
I miss his wit. I miss his humour. I miss the way he'd weave his intellect and his hilarity gently through conversations online with my friends. Never dominating. Always leaving me, afterwards, with just a little bit more hopeless a crush on him, writes Emma Grey on Kidspot.
The third year without him
People messaged to say they missed him, too. They missed 'us'. It wasn't as much fun online without his voice. Without our banter.
And suddenly I'm heading into the third year without him. Every relevant organisation in the world knows my real marital status, except the one I can't bring myself to inform.
Occasionally, when I'm checking settings, I'll click on, 'edit relationship'. I'll hover the cursor over the list of options — none of them right. I could leave this section out altogether, but that feels like erasing him, and erasing what we had.
If 'married' isn't true, 'widowed' is tragic. You're not meant to be widowed in your 40s, with a child. People prey on that kind of vulnerability. A widow in possession of a gaping void in her life must be in want of a man to fill it, right?
Which brings me to 'single'. Another option. Technically accurate. But also a neon sign blaring, 'Hello world!' at a time when I'd rather hide, surely. For obvious reasons. Like love. And fear. It's been so long. Life has been so full. I'm still hoping this ordeal will turn out to be some sort of hideous misunderstanding. Any minute now my phone might beep and I might check the message and there he'll be, saying, 'Sorry I stepped out for a little while …'
The thought of finding anyone else is inconceivable, which is a word from one of our favourite movies. A word I used to announce his death. A word that accurately describes my response whenever anyone suggests I'll meet someone else one day, as people do, more frequently, the longer he refuses to come back. I won't. It's impossible. That's the narrative I've been committed to. It's why my answer is always, 'not ready, no,' and, 'not looking, thanks,' and, 'I'm sure he's lovely, but please don't set me up with your friend'.
They think I'm scared I'll be alone, and they couldn't be more wrong. It's the opposite that truly terrifies me …
Apparently, you can love two people at once. One dead and one alive. My widowed and repartnered friends liken it to a parent's boundless capacity to love a second child as much as the first, but entirely differently.
Torn from my arms
When I think of that, of getting that close … When I imagine falling that far again — I visualise this man being torn from my arms. I imagine him ripped from my heart. Broken away from my son, who I envisage having bonded with him after we trusted him to stay. And then I'm wrecked on the rocks again, battered by their sharp edges, stung by the salty waves of grief as they crash on open wounds for a second time, and I can't breathe...
Not married. Widowed, and don't want to be.
Single, and forever in love with the man whose instructions on this were very clear. 'I'd want you to find someone else. Of course, I would.' That's what he said once when we fictionalised our future deaths like couples do at a time when, in hindsight, they're incomprehensibly innocent of the calibre of the risk they're taking, being together at all.
It was all right for him. He never knew grief like this. We were playing with fire and he escaped before the whole thing exploded. 'Find someone else …'
Was he mad? It's complicated.
Emma Grey is the co-author of I Don't Have Time (Exisle) and author of Wits' End Before Breakfast — Confessions of a working mum (Lothian), the teen novel Unrequited (HarperCollins) and its forthcoming sequel, Tilly Maguire and the Royal Wedding Mess and co-writer of stage musicals based on these novels. She is currently writing a book about grief, after losing her husband suddenly in 2016 to undiagnosed heart disease.