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BEL MOONEY: How will I cope when my partner is gone?


BEL MOONEY: How will I cope when my partner is gone?

Dear Bel,

My sorrow started with the sudden death of my father from a heart attack when I was forty. My mother developed dementia, was knocked down and wasn’t expected to live. She recovered well surgery – but then had bowel cancer. A worrying seven years ended in her fatal fall. I was beyond sad as she was my best friend as well as the best cheeriest mum. I never heard her complain. But life goes on….

Our younger son became addicted to drugs and terrible times followed. After 20 years this took its toll on my husband’s health and he died within six weeks of the cancer diagnosis. I was catatonic with shock and still think of him every single day.

My son was living with me, still in the grips of addiction. It helped me to carry on as I was still hoping one day he’d be free and happy.

My elder son and his wife were a tower of strength. I also took my grandson to and from school which gave me a purpose, as was walking their little dog. My younger son’s son and daughter visited too: I credit their mother with not decrying their dad.

After two years with a walking group met a lovely man. Five years later we decided to look for a home together. My younger son booked himself into another rehab, my partner and I moved in together and I bought my son a flat when he came out of rehab.

This was three years ago and he is now 50 years old, happy and clean. He loves his home and seeing his son, daughter and one year old grandson. At last I felt I had a life free of worry and it was wonderful.

But my partner has just been diagnosed with advanced cancer. I am beyond devastated and just don’t know how I’ll cope when he’s gone.

Since my husband died ten years ago I have lost five close friends, one (my closest) just three months ago. My partner is very brave. I’m taking his lead but know he must have such awful inner thoughts. How do I help when he says he’s fine? I will support him and hope I’ll find the right words to comfort him.

But at 76 I am looking into the abyss and wondering how I’ll cope without the man I’ve grown to love very much. No more holidays, concerts, walking together hand in hand in glorious silence or chat. A glass of wine together, feeling flirty…and young!

I know I’ll be howling to the moon again and just hope for the strength to cope as I did last time. God how awful I feel, just voicing all that. So selfish when my partner is facing something so much worse.


This week, BEL MOONEY helps a woman navigate the prospect of losing her partner to cancer following several other loved ones’ tragic deaths

You are not at all selfish – so please don’t accuse yourself. Your letter (which I had to edit) has introduced me to a brave, loving woman who has known much sorrow in her life and now face a terrible loss all over again.

Thought of the Week: 

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

From The Waste Land (the Burial of the Dead) by T.S.Eliot (1888-1965)

You say you don’t cry in front of your partner, because that would hardly be helpful to him, but weep every day in private. Of course you do. Anybody would. Helplessly we weep and rage in the face of implacable death – because that’s how we are entitled to feel and there is nothing else to do.

Except be incredibly strong – for the sake of the beloved man who is surely also aching with fear and despair inside, even if he hides it.

Right now, you are both protecting each other – which I find very moving. But perhaps wearing a mask of strength and acceptance in order to sidestep the main issue may not be the wisest use of this precious time you have left together.

You ask, ‘How do I help when he says he’s fine?’ It’s a good question. But because you need his help as much as he needs yours, I’m wondering about not always ‘taking his lead’ but trying a different approach instead.

There are no rules for a situation like this. But you could be honest with your brave love and let him know that while he’s saying he is’ fine’, you are most certainly (ital) not (ital) fine.

Quietly you could ask him to hear you out while you confide your own fears, your dread of another loss, and your deep love for him. It might make him feel stronger ‘to find the right words to comfort’ (ital) you (ital).

Real love must always involve listening – so let him hear you. You are a woman much bruised and battered by stress and sorrow; he knows this – so perhaps he could hold out his hands to help you.

And yes, sort out practical matters. And go for walks and concerts. Look on the beautiful world together as never before. And enjoy those glasses of wine – always intent on the present, instead of focussing on what is to come.

You may have more time than you know, so use it well. And then, Maureen, when you need to I hope you will write again. I wish you strength.

Dear Bel

I read with interest a recent letter concerning a lady’s communication with a past friend on Facebook and her husband’s behaviour when he found out about it.

The same sort of thing problem is affecting me. I have been using the site, LinkedIn, looking for jobs after being made redundant in 2020. Some of my old colleagues are on the same site and we have been communicating since the company closed and we went our separate ways.

The same site is also useful to me because my new company and staff use it, so this is a way of keeping up with how the company is doing and general chats.

My long-term partner has always been a jealous person, and recently she noticed I was wishing a colleague Happy Birthday in a message on the site. She went mad, wanting to see the whole conversation, and accusing me of having a relationship with the person.

