Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

six months

Next Friday will be the six month anniversary of my wife’s untimely death. It simultaneously means both everything and nothing to me.

Everything because I can’t believe how much our families and friends have been through in that time. Nothing because I suspect that what we’re going through hasn’t even started yet.

Everything because it’s been the longest six months of my life and I’ve never felt so many emotions so intensely. Nothing because, looking back, I can’t believe six months have passed so quickly and so much of it feels like a blur.

Everything because my whole outlook on life has changed. Nothing because I feel so powerless now that I understand that I have no real control over the future.

Everything because it’s 25 time longer than the previous longest period of time (seven days) that I hadn’t seen my wife in eight years. Nothing because I’ve started to understand that time is a measure that holds little value in grief.

And so as we approach the six month anniversary I can imagine that there are people out there who’ll assume that long enough for a person to have begun to heal. In my experience it’s not. Time is simply a medicine dished out by untrained practitioners. But for me it’s a placebo and I’m familiar enough with the taste of real thing to know I’m being taken for a ride. The truth is I feel every ounce of sadness and loss I felt six months ago.

Yet I’d be lying if I said that my feelings nearly six months on were exactly the same. I know this because I’ve been keeping a diary in the form of this blog and when I look back I can compare. I wrote a piece called Imaging It back in January, which aimed to explain how it immediately felt to loose my wife so suddenly. I covered elements of confusion, guilt and physical pain that I no longer feel with the same intensity. If I had the same physical symptoms, for example, I’m sure I would be extremely ill by now. And if you witnessed me as the shell of a man I was back in November I’m sure you could assume that time was indeed healing. Yet it’s not. I guess I’m just on a journey towards slowly learning to survive with an open wound. And I guess there’s little other choice but to survive when there’s a young child there who needs you more than ever before.

As well as the six month anniversary, next week will also mark several milestones for this blog. It will be four months since I published my first post. By next week there will have been 100 posts and the blog will have received half a million views. And it was with all of this in mind that it occurred to me to revisit Imaging It, because it gave a real insight into the grief I felt immediately after my wife was killed. And although I don’t believe time heals, I’m starting to face the reality that it changes.

So I’m going to tell you what it feels like for me some six months on. The most important part of that sentence is not the measure of time but the part that says ‘for me’. I understand how natural it is for human beings to compare themselves to others. I know how it feels to get cross at people for pushing their beliefs on me. I appreciate that one person’s six months might be another’s six years. And above all, I know myself and I know that all I’m doing with the blog, all I’ve ever done with it, is document how I feel at any given moment in time. Perhaps after seven months I’ll change again. Maybe I’ll regress. Who knows if my feelings will be closer to month one than month six? I’m only certain of one thing. I’ll be the only one feeling my exact feelings. You’ll be the only one feeling yours. We’ll share common ground but we all grieve in our own way in our own time.

I mention this only because I’ve felt some upset and discomfort recently for being criticised for my grief.

I’m not angry enough.

I’m too positive.

I’m just out for myself.

Perhaps inevitably, given my current fragile state, I could hear a thousand positive comments and concentrate only on a handful of negatives. But that’s my grief. When my wife first died I was more preoccupied about who hadn’t got in touch than who had. These days I can’t even remember who did and who didn’t.

But the struggle I’m having with my grief is also telling me to grow a thicker skin. It’s telling me that all that matters now is the approval and the well-being of the people I love or respect. It’s telling me that I set out to help people and if there are still people who can find solace or empathy in what I write, then it’s worth carrying on. It’s telling me to be the gauge of what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s telling me to face the reality that you can’t please all of the people all the time. And it’s telling me not to waste my increasingly precious energy trying.

So this is what grief feels like for me six months on.

It feels like sadness.

Sadness because the person I shared my life with is no longer here and never will be again.

Sadness because any precious moment of happiness I feel, however brief, is followed by a crippling sense of foreboding and loss.

Sadness because it tears me to pieces to think of my son not being raised by the mother who adored him so much and who was planning to make his life so special.

Sadness because I fixate not just on my own loss but that of my wife’s family and friends and I feels theirs too.

It feels empty.

Empty because whatever I do, however much I occupy myself, however much I try to honour the memory of my wife, I feel nothing. No pride. No sense of achievement. No progress. Just nothing.

Empty because a part of me died with my wife. She was part of me. We were part of each other. The physical part has gone and with it it has taken so many of the positives emotions that I always held so dear.

