The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

I was bereft when my husband died but part of me was relieved too

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MWe threw the best parties and everyone adored him, but my stomach was in knots over all the debt

y husband wasn’t even 40 when he died last year. I miss him so much, but I can’t tell anyone that life is easier without him. We met at 18. I was the first person in my family to have gone to university while his traced their ancestry back to the 13th century. They have houses and land but are always selling off family heirlooms to stay afloat and couldn’t care less about their endless debt.

During university he was the one who had all night parties, organised festival trips, camping in Scotland, summers in France and winter chalet jobs so we could all go skiing. He’d make anything sound irresistib­le and it was usually brilliant, though sometimes he came close to serious trouble. He encouraged us all to “invest” in buying weed and making a profit, which seemed really daring until he did the same with cocaine and the police came after him. They found nothing in his flat – because it was in mine. We had an even luckier escape when the local heavy found out he’d been dealing on his patch he stormed round, gave him a black eye – and bought his stash for more than he’d paid for it.

I thought he’d change when we got married. I worked hard and was promoted regularly, but he’d still stay up drinking all night, take a sick day, leave early or expect colleagues to cover him. Clever and a brilliant organiser, he usually got away with it, but never made the top job or partner and that rankled, so he was constantly changing jobs.

He was a brilliant dad to our two children, always ready to play, reading stories in character and chasing monsters from under beds. He eventually got a full-time job but that didn’t pay enough for the four-week holidays in Australia he wanted, along with skiing abroad in winter and sailing round the west coast of Scotland in summer. I kept a really tight grip on finances, but he ran up bigger and bigger credit card bills, constantly coming in with bottles of champagne and presents all round.

We still threw the best parties and everyone adored him, including me, but my stomach was permanentl­y in knots. Eventually his credit card bills reached £50,000 and he suggested we re-mortgage the house for double that, pay off our debt, go around the world and start our own business. When I flatly refused he hugged me and teased me about being uptight. I was determined he wasn’t taking our home away but equally determined not to fight, so I laughed and hugged him back and said we’d sort it out. He went to meet friends – and a drunk driver meant he never came home.

Grief-stricken family and friends surrounded us, all of us mourning the liveliest, funniest character we’d ever met. Then lockdown happened and since then we’ve just gone quietly about our lives, though we talk about him all the time. We miss him terribly and the children are heartbroke­n but my grief is different from everyone else’s.

Living with someone so full on is enchanting but exhausting. It’s strange not wondering what he’s planning next and if we’ll lose our home. (Life insurance paid off most of the debts – arranging it was the only sensible thing he ever did.) His mum phoned recently and said she “could always sell something” to help, but I said we were fine and cried and laughed afterwards. I loved him so much and I’m so glad we ended on a hug, but I was done.

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