My student years in Paris defined who I am today. The streets harboured my surreptitious kisses, those terraces hosted my tears after failed exams and my laughter with my friends who teased me about my Russian accent in French. I wasted my student stipend on Pierre Hermé macaroons consumed between lectures on a random bench at St Germain. It was with a view of the Tour Eiffel that I started my first ever internship at Radio France.
Losing someone you love is difficult enough, living without someone you love is heartbreaking enough, living day by day is exhausting enough without the added frustrations and torments contributed by those who exclude and patronise those living with grief. The patronising comments and exclusion are usually unintended, I know. That knowledge does not make the sting any less, though.
Grief is entirely individual, and the grieving person has to respond to their grief in a way that is relevant to them. How they respond may change over time. The difficulty with the platitudes detailed above is that they infer a judgement about how the person is grieving, the time they are taking over their grief, or how they are feeling.
Although it seems a lifetime ago, it feels like yesterday. Time doesn't heal; it just makes grief go out of focus. And anything can bring it sharply back again: a photograph, a scent, a memory or just the endless yearning pall of homesickness so familiar to people who've lost their parents too early.
On 25 April 2013, shortly after his 39th birthday, Dunc went to his weekly game of football, and suffered a cardiac arrest. Prolonged attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful. By 8pm, my gorgeous, dedicated, loving husband had died and I was officially a widow. Not just a widow, but a widow with two little boys at home.