It feels endless.

Endless because I know I’ll never be healed.

Endless because I’ll never see her again.

Endless because I’ll never see the old me again.

Endless because there’s no conclusion, just an unknown expanse of time ahead of me to always miss her.

Endless because a huge part of me doesn’t want the pain to stop because it’d feel like I were doing my wife a disservice in death.

Endless because I have the feelings of both myself and my son to worry about for as long as I’m lucky enough to be alive.

Endless because it never leaves my mind for a moment and I find it hard to concentrate on anything else.

Endless because I rarely sleep and so there are now more hours in the day yet I don’t have the energy to fill them with the things I used to love or the things that made me a healthier person.

It feels like disbelief.

Disbelief because when anyone talks about my wife’s grave I shut down.

Disbelief because I don’t think I’ll ever truly be able to get my head round what’s happened.

Disbelief because, well fuck it, I just can’t fucking believe it’s fucking happened.

It feels lonely.

Lonely because my days never come to a natural close with a ‘goodnight’, a kiss or a cuddle from the person who told me it was time to go to bed.

Lonely because however much company I’m in, I still feel alone.

Lonely because intimacy has gone.

Lonely because I’ve lost my wife, my best friend, my co-parent and my partner in fun and mischief all in one go.

It feels disappointing.

Disappointing because people I bump into often assume that they don’t need to mention what happened because it happened six months ago.

Disappointing because some people avoid talking about my wife as if she never existed.

It feels shared.

Shared because I understand now that I feel some comfort when I comfort others.

Shared because I believe that if we pass kindness on it will come back to us.

Shared because so many people out there are looking out for me and my son.

Shared because I’ve let the people who I initially pushed away back in.

Shared because I stopped trying to be a hero and started to accept and truly appreciate help.

It feels hopeful.

Hopeful because I’ve let moments of happiness back into my life and I’ve sad to hell with the consequences and the hangover that they might create.

Hopeful because of my son’s sunny disposition and his beautiful outlook on life.

Hopeful because he tells me, “It’s not raining, Daddy, it’s happy” when all I see are dark clouds ahead.

Hopeful because he can answer for himself at two-and-half when people ask where his mummy’s gone.

Hopeful because when the other kids at nursery discuss the necklaces that they are making for their mummies, my son doesn’t get upset. He just says he’s making his for his daddy.

So today my grief is not the Gollum I spoke about in the original version of this post. But it still feels ugly, isolated, wretched and schizophrenic enough to be Sméagol.

N.B. Please do feel free to share how it feels or felt for you at six months too. In fact, please do share how it feels or felt for you at any point in your grief. I realise that for many people this blog is not just about my story but also about all the stories shared in the comments. And for me that’s just amazing because it feels like we’re all in it together.

Six months on my grief is still ugly, isolated, wretched and schizophrenic enough to be Sméagol

Six months on my grief is still ugly, isolated, wretched and schizophrenic enough to be Sméagol

43 comments on “six months

  1. Shar
    May 1, 2013

    Hey Ben. As I have sadly discovered, time doesn’t “heal all wounds” but instead slowly reaccustoms you to life with a ‘handicap’. You’re doing one hell of a job though! Being positive and hopeful is grief’s antidote. Self-pity is useful…but only for a short while, otherwise it completely destroys anything good that comes in its way. Lots of love from a young (enough :)) Malaysian reader of your blog

  2. Julia Curtis
    May 1, 2013

    I’m now 16 months on since my husband was killed in a car crash. All what you have said is how I have felt at some time. I have shut people out of my life and am now not sure how to let them back in. The loneliness never seems to leave me and like you I rarely sleep for long and have no idea how to fill the extra hours. My daughter is expecting her first baby shortly and all the feelings of those first few months when I lost my husband are starting to resurface, not that they ever went away!! Anger to the person who killed him is very high on my list right now, sadness that he’s not here to see his first grandchild, such deep pain for my daughter who struggles with anger and grieve for her Dad. I take each day with what throws at me but think there are still tough ones ahead.. Thank you for your blog…makes me realise I’m not going mad!

