It Could Have Been Me: In Memory of Helen Bailey

When I read about the brutal murder of Helen Bailey I knew right away that it could have been me. Helen Bailey (1964 - 2016) was a British author who wrote teen fiction. She was also a widow.

In 2011, at the age of 46 while on vacation in Barbados, Bailey's husband of 22 years died suddenly. He went into the sea for a morning swim, was caught in a riptide and drowned. In her own words she was still  a “wife at breakfast” and became a “widow by lunch."

In spite of her deep mourning, Bailey did everything within her power to get better and move on. She sought the help of a bereavement coach who helped her deal with her grief, she wrote a blog called Planet Grief, in which she detailed her struggle to cope with the sudden loss of her husband, and she joined an online support group for people who had lost their spouses.

And then something joyful happened, after eight months of widowhood she met through that group a  “gorgeous grey-haired widower" (her words), whose wife died suddenly in 2010.

Helen Bailey probably felt that she met a kindred spirit. They started out as friends, then grew closer, started dating and finally moved in together and bought an old house in Royston, Hertfordshire

According to her bereavement coach, Helen Bailey was a person who wanted to feel “secure and safe”, like she had with her late husband. She added that “there was never any inkling or sign that she was anything but safe” with her new partner.

It seems that after her world was shattered, she could rebuild her life with her new partner Ian Stewart. So in order to make him feel secure as  well, in case she died, Bailey changed her will and left him all her money, She gave him  power of attorney as well.

People love a happy ending, and there is nothing more heartwarming than a story about a  widow and a widower who find  love and happiness.

But on April 2016, Helen Bailey disappeared, and three months later her remains were found buried in the Royston house. Her new partner was charged with her murder.

I am almost certain that most of the people who read about Helen Bailey and her tragic death ask themselves how could she have been so naïve and so blind? Didn’t she suspect anything?

But to me as a widow it makes perfect sense:  I was not used to being suspicious, I had no reason to. Moreover, in the first year of mourning, when I was hungry for warmth and kindness, I trusted people even more. I can even identify with Bailey’s wish to insure the future of her new partner in the event of her death. Hadn't he suffered enough?

Actually, apart for the ending, my own biography is almost identical to that of Helene Bailey. My husband died when I was relatively young, I was helped by a kind bereavement coach, and like her, I found my partner another “gray haired gorgeous widower” online.

My partner and I were both safe and secure in our previous life, and that is why we  were not used to being suspicious. We were probably naïve, but we gained a lot by being able to trust each other.

This is a horrifying story for everyone, but it is especially scary for widows. Still l believe that it is better to be generous and trusting, like Helen Bailey, than to lose your faith in love and humanity. I am so sad that she was proven wrong.

The essay first appeared in the Times Of israel

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/it-could-have-been-me-in-memory-of-helen-bailey/

Comments 8

 
Sue Martin Glasco on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 05:09

This story is so sad. I agree it is good to be trusting. But this woman's death makes us realize that it is also good to not immediately write a will leaving everything to a new husband or wife--no matter how much one might love and trust that new spouse.

This story is so sad. I agree it is good to be trusting. But this woman's death makes us realize that it is also good to not immediately write a will leaving everything to a new husband or wife--no matter how much one might love and trust that new spouse.
Orna Raz on Saturday, 01 April 2017 20:56

Thank you for reading and commenting dear Sue, it is such a sad story.

Thank you for reading and commenting dear Sue, it is such a sad story.
Katherine Gregor on Sunday, 02 April 2017 08:37

It's a devastating story. But thnak you for reminding us that we mustn't lose faith in love and our fellow humans.

It's a devastating story. But thnak you for reminding us that we mustn't lose faith in love and our fellow humans.
Orna Raz on Sunday, 02 April 2017 10:02

Thank you for your kind comment dear Katia:-)

Thank you for your kind comment dear Katia:-)
Rosy Cole on Tuesday, 04 April 2017 16:20

Eight months is way too early after bereavement in marriage, or an established partnership, to be forming another bond. The situation can't help but be about all the searing emotions associated with grief and longing, and less about love for another person. We need to recognise that our meshes run deep and are not as easily disentangled as logic and circumstance suggest. This is true whatever kind of relationship the partners have had, since we invest everything we are in them, for good or bad.

