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Afterwards

PhotosTo my disappointment, these past few weeks I haven’t been able to bring myself to write very much. Friends had suggested writing through my grief, diarising it, as a way of working through the process. But what I’m finding is that my thoughts and feelings are changing so quickly that I distrust whatever I write down when I come to reread it, and I fear that whatever I write won’t do justice to Lecretia’s memory, or that it is too self-centred or earnest. No matter how aggrieved or full of self-pity I might feel, the magnitude of my wife’s loss is infinite in comparison with mine.

The morning Lecretia passed, and I had to front up to the cameras that day for a press conference we had planned a few days prior, I was in shock. I’m not sure what carried me through. And that was followed by a week of planning, and decisions, and logistics, as we arranged for Lecretia’s funeral and her interment. I barely had time to process anything. I felt numb.

Since then I have been at home, catching up with friends occasionally, but otherwise keeping my own company. I am intending to go through Lecretia’s belongings, but I keep putting it off. Her beautiful face is still everywhere, anyway. She’s inescapable, and I do not want to escape her. Her mother and father visited me and took away some of her clothes and jewelry, which is a relief of sorts. I did wonder whether being here alone would make me want to move. Yet it still feels like home, and I still feel connected to her here.

The strange thing is how at peace I feel. After the years of worrying about Lecretia and what might happen to her, and the sorrow at seeing her rapid decline, and dealing with her hearing, and her passing, and her funeral, and the ancillary but compounding concerns of work and travel and money, everything has now come to a rest state. I can relate to C.S Lewis, when he describes his experience in A Grief Observed:

“… grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”

Interestingly I found his loss of faith, which felt honest and raw, more convincing than its reclamation, which felt like calculus.

It’s only now that I am beginning to really come to terms with what losing Lecretia means, and how much she was so foundational to who I’ve become over these past twelve years. With her gone, there is this massive absence, and things that I was so sure of, and that I took for granted, are no longer there. I keep reaching out to latch on to assumptions about life I thought I could be sure of, and find that what I thought was firm and solid ground has given way to an abyss.

All those things that Lecretia meant to me, I am still attached to. They abide in me like hunger and thirst. And when I try and draw sustenance from the same places, out of habit, there’s now nothing. I know that I will need to find things to fulfill those needs somehow – the physical, the mental, the social, the romantic – but I know it’s months or more likely years before that will happen. For now I’ll have to endure this hunger and emptiness and it will always be a feature of who I am. I’ve spoken to a few people who have lost partners and they say similar things. It takes time, and it gets easier, they say, but it never really goes away.

There is this strange sense that I am not mourning often enough, or deeply enough. That the intensity of my grief should be a perfect reflection of the passion I had for my wife. That I have short-changed her memory somehow, ridiculously, by not being utterly inconsolable for weeks on end. But the loss is felt in moments – as sudden pangs or vertiginous stumbles – and then they pass. It’s sorrow but equally a profound sense of unfairness.

And then again:

“… this separation, I suppose, waits for all. I have been thinking of H. and myself as peculiarly unfortunate in being torn apart. But presumably all lovers are.”

The injustice, if there was one, was not the passing itself, which was inevitable, but the timing, which was too soon. I feel for Lecretia’s parents most of all, as although all lovers must inevitably part, children almost always survive their parents, and that didn’t happen this time. And what an extraordinary expression of their love Lecretia was. How great their sense of loss must be.

I am not sure what comes next. I feel unsettled. I think I want to disappear for a while, perhaps visit some of the places that Lecretia had wanted to visit, but I don’t feel like I can until I get Lecretia’s affairs in order, which I have begun to do. I have known people to become reckless and irresponsible with their lives through grief. I don’t feel like that’s going to happen to me. I carry her with me now, and at the moment I feel like I have a duty to honour her memory by being my best self. But I am not out of this process yet, and I think I have some way to go. There is much to do.

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  1. Beautiful, Matt. Please know that every single word you have spoken and written has honoured Lecretia’s memory. We love you and are here for you xxx

  2. You’re amazing Matt. I was a school friend of Lecretia’s (Intermediate and College), and have never met you – yet feel I have come to know a little of you through what you have written; and can only surmise that I have been reading about one of the most incredible love stories of all time. I hesitate to say such a personal thing, but I actually found myself weeping for your loss last night; and can not even imagine what it is like for you to be going through this. I believe you will eventually recover (though never get over) losing Lecretia, and that she will always be in all of our memories. I also strongly believe, that in time – the words you have written so eloquently will be published as a book. You are an incredible writer, and an amazing human being – and as I have mentioned previously; I am so glad that Lecretia had such an awesome life partner to share her world with. Bless you. Stay strong – or weak – whatever works at the time, and give yourself time to breathe. Much love from us – Lecretia’s former friends in Tauranga.