  3. Tricia
    May 1, 2013

    Once again Ben, you have so eloquently put into words much of how I’m feeling. It’s almost a year for me and not really much easier. My grief is as you say sadness, emptiness, and loneliness. Sunday would have been our wedding anniversary – another celebration alone! Keep writing x

  4. Zainab
    May 1, 2013

    it’s been ten years for me, and I still think of him when I hear songs like this.

    you are most certainly not alone

  5. Bill Wright
    May 1, 2013

    Ben, I was nodding my head at every line. I know that the purpose of you writing this was not to receive positive literary reviews from your readers, but in my opinion that that is the most powerful piece you have written. The way you have captured the visceral and the intellectual aspects of the horrors and confusion of grief has blown me away. It’s made me feel sad for you, sad for me, but it’s also reinforced my perception of your resilience which has in turn emboldened my own sense of my ability to do the best that I can every day.

    It must have been both emotionally exhausting and cathartic to write this.

    So hard not to dwell over the negative comments, I know that I still feel a blazing fury at perceived slights I felt in the first few weeks of my daughter dying. Three and half months down the road I still cling to my grief and misery at having lost Anni and secretly seethe at others inconsiderate tactlessness, like a security blanket. Eventually I will need to pack that blanket away, but I am nowhere near ready yet.

    Again, brilliant piece, thank you for sharing.

  6. laurabwilliamsdesigns
    May 1, 2013

    It’s been seven years and there are still times when I feel like I have been kicked int he stomach. No, I’ll never be the same and neither will my son who is now trying to be a man at 19. I miss him terribly.

  7. wyn price
    May 1, 2013

    All so true, all this grieving applies to all of us who lose close ones, i lost my wife of 38 years seven months ago, to ovarian cancer, treated as a harmless lump, the disease spread, and she died within six months despite chemo etc,she was only 56 and loved life, it is offensive in our position, when people give advise, especially when most of it is useless. i intend to heal somhow! we will never forget, and shouldn’t,but i know somhow we must find a way to move forward, even a little, helps.this is not advise from me but my opinion for myself, hope it helps someone a little, Good luck and Cheers Wyn,

  8. Vicky Pinnell
    May 1, 2013

    This year is 8 years since my dad died. The 1st year was the hardest – 1st birthdays, Xmas, anniversay etc. Some days it feels like years ago, some days it still feels like yesterday. Even after this long there are things that feel like a kick in the stomach and bring it all back. My dad was a big rugby fan and now hearing/watching the anthem at the beginning of games makes me feel so emotional – happy that it reminds me of him but sad that he’s no longer here to enjoy these times with.

    Sadly for me time doesn’t heal but it does help you deal with one step at a time. Hopefully one day your memories will bring more smiles and laughs and less tears.

    Hugs to you and Jackson x

  9. Cath Barnes
    May 1, 2013

    11 months on from losing my husband best friend soulmate and parent to our 2 children I too was nodding at every comment above. To lose someone on so many levels of loving is incredibly difficult to come to terms with. I feel the same numbness I did the day I watched him die the same physical ache when I look at his picture and try to remember every line and freckle on his face. People say the first year is the hardest so when June 24th comes around I wonder is this going to be the start of the healing ?? For me I think the truth is more like I will continue to get up everyday and love my kids with all my heart and continue to carry out my promise to him that I will transfer all that was fantastic about our love to them, just as I can see you are Ben to your amazing little boy.

  10. Rozi
    May 1, 2013

    It’s been 26 years..the chasm of loss has grown narrower with time,but the feelings of loss remain,the instantes of “wishing you were here” never go away,i will feel that until I pass.Keep telling your story Ben,it helps so many on different levels.

  11. Jo
    May 1, 2013

    This post resonated with me. I’m trying to prepare myself for my first wedding anniversary without my husband next week. You have put into words the rambling thoughts that are consuming me right now. Endless, empty, lonely… Thank you.

    • lifeasawidower.com
      May 1, 2013

      I’m preparing myself for my first wedding without my wife this weekend too. I’m pretending it’s a kids’ party though. I’m just going to play with Jackson and eat cake xx

  12. Ray
    May 1, 2013

    Yes, more nodding of the head from me. Not strictly a widower as my wife is in a hospice but can’t get out of bed or communicate with me. Trying to prepare myself for a future without her by my side after over 37 yrs together and a very special relationship. Missing her desperately.

  13. Jo
    May 1, 2013

    Wow. Tears streaming down my face here. Thank you so much for your honesty and eloquent writing. My partner of 5 years was murdered last year and I have been through a mad kaleidoscope of feelings ever since.

    Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to feel.
    Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to be wherever I am at with my feelings.

    What a relief to have someone I can identify with, when you feel that everyone else around you thinks that you need to ‘stop moping and just get on with it’.

    I am glad that I am not the only one that feels like this.

    And thank you for reminding me that I don’t have to be a hero and do this all on my own.

  14. Paul R
    May 1, 2013

    Another powerful post. I just passed the 1 year mark last week. While the emotions of the first six months do decrease, as you stated, in some respects the next six months can be worse. I found that for some friends and co workers they felt that Laura’s death had been ages ago and had moved on. Some behaved as if she never existed and wondered what was wrong with me. You may also find that those casual friends, who are couples, may slowly disengage because you are no longer a couple. And then there are those that just don’t want to be reminded about the loss of your wife and will drop you from their lives.

    Part of me says to just forget those people, since they obviously weren’t great friends, but it still hurts when someone just turns their back on you. It’s during this next six month period that I found out who really was a good friend.

  15. sirene37
    May 1, 2013

    A friend of a friend on Facebook I think shared your post, and this is how I just stumbled upon the page. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t even begin to imagine your heartache. We should remember that emotions are very complicated and it’s really no one’s business to comment on another’s: it’s a very personal and individual thing. So feel however you need to feel regardless of others’ opinions. They aren’t in your shoes! (And the truth is, we can never really, truly be in another’s shoes). I understand you may not believe in the following, but I thought I’d state it anyways. While it’s very true that your wife is physically gone, her soul lives on (as does everyone’s) and that is truly an amazing thing. It takes my breath away to think that once we love someone, we can never really lose them. It’s not at all a way to downplay all your pain and sadness; perhaps it’s just a reminder that you can celebrate her in other ways. I won’t lie that I always get teary-eyed when thinking of people who passed away, but I like to remember that it’s just another transformation that we’ll all eventually go through. Blessings to you and yours. +

  16. Lisa
    May 1, 2013

    Wow! How do you do it? Each post feels like I have written down my own thoughts, feelings and emotions. Find myself nodding and saying YES that’s how I feel and wish that I could put it down in words as eloquently as you do.
    6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years.. Does the time really matter? All I know is that nearly 11 months later I’m still completely broken, crippled with pain and really really bloody angry.
    I deal with it all by being almost robotic in life and emotionally because if I let it all out where will it leave me.
    Like you I find some joy in my two babies, not quite as babyish as Jackson being 16 and 13 but always my babies. Joy in some amazing family and just the best friends a girl could have but however rich our lives are in having some amazing people in it, my heart remains completely broken.
    Please take pride in your blogs, your willingness to share some really complex emotions without fear and the amazing job you do… Being a special boys Dad x

  17. Avril Lamb
    May 1, 2013

    Your ability to capture the moving target of raw bleeding grief does more to help others than you will ever know. Do not let any of the nay sayers still your pen.

  18. Cath
    May 1, 2013

    There’s no one size fits all were grief and loss are concerned. To hell with other peoples comments about how you should be acting behaving feeling. It is what it is. I am lucky enough to still have the love of my life and father of our children in my life after 27 years so cannot begin to try to imagine how your life is and how your not only grieving for your lovely girl but for your old life Ben, the old Ben. I did lose my Mum nearly 4 years ago and I found myself the other day whilst celebrating my daughters 21st saying to myself.. this cannot be real, my Mum cant possibly be dead. Time just ticks on and although its the natural order of events that you lose your parents, time isn’t the healer its made out to be. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, breathe in and out and do what you are doing. Your honesty and descriptions of your life,thoughts and feelings are amongst t the most accurate, truest and most visual words about loss and love I ever have had the privilege of reading Thanks Ben xxxx

  19. lesley
    May 1, 2013

    Like jo I am reading your post ben with tears filling my eyes.its 34 weeks today since my brothers death. I count it in weeks still. And keep reminding myself how long it has been. Your post describes everything I feel or have felt. I thought I was doing ok but the last week has been so hard. I miss him so much. I cant bring myself to visit his grave because I want to remember him alive not see something reminding me he is gone forever. And part of me doesnt want the pain and hurt and sadness to go away because I dont want to get used to him not being here. He was the one who would have got me through a situation like this. I cant fill the gap he has left in my life, and cant imagine I ever will

  20. whatsyourgrief
    May 2, 2013

    I can’t even begin to remember 6 months. I am so many years out I don’t want to share the number. Year one was in many ways a breeze because it was a blur and people were around and expected the pain. Year two was far worse. One day at a time is all we can do. Great post! Thx.

