As everyone keeps telling you ‘Grief is different for everyone’. The trouble is you don’t actually want it to be. There are times when you want to speak to someone who knows exactly where you are at and can tell you where you’re going to go from here. I think that’s why Simon Thomas made such an impact.
Thomas is a former host of BBC’s ‘Blue Peter’ and a Sky Sports Presenter. In November 2017, Thomas’s wife Gemma was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia after a routine blood test at her GP. She tragically died just three days after. Simon Thomas’s story touched everyone and, particularly as he had to explain his wife’s sudden and unexpected death to their nine-year-old son.
Suffering from severe sleep- loss – and anyone grieving will know what getting into an empty bed at night is like – the Sky Presenter found writing about his feelings helped (Ditto there). Simon took time out from his job and used social media and his own broadcasting experience to share his grief to the public. Many people have watched his TV interviews, heard his podcasts and read his story.
Finding someone like Simon Thomas when you’re going through your own grief is strangely comforting. There is even, rather unfortunately, a part of you that thinks how easy you have it compared to someone else (crucially, there was no small child involvement for me). More importantly though, when you are suffering your own grief, you take strength from seeing others are going through the same thing. Then you see something you’re not going through and it throws everything into turmoil.
Of course, this is totally unfair. Simon has admitted to having severe depression before his wife passed away and had already chronicled his battle with alcohol when he was younger. There is no reason why our situations should be remotely similar and, in your more sane moments, you’d never expect them to be. But grief isn’t about being sane. It’s about dealing with something we all know will happen but never expect to happen to us. Insanity is a given.
So it was with some shock when in an interview in the early part of 2018, the interviewer noted that Simon had removed his wedding ring. I was floored. Taken his wedding ring off? EH? I have my on as I write this and can never envisage taking it off. Why would I? I’d still be married to Gail if she were alive so why take it off? And, even if you argue that, legally you’re now a widower and not technically married, and it should come off at some time, then when? I mean the funeral could be argued to be just as valid a time as any, but that would be considered distasteful, wouldn’t it?
Amusingly though, the old ‘everyone is different’ adage raises its head here too. In fact, I can imagine Gail reading this would laugh uproariously at me even broaching this. You see, for years I never wore a wedding ring. Some people liked to see some dark purpose behind this, suggesting to Gail I might fancy myself as a playboy and I liked a lady to think I might be a possibility – HA! – but the real reason was much simpler (and purer) than that. You see, I simply didn’t like rings.
Now me not wearing a wedding ring might seem odd to some but, for anyone struggling with that concept, here’s another whammy. Gail didn’t always wear hers either! There are two reasons for this and both are totally ‘Gail’. Firstly, Gail always looked great; her clothes were coordinated in style and colour and if, for any reason, she wanted to wear a particular colour palette then she’d have dress rings to match it and that might mean the wedding ring came off.
Secondly, Gail was always terrified of losing valuable things. Her regular trips to Marmaris were to top up her wardrobe on fake designer goods, she arguing that ‘nobody knows they are fake’ (they didn’t either!) and, ‘if I lose them or they are stolen then I haven’t lost a lot of money’. This fear applied to her wedding ring too. She was petrified of losing it and, when she did wear it, always wore a tighter dress ring over it so it could never fall or be pulled off.
Gail not wearing her wedding ring never bothered me. My head simply didn’t go to those places that suggest there might be ulterior motive for it and, in any case, who was I to insist she did when I had none of my own?
Women are difficult things to fathom though and I sensed a change in attitude to my not wearing a ring in the summer of 2015. I ignored it for a while but it was now something that bothered her when it hadn’t seemed to before. So, on a gorgeous holiday in Santorini in the September of that year, I chose a pewter ring from one of the myriad of locally-produced goods shops there and I wore that on my wedding finger.
I remember showing my hand to an incredulous Gail . Our cat Gus is an independent creature and is the only one of our four who won’t wear a collar. Trying sends him into a frenzy as he tries to pull it off. Holding my hand up to Gail she just said ‘You look like Gus’. It made us both laugh.
As ever with Gail, there was element of truth in her Gus comment though. My old dislike never went away and, wearing this ring from a Greek Island, only served to underline my belief that rings just looked clumsy, bulky and out of place on my hands. Fortunately my reservations were matched by Gail who didn’t like the ring anyway and, while out shopping one day that November, she took me into a jewellers and bought me a slim silver unmarked, unadorned band. It wasn’t expensive but it looked good and felt right. And that is what I have on now.
Quite what Gail would make of this discussion is difficult to fathom. To find I’m now a staunch wedding ring wearer would probably amuse her and infuriate her in equal measure; but I also like to think she’d be secretly pleased that I still consider us married.
In truth though, the main issue is, if I did want to take my ring off – and I can’t stress enough here that I don’t! – then going through that actual ritual of pulling it off my finger and putting it into a box would be an act that I’m nowhere near close to being comfortable with. In fact, I think it would devastate me to an extent I can’t even contemplate; I genuinely feel the consequences might be emotionally or possibly physically dire if I were to do it.
So, 2019 and I have my very own ‘precious’. Who could have known?
But there’s another thing about rings…. see Part Two