A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
New feelings have taken hold of me this weekend. Untold pain from running up steep hills in the biting cold at a 10K race in Greenwich Park on Saturday morning. An overwhelming urge to laugh and make people laugh on Saturday afternoon. And something quite like happiness today.
Running with new friends and then drinking with old ones on Saturday meant that I spent most of the day away from my son. I missed him terribly and thought about him the whole time. So when I woke up on Sunday and heard him rise soon after me, I rushed to greet him.
He made me laugh immediately. Standing in the hall sporting a new, if accidental, asymmetric off-the-shoulder pyjama look and sodden from an over active night bladder, he was only interested in putting his arm back in his sleeve.
“You’re soaking, Jackson. Let’s get you bathed and changed.”
“No dank you, Daddy.”
Happy as a pig in shit (or perhaps a kid in piss).
Breakfast, second breakfast, train time and then we hit the park where we went to feed the squirrels. I haven’t seen my son so contented, confident or cooperative in weeks. He indulged himself in fun and play for an hour and emitted joy that soothed my soul. For the first time in months I allowed myself to live in the moment and we just had fun. Simple as that.
This playtime paved way for a little friend’s birthday party. Unable to avoid analysing his behaviour whilst in the company of other kids and parents (fuck it, I mean mums) I was worried for a few minutes. While the other children sang songs and passed the parcel, my son’s eyes darted round the room and weighed up his two-parent peers. He looked cross. He seemed confused. My heart sunk.
But then he was suddenly back in the room. The boy he had always been showed up and made me wonder whether he hasn’t actually really changed that much. He didn’t respond that well to the organised fun at the party, but then he never did. He shirked it at his last birthday party when his mum was still alive in favour of some quiet time sitting on a window ledge entertaining himself with his trains. Today he chose to pass on pass the parcel and instead pass his time dancing to the stop-start house beats that accompanied the classic party standard. But that’s him. A true individual, slightly antisocial at times, knows his own mind. Two going on 42. Loving, sensitive, mostly happy, a touch grumpy, won’t be cajoled into doing anything that doesn’t appeal at any particular moment in time. In short, quite like his mum.
I suppose I was in a slightly better mood than I have been for quite a while today. But allowing myself to see my child for what he is rather than torturing myself about how he might feel helped me to chill out and enjoy my day too. Of course he’s sad, of course he’s tortured and of course he’s confused. But I realised this week that his pain comes in waves that appear to last for five or ten minutes before he moves on. But then his pain transfers to me and I cling onto it for hours.
So right now I find myself thinking that if I spend the rest of my day pouring over his five or ten sore minutes he’ll only get to live with a miserable and sullen dad. And he deserves better than that. So while I can’t just switch off those feelings or the sensation of being stabbed in the heart when observing his anguish, perhaps I can try to be more like a child. After all I feel like I’m starting my whole life from scratch anyway, so why not?
It’s said that young children are better than adults at dealing with immediate grief because they are more able to live in the moment. Perhaps they have something to teach us.
My little apprentice is slowly becoming the master.