    • Val
      May 2, 2013

      Agree totally, and I’ve been widowed 14 years. Year 2 defintely worse than year 1 because everyone thinks you are now ‘over it’ and their help dries up! Felt (a new) normality return by year 3, and life generally becomes easier to cope with over time. Still have moments of loss, but they get less as the years go by.

      Once I got to year 3, I decided I wasn’t going to waste time by constantly looking back – for me and my (then) teenage kids I had to move forward and embrace the future. It’s hard, sometimes lonely, but mostly positive. My husband always said ‘life isn’t a dress rehersal’ and after his death I took his words on board as best I could. Embrace opportunities, seize the day etc etc

      About to become a granny for the first time this summer – but as my daughter now lives in New Zealand it’s not going to be easy. No doubt I’ll have another phase of missing my husband! No-one ever said life would be fair and it really depends on the individual as to how you handle grief.

      Good luck to all who read this site.

  21. karen
    May 2, 2013

    8 Months for me, i just feel sad, i feel like I’m now functioning, I don’t forget to do things at work, for the kids (16 son and 5 daughter).

    Mostly I’m shocked that 8 months has passed already.

  22. Naomii Chaplain
    May 2, 2013

    “Endless because a huge part of me doesn’t want the pain to stop because it’d feel like I were doing my wife a disservice in death.” – I understand this. It takes work. Please work on it Ben. It’s not fair to any of the three of you for you to feel this way.

    My Dad died suddenly on September 23rd and I am 7 months deep. I feel cheated every single fucking day. Every time I see somebody with his swift bowl. Every time I hear a joke he would howl at. Every time I have a long walk ahead of me and I haven’t got my number one fan to chat to on the phone and make the walk seem shorter. Everytime I enter one of my million passwords that I have made Dad related. Every time I look at my surname. Every time I get excited about planning for a baby and thinking of how much he was desperate to be a grandad. Every time I hear the number 50(age at death) or 23(date of death) or 7(his birth month) or 62(his birth year) or 21(his birthday). Every time I see a status update about Dad’s. Every time I have a problem. Every time I think of a solution. He was a perfect human being by any sane persons standards and even though I know that the pain has numbed, I know regardless of what anybody has to say – I will never EVER stop feeling cheated and empty.

  23. SHARRON
    May 2, 2013

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  24. Francesca
    May 2, 2013

    Hi Ben – it is coming up for a year since I lost my Dad. At six months, I very much felt like I should have ‘got over it’ more than I had, and that people must be tired of the not so positive and basically sad version of myself I had become. I don’t feel much different a year on. It makes me feel really disappointed in people that you have been criticised on your blog – think about the comments on the Mail Online forum, people literally have nothing better to do. Time allows you to perfect your coping mechanism, not move on. I still get a sharp pain in my solar plexus if I entertain the thought of not seeing my Dad again. Can’t imagine that changing (and pretty sure I don’t want it to really). Your blog is a great outlet and support for people. You should be proud

  25. jacob
    May 3, 2013

    Now 16 months since my wife died, five days after giving birth to our beautiful son. I am glad my wife’s death wasn’t violent, and I’m glad in a way that my son never knew her so he doesn’t miss her so much. I found a bit of “compassion fatigue” kicks in among work colleagues around 6 months to one year, they are not quite so ready to cover for you etc. At the same time looking after my son has also got harder as he is now running around instead of just needing to be fed and changed! But at least the grief and pain have reduced a bit and I no longer cry all the time. I made a photo book about his mother for my son, and found that very therapeutic although very painful at the time. The worst thing for me is just thinking about how much my wife would have enjoyed seeing our son growing up and how much he would have benefited from her, but I just have to do the best I can.

  26. jennifer bonus
    May 4, 2013

    Hi Ben,

    Its being 10 months on for me and my daughter and its a weird feeling as time goes on,we go from total loneliness and sadness to feeling just ok!! I guess thats how i feel most days now just ok and i know i wont be the person or the family we were before but thats the way it has to be. We have to make the most of our lives, so to beat the deathly silence in our house we are getting a dog and so a new chapter will begin my daughter said “there will be 3 of us in the house again” and so there will.