  3. No on can tell you how to grieve Matt. It’s different for us all. You’ll have days where you feel it most acutely and then other days you’ll get a lot of Lecretia’s affairs sorted and feel really accomplished. There are so many different emotions you go through at a time like this and they’re all linked to the grief you’re feeling – including happiness as you remember your lovely wife!

  4. This is beautiful Matt, lovely words echoing your thoughts. None of us understands what you are going through at the moment, but I feel you are very strong, and as time goes on the pain will lessen. Just remember memories last forever🌟

  5. Matt I read every word of your posting with tremendous admiration for your strength and courage. Your lovely Lecretia is still very much with you and always will be, remember to permit her to remain a part of your inner soul. Nobody can fill the spaces, turn off the silence or fulfill the dreams but you – and eventually when the time is right, things will just fall into place. In the meantime give yourself time and space and accept the love and good wishes from everyone around you. Peace and solitude may well be your best friends for a while.

  6. Let it happen at your pace. This is your experience. Nothing is too much or too little. Time won’t heal this wound but time will give you perspective and skills to manage. The hole you feel cannot be filled by anyone or anything else but you will become whole again without her. Not better, not worse, just different. You sent Lecretia off beautifully. Any funeral where there is more laughter than tears is a tribute and that is what that was. Love Kate

  7. You’re doing such an incredible job and have done so for a very long time now.
    Whatever happens I wish you love and happiness and hope life treats you kindly. You more than deserve it…
    Thank you for selflessly keeping me informed of everything.
    Much love xo

  8. You will get there it does take time my sister went through the same thing you do get there in the end the cat will be missing her too maybe a good idea to disappear for a while to get your thoughts together

  9. I don’t know you but I have a big lump in my throat reading your words, Lecretia was a beautiful brave girl, taken much too soon, I don’t know what to say to you , we all stumble along through grief differently, but I know you have the public of NZ thinking of you, you both touch so many people hearts.
    Take care.

  10. For me, writing my feelings into poems was a great solace. Grief is a journey with many twists and pot holes. I think Keanu Reeves said it right “grief never ends, it just changes shape.” When our lovers die, we die, too.

    I found new life, a new me, but the changes were gradual. As for romance – not yet.

    My advice is, be kind to yourself.

  11. I too lost a spouse what before his time when we were young. Like you I was lost. All the things you describe are so familiar including the grief that feels like fear. There were times I was terrified and didn’t know how to stop the feeling. There were times I sat down and lost track of time only to realize later I had been sitting for hours or all day. Then there was in the early morning when I would awaken and thing he was still alive only to be hit by the terrible grief when my mind came fully awake and realized he was gone. Peace be with you any may yours days and nights become easier. I’m so sorry for the loss of your love.

  12. Dear Matt, you so eloquently express the heartbreak and confusion which is grief, and the humanity of it. Thank you for sharing this. I am so terribly sad for Lecretia, you, and your families. Life is beautiful, rich, precious and terribly unfair so often. You honour Lecretia’s memory and life so well. Take care on your hard journey. Kate

  13. Words can not express how sad I feel for you and yours and Lecretia’s family. No one should have to go through your loss but sadly so many people do. I hope you can take strength in the love and support from your family and friends and the caring words of hundreds that do not know you personally but are walking beside you in your journey.. You are an amazing man and your wife will be very proud of you. Do not force yourself to grieve in the way you feel you should be grieving, but naturally one day at a time.

  14. I read somewhere that grief is the price of love. It never goes away but becomes more manageable. It can hit you at any time through a smell, music a place. There is no order on the stages of grief, everyone grieves differently. Go easy on yourself. My heart aches for you and the pain you are feeling.

