Reflections on pictures and continuing bonds with your loved one, in the way that feels right to you.
This is the bed upon which Queen Victoria died. You’ll notice two pictures – one above the pillow, another by the side of the bed – portraits of her beloved husband Alfred, who had died many years earlier.
Last week I visited the Isle of Wight with some friends, and during our time we went to see Osborne House, the favourite residence of Albert and Victoria, and that’s where this photograph was taken. (I’m no historian so there’s a disclaimer here if any of my facts are inaccurate, but this is what I’ve understood so far.)
The deep mourning of the widowed Victoria is quite well known and remarked upon. This famous monarch suffered immeasurably after the death of her husband. Neither being queen nor the mother of 9 children could change the agony of her loss. She left Albert’s dressing room as he had left it, and it became a place of private memorial ceremony. And in this most private of places, her bedroom, she had his portrait at her side for the rest of her life, indeed until she drew her final breath.
I remarked on these pictures to one of the room stewards who take care of the visiting tourists. She commented how often people thought it was a bit strange that Victoria kept Albert’s pictures there on her bedside. But why not? Doesn’t every grieving widow have treasured pictures of their husband?
While some people obviously think it was distasteful and perhaps a sign of how Victoria hadn’t “coped” or “moved on” from her loss, I personally found it a relatable testament to the enduring love between two people, love that continued through life and death. The disapproval of others – even today – really doesn’t matter at all.
So that brings me back to the issue of pictures. After Pax died, I could hardly bear to see his picture. I had a precious album of photos that I kept and brought out to look at on occasion, but mostly I was in such silent agony of grief I couldn’t stand to have his picture visible too often. With Catherine my experience of grief was different. I was desperate to see her picture, and now Pax too. My house is adorned with pictures of both of them. A little corner of the living room has their pictures and candles, there are pictures in the hallway, big pictures in my home office, pictures I see first thing on waking.
It is the right thing for me to do because it feels right for me. I don’t know what my friends think, though they don’t see the half of the pictures, but it doesn’t really matter. My children are part of my life and always will be. Pax and Catherine are loved and I want to see them.
What about you? Do you have pictures all over the place, or are you at a stage where you’d rather not? It is entirely up to you and how you feel. Managing your life after death – the death of a close loved one – means finding what feels right to you, no matter the opinions of those around you. Don’t let anybody try to persuade you otherwise.
An enduring love equals an enduring grief. Our grief is as personal as the love we shared.