Coping with the death of a partner by Ian Dyer

Publish Date: 08/04/2014

We spoke to Ian Dyer, who sadly lost his long-term civil partner Alan just before Christmas.

With such a recent loss, the pain is still very real, but Ian was really keen to pass on his experiences and offer readers some “tips” on how best to deal with the loss of a partner. Sadly, a loss like this can be experienced at any time of life, and Ian’s tips are relevant to both the young and the old.

It can be difficult to think clearly when dealing with such a personal loss, and thinking of the ‘practicalities’ that need to be dealt with. It’ll take strength and support, but as you’ll see from Ian’s tips the key is to keep moving forward. And very importantly, allow the grief to show itself.

Here, Ian tells his story and offers his tips on dealing with loss:

“My civil partner Alan passed away on 18th December 2013. He was 68 years old. He hadn’t been in good health for some time – deep vein thrombosis, mobility issues, etc. He was due to go for tests for possible prostate cancer. He collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital. Despite several attempts at resuscitation, Alan sadly died.

I want to pass on perhaps some useful tips in dealing with the death of a partner.

First and foremost, make sure that a will has been left to ensure that you or your partners wishes are carried out. Also, discuss beforehand any wishes for the funeral service and whether it should be a burial or a cremation. Discuss the type of service you’d like – the readings, hymns, music etc. And if you’re able to, arrange to say a few words during the service about your partner. This may be difficult, but give it a go.

Immediately after the death of a partner, draw up a list of who to notify – family, friends, relations. Also and financial institutions like banks, insurance companies and DWP, etc. Perhaps consider asking people to donate to one our your partner’s favourite charities instead of flowers. I personally have set up a direct debit to serve as a practical way of remembering Alan.

When the funeral is over, take your time to dispose of your partners clothing and belongings. Do this in your own time and only do it when you feel ready. Charity shops will gladly take items that are in good condition.

Be prepared for grieving. Both at the time, and for some time afterwards. There is no timescale for the grieving process, it’s a very personal experience. But please take it from me, it will get easier. You will experience various feelings – anger, pain, thinking that you could have done more. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. Perhaps talk to people who can help. A GP, a counsellor, The LGF, friends, etc. I personally talked to my GP, and also to Charlotte who is the volunteer manager at The Lesbian & Gay Foundation. Both of these people certainly helped.

Get plenty of rest. Don’t feel guilty about doing nothing at times. Go easy with the alcohol and drugs. Eat well, and get some exercise even if it’s just going for a walk. You might also find that watch television or listening to the radio helps to combat the silence. When it comes to special events during the year like anniversaries, birthdays or Christmas, be prepared for some sadness. My roughest time so far was Christmas, but I survived!

Perhaps focus on something to help – volunteering, hobbies, or take up some studies. I myself am an LGF volunteer, and I am studying social sciences with the Open University. If you can, have a little break, a weekend away or a holiday. You might have to think carefully about places to visit especially about places you may have visited with your partner.

And what about future relationships? Above all, take your time and be prepared for a few disappointments. But hopefully you will strike lucky. You may want to discuss ongoing memories of your late partner with your new partner, but reassure them that you’re not comparing them to your late partner.

To quote from one of the condolence cards I received: ‘You will have good days, and bad days, but the good days will become more and more frequent.’

Remember again that there will always be someone to talk to if you are feeling low at times. Good luck for the future.”

If you have experienced the loss of a partner or loved one, there is help available. Please don’t deal with the pain alone. Call The LGF Helpline on 0845 3 30 30 30, and we’ll be happy to talk things through with you.