I have been feeling judged and would love to know your views.
People often write about finding new love when families disapprove. Maybe it’s understandable that adult children object to the new partner, but do you think they have the right?
My Annie died of cancer four years ago, my soul mate for 42 years. She died at New Year and I remember feeling there could be nothing but unhappiness ahead. Our two children were devastated and so were all our friends.
Annie was greatly loved, especially by me. We met as teenagers and knew from the start that this was ‘it’. Annie was the love of my life — The One.
But within three months of Annie’s death I went out for dinner with Pat, who once worked with Annie. Pat had visited Annie a lot during the dark, sad times. In a way, I asked her out to dinner to say thank you, but also because I was lonely. Pat was older and always seemed a calm, wise presence.
Did I fall in love over that first dinner? Of course not. But our friendship was warm and I was so glad of her company. We started seeing each other and fell in love. But naturally people disapproved. It was a very difficult time — because I was still grieving for my wife yet felt protective of my ‘girlfriend’.
I couldn’t bear the suggestion that Pat was wrecking memories of Annie. We were both property owners so they couldn’t accuse her of gold-digging!
I knew it would be hard for my son and daughter, although surprisingly she was less judgmental.
My son and I exchanged some hard words, I’m afraid. I tried to explain that their mother and I had had 18 months to get ready to say farewell.
Annie had told me she wanted me to meet somebody else and be happy. I needed family and friends to understand that I had cried all my tears during those long months of fear and diagnosis and treatment — and was ready to move on.
Pat and I married very quietly this year and feel very contented to grow old together in our personal ‘paradise’.
People have come round (I think), but I am still feeling judged, so angry with my son. What do you think?
This week Bel answers a question from a man who wonders why his son resents him falling in love again
The first thing I’ll say is a huge, heartfelt ‘Congratulations’ on your new happiness. The world is full of bad, sad news but yours is joyful and I’m delighted for you and Pat.
Thought of the day
Wake up, wake up you sleepy head
Get up, get up, get out of bed,
Cheer up, cheer up, the sun is red,
Live, love, laugh and be happy . . .
From When The Red, Red Robin. . . (popular song recorded by Doris Day in 1954)
Love in older age can be such a beautiful thing and you tell me in your longer letter that Pat is thrilled to be able to be ‘Granny’ to your daughter’s children, with her very own special name.
Love is all around . . . Oh, do let’s all join that rousing chorus and not care that the song is now a cliché!
As Christmas approaches we all need to focus on light and love, and there’s plenty of both in your story.
My motto — when in doubt, smile, be positive and look forwards, not back — has carried me through setbacks and sadness. And your daughter now seems to agree with me in feeling pleased her old dad has stepped forwards into companionable contentment.
Your son will take a bit longer, but have faith that he’ll get used to things. He misses his mother. You know how that feels.
So no more angry words, please. Just keep calm and trust your son will soon take his cue from your sister. You tell me that Pat puts fresh flowers by Annie’s photo in your sitting room. Make sure your son knows, so he understands Pat’s quality. Try for a Christmas reunion. Love after bereavement can knock the one newly in love for six — dazed and confused by the potent mixture of romance, gratitude and guilt.
Sadly, in the eyes of the world (meaning those grieving for the dead person) a fast new relationship can seem to call into question the long-standing love. It shouldn’t. Personally I don’t really believe in the idea of ‘The One’ because we can never know how we might feel about people we’ve never met.
And love after loss can be such a glorious surprise, especially (perhaps) when the new love is very different to the one mourned. I get the feeling that’s the case with Pat. The point is life will go on.
Interestingly I wrote about this in Femail Magazine back in the summer, expressing my belief that people who have learned the habit of loving within a wonderful relationship always remain ‘in training’ to carry the love onwards — and often quite soon.
That’s what happened with you, Jeremy. You know it’s not the same love, nor does it call into question what went before.
No, falling in love with Pat was the new awakening of a practised heart. You both deserve your joy.
I’m so sad I can’t stop binge eating
I am a single mother of three, 51, single for ten years and extremely obese after years of emotional binge eating. For the sake of my health I need to lose a lot of weight but I simply cannot do this. I never go out (very low income) and don’t see friends as I’m either working or looking after the children — one disabled, all under 13.
I detest the way I look, feel repulsive and ashamed. My family think I’m greedy and selfish for not losing weight. Food addiction followed years of alcohol addiction, which began after suffering two traumatic sexual assaults in my teens. I suffer from anxiety and depression but cannot afford therapy.
