BEL MOONEY: In a single year, I lost my mum, dad AND husband

By Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail

Published: 21:52 EST, 1 January 2016 | Updated: 21:51 EST, 1 January 2016

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,

For those that here we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92)

Dear Bel

I am 65 and in the past 12 months l have lost both parents, three long-time neighbours — and, lastly and unbearably, my beloved husband.

My whole world has changed and the pain l feel grieving for my husband of 43 years is unbelievable. I yearn for the old life but know it has gone for ever.

I’m lucky to have family and my husband’s sisters have been amazing to me. I have joined a support group, but l feel my life is over.

I cannot stop thinking of him nor see my way forward. I am trying so hard but can’t see any point. Always I try to put on a brave face, so people think l am coping, but as time goes on it feels as if he is getting further away.

The loneliness is awful. It doesn’t matter where l go in the day, l still come home to an empty house. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

I even attend a spiritualist church, which gives me some comfort. But here is something that bothers me: my parents both lived to 88 and were very needy at the end. This means I feel that our last years together became so wrapped up with them that my poor husband and l lost out in terms of our own precious life together.

He dropped dead of a heart attack three weeks after my mother died and I am afraid that I can’t help feeling bitter that my old parents had 25 more years than he did.

Well, I’ve said it all now.

There is nothing you can do to help, I know, but still — thanks for reading this, if you do.


Beryl cannot get her sister to open up about her secret lovechild. Illustrator Neil Webb

Yes, Janine, I do read everything, and sometimes (as a result) find it hard to bear the cumulative sadness.

Mind you, I don’t think anybody should read a letter like yours and just carry on regardless. Why ought we be protected from the pain of others?

In the words of the great 17th-century poet and cleric John Donne, ‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.’

In their hearts, most people know that such pain is but a rehearsal for the inevitability of their own . . . and that is why they want to run away.

A couple of days after I received your email (not long before Christmas) this short, devastating one arrived from Mrs K:

‘I am in a terrible place as I lost my stunning, irreplaceable daughter, aged 30, this year to a devastating illness. I am trying to cope each day and not show others how destroyed I am inside — but it is very, very hard.

‘People try to give you comforting advice but the truth is I will never come to terms with what has happened. Please spare a thought and maybe a prayer (whatever your belief) for all those who suffer grief and loss and feel so very alone, even in the midst of friends and family, at Christmas and the rest of the year.

‘Believe me, I would not wish this pain on anyone.’

Janine now knows that I do read all the sad letters and I assure you, Mrs K, that my confused ‘belief’ does allow me to spare many thoughts and prayers for those who suffer loss.

Because there is nothing else to do. You can send an army of bereavement counsellors to talk to the afflicted and some of them may do good, in time. But they can’t stop pain.

Since my second son was stillborn in 1975 I have studied bereavement but found no ‘answers’. How could I? There are none. Only endurance.

So that’s my starting point: it’s impossible to prepare for a great loss that will actually never go away, but which becomes absorbed into our being, like a vein throbbing under the skin.

In time (perhaps very long) it might become less acute, but then something will trigger a memory . . . and the scab is knocked off, releasing blood once more.

So my finishing point is as sad as the start, I’m afraid — because I refuse to offer glib words of comfort or to suggest bereavement counselling (useful though it can be) or to tell you that ‘all things pass’ (although they do).

All of that would be too easy; instead, I just want to bow my head in acknowledgement of how hard it is for both of you.

What you are learning, Janine and Mrs K, is that there is never an end to great love — and therefore no end to the frustrating agony when that love has nowhere to ‘go’. When the loved one is no longer there to talk to, to hug, to bring a cup of tea, to be comforted by . . . and when what has been shared seems to have ended, for ever. Yet of course the love is endless, isn’t it? That doesn’t go away. It is the cross you bear and, simultaneously, the glory of that cross.

I find it almost beautiful that both of you say that you ‘would not wish this pain’ on others.

For within that thought we witness the beating heart of true humanity: the comprehension and compassion which wishes to protect others from the knowledge of love and loss and pain. Yet none of us can be protected as long as we experience love. It is the price we pay.

The only other thing to look at is the bitterness Janine mentions — and which surely lies unspoken beneath Mrs K’s grief.

It wonders angrily: ‘Why did that person have more life than my beloved?’ King Lear holds his dead daughter Cordelia in his arms and cries: ‘Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life / And thou no breath at all?’

Many people contrast the ‘premature’ death of a dear one who deserved many more years, with the very old who are tired of life yet cling on. They ask how fate can be so unfair.

Yet there is no allotted time. None of us know what will happen and (I repeat) there are no answers — only boundless sympathy, prayers and a sincere hope that, in time, some healing will come. Believe me, there is so much empathy in this world that you are truly not alone.

After 28 years of marriage, he's suddenly using prostitutes and wants group sex 

Dear Bel

I have been married to my husband for 28 years, we have two wonderful children, and I thought we were happy.

