They Can’t Touch You For It…

I have received many e-mails since the launch of merrywidow on the subject of the madness. Madness afflicts all grieving people at one time or another; it is nothing to be ashamed of, it is perfectly normal, but at the same time it is not something that one can easily explain to anybody who hasn’t actually experienced it. Here, as an example, is an extract from my book ‘The Big-Hearted Man’.

Bookshops are full of self-help books, there are so many titles to choose from – the list is endless, but I can’t be doing with any of them. ‘The Little book of Calm’, what’s that all about? ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. I can précis that whole book in one line – Women and Men are different and therein lies the attraction. The shelves are stuffed with such books and they all tell you what you already knew but didn’t have the conviction to believe.
I didn’t need a book to tell me I was mad – it was clear to everybody around me. I walked around all day long with mad staring eyes, with a ‘slap me’ face; with ‘shake me’ shoulders, with ‘kick me’ shins. I walked around all day just waiting for a nice doctor to run up to me, calling for the restraints and the sleepy drug.
But I was never restrained and I couldn’t sleep.
I wanted to be mad, I needed to be mad, God knows I had every reason to be mad – bonkers, barking, loopy loo, stark staring mad.
It’s all part of getting better.
You have to let the madness out, the anger out, the hurt out – otherwise it turns inwards and screws you up for the rest of your life.

Madness can manifest itself in a variety of different ways. I have already written about my desire to find a big brute of a man and use him sexually up to the point that he was rendered incapable of decent walking. I also wanted to physically harm a number of individuals who had upset people close to me – and my defence would have always been the same,
‘You can’t touch me for it – I’m a widow.’
I felt at various times the need to kill myself or leave the house and my children and never return. But always there was a sense of responsibility, which prevented me from doing anything truly wild or reckless. When I look back on how I behaved I think that my friends showed a considerable amount of patience with me, and the amazing thing was that they never made me feel like a freak because of the way I was acting. I mean, no girl in her right mind completes the ‘Describe your best physical attribute’ section in an application form from a respectable dating agency, with the words,
‘I’ve got a bum like a peach, only not as furry.’
Do they ?
No, they don’t – but I did.

Rebecca Chapman lost her husband in very similar circumstances to my own and she wrote this:

I had a hugely POWERFUL desire to shave all my hair off! I know it’s a tradition in India with widows, but never understood why. For me it was because I felt so altered inside and yet looked perfectly normal on the outside that I almost needed to make a physical statement by changing my appearance dramatically. I fought back the desire and didn’t do it. I figured it would freak my kids too much, but then again they might have understood in their own way.
…..I actually told my GP that I wanted to burn my house down because I was so fed up with everything (this was in the early days)- I just wanted to absolve myself of any form of responsibility whatsoever.
She nodded sagely, and I don’t think she wrote it in my notes!

Rebecca is not alone in her rather individualistic approach to dealing with her grief and I would love to hear some more stories of how people have been afflicted by mourning madness, so please write to me atmerrywidow@boydells.com and I’ll put your stories on the site .