Behind Closed Doors: Weddings and Loss

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I need some help please. There I said it, hard for me to admit! I hope that you do not mind me writing to you, I stumbled across your lovely site a few days ago, and from what I have seen you all seem so lovely and wise, I hoped that you may be able to offer me some words of wisdom.

My wedding is just over 3 weeks away and I have completely lost my wedding mojo.  Dont get me wrong I really love the man I am going to marry, and I cant wait to be married to him, but where I once had excitement and enthusiasm for the day itself I now just have an empty numbness punctuated by some guilt and worry.   Where as I would normally turn to those closest to me at a time like this on this occasion they are the ones that I cannot really turn to.  So I find myself a little lost.

My beloved and I have been together for quite a while now, we never intended to have a long engagement but we just kind of wandered into it!

I have never been a great one for organising, we lived abroad for a while and then when we moved back to the UK I decided that I really must do something about getting it all organised, so I made some tentative steps towards planning (I should probably explain at this point that I have always been a tomboy and venturing into a world of dresses and sparkly things where fabrics have names other than denim was all a bit daunting!) But then something happened which put it all in perspective and made me get my butt in gear, it may sound like strange motivation, but it was motivation nevertheless. 

My beautiful dog died very suddenly, she went from being in perfect health to fighting for her life in less than 24hrs and then I had to make the decision to have her put to sleep. She really went everywhere with me, even to work, and abroad and back, she was my confident, very good for telling secrets to. 

So, this brought me up short and I decided I had wasted enough time, set a date which was 6 months away (May 2012) and began planning in earnest, i reined myself in a lot from 150 guests, castles and knights and decided what was really important to me was to have a day that was stress free, fun and filled with love and laughter, a celebration of our love shared with those we love most.  And surprisingly that all went very well, and with 3 weeks to go all but the teeniest details were taken care of – (I even love my dress, sparkles and all!)

Then my younger brother died in an accident. We are a close family and it was devastating, as I am sure it would be for anyone.  We cancelled the wedding and had a funeral instead.

People started asking about the wedding again a few weeks ago, so we thought that we would try and reorganise it all for the first week in September, it would give us something positive to focus on and my mum especially something else to think about. To be fair all our suppliers and venues have been wonderful and very accommodating so it was mostly a case of finding a date at short notice that they or most of them could do, which we have now done, then resending invitations etc.

Then a few days ago we were told my dad has cancer. He doesn’t want anyone outside the immediate family to be told yet, and naturally my family now have other things on their mind than favours and song choices.

When we moved back to the UK we moved to a new area, close to our respective families but away from friends, although I know that they would be there at the end of the phone, they have their own lives and I cant really explain why I feel like I do as Pa doesnt want anyone to know, so I just feel a bit like I am in wedding limbo, going through the motions in the hope that people will remember to turn up on the day, because I cant possibly mess everyone who has been so understanding around again.

 And I miss my brother, who would have laughed at me and told me to man up, that my taste in music was dreadful and then laughed at me again in a dress, before helping me with anything I needed without being asked. He would have been devastated that we cancelled the wedding, he really hated to put anyone out, or cause problems, and the day will never be the same without him.

Obviously my whole family is going through a really tough time at the moment, my parents most of all, I am trying to be there, and be strong for them. during the reorganising I have heard a lot of “well its your day…but..” from those around me and because I have been worried about how everyone is feeling I have capitulated on most things, so the day really is a shadow of its former self, and I don’t feel its very me/us anymore. And this is the reason for my guilt, because I still want our day, we have waited so long, and then I feel guilty, because at the end of day does it really matter? I worry because does this make me a terrible person?

More guilt because my beloved wanted nothing more than to whisk us away to a tropical beach and get married, and I convinced him that we should have a day shared with our friends and family, so I have created a day for him that may never be what it should have been, what he deserves, because he has been my rock, my hero and I dont think I would have made it through this last few months without him.

I would like the day to be a small ray of sunshine in a very dark year for my family, but now when people ask me things about the wedding I find myself smiling and feigning enthusiasm, and the list of little details that need doing is not getting any shorter, because I am just not sure I can face it.  I want to feel excited about it again, I want to enjoy it for me and for everyone. How can I get back the feelings I somehow seem to have lost along the way?