Widows are especially vulnerable. With the sharing of data of every kind, they become the target of scams within weeks of their loss. And their vulnerabilities are readily played upon by some of the familiar and respectable people they trust and think they know. It can be quite an eye-opener.

The story you cite is indeed tragic and extreme and we must not let such instances automatically destroy our faith. But, on the whole, it's the luck of the draw. What, when someone has been trustfully and faithfully married for twenty years or so and discovers their spouse has other personae elsewhere with all that that entails...? One brick dislodged and the whole edifice comes crashing down. According to an in-depth psychological study I read four or five years ago, it's by no means as uncommon as we might imagine.

Eight months is way too early after bereavement in marriage, or an established partnership, to be forming another bond. The situation can't help but be about all the searing emotions associated with grief and longing, and less about love for another person. We need to recognise that our meshes run deep and are not as easily disentangled as logic and circumstance suggest. This is true whatever kind of relationship the partners have had, since we invest everything we are in them, for good or bad. Widows are especially vulnerable. With the sharing of data of every kind, they become the target of scams within weeks of their loss. And their vulnerabilities are readily played upon by some of the familiar and respectable people they trust and think they know. It can be quite an eye-opener. The story you cite is indeed tragic and extreme and we must not let such instances automatically destroy our faith. But, on the whole, it's the luck of the draw. What, when someone has been trustfully and faithfully married for twenty years or so and discovers their spouse has other personae elsewhere with all that that entails...? One brick dislodged and the whole edifice comes crashing down. According to an in-depth psychological study I read four or five years ago, it's by no means as uncommon as we might imagine.
Orna Raz on Tuesday, 04 April 2017 21:57

Thank you dear Rosy, as I found out myself that there is no expiration date for bereavement and as we try to go on with our life we continue to carry with us our departed loved ones.
I met my partner, a widower, only four months after he lost his wife. . He was in deep mourning, and still he needed to feel alive and loved.
What happened to Helen Bailey is tragic, and it is impossible to know why it happened. . But I am convinced that the reason it happened was not because she met him so soon after she lost her husband.

Thank you dear Rosy, as I found out myself that there is no expiration date for bereavement and as we try to go on with our life we continue to carry with us our departed loved ones. I met my partner, a widower, only four months after he lost his wife. . He was in deep mourning, and still he needed to feel alive and loved. What happened to Helen Bailey is tragic, and it is impossible to know why it happened. . But I am convinced that the reason it happened was not because she met him so soon after she lost her husband.
Nicholas Mackey on Saturday, 08 April 2017 12:50

What a moving article about such a terrible tragedy and yet you conclude on a positive note which is courageous of you.

Sadly, I am now of a certain age where I notice that people close to us have been reduced in number through death leaving behind a surviving widow or widower. An unfortunate phenomenon resulting from such a loss is that the widows/widowers, in addition to dealing with the intense grief of the passing of a beloved partner, also often have to contend with isolation and even loneliness as the previous social circle that was so easy to maintain contact with as a couple somehow falters at this point and I notice it is hard for the surviving widow/widower to regain a social life.

What a moving article about such a terrible tragedy and yet you conclude on a positive note which is courageous of you. Sadly, I am now of a certain age where I notice that people close to us have been reduced in number through death leaving behind a surviving widow or widower. An unfortunate phenomenon resulting from such a loss is that the widows/widowers, in addition to dealing with the intense grief of the passing of a beloved partner, also often have to contend with isolation and even loneliness as the previous social circle that was so easy to maintain contact with as a couple somehow falters at this point and I notice it is hard for the surviving widow/widower to regain a social life.
Orna Raz on Sunday, 09 April 2017 15:37

Dear Nicholas, thank you so much for your kind words. You are so right research confirms what you noticed especially in the case of widows. Even today, like in the days of Sense and Sensibility often when a woman loses her husband she loses her social status as well.

Dear Nicholas, thank you so much for your kind words. You are so right research confirms what you noticed especially in the case of widows. Even today, like in the days of Sense and Sensibility often when a woman loses her husband she loses her social status as well.
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