The problem is, I eat when stressed or low (most of the time) and use food to help me through each day. What I actually need is a hug from someone who cares. I’d love the safety a loving partner can give but know I’ll never have it looking like this.
I get very anxious about my future if I can’t change things. I want to be here for many more years for my children and my parents (mid-80s) who’ll soon need more support. People ask why can’t I lose weight for the sake of my children, and I feel guilty and inadequate when yet again I fail. Please can you offer advice?
You ask an impossible question —since you answer it yourself: ‘For the sake of my health I need to lose a lot of weight but I simply cannot do this.’
That’s a thundering negative — so here’s some tough talking: if you are so utterly, absolutely determined that you ‘simply cannot’ tackle your chronic weight problem, then why are you bothering to write to me?
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail...
Ah, but there’s a change of tone at the beginning of that last paragraph, with that hopeful word ‘if’. I felt like cheering when I read, ‘If I cannot change things’ because there you open the door to possibility, suggesting that the issue is still something that can be worked on. That’s where we have to start.
You describe a sad, stressful past. All of us should be aware (and I do mean ‘should’ because there’s now so much information about obesity) that people usually over-eat and become chronically obese through struggling with mental health or other problems, when food and/or booze becomes a crutch.
How many of us say, when tired or fed up, ‘Oh, I need a drink’? I certainly do. So people might withhold easy, quick judgements and look at their own lives first.
Having said that, I sometimes notice people’s supermarket shopping trollies and want to weep. You’re hard up, Linda, but I wonder how much money you spend weekly on junk (meaning fatty, processed or too sweet) food. You know the truth, don’t you?
I understand you can’t afford therapy, but you know quite well that you need to start your very own ‘treatment’ by looking ruthlessly at your food shopping, for your own sake and your children’s health too.
Are they also overweight? You want to stick around for them and for your elderly parents, therefore there’s no choice but to call time on killing yourself with food.
It seems easy to say diet and exercise are key. But it’s the truth, even if extremely hard. You can either continue as you are (which would be terrible), or acknowledge that plenty of people with issues as chronic as yours DO manage to lose weight and start new lives.
There’s plenty of free advice online. Look at nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/start-the-nhs-weight-loss-plan. Read through everything and make some notes.
Of course you won’t go jogging any time soon, but you can make yourself walk a certain number of steps, increasing them each week.
You can buy a pedometer for less than a tenner. And take a can of beans in each hand and start lifts until you’re puffed. Get one of the kids to help with exercises and make it a game.
There’s also a lot to read at verywellhealth.com/coping-with-obesity-4690812. I suggest you give it some time. Also look at weightmatters.co.uk/online- therapy-online-counselling.
Start a food diary, because listing everything (to the last biscuit) can encourage change — through a bit of a shock. It would be marvellous if you could get a family member or friend to go shopping with you. It has to start somewhere, Linda. Don’t blame your past; take charge of your future.
And finally... An amazing response to a grieving dad
There was such a moving response to last week’s main letter from Brian, who with his wife was dreading the first Christmas without their daughter Sarah. Thank you so much for your kindness and fellow feeling.
Readers wrote personal grief, heartfelt sympathy and good advice. Terry expressed a beautiful sentiment when he wrote: ‘Please share with them the thought that their Sarah was not only clearly adored, but unbelievably lucky to have had Brian and his wife’s involvement in her life.
Bel answers readers' questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected]
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
‘Although cut tragically short, her (their) lives were truly blessed with so much love, which is what any of us can ask for.’
I’ve combined your emails into a document for Brian and his wife, and know they’ve been very touched. Most important, I heard back from Brian himself — so pleased to read my response to his very sad story.
He wanted me to know that their son has been ‘their rock’, that they will be seeing the family at one stage at Christmas, and that yes, they will put up a little tree for Sarah.
I was honoured that he sent me a picture of Sarah’s plaque in their garden, complete with her favourite little gnomes and bright metal butterflies.
A Facebook friend agreed with me that creating a ‘shrine’ can be very helpful. She pointed out that if people shy away from religious terminology they can call it a ‘special nook’.
Regular readers of this column will know I think rituals and ‘signs’ are very important. Why else do people decorate graves? Just quietly marking the anniversary of a loved one’s death by placing a posy in front of a photograph, playing special music or lighting a candle can bring great comfort.
And I practise what I preach. Yesterday the son who was stillborn at full-term would have been 46 and, as usual, I went out to his special place in the garden to have a few words.
It makes me feel calm and strangely blessed — and I wish that for all of you, too.