Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

happy days

I used to love that conversation about Falling Down, you know that one where you’d ask what it would take to make you explode with anger like the character played by Michael Douglas in the film? He lost it in Whammy Burger when the fast food restaurant wouldn’t serve him breakfast after 11:30, letting rip at the injustice of not being able to get an omelette just because the clock dictated it was time for lunch. Imagining what would make me so mad used to really make me laugh.

Well I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently and it doesn’t make me chuckle anymore, it makes me worry. I’ve been nervous about when it’s going to come. I’ve read the books and I’ve spoken to the experts and they all tell me that anger will come in grief, that it’s to be expected and that it’s normal.

But it hadn’t hit me. ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I asked myself? Why am I not smashing the place up? Why, when I have such a good excuse, have I broken more plates on a Greek holiday than I have in my own home over the last ten weeks?

I was panicking that it might get me on the London Underground, but then I saw a man getting cross about the overcrowding and I laughed. ‘You don’t know you’re born, mate’, I thought. I worried that a waiter would get it if he served me a latte instead of a cappuccino in the local cafe. Most of all I was worried it would hit me like a wave and then wash away the people I loved most in its tide.

But nothing.

That was until Sunday. I opened up the papers hopeful that the message I’ve been trying to spread would have been treated compassionately and could be of genuine help to others. Turns out I got the wrong paper. They opted for sensational rather than sensitive.

And so came the anger, and f*ck me, was it strong?

It’s eaten me up. It’s taken my sleep. It’s brought me down. It’s made me introverted. It’s made me push away the people that I love. I’ve been unreasonable, snappy, impatient and it’s taken my eye off the ball. The positive things achieved this week with the help of others were wasted on me, overshadowed by the anger.

I’ve regretted that I didn’t listen to my instincts when they told me to say no.

I felt sorry that I’d made myself and others feel worse than we already did.

And I felt so damn angry at folk who don’t even care – gluttonous people who order tragedy for dessert when they don’t get their fill on a more than adequate main.

But I’ve used that anger to get what I want. I used that anger to get the truth and I used that anger to (finally) get an apology.

The first try came earlier in the week. It was the weakest of attempts. ‘I’m very sorry you feel that way’, is not an apology for something you’ve done, it’s an expression of regret for the feelings of another.

But I pushed and I got the letter today and it’s more explicit in its acknowledgement of offence. It allows me to move on. It’s brought the anger out in me so I suppose the grief checklist just got another tick.

Gladly, the dark humour in me got a laugh too.

Turns out the guy who called to apologise for how I feel (so actually got away with not apologising over the phone) was the same person who approved the odious headline that made me so mad. Again, this same chap wrote (or at least signed) the letter I received today, which pointed out that the copy contradicts the headline.

While the whole saga has caused me a great deal of distress, I just had to laugh that the person pointing out that the copy contradicts the headline is the same guy who approved it.

So, the title of this post is devoted to that same man. It completely contradicts the copy, but then who gives a shit if it sucks a few more people in?

17 comments on “happy days

  1. David Kelly
    January 25, 2013

    I hate that failed attempts those failed attempts of apologies: “I’m sorry if I may have caused offence” or “I’m sorry for any offence I may have casued” rather. If you are sorry for what you did than say your sorry full stop, otherwise you’re just regretting how someone else has reacted rather than what you’ve done.
    Glad that you were able to get a resolution to this in a small but very-short-of-what-it-should-be kind of way. To make use of another TV/Film quote “Don’t let the b******s get you down”

  2. talesfromtheeastcoast
    January 25, 2013

    Brilliant! – and thank you for your honesty throughout. Been following for about a week and have been so touched by your story. I’m lucky, right now I have no grief in my life but your blog is helping me appreciate what I have and to re-open my eyes about human nature, humanity and some of the injustices in our strange and sometimes twisted society. I am so sorry that you lost your wife in this way and so early on in your life / marriage / parenthood. I’m sorry too that your son has lost his mother. I am sorry that you are sometimes dealing with idiots who make things even worse. I cannot begin to imagine how you are both feeling and I don’t think I have any words that could help. Maybe just that to keep talking, when you want, to is so.very important, that silence is also golden and honesty is vital – I think you know that already. With love to you and your family. Rachel

  3. Ana D., USA
    January 25, 2013

    Well, its a good thing the anger came out at a deserving party, right?! I read about you last week, and have been sending positive thoughts your way all week. I hope you know there are so many people who have been touched by your life and your love for Desreen and Jackson. Many, many blessings.