Thank you for reading.

Categories: Behind Closed Doors, Family, Friends and Relationships, Life Experience, Wedding Planning
21 interesting thoughts on this

21 Comments

  1. Vivienne
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m so, so sorry to hear about the loss of your brother, and the tough battle that your Dad now faces.

    Wedding days, even at the best of times, can be more about compromise than actually having ‘your day, your way’. But at the centre of it, is you and your soon to be husband – and that’s all it needs to make it ‘you’. On the day, you honestly won’t give a fig about any of the details, or even the location, when you take your vows, and commit yourself to a marriage. Your dad’s pride will beam from every photograph, and all the things that would have made your brother laugh, will bring a smile to your lips and a tear to your eye.

    Of course you will feel a tangible emptiness with your brother not there – have you thought about having a candle lit during the service, or perhaps giving him the job of guest book over-see-er – with your guest book on a table with a picture of him and a candle, and a few words about him?

  2. Katielase
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I am so very sorry for your loss, you and your family have been through such a terrible tragic time, only to come face to face with another devastating turn of events. No-one can tell you how you ought to be reacting to this. There is absolutely no right way to feel, and your feelings about your wedding are completely valid and normal. You can’t force yourself to feel excitement through your grief and fear and worry, and you are letting no-one down by feeling the way that you feel.

    I think you can’t expect your wedding to be the same wedding you originally dreamed of and planned. Too much has happened, and I imagine there is too much pain and worry, and now it will always feel bittersweet. But your wedding can still be a celebration of love, of the people you’ve lost and the people you still have with you now. I think the best way to feel engaged with the wedding again is to stop trying to feel the way you felt before, and instead accept the way that you do feel, and plan the wedding that feels right for you now. Find ways to remember your brother in the day? And focus on the look on your Dad’s face, because he gets to see you marry the man of your dreams.

    I truly hope this community can help you feel better, you’ve been through so much. One thing I am sure of? The moment you look into your new husband’s eyes, having become his wife, you will be filled with joy. Hold onto that thought.

    K x

  3. Posted August 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I can only imagine how horrific it is to lose your brother and find out your dad is ill AND o top of it lose a close confidente – AND have to walk around and be all happy about your wedding day because other people don’t understand the extent to your family’s pain. My overriding thought is just how fantastically strong you are being by admitting you’re struggling to get excited – it’s a bit of a bridal taboo and shouldn’t be – and that tonight you and your h2b should practice your first dance, because nothing brings it all back to being about the two of you than looking in each others’ eyes, silently communicating about whether to do a twirl or not, feeling slightly embarrassed about DANCING in front of PEOPLE. You – and your family – deserve a happy, happy day and I promise you it will be.

    There’s a lot of guilt associated with weddings, especially when your family is going through a tough time, but you’re not a bad person at all to want this day to be about you and your beloved – and I think compromise frustrations are 1000% normal!

    In terms of that to-do list, that’s what we’re here for. I am trusting that I won’t be spammed by randoms, but if you need anything at all – or just someone totally apart from the situation to vent to my email is gabriella.heard@gmail.com.

    Your brother would be so proud of you, and whether you believe he can see you or not, he’ll be with you. Lots of love xxx

    • Bex
      Posted August 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      I second my wise sisters words. We are here for you. Send us jobs! (some of us are unemployed and would love nothing more than to help!) my email address is r.kirk.wickens@gmail.com I got married in June and have lots of tricks, stuff and sources if you need them! Use us! Huge love xxxx

      • Katielase
        Posted August 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        First, not sure I have ever come across a lovelier pair of sisters, Bella and Bex. Truly x

        Second, my email is katiejfleming@gmail.com, I also got married in June, so I have a lot of left over decorations and would be very happy to help, or listen, or do anything at all vaguely useful.

        K xx

  4. Katie
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I am so so sorry for your loss. I don’t have any clever words for you, sorry.

    When we got married, rather than being about the party, all I really cared about was walking down the aisle to Andy, seeing his face, and saying our vows. I didn’t expect this.