  15. I can understand and relate with you so very much. All I can suggest is write, write, write. It helped me so very much. Different circumstances completely. My loss was a stillborn beauitful baby at 36 weeks.
    I wrote for the simple reason was I was so afraid that I would forget something about her, what she looked like, felt, smelt….how I felt.
    So please write whenever you want to. All day long maybe sometimes, it doesn’t matter.nor does it matter what you write. It is for you alone, and for your loving wife. Don’t be afraid that you’re doing or not doing something right or wrong. Do what is right for you at this moment.if you feel like suddenly writing about how she smelt or a funny moment you had with her, or a time you had an argument…do it. I promise, it helps, maybe at the time of writing, or maybe another day, month or year. Nobody needs to read it, you don’t even need to if you don’t want to. But writing keeps life and your emotions, thoughts and feelings alive.Everybody grieves differently. There is no right or wrong.i think you are an amazing man to not only to have gone through what you have, but much of it has been so public.
    I will tell you one fact though. Because of Lecretia, AND you, you are changing the way people think, feel and behave. In essence, you have both made history….for the betterment of everyone.
    Now this is where we are the same in a way. When I lost my baby Holly, stillborns, losing a baby was very much a must not talk about subject…just like the subject of choice of death. So I don’t bore you with the details, but to,say, nobody knew how to deal with death of an baby. I had this massive need to do something about it…Just like Lecretia and you did. A force so strong and you become so passionate about it. So I do massive amounts of research etc, wrote a booklet and started a group called S.A.N.D.S which stands for stillbirth and neonatal death support. There are now support groups throughout NZ and Australia from this. My booklet, which was only small, but covered all aspects on what to do, feelings, funeral, and lots of stuff, went to every hospital, maternity home in NZ. I had many conferences with doctors, specialists, nurses throughout the country. it was all about education. That was now 29 years ago. now so much happens and good things at that for those that experience such a loss.

    I feel so honoured and proud that my loss has helped thousands of people.I know that the same is going to happen with Lecretia and yourself. Both our girls had a reason to be on earth, and you and I were the chosen ones to carry on their work, reason for change.
    So cry, laugh, and write. Everything that is happening to you,your feelings, your grief is meant to be. You are fantastic and Lectetia knew that.Sorry this message is so long, but I felt I had to write and let you know. And if you have read it, I thank you very much.cause I’m sure you get so much to read everyday.

  16. Matt you are your true self and I’m sure that is all your beautiful wife would want for you. Your consideration and depth, sincerity and realism has touched me deeply (and many others I’m sure). With much gratitude to you for sharing your most private feelings and unconditional love and support . Gayle

  17. Hi Matt, thank you so much for putting your feelings into words and then on paper (of sorts) to share. Grief is a long journey and as you have come to experience from one minute to the next ones emotions change. Your time will come when you will reach into the pit of your stomach and cry the deepest tears of grief, I hear you when you say you don’t think you have done justice in grieving in a way that is worthy of her and that is ok, it is a process and no matter how much you are aware and know what each stage you will go through, it doesn’t make it happen any faster. You are doing well by taking time for you, sharing with others. It is good that you are aware not to withdrawal totally. There is no rush to remove Lecretia’s things, you will in your heart when the time is right, I wish there was an easier way to get through this. Those of us that are with you in grief are here for you.
    Give yourself some slack and try not to be to hard on yourself, be gentle where you can. xx

  18. What beautiful words Matt. Know that whatever you feel is right for you. Everyone’s situation is different and everyone is different. Take your time and be kind to yourself. It will take as long as it takes. Best wishes. Jenni

  19. Grief is the price paid for love. She is still with you and and always will be. Know that when you think of her and miss her the most, she is there, you just need to stop, close your eyes and see/feel her. x

  20. Well written and expressed, grief holds no surprises after this, Lecretia will be proud of you ….

  21. Matt, Your writing pretty much sums up what I went through in the first few weeks after Yoka passed away. I did the same, put all her things in order then wandered off to Europe for 6 weeks to see some places we’d never visited. While it was incredibly lonely at times, looking back now it was good to do – in that in started me thinking about my life – without her.
    Do something for you every day, just something small. It’s the start of your new life. Lucretia will always be with you, just as Yoka is with me. She is what made you who you are today. Take care – Don

  22. Thinking of you as you adjust to life without your beautiful soulmate. Lecretia will be smiling down with pride that you are doing your best to fulfill her wishes. Look after yourself first and foremost and make sure you make time for yourself to just be. Whatever that may be. Kia kaha

