Taking off the grief coat.

It is 16 months since Nicky died. I have shared much of our experience of that, our journey into and through grief and written too about the process of recovery. Recovery. Readjustment. Restoration. There are many words that are helpful here but the one I prefer most is rehabilitation. Learning to live again.

In my last post I hinted at something. ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’. You’ll have to ask a scientist about why this is the case, I’m not equipped to explain, but I know it’s true. I also know that a year ago the space Nicky left in our lives felt like a vacuum.

Now, 16 months on I am amazed and enchanted by the resilience of life, the tenacious way that it has swirled around and scratched at the bell jar of my sadness and found the chink.  Amazing too is the capacity we have for growth, recovery, change, evolution. We humans, we are extraordinary. Really, we are.

There’s two significant updates to come. Here’s the first:

I said a year ago when I bought the big yellow bike that I believed it would be our salvation. In the sweetest way it gives me hope and happiness as we ride around on it. But, beyond that it’s been a catalyst to change. A change of wardrobe if you will.  I am no longer wearing the grief coat quite so much.

The grief coat. I have written about this before. The grief coat hangs about the shoulders of the grieving. Absorbing light and energy it does the opposite of sparkle. I see them on others still,  I recognise the stance, the burden of this heavy vestment.  In Scotland recently I spoke seemingly at random to two strangers, within a minute we had clocked each other’s coats and shared our stories of widowhood. One, a farmer, 20 years alone with two young boys grown up now and fledged, held his life in memorial to a wife who still brought a smile to his face and whose loss a tear to his eye. His eyes betrayed the vulnerability of loneliness and the wisdom of loss. The other a woman, fifty odd, whose life at once upturned a dozen years ago had fled to a farm on Skye to bear her grief. She, by contrast, looked at me and twinkled. “A man came to mend my fences” she said. “He never left”. Stroking the hair of her ten year old lad she said, “I’m so lucky, to have loved not once but twice, lucky”. With that she left. And her grief coat had become an iridescent suit of armour.

When she was dying Nicky said more than once that I should not grieve alone for long. “You’re too good a man to be on your own.” Was what she said. Perhaps what she meant was “You’ll be shit at being on your own.” Either way I hope she had a point.

In early March not long after we gave Nicky’s ashes back to the earth we were
cycling along the sea front on the big yellow bike. Someone yelled out ‘nice bike’, we all returned the look and smiled. Now I’ll spare us all the detail of how we came to actually meet but the ‘nice bike’ yeller recognised us from a picture. Those of you familiar with the practicalities of modern courtship can fill in the gaps. I’ll spare some blushes too.

Now, Don’t get me wrong here. ‘Grief is forever’ I wrote that in the depths of it. I hold to it still. I, we, will alway grieve for Nicky, for what might have been, for the future lost. But I believe now that we the grieving have a choice. We can choose to inhabit the grief coat, to live in it and let become the costume of our lives. (I understand why some might do this, the grief coat becomes strangely comfortable and the bereaved are rightly forgiven a multitude of sins, why give that up?)  Or we can let life back in, let life rush in to fill the vacuum.


Arriving back in Newhaven after 3 days in Normandy

I wrote this blog as a means of sharing our recovery as a family. And that is happening, the girls are getting stronger, fitter and funnier.  I am no longer entirely alone. I’ve met a woman who Nicky would have liked, who the kids like, who makes me laugh and does the things I like to do. I feel stronger and happier, and I am a better Dad. We have all been camping together, and we cycle together and even combined the two. We can laugh about that.

A few of you have met Rona, some even know that she’s become a significant other. I think you’ll agree she’s good for me. Gentle, wise and kind. I built bridges for Nicky, Rona is mending my fences.


  1. Very pleased that you have all entered a new phase in your lives. Hope all goes well, please keep in touch.
    Love Glynn & Julie xxxxxx

  2. Hello Simon, I have to say what a wonderful and very moving “Great Ride – Rolling Recovery” in the July 2015 Edition of Cycle…..I cannot say I know who you feel as we are all different and I have never had that experience…..

    Time I hope is healing that wound for you now….the ending felt as it in some ways it was a closure of a chapter of your life and a lovely way to say good bye to Nicky….

    Happy Cycling & Best Wishes,

    1. Hi Stephen, thankyou for taking the time to write this. I am so grateful for the thoughts and wishes of people. It’s been amazing to have had the response I have had. I only hope that my journey, as terrible as it has been, is a source of strength for others who might face a similar tragedy. The wounds never really heal, but one does get better at living with them.
      Thanks and wishes to you and yours.

  3. Your words resonate through every fibre of my body, as somebody who has unfortunately shared your path, beginning in 2003, with my 2 small children. I took off the grief coat, and have the ‘fortune’ to love twice. Adam and I have now been married 8 years, it’s not all been easy, life never is, but we are happy. You are totally right, the grief coat never disappears, but we do learn to live with it. Good luck to you and your beautiful children, as you begin the next phase of your journey x

    1. Thanks Lynne. There was no good in Nick’s death. I’m sure you feel the same about your loss. But through this experience I realise that there is more good in life than I ever new before. That’s a bit of a blessing. Sx

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