A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
This is a guest post by a widower called Chris Jones.
A software developer from Kensal Green, Chris was widowed at 46 leaving him the sole parent to three young daughters aged ten, six and one. He shares his experience of creating new rituals to mark significant dates.
Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries take on a whole new meaning when the person with whom you celebrated is no longer there.
My dear wife Joy died suddenly in May 2006 when an aneurism in her brain burst, leaving myself and our three daughters (aged 10, 6 and 22 months at the time) to try to rebuild a family life when the heart of that family had been ripped out and taken from us so suddenly.
My daughter’s second birthday was just six weeks after her mother died. Despite the army of family and friends on hand supporting us and trying to make it a special day for little Mili, it was a terrible ordeal for me. Once we had sung Happy Birthday and Mili had blown out the candles on her cake, I sat in the garden on my own and bawled my eyes out. The whole thing just seemed so wrong without Joy.
As the months went by and Christmas approached, I panicked at the thought of me and my three girls sitting round a table wearing paper hats and eating turkey. But then I remembered a friend had told me that Malaga was nice in December and without thinking twice I logged onto the internet and booked the flights.
First though came Joy’s birthday, three and a half weeks before Christmas Day. Joy had always loved her birthday so much and we always marked the occasion in a big way. I told my bereavement counsellor how very much I was dreading it and he came up with a really helpful idea for which I will always be grateful.
It’s not possible to ignore important family days such as birthdays but it’s inevitable that they can never feel the same as before. The celebrations you once shared sadly become painful reminders of loss. So my counsellor suggested replacing old rituals with new.
A fully formed idea leapt straight into my head. It was like a message from heaven. Joy’s birthday would become the day when we decorated the house for Christmas. We would fill our home with light and sparkle. It would be something we could do together as a family, and it would become a day of positive remembrance rather than sadness and gloom.
The girls were very excited – tinsel and glitter were everywhere. I helped them light candles in the window so they could shine into the night sky. We created light in the face of the darkness and it felt so good.
Now every December 1st since we do the same. More often than not we have a house full of little helpers – the girls’ friends love the idea and always want to be involved.
We found a great way to turn Joy’s birthday into a big celebration, just what she always loved.
And as for Christmas Day on the Costa del Sol? Well the Spanish hotel was fun and the experience was just different enough to feel like an adventure rather than a sad and empty day.