  27. Laura
    May 4, 2013

    What a brilliant post Ben.
    Naomi….what you wrote..I feel the same about my dad and its 3 yrs in July. Had a conversation the other day about the ‘time’ topic with a friend who lost her dad a few months after me, we agree its rubbish and not true for us. The sadness can still consume me, the devastation is still there.my heart aches as I just want to chat to him.so many things to still ask him. as we plan for a family it deeply upsets me that he never became a grandfather when he would’ve been the best. Just like he was my best dad, my best friend, my inspiration and my hero. I just think, he must’ve been so bloody awesome for me to miss him this much. The gap he leaves will never heal.

  28. tokunbosade
    May 5, 2013

    Beautiful….Because it’s open and honest and painfully true. There’s no fitting into your skin…For anyone who has ever felt loss…you so perfectly capture the mosaic of emotions one feels and how your time to heal is ‘your time’….not based on anybody else’s expectations. Life does go on but we grieve and must take time, as long as it takes to heal and truly heal.There’s no rushing that. And just so you know…You ARE doing a great job! As a single parent, I should know.

    For whatever unfortunate events turn our lives upside down and we become single parents – death or abandonment, divorce…The grief is an ‘open wound’ like you said. But I’m so glad for your ‘shared hope’ that healing is here, no matter how long it takes. It’s here.And that’s all that matters.

    Thank you for sharing and offering comfort through your own pain.

  29. macrothings
    May 6, 2013

    Ditto, mostly…

  30. Andrea
    May 9, 2013

    It’s nearly 3 months since my gorgeous man left us because of the nasty swear word that is cancer. Thank you for your bravery and honesty in this blog – it makes me realise I am not alone. I never imagined that I would become a widow before I even got to 40 and I have to admit that I get very grumpy being classed not only a widow but also a single parent ! I want to still be a two parent family!! I just wish we had time to adjust to these new labels.
    Keep writing as its keeping me sane x

    • lifeasawidower.com
      May 9, 2013

      You’re a sole parent not a single one. I hate that term being bestowed on me too. So sorry to hear about what’s happened to your family x

  31. Pingback: past tense | life as a widower

  32. marymshenouda
    May 10, 2013

    Dear Ben,
    I started following your blog days after losing my beloved husband, Samer, to the unbeatable capital punishment: Cancer. I called it capital punishment because it’s exactly that: a verdict was passed and it was just a matter of when the execution was going to take place. Only two months later I was holding his head in my hands while he took his last breaths in the hospital.
    I come from many many miles away, we live in Egypt where death is not such an unusual word for young men and women fighting for this country’s freedom – not from external enemies, but from internal ones unfortunately! We were among the millions in the streets, but unfortunately the snipers didn’t pick either of us while Cancer did!
    I read and my heart bursts in tears with each post: behind every seemingly-positive word you write I see my heartache: the need to be strong, positive, courageous, while deep inside there’s a massive hollow that cannot possibly be filled. Luckily or unluckily – I cannot tell – we didn’t manage to have children in our brief nearly 4 years together, so now I just curl up and hide inside my mattress whenever I can handle it.
    Four months out and also the fourth anniversary of our first date, his birthday and (surprise surprise) Eastern Easter all comes in ONE DAMN WEEK! I’m still not over that horribly long week, but still looking for the one word that could possibly help me get out of this: why am I still alive? What is the meaning of my life now? I’m 36, no children, living maybe meters away from death somehow and faking something that resembles life.
    Well, maybe I should stop here to avoid pulling you and your readers further down this bottomless pit called grief (and which by the way has no translation in the ancient Arabic language for various reasons!).
    The pain at this point is like a dagger stuck to my heart that keeps bleeding but never kills! The pain continues but there’s no hope of it ever disappearing. Yet I also discovered that because there’s something called “life” that somehow goes on while I grief, somehow other things get into the brain such that eventually there are seconds and then minutes when grief isn’t the sole centerpiece. It’s like putting a new picture on the wall: for a long time it becomes the only thing that attracts the eye, then eventually other things start to also attract the eye, yet each time you look at it it’s like first time … each time he’s back in my mind as if I lost him few hours ago!!! I learnt eventually that time doesn’t heal: it just distracts brain cells away, but each time those cells are focusing, it’s all back to square one.
    Indeed such experience cannot be manufactured by the brain: one has to go through it to understand … just like love … just like parenthood.
    In the end of this long comment I want to thank you for sharing your drastic experience. From the many thousands of miles where I live, it does give me a few moments of validation to read what you write, and these are sometimes the only instances where I can just allow myself to fully be present in my situation and not run away.

