Name: Peter B.
Tell me about the person who died:
I'm an artist who lives and paints in Wales. My beloved wife Donna died of pancreatic cancer last year on the morning of our silver wedding anniversary, the 8th of September, 2015. She was fifty-one years old. We were inseparable.
What has your experience of grief been like since your loss?
I am exhausted. All of the time. I weep every day. It feels like a palpable barrier has been erected around me. Intangible, invisible and insurmountable. Life has become muffled. Time passes infinitely slowly. Everything has become excruciatingly difficult to negotiate.
If you had to describe your grief as a literal landscape, what would it look like and feel like?
A bottomless pit of slate grey. Not black. There is light but filtered through layers of cloth of variable thickness.
Tell me about an object that I can photograph that reminds you of the person who died, and why?
A book. Jane Eyre. My wife loved to read.
How did the people in your life support you in your grief? What was helpful? What was frustrating?
My friends were wonderful. They still are. They seem to instinctively know when I need an arm around my shoulder and when to back off and give me space. I am reluctant to lean on them overly much. I don't wish to intrude on their lives. I don't wish to inflict my grief upon them.
How did people who were grieving the same person respond to the death compared to you? What similarities and differences did you notice?
My wife and I lived a solitary life together. All we needed was one another. We saw others very infrequently. Subsequently I grieve alone. I can't speak for our friends. They keep their feelings shielded from me.
Did anything surprise you about your experience with grief?
The sheer force of it. I lost both my parents a few years ago. My wife and I cared for them both in their last years. We loved them dearly but although losing them was terrible, it was nothing compared to losing my wife. Her loss has devastated me.
How did your private grieving relate to your public mourning?
There has been no discernible difference. I only leave my home infrequently now. I break down unpredictably so I keep myself sequestered.
Were there any personal or public rituals or structures that helped you in your grief?
My life meanders from one day to the next. Only my painting gives form and structure to it. I created a piece in memory of my cariad* called "Rain Dancer" in those initial months after I lost her. Making it helped me enormously, though in a way everything I made prior and everything I make subsequent to her loss was and is for her, despite much of my work being commission-based. A little of her is in everything I make.
How did your loss and your experience of grief change you?
It's too early to say. I am still too raw, too confused to analyze or make any sense of how I am or will be.
*love, in Welsh
This post is part of Grief Landscapes, an art project documenting the unique terrain of people’s grief. Participants share an experience with bereavement, and I photograph an object that evokes the person who died, transforming it into an abstract landscape inspired by the story.