  4. kerry
    January 25, 2013

    Brilliantly articulated Ben. Let it out.

  5. I’ve just read your article in last weekend’s Guardian. It has been a while since I’ve bought a paper & most of it has sat by the TV unread all week. I picked it up this morning to while away the dark hours before sunrise. Your words have really moved me and highlight how fragile all our lives are. I am so sorry for your pain and your son’s loss of Mummy at such a tiny age but as you say at the end of your piece, her memory lives on and you’ll never forget the love you shared. Desreen lives on in your little boy. You’re going to be in my thoughts for a long time.

  6. Hannah
    January 26, 2013

    Two things:

    1. I hope you don’t think this is flippant but I loved your ‘Guidebook to Being Desreen’. What a funny, lovely lady. I’m so sorry for you and your son’s loss.

    2. The insomnia. To hear of someone who stays up, seemingly against their own will and then fights tiredness all day, I am just glad to hear it is not just me! My daughter is 5 and has cerebral palsy. For a long time I couldn’t sleep. My husband has just started chemotherapy and again, I can’t sleep. I’m not sure about your snake analogy though. I know it hurts the next day and the next, but I’d still take the middle of the night every time. A window of uninterrupted thought, your own slice of silence. It is reassuring to hear that somewhere in this, I’m in good company. ☺ Take care.

    • lifeasawidower.com
      January 26, 2013

      Thank you for you comment about my wife. I love when people talk about her like that, whether they know her or not. She was a very special girl xx

  7. Cath
    January 26, 2013

    I stumbled on your site via Twitter and have followed your blogs and posting since. I live in the Merseyside area and heard you talking to Tony Snell on the radio. Your words and writing are so obviously from the heart Ben and I feel like you have painted a picture of your beautiful Desreen in my mind. It sounds like there was a lot of laughter in your house . Cant imagine being where your are today with your little lad. I am lucky enough to have been married to the same man for 26 years and our kids are grown. I am grateful for the gifts I still have. Thanks for sharing yours Desreens and Jacksons story with us. It is your gift to us to remind us of what is really important xxxx

  8. lorly
    January 26, 2013

    I felt compelled to post after reading the above and thinking I know which story you are talking about, because I read it and clicked on your blog after reading it,
    Anyone with an ounce of common sense will know that the story is not reflective of the headline, which I didn’t even read properly at first, I just recognised you from previous stories, and wanted to know how you were getting on,
    I suppose what I am trying to say is, you clearly wanted to get the message out there to others despite your own pain, which says alot about your own strength of character, and you feel let down by the headline, which I completely understand, but do not let that overshadow what you have achieved,
    Which is those deep in grief reading your story and coming to your blog, my friend lost her husband a year or so ago aged 31 and she has a little girl and I have told her she must read your blog, because it is real, honest and strips away the shadow and darkness in terms of people never talking about how gut wrenching and painful the whole process is,
    That is what is important, that is what you have achieved, and those sensationalist, unfortunate headlines will be forgotten, but all those millions of people you have reached with your story will not, that is the important thing to hold on to,
    and I speak as a journalist, and one that read your story and then came straight to your blog, that is the impression you have left,
    Your wife sounds like an incredible person, and I wish you all the good wishes in the world, the only advice that ever, ever helped me was one day at a time,
    So a day at a time, and your little boy will give you the strength to push on when it all feels too much,
    x

  9. Jane
    January 27, 2013

    Ben there will be people who bring u down an really don’t care about anyone but themselves. but the majority are good people who are with u every step of this difficult journey and support u and your son 100%. so don’t dwell on those few leeches. Know that u are helping so many people by being so brave are

  10. Claire Davies
    January 27, 2013

    Firstly I’d like to say that Desreen picked a great guy to have a child with, that lady knew her stuff. Your son clearly has an open & strong father to guide him.

    I lost my Dad to cancer last November & your words on grief have really summed up my feelings. My dad had cancer for 6 months & very sick for 6 weeks & lived with us pretty much the whole time. My 4 year old son is without a father & worshipped my lovely Dad – as do I still.

    Please keep writing, your words given me someone to turn to. I have friends & family who were great in the moment but I find it hard to reach out at the right moment. I’ve always been a ‘heart on my sleeve’ kind of girl but this feels different.