    I’ve been to a wedding, where the groom’s sister died about three years earlier, and he did a toast to his absent and fabulous sister. Every guest was in tears, as the toast was so perfect.

    xx

  5. Anne
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Just want to echo what the others have said above. What struck me most of your story is how it’s centred around your family (dogs SO are family). In a way, the wedding is almost becoming this celebration of all that – your dad still being there to walk you down the aisle (if that’s what he’s doing, of course), your brother in every breath (if nothing else, simply because the new date is down to him).

    Maybe look at it this way: missing a brother or fearing for your dad is much better than having family where you’re not bothered if they are there on the day. Your worry and guilt stems from a good place: from love and care and emphathy – that’s not something to be ashamed of, but something worth celebrating. A wedding day seems as good an occasion as any, I’d say :)

  6. Posted August 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh Anon, there is no wonder you’re feeling that way! Is there a little glimmer of something about the day you’re really looking forward to that you can latch onto? Have you thought about having a reading or something that will somehow include your brother in the day? And your Dad will have just the best day ever.

  7. Steff
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I’ve come back to this post about 6 times now trying to find the words and I’m still struggling. What you, and your family have been through recently is unimaginable but it’s clear from the way you write about it that you are strong and your family will work through this hard time together, supporting one another and loving one another.

    What you have stumbled upon here is an amazingly warm, open and just completely wonderful community who will literally fall over one another to help you where they can.

    Sit back, take stock and prioritise what is important to you, to your family and concentrate on that – don’t feel any pressure to conform with fuss, flowers or minor details. If you don’t want to spend time on those then don’t, it’s your day and you really won’t miss them if they’re not important to you. What you will notice is the overwhelming love coming from all those you have invited to share in your day – that’s a feeling that nobody can truly prepare you for.

    Me heart goes out to you xx

  8. Laura
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Woah. To say you’ve been through the mill is an understatement in the extreme.

    I think Katie echoes my thoughts in the comment above – too much has happened for this to be the wedding you initially thought it would be. But that is FINE, you know. You’re allowed to feel grief and you’re allowed to cry and feel guilty and be a bit lack-lustre about it and BASICALLY I suppose I’m saying you’re completely entitled to feel a big mixture of emotions. And the wedding is just a day – a day that starts a marriage.

    I can totally understand why you feel overwhelmed with trivial details and things at the moment, and I know you’ve heard it all before, but they really DON’T MATTER. And yes, there are things that probably do need to be done, but please remember all of those people who I’m sure reached out to you when your brother died – did you get emails and texts and facebook messages offering support and comfort and ‘let me know what I can do?’ Take them up on their offers of help now! You need time and energy to concentrate on the important stuff – preparing with your fella and your parents for what, yes, by the sounds of it, is going to be a terribly emotional day – more so than most – but one that hopefully will be punctuated by moments of light relief, memories and, dare I say it, happiness.

    You deserve a wonderful day. I don’t think it will be wonderful by conventional standards, but yours isn’t a conventional situation, and you and everyone else needs to accept that. Please realise that it’s ok to feel the way you do. I do think your day will be beautifully poignant, though. All the luck in the world.

  9. Posted August 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh my heart goes out to you, you’ve all had such a seriously tough time of it. I think Katie offers you some great advice, try and stop thinking about it as the wedding you first imagined (I know that’s hard when you’ve waited this long, but it might be the only way to make peace with it being different to how you imagined it).

    It will in no way fill his absence, but can you think of a fitting way to remember your brother on the day? Clearly you don’t want it to feel morbid, but it would also feel unnatural if you didn’t mark him in so little way. It can be subtle if you don’t think you can handle any more like having his picture nestled in your bouquet or it could be a charity pin for something he supported as favours or even just song choices that remind you of him. Something that will make you smile and remember the good times hopefully. Could your husband include a funny story in his speech if you don’t feel up to it? Happy photos of friends and family with the two of you, including some of your brother would be a less ‘in your face’ way of having his photo there and would make a lovely talking point. Ask a friend to go through and sort this out for you if you don’t have time or feel up to it – the people closest to you would love to help (I know lots of us here will too if we can!)