Four weeks ago, he suggested we needed to spice up our sex life. I bought some sexy outfits, massage oil, blindfolds . . .

But he said he wanted much more. He wanted to try group sex, swapping and other things you couldn’t print. I looked them up on the internet and to say I was shocked would be an understatement.

In the past, I’ve been willing to compromise — but not on this.

I cannot do the things he is asking. Now he is visiting escorts and wants me to go along with it. I am mortified, hurt and confused. The things he talks about shock me to the core.

Will he ever stop this behaviour and can he be satisfied again with what he calls ‘our vanilla sex’?

Yesterday, he said he might be falling in love with one of the escorts. Now I am questioning everything about myself — like how can I love my husband? But I do.

I do not understand this ‘new’ side of him or the ‘scene’ he is now involved in. He was a virgin when we met and I wonder if he regrets marrying the first girl he slept with.

I thought we would grow old together. How would you deal with this?


Honestly, I don’t think I could. Which is to say, I certainly couldn’t go along with your husband’s desires — and most certainly not his actions.

Call me a puritan if you like (the epithet would be true; I can’t help that) but while I have no problem with what people do in private as long as it doesn’t injure others, this man is hurting you, his wife.

Anybody can have tacky fantasies, but while it’s not a crime to express them, now he is actively indulging in immoral behaviour that is surely entirely unacceptable to any right-thinking man or woman. To me, that would be an intolerable insult to my marriage.

Your question about his sexual inexperience and decision to marry is interesting. Since he is so afflicted by a chronic middle-aged crisis and sexual ‘itch’ (not uncommon, though most don’t go to these extremes) it’s likely he regrets not sleeping with more women.

In itself, it would not be shocking — many people feel wistful for forbidden grass, lush and green in the next field. But having sex with escorts, then coming home to you? Frankly, I find that revolting.

The central issue seems to be how you deal with your profound disillusionment. Many people have to learn to live with disappointment: realising the man or woman they married is weak, even pitiable.

Often, they reflect on their own lack of perfection and choose to forgive. But it’s obvious the husband you still love has been visiting extreme porn sites, relishing transgressive sexual ideas you find shocking, and abandoning all caution in his desire to indulge himself.

If he’d stayed chained to his computer it would be bad enough: my postbag often throws up examples of how a husband’s porn addiction poisons a marriage. But he wants you to join in his grubby frolics — and sneers at the intimate life you’ve had over 28 years, which produced two children. ‘Vanilla sex’ indeed! I’d find that intolerable.

Have you asked him what he thinks your children would say if they found out about his new ‘scene’? Would he like you to tell them?

And if you were to kick him out, would he introduce them to his ‘escort’ lady friend?

Have you told him either he goes to counselling to seek a cure for his addiction, or he starts looking for a place to rent? That’s what I’d do.

While I understand the wistfulness of that ‘grow old together’, I couldn’t share my life with somebody who had changed so much, becoming reckless and disrespectful enough to scorn everything cherished and shared — for tacky forbidden kicks in dark places.

No way. Actually, I’d reach for the disinfectant.

My advice for 2016? Embrace life's stages 

On this day, 36 years ago, my wonderful daughter was born — but no champagne corks popped.

Bedridden for three months, I became very ill after the C-section; Kitty was born with serious things wrong . . . and there followed more than 20 years of hospital visits and 36 years of anxiety, including moments of terror.


Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to: Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or e-mail

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

Bel reads all letters, but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. 

But corks have plentifully popped in the intervening years. With much to worry about, we’ve all found plenty to celebrate, too.

Thinking back on Kitty’s birthday makes me reflect how vital it is to see life in stages. I often hear young mums express frustration (despite delight in their children) that they must park ambition and creativity for a while.

I understand, but want to whisper: ‘Just wait, be patient, you’ll reach the next stage soon enough.’

I wish somebody had said that to the 33-year-old mother (me) who was so full of despair one day that she climbed into bed fully clothed and without taking off her boots, pulled the duvet over her head and wailed: ‘My life is over.’

Of course it wasn’t. Over the years, I accumulated nursing skills I’d never heard of — and learned to be stoical, too.

Nothing seemed more important than to be ever-present for my two children, shoulder their various burdens and make their lives fun as well. Yet had you expressed that as a worthwhile ambition to my 22-year-old self, I’d have thought you mad.

All I wanted was to be a hotshot journalist, flit about with interesting people, take risks and party.

So here I am at the beginning of a year in which I’ll reach (God willing) my 70th birthday — giving thanks for my family as well as for the stages which led me to this 46th year as a writer.

Whenever a chance came, I reinvented myself, just as life reinvented me as a mother and now a grandmother. Of course, this job reminds me daily of sadness — but still, I wish you joy in 2016 and hope you too can embrace life’s stages, viewing New Year as challenge, change and chance.



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By Staff Writer 01/01/2016 21:51:00