  23. Hi Matt,
    Reading your and everybody’s comments bought tears to my eyes. I watched and nursed my husband Alan for 16 months fade away with MND 5 years ago next month and I still miss him. I proudly wear both of our wedding rings every day. It was our 14th wedding anniversary and had 2 glasses of wine instead of 1. Your grief is yours and yours alone and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want a cry when out at a shop or cafe or wherever, just let it happen and don’t feel guilty if you laugh. Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself from time to time. xx

  24. Im sure that you will hear that time heals all things, the problem with time is that it takes time. We are in a world that we have come to expect to be able to fix things Grieving is not about fixing it is about the realisation of what we had and that takes time you will be in a state of flux and that is OK you will have moments where you are lost and that is OK you are learning a new you, be kind and patient with yourself. you will find moments where missing lecretia will over whelm you and moments where you feel guilty for god only knows what (not doing more not doing less working too much) but the reality of it will leave you with memories of a time and a person that you can only be grateful for, by all account she was an incredible woman and she chose to spend her life with you, you held her hand and her heart and she gave you her time. so yes kia kaha but put gratitude first and it will ease the sharp edges off time, as the time for grieving is as unpredictable as our time for life. any time you wish to take up my offer of a piece of pounamu it is there as is my home should you ever want to step out of your surroundings and come and carve for a change,

  25. You are so honest I really admire that,grief for each person has its own path take time take care of you,thank you for sharing this journey

  26. I am a widow, now almost 7 years, the only comfort I can offer you is that, yes it still hurts even now but the pain softens – more manageable!! It’s very true the first year is the hardest. I am lucky I am now with a new partner, but even luckier that he too has been through the Cancer journey with his father, and he was a great friend of my husbands!! Stay strong, grieve in your own time – there is no time limit!! I am pleased you are thinking of travelling as that is what I really want to do – go to the places Sean and I dreamed about. Thinking of you. Cheryl

  27. My wife also fell victim to the GBH of GBM. I was lucky enough to have had a brief Facebook conversation with Lecretia and know she shared some of the angst and the fears of what was happening. I know how you feel and can genuinely say that from experience. You probably feel guilt, anger, sadness, indescribable emptyness, sorrow, self pity and a whole host of other things. That’s ok. If anything it shows us how much we still love the one we lost and that we will never let them go. My best wishes to you over these next 12 months. They will be tough but you will recover. You will never let Lecretia go, but the pain will subside.

  28. Matt you are an inspiration to many n grief takes years to fully work thru … one day at at time n know that you have an angel in heaven looking after you

  29. That was absolutely beautifully written. It brings so many tears and thoughts. I hope you find a way to cope and also keep reminding people of Lecretia and what she fought for. Xxx

  30. I feel sure your beautiful wife though not with you physically will be close by you and I am sure you will feel her presence at different times. May the times of grief lessen and the happy memories surface more. Love from so many New Zealanders is offered to you and to the dear parents of such a brave determined and vivacious lady that touched the hearts of all of us. Mart I hope your life ahead will be gentler on you.

  31. I felt similar when my father died just over a year ago Matt. Not grieving enough, not honouring his memory enough etc. It’s hard not to belittle your own process through some kind of survivor’s guilt I guess.
    The grief certainly comes in intensely strong waves I found yes.
    Funny too, I bought mum a little book of writing on grieving, and by far the best piece in it was the first one by C. S. Lewis you have quoted here. Very insightful and moving.
    I always found you a very special person all those years ago Matt, I have been, and will be thinking of you a lot.

    Love from Gareth Price

  32. Many tears shed reading this. So frank. So very honest. You are saying exactly what I have felt in my experience with grief. Thank you so much. Arohanui.

  33. Time really does help although you can’t see it now. There is no rush to do anything (it took me 2 years +to go through my partners belongings) , just do things at your own pace. I am sure you have a great support network of family and friends who are helping you through. Take one day at a time

  34. My husband died at 54 (coronary). Your thoughts here very much remind me of what I thought and felt at the time. My total sympathy is with you. Things that helped – I kept a grief journal for two years. I carried out rituals meaningful to me, when my heart told me to. I read grief books – only ones that worked for me, like ‘A Grief Observed’. Thomas Attig ‘How We Grieve: Relearning the World’ describes the experience of the dangling connections to the lost person. I joined a support forum for young widows/widowers – I won’t put the URL here but you can find it. And of course, he tangata he tangata – people are the most healing thing.