    As for you Dad it must be so, so hard that you can’t share this with anybody else, but if that’s what he wants you have to go with it. He’s probably doing it so that it doesn’t take the shine off your day, and while it will obviously affect how you feel about your wedding look at it as a chance for him to feel ‘normal’ for the day. You’re helping to create happy memories to get him (and your family) through the tough times ahead of treatment etc. He will be so, so proud of you and while it will make the day even more emotional for you that’s not always a bad thing.

    I know you can’t scale back the wedding now, but scale back your expectations if you need to. The main thing is that you’re marrying your ‘one’. That’s what your guests are there for, to see you pledge the rest of your lives to each other. Despite everything that’s happened and is happening I truly hope that for the ceremony at least you can empty your brain of everything apart from you and your soon to be husband

    xxxx

  10. Peridot
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Well poor you, you really have had a rough time. No wonder you’re struggling to feel excited with everything you’ve been through. I would say: don’t force it. There is no ‘must be’, ‘should be’ or ‘have to be’, there is just you and people you love.

    My friend knew her father was dying when she got married and it was such a precious thing for them to have that classic father and daughter experience. I am sure you will cry (is it too shallow to suggest Lancome’s waterproof mascara here?) but not all your tears will be painful ones.

    And if you need to tweak the details to make it more ‘you’ again, then you absolutely should. Maybe you can think of some things to make it more you if the things you’ve capitulated on can’t be changed. But you know what, at the end of the day, on your dad’s arm going towards another wonderful man who loves you, it will only be about you (plural); promise.

  11. Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Anon, I know Anna’s emailed you on behalf of us here but I want to say how sorry am I to hear what a tough time you’ve had recently.

    The fabulous women above have already come up with some brilliant advice so rather than repeat that, I shall simply agree. Try to allow yourself to enjoy the day, I’m sure that you brother would want that, and I can absolutely guarantee that it’s what your dad wants. He’ll want to make his daughter very happy and very proud and so, on your wedding day, indulge him by letting other people carry your worries about his health.

    If there is anything any of us can do to make your day go more smoothly, please do let us know xx

  12. Posted August 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    You came to the right place! The AOWers above really hit the nail on the head already – you have been through so much it’s not just your wedding ideas that will have changed but you yourself. I can’t imagine having to go through any of what you have (we recently had a scare with my Mum’s health and I embarrassingly burst into tears in front of Roz when I found out – not so strong over here!) never mind all of it within a year AND with an impending wedding to think about! It’s a lot of pressure dealing with guests’ expectations but just remember what the girls have said above – the important thing is you’re marrying your person and that’s the whole point of the day and the reason those people will even be there. You will have wonderful memories because that is the wonderful part and as long as that happens, who cares about little details (and this coming from a detail lover!)

    Good luck with your day and I hope you find those feelings of excitement before the day because I’m sure they’ll come when it’s finally here!

    • Roz
      Posted August 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      It wasn’t embarrassing missus, you were understandably upset! xx

  13. Lindsey
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Anon I have been through something a little similar, my dad died suddenly last year & next Friday I get married without him to give me away. I don’t have many wise words but I can tell you that the mojolessness is very real, grief is crushingly exhausting anyway isn’t it? Nevermind having to muster enthusiasm for a damned centrepiece! I hope that knowing you’re not alone in feeling the way you do helps you feel a little less lost. I for one was comforted to hear that you’d experienced the wedding limbo, sense of grief and just unfairness at what has happened so i thank you for putting this into words. The way I have come to see it is this: if I could care less about favours and fluffy bits it’s because they don’t really matter so much. So I’ve eased up on myself on this. You obviously still care deeply about marrying your boy and giving your family a little hope, so if you never manage to get back the feelings of enthusiasm for the details then you’ve lost nothing as you’ll still have married your hero. The best piece of advice I got was to just feel what you’re feeling, so if you’re sad be sad, if you’re angry then rage about it. It’s the pretending to be ok that’s the hardest work. Sometimes when people asked about the wedding i was just honest and said it makes me miss my dad and thats very hard. Mostly this let people in and allowed them to be supportive but I don’t know if this would work in your own situation. I just really hope that you have the wedding day you deserve and I wish you love x

  14. Posted August 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    This may seem like a weird solution but …. Here goes – why not get a special license, grab 2 strangers from the street and get married quickly and quietly. THEN have a blessing to which everyone is invited. The pressure will have gone because you will have done the really important thing which is to become man and wife. Then you can face the future together which will make the BIG DAY easier.

