As I waited to pre-record an interview in Millbank, I listened to the Jeremy Vine show through the headset. The topic of discussion was loneliness and grief following the death of a loved one.
Tony Benn contributed in the understated and pragmatic way he always does, when speaking about a lifetime of devotion to his wife Caroline.
Many people phoned in and told their stories of how they felt after a partner had died after ten, twenty or fifty years, as though grief is measured in degrees of severity, the longer you were together before someone died, the greater the grief.
Every week I hold the hand of someone in my surgery who has lost a partner. Someone they loved. Not only through death, but through divorce or separation. Someone who finds themselves in a situation they never thought they would be in.
Many unable to cope with the daily practical problems which threaten to overwhelm them because they are consumed by grief and unable to focus on the day to day tedium of life.
All I can do is hold their hand, and in an attempt to stem the tears, find the right words of comfort and hope.
For me personaly, the most difficult part of being divorced is becoming single.
I manage by submerging myself in work from morning until night, but always in politics, the social side rears its head and I have to brace myself to attend yet another drinks party, alone.
It never ceases to amaze me how many women suddenly fall madly in love with their husbands as I am taken over to be introduced.
They may not have held their husbands hand for weeks, but will be seized by a sudden urge to hang on to his arm, hold his hand and brush back the imaginary stray hairs from his almost bald head as they talk to me.
Her body language yells through an imaginary loud hailer ‘step away from the husband, he’s mine’!
I want to say stop, don’t worry, he has a pot belly, bad breath and a face only his mother and apparently you could love. You really aren’t in any danger of me or any other single woman running off with your clinically obese husband, he really is all yours.
But of course… I don’t.
It’s enough to see the sudden involuntary arch of his eyebrows as he laps up attention from the wife who forgot who he was until five minutes ago.
I never spend too long talking to couples, it's never that comfortable - but as I walk away I always want to turn around and say, "you should fall asleep holding his hand every single night. You should hold his hand often, every single day, because you're very very lucky".
But of course….. I don’t. I walk away and over to the next couple....