  35. Hugs and healing for your loss. You’re description of how you are feeling is very familiar. I think we stay numb and don’t express the depth of our grief for quite a while. I lost my son and didn’t cry alot or feel many emotions often for the first year or two. I think it’s our brain keeping us safe from grief swallowing us. It allows you a little pain at a time until you can cope with feeling the emotions fully. It has been four years and I cry often now and really feel my feelings fully now. Be kind to yourself. You will walk your own path in grief and healing. If you ever feel like a good read on grief’s journey check Mitchell’s Journey out on Facebook. He writes eloquently and it is all so familiar and real.

  36. I feel I would stumble with words at a time like you are going through, but you are very eloquent in your writing. I feel that through your words over time this will bring some type of peace and balance in your life. All the best on your journey.

  37. Just hang in there. You are an amazing person. You couldn’t have done any more for Lecretia. You need to do what is best for your now – take care of yourself. Do what is best for you – not what you think other people think you should do. All the best and much love xx

  38. Thank you for sharing Matt. I really relate to what you have written. Everybody else goes back to their normal life and there you are trying to make sense of it all. The days drag on and seem meaningless. I thought I wouldn’t be able to live in the house we built together or even sleep in our bed. But how I thought I would feel before is not how I feel after. My grief was more intense watching the man I love fade away. Yet having him as a shadow of his former self was better than not having him at all. I know that I’ll be okay and one day I might be happy again. It seems like a long way off.

  39. Weeping is my way of healing from losing my young bro. It’s hard to weep because my parents didn’t allow the expression of grief. Reading your writing about Lecretia, let my head cry. Thanks.

  40. Ae.. Kia kaha, be strong. It will never pass.. Its what defines us. The memories, the fun, joy, the sadness. It is the deepest hurt emotionally to lose a loved one. I wish on you the very best in life, and you will get thru this pain.. Her memory will help you get through. 🙂

  41. Honest and compassionate. My heart goes out to you. Each individual will process grief in their own unique way and at their own pace. There is no defined “right” or “wrong” way only that which each of us must do in the way which is best for us at any given moment as we struggle to come to terms with our loss and move on to the next step of our memory stairway. Stay strong and true to yourself Matt and let others deal with what they are thinking, feeling, experiencing. You can each support the other without compromising your own space. I, even after 9yrs, still have sudden moments of intense grief for the loss of my partner, though they are much easier to contend with and do not last as long. It is so important to take time for yourself as and when you feel it to be right. Best wishes on your journey I feel sure you will always have the wonderful memories to ease your path.

  42. Death is a hard thing for everyone.You have had to deal with it in the public eye which is never easy.Give yourself time to grieve in your own way.A discussion has been started making us all take a long hard look at things.This is a good thing. No one can lessen the pain you feel. Keep the good memories alive in you and stand strong you need to see what she started through to the end. Make every day count.One day at a time.

  43. Jenny

    Matt, you are such an inspiration to so many and so many of us are thinking of you and feeling your grief. We all wish we could help but this is your own journey, in your own way. Whatever you do, however you do it, there is no right or wrong way. Just know we do care.
    Not a day goes by when I don’t think about Lecretia and her amazing bravery and the love you had for each other.
    Someone said”Grief is the price we pay for love” and so true. The greater the love, the greater the grief.
    People all over the world will be thinking of you and Lecretia with enormous admiration. As New Zealanders we must continue to support the work Lecretia has begun.
    Kia Kaha, Matt
    Arohanui,
    Jenny and Davidxx

  44. Beautifully written and totally understandable. All too often I speak with families who have relatives in a situation comparable with Lecretia’s but I cannot imagine what it must be like to be in that position.
    There is a poem called So Many Different Lengths of Time by Brian Patten. I read this at a friends funeral and it was read at my dad’s. It is well worth looking it up on Google. To me it really explains how people will be remembered.
    You have the best excuse in the world to be selfish at present Matt. If you feel like having time alone you should do so – don’t feel obliged to have visitors you haven’t invited.
    Best wishes
    Colin

  45. There is no right way to be or feel when you loose someone you loved/love deeply. Just flow with the process and try not to sit on the outside looking in and judging yourself. I think what you and Lecretia have done is monumental, it’s started a conversation that desperately had to begin. I can’t imagine how you must feel now but I suspect a need to find yourself sits right alongside the feeling that you have lost a vital bit of that self. Be kind to yourself.