  15. Al
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    My husband and I got married last October and just over three weeks before the day, my dad’s partner’s daughter died suddenly. She had Down’s syndrome and was so special to us all and was so looking forward to the wedding. She had such a zest and joy for life, it was so unexpected and awful. It was a horrible time, the wedding prep and excitement was just gearing up and when I’d seen her the night before she died in the hospital, I’d told her she needed to get better to be at the wedding. But she wasn’t. I couldn’t comprehend going ahead with the wedding but everyone was determined we weren’t going to cancel, it was the first thing her brother said to my fiance when we saw him after she died, that we had to go ahead and give everyone something to look forward to.

    I gave myself some time to grieve and ignore the wedding, focused on the funeral and two days later had my hen do which had already been arranged by my sister (who was also grieving) and my amazing friends. That helped get my wedding mojo back, to feel the love and support and excitement around me. Sounds daft, but doing the Mr&Mrs quiz reminded me of why I love my husband and why we were doing all this.

    My ‘special sister’ (as I called her) was terribly missed on the day. I had a moment just before walking down the aisle with my dad when I was almost overcome with grief and tears thinking about her but I managed to hold it together. We had to change the music I walked down the aisle to as it was played at her funeral and I made sure our band didn’t play anything which would have reminded me of her. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I almost blocked it out, just to cope and have a happy day. I had planned on going to the loch next to the hotel where we married and putting some flowers from bouquet in there as a tribute to her but when it came to it, that seemed silly and dramatic so I didn’t do it. My memories of the day and those afterwards are of pure happiness and joy. It was an amazing day, and it was the love from my family and friends which got us through it. I look at our wedding photos and see the happiness and love but I know that there’s someone very special who isn’t in them and that is sad.

    Sorry for such a long post. My advice would be to take the love and support from your family and friends who will be determined to make your day happy and special – and your dad will too. I can’t imagine keeping something like that to yourself but you’ll be creating some wonderful memories for him and the rest of your family so you can focus on that. I believe that once you’re in your dress and the wedding wagon has started rolling on the day, you’ll be swept up in the joy and happiness of it. I wish you all the very best.

  16. Anon (OP)
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Goodness, I really do not know what to say, I am truly humbled by all your kind words, support and offers of help to a perfect stranger! This is all very out of character for me, from feeling down/unenthused to ‘putting myself out there’ like this, and I think that I truly couldn’t have picked a better place to have an ‘out of character experience!’ Thank you all so much.
    You are of course all correct and it is the fact that I get to marry the man I love and the people I love (or most of them) will be there to celebrate with us that are the most important things.
    I got so much from reading your replies, the feeling that maybe it was ok to feel as I do, to work through those feelings rather than against them. And to not sweat the small stuff! Which I should have known already, but reading your replies this morning it really struck me, and with that thought there came an instant sense of relief and suddenly that list is not so heavy!
    You have also given me some lovely ideas on how my brother can still be a part of the day.
    To Lindsey, Bex, Al and anyone else who has been through similar I am so sorry and thank you for sharing your stories with me.
    Thank you all again for taking the time to read and reply, it has helped and meant more than you know.
    With Much Love.xx

  17. Claire
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    This made me cry. I am so sorry that you are feeling like this but by writting your feelings down and reading the amazing supportive responses I hope it has made you feel a little better. I can’t imagine what you must be going through, a wedding is a stress on it’s own and then you’ve had to deal with 2 tragic losses and hearing the awful news about your Dad. I don’t really have anything to add but just wanted to say that this has really touched me and I hope you have a lovely wedding day.

  18. Roz
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Wow anon you certainly came to the right place for some help, how wonderfully amazing are all the commenters? I’m not sure I can add anything that hasn’t already been said. Hugs to you and your family and the very best of wishes for a wedding day full of love x

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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