When my new partner, Blacksmith Paul, died just twelve weeks after my last remaining parent, it was to writing that I turned in my despair. In the darkest of days, writing gave me a purpose. The blank page listened when there was no-one to talk to. My laptop understood when no-one else could fathom the degree of my heartbreak. Writing was my best friend.
About a year after my wife was killed, I was asked by some newspaper or other to write about my experience of dating as a widower. Having not written a word of fiction or fantasy since leaving high school, I politely declined the offer and rolled my eyes at the assumption that I would be back in the game so soon.
You are never ready for him to depart from you.
So, I met someone. It seems almost too perfect for words. I grieved fully and completely for a year, then on the 13th March, three days after the anniversary of Paul's death, I re-wrote my grief narrative to include the possibility of loving someone new and, just a month later, someone appeared.
'Two lovers, destined to be together, miss their chance repeatedly, spend their lives apart having a pretty miserable time, finally unite and then, just when things are going great, he dies and her life is ruined'. Maybe it makes a good weepy but it's certainly not an easy story to write a sequel to and, left here without you, that is, essentially, what I have to do.
This time last year I was mostly amongst friends and holding it together pretty well in company until, one evening, one of the participants didn't come down for dinner and I found myself drowning in panic thinking that he might be dead. I stood up, excused myself and rushed sobbing to my room and didn't stop crying for hours.
Last week a clock started ticking for widowed parents and bereaved children when the UK Government introduced some of the most indecent and unnecessary benefits cuts imaginable, cutting the support provided to widowed parents and grieving children at a time when they're likely to need it most.
I started gently, casually, by reactivating Tinder and adjusting my personal statement to reflect my change in circumstances. I made it clear that I was not ready for a relationship but would like some male company. It was a clumsy beginning. The first person who approached me got short shrift when he asked me about my taste in books, films and music.
I can still see him standing in my front garden that night writing messages to Hephaestus the blacksmith god with them, releasing paper lanterns into the sky. They loved him. I loved him. He loved me. And that was the last time I saw him. Five days later, he was dead.
Before you start tossing around the "H" word ― hussy, the brazen variety ― let me assure you that I deeply loved the man