    I wish you & Jackson well. I’m truly sorry for your loss.

    From my heart to yours

    Claire

  11. Gilly
    January 27, 2013

    Ben I live in the street where your terrible accident happened – I want you to know that not a day goes by when I don’t think of you and your little boy – I have lived here for 12 years and have three year old twins – we walk down that street every day but this happened to you – on a one off visit – its too wrong. I am so glad we have this blog as it means we have that connection to you and all we can do is say we are thinking about you and sending you positive thoughts – it sounds like you are doing an amazing job with Jackson – by an irony I trained as a Winstons Wish helper – its a great charity – what can I say? I am guessing I am not the first person you have encountered who is lost for words in your situation. All love to you and Jackson – how great for him to have this to read when he is older and working this through.

  12. Laura
    January 27, 2013

    My mum died of cancer when she was thirty 4 and I was 6 years old, she had been ill for 4 years. We were never allowed to mlention her name in at home and no one talked about her.
    For this reason I have only a handful of memories when I should have quite a few for 6 years old.
    I feel guilty and robbed for not having more memories.

    I’m 31 now with 2 boys of my own (3&1) and only now know the pain she must have went through.
    I worry I am going to have to leave my sons and that they won’t remember me.

    I praise you for your strength and what an amazing job it sounds like your doing in keeping your wife’s memory alive.

  13. Hannah
    January 27, 2013

    Hey Ben,
    My personal favourites are the visiting of her parents with accompanying helpful feedback and the non-mincing of words. You paint such a hilariously vibrant and beautiful picture of her. I didn’t know Desreen and yet I hope you don’t mind if I too employed some of these guidelines, particularly the ones regarding self-improvement and unconditional love. Oh and asking for 70% off, that is just truly inspired, what a lady!
    Take care again xx

  14. Jon Magidsohn
    January 28, 2013

    Hi Ben,

    I’m coming up to the tenth anniversary of my wife’s death, having just celebrated my son’s tenth birthday. I’m not here to give you any advice, you don’t need it from someone you don’t know. But I will say that in the short time you’ve been blogging I can see the progress you are making and, though you still have a long way to go, it is indeed progress. Even if it feels like things are getting worse, it’s still progress.

    I know you will get through this difficult time because you have a child that you depend on as much as he depends on you. Enjoy the time you have with him, you have earned the permission.

    I’ve just completed a memoir that took me ten years to write about the aftermath of my wife’s death. I feel now that I have things in the proper perspective. Ten years.

    I think we live close to each other … I’d love to get together and chat some time.

    All the best,

    Jon

  15. luke smith
    January 29, 2013

    Hi,

    I saw an article about you in the metro, looked up your blog and was compelled to google the article you’re referring to. I hope that the stupid insensitive fool who approved the headline for that article ended out on their arse.

    My story isn’t like yours at all but its struck a chord so well done for getting it out there. I lost a dear friend at university to cancer, he was tragically young. The strange thing is I wept for him at the funeral and felt embarrassed afterwards. Looking bad this was absurd, it was a terrible tragedy and to express sadness is the most natural thing in the world.

    Yet people are encouraged to not show emotion that “…. wouldn’t want you to cry”. Why? If I died tomorrow people would be sad, they’re not robots so me not wanting them to be sad is bizarre.

    Wishing you all the best.

  16. Fred
    February 4, 2013

    I posted previously under “tough day”. Anger is a natural emotion that crops up when life is cut short with no clear purpose. For me, there were days when no one could say or do anything right. I felt so angry with everyone and everything, especially with other people who had families as it all seemed terribly unfair. In fact, you can now see the real truth in people saying “life is so unfair”.

    Having said that, anger can also be the emotion that pushes you on and fuels your desire to make better things happen, after the tragedy of the sudden loss of a much beloved spouse begins to sink in. The confusion that initially ensues, feeling like life has in fact ended, even before it has really begun, is gradually replaced by frustration at this new state of living that has happened to you virtually overnight.

    And what makes you truly furious is that you did not choose any of this.

    Using the anger constructively is a real challenge but over time, you can achieve things that you cannot really start to imagine in the present. You will honestly get to where you need to go.

    Here’s hoping that eventually you will come out of the darkness into a wondrous light, where you will flourish.

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