In June 2015, I quite unwillingly became a member of a very large club, called Widowhood. It isn’t very exclusive; in fact anyone can join at any time and often without any prior notice. There is a smaller one called Widowers but for some reason it has fewer members.

I’m not enjoying the club very much because it means living alone and I have never lived alone before.

A long time ago, I went from living in my parents’ house in England to my husband’s. Then I had the adventure of becoming a mother for the first time, leaving England for a new home in Portugal and the unknown. Two more children came along, and things could be hectic but shared and a lot of fun.

There were many exciting and unusual things to fill my life. It was hardly ever boring. Sometimes things didn’t go too smoothly like serious illnesses, painful episodes with teenagers, the usual ups and downs, but all alongside another adult.

When the children grew up, one by one they did the unexpected and the unwanted by leaving the home of their birth to start their own new adventures living in England, and it was back to the two of us.

I have to admit I often wished for time by myself and to be able to make my own decisions without having to discuss with someone else, but no matter how irritating it could be sometimes, I now find completely the reverse is the case.

I long to talk something over, and I frequently make wrong choices, simply because there is nobody to bounce ideas off. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it. The past is the past and nothing will bring it back to the present.

Slowly, very slowly, I am coming to terms with my single life as most women do. In my opinion, we are far more resourceful than men who seem to fall apart when they lose their wives, but I have now ‘taken myself in hand’ as the saying goes.

My late husband was a rather shy person and didn’t like going out much. Although a keen member of the Algarveans theatre group, he was a backstage member. He loved to build the scenery and props and was very clever at inventing ways to fix things in our daily lives, not just for me but for anyone who had a problem to solve.

I, on the other hand, am a bit of an extrovert, perfectly happy to socialise or prance around on the stage. In that respect, we were quite a team. When I did a fundraiser such as ‘The Grand Variety Show’, he helped in every way and really came out of his shell running the bar and engaging with the customers.

In 2016, the year after he died, I had to do it without him. It was a huge success, with many wonderful people filling his place, but, after the show was over, I went home alone with no one to talk to about the evening, and have that glass of wine we couldn’t permit ourselves earlier. It could never be the same.

Part of normalising life after a loved one ceases to be is to continue, where possible, to carry on doing as much as possible. I didn’t do the variety show this year, simply because the theatre wasn’t available, but will hopefully be raising money again in 2018 for someone who needs it. I know it’s what he would have wanted me to do.

I’ve joined CASA The Social Club, which means I do get parted from my TV occasionally and enjoy great outings, get to know some very good restaurants and can chatter away to new people and old friends. There is another place that organises coach trips so I have been up a couple of times to see shows in Lisbon.

Because I can still drive, I also make a point of going out with other ladies who can’t. It’s even worse for older women when they become widows if their husbands have always done the driving, although often the reason is failing eyesight.

I’m lucky as I live close to everything. Within walking distance I have the Lagoa Auditorium, a small supermarket, several cafés and restaurants, two medical centres, a recently built and modern home for the elderly (already got my name down) and, of course, the cemetery. However, with a car, I can take myself further afield and enjoy many things that the housebound can’t.

I don’t quite know what happens to friends who are couples when someone’s partner dies. I think they go silent because they don’t quite know what to say at a time when all you want to do is hear a friendly voice. I was lucky because I had my faith and my church that were all kind and generous with their time. I now make a point of keeping in touch with other singles by phone if not in person.

Life is very different and I’m learning how to cope. I’m also learning a lot about me, especially where my strengths and my weaknesses lay.

So now that I am a singleton and free to do what I like, I will be off to England for Christmas to see my children and grandchildren, all of whom have been wonderful to me, phoning at least once and often twice a week, emailing and Skyping so I can see the families growing and the children know who I am when I arrive.

I will have to leave my lovely little companion Poppy behind for these two weeks but my neighbour’s daughter can’t wait to spoil her whilst I’m away.

Count your blessings and have a lovely Christmas one and all.

By Jenny Grainer
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Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1964. She is a freelance writer and her book ‘Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then’ is now in its 3rd printing.