She got very upset about it all and said that she does not understand why I was communicating this way. But LinkedIn is the only type of social media I use.

Anyway, she read the completely innocent conversation – but now complains every time I use my phone and go online, thinking I am texting someone I shouldn’t be. She throws false accusations at me. These days the world revolves around the Internet and using a phone online, and she does a lot of browsing herself, which I have no problem with.

Now, trying to keep her happy, I have given up using my phone at all, but life is very miserable at home because of the situation.

I can’t see a way of sorting this as she has accused me of deleting some conversations. I didn’t, and she can read them, but she won’t listen. LinkedIn is a business and college communication service and not a dating site. I am very depressed and worried about this, but there is no reasoning with her and I don’t know what to do.


How to reason with somebody who refuses reason? How to talk to somebody who has already made up his/her mind? Your frustration is evident yet you are also admirably restrained. Instead of making you angry, your partner’s terrible, pointless jealousy is making you ‘depressed and worried’ in a home which is ‘miserable’.

I’ve known some (not many) pathologically jealous people who made their partners deeply unhappy. Such jealousy can almost seem like a form of coercive control in that it prevents their partner from behaving normally, having the freedom, contacting friends.

For example, I knew a woman whose husband was convinced that when she went to see her mother she was secretly meeting with a chap in the same road who used to fancy her. She wasn’t – but the husband’s cross-examinations and angry sulks became so wearisome she dreaded those visits and decreased them.


More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

Her guilt – when her mother was discovered to have cancer and in fact died not long afterwards – could never be assuaged. That’s what jealousy can do.

As well as trying to reason with your lady – have you tried to talk to her seriously about (ital) why (ital) she is so jealous? You’ve even stopped using your phone to try to stop her jealous anger, yet that’s almost like an admission of defeat.

Do you think she has the right to control your actions in this way? My intention is not to make you feel more accusatory than you do already, but to encourage you to try to get to the bottom of her behaviour, for the sake of your future.

It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to realise that jealous people are very insecure. Perhaps it can be traced way back to youth – to be bullied at school, or when some aspect of appearance might have embedded deep feelings of inferiority, and /or a terror of not being loved, a fear of abandonment. It can be a mixture of reasons which culminate in totally irrational anger which can destroy relationships.

When you do talk, be sure to be non-judgemental, but emphasise your feelings of concern and sadness. Tell her of your hope that you will be able to save your relationship going forward…but only if she agrees to talk to somebody about her complicated feelings of jealousy.

Suggest that she might actually enjoy three or four sessions with a counsellor (see because we all like pouring out our feelings.

You believe networking on LinkedIn is good for you professionally and privately. Therefore you need to assert your right to do so, but also try to help her through an unsustainable situation which is damaging to both of you.

And finally…

 Two weeks ago ‘Abigail’ was full of gloom after personal disasters. Her GP seemed uninterested yet prescribed medication she didn’t trust. I wrote, ‘The GP let you down (no surprise there, I’m afraid).’

Contact Bel 

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.

Then GP, ‘Carol’ politely protested: ‘Please don’t encourage berating GPs in general, Bel. Yesterday in a busy 40+ patient surgery from 8:30 to gone 7pm with just time to rush my lunch, at least 3 people were rude and aggressive, one bringing me to tears, before we even started.’

That sounds nightmarish – and she makes a very valid point. Yet I couldn’t quite apologise. Our views of doctors always depends on personal experience. Both my parents were very well served by their respective GPs, we all know bad stories too.

In 2021 my husband went to our surgery because of a ‘thing’ on the rear side of his scalp. The male GP casually dismissed him with a prescription for some stupid cream. A year later (the ‘thing’ still there and bigger) our female GP fast-tracked him to the hospital and he had the basal cell carcinoma cut out. That first GP wasn’t ‘busy’, he was useless.

Anyway, GP ‘Carol’ asked me for a piece encouraging ‘positivity towards GPs’. Yes, I know very many are dedicated but overworked. Still, surely Carol (no matter how tired) has to step outside her own experience, as we all must.

Stating the obvious, some GPs are excellent; others not. Similarly, during too many years of experience, I met wonderful doctors and nurses in hospitals – and others who were tough and pretty unsympathetic.

A Senior Registrar at Great Ormond Street once told me, with a cool shrug, ‘I just think of myself as a mechanic’ – which was chilling for the distressed mother of a very sick child.

One thing I won’t do is bow down to the religion: ‘our NHS.’ Reluctantly, I don’t believe it.

There’s plenty wrong with the system and some individuals which is not just a question of money. Even if Carol is the best of GPs.

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