  33. James
    May 17, 2013

    Ben,

    I am very sorry for your loss. For me, She, who is (was? – doesn’t sound right…) everything, died two and half years ago, later the same day that our 3rd son was born. I have kept my own private journal, every day, but I sometimes come to your blog from time to time, most often when I just don’t know how I feel, or what to say – after all, what is there to say? I seem to seek out your “fresh” views, and you find words, which help in times when I feel numb, they offer some sort of portal back to feeling “in-it” – and I prefer this to nothingness…

    You said a lot, all of which, as others have said, is spot on, but in particular what made me post today, was your point about feeling no pride, no achievement, and this emptiness – and although I do think grief changes with time, I wonder if this will ever change?

    Practically, when my wife died, I was left with 3 young children with no mother here, one of them a new born baby, and in the two and half years since then, I know I have done well with this, I “handled” everything, I am there for them practically and emotionally, we talk about her, and she is somehow part of their lives, and upbringing, and I think it would seem to tick all the boxes of what you should do to deal with this sort of thing in the most healthy manner, and I have changed everything to ensure they have a “present” parent, and not just a provider, and they are doing well, I know I have done well.

    Yet, I seem to take no “pride” in this, I consider it almost nothing, hardly noteworthy. I almost recoil from being told I have done well and should be proud. How true this sense of non-accomplishment is, and this was brought home just yesterday, when, after taking them for a picnic tea after work and school, with a cake we had made from their mums old recipe book, they told me “I was the best Dad, and looked after them, played with them, did fun things, cooked with them etc etc” in short, I was lavished with praise from them, but I was struck down by how I felt no real pride in this. Of course I am pleased they feel like this, but I still feel hollow, empty, full of disbelief – but the kind of disbelief that seems like it has stuck with me for so long now, I can’t even begin to try explain what exactly I don’t believe, perhaps like a suspended animated state, stuck in jelly, a kind of dazed disbelief.

    Perhaps all that is really changed in two and half years, is I seem to get “spent” more quickly, and that something which is protective in my psyche kicks in quicker than it used to, and shuts the door to this horror show, and lets me, or perhaps makes me, become distracted by life, and things to do, again – that is, until the next dip… and I can almost laugh at the sheer absurdity of this situation, and in the words of General Melchett, from Black Adder goes forth, say “… howl, howl, the pain the pain … Oh well, can’t be helped, can’t be helped” – and then look around in astonishment that she is not here to laugh along with me at my quip…

    • lifeasawidower.com
      May 18, 2013

      Hi James,

      I’m sorry for yours too. The whole pride thing is so strange because I intuitively went to write back saying you should be really proud of yourself even though when people say it to me I feel nothing.

      I’ve spent time thinking about this from my point of view and this is where I got to. Being a parent is my job. When (if) we choose to have kids we’re too afraid to talk or even think about it but we sign up to caring for them alone should the situation arise. Sadly for so many of us on this forum it has but perhaps we just subconsciously know it’s our job and not something that makes sense to be applauded for any more than doing a spot of hoovering. I’m not saying that’s what I believe but perhaps that’s what goes through our heads.

      The other thing about being a parent is it’s a job that’s never done so it’s not like painting a room, standing back an thinking, ‘good job’. There are cracks that need attention every day and there always will be as long as we live.

      I find men who bring up kids alone get a lot of praise too, probably more so than women. One woman wrote to me to say she always admired men who raise children alone and I asked her why not women. Her response was that it’s expected of women and they do it all the time. They do, but how strange that we still live in an age where men deserve more praise than women for doing the same job.

      I guess the other thing about pride is it’s a sin. Religious or not that means it’s probably not one of the most favourable character traits. I felt deeply uncomfortable when people praised me when I started this blog because I felt like the attention was on me when all I wanted to do was talk to people about my wife and keep her memory alive for my son.

      I think people just want to be kind when they praise you. Sadly none of it makes me (us?) feel better. But then little can. I get everything I need from seeing my son happy though. I don’t even want him to tell me his views on my parenting in the future. If I see the child grow into a happy adult then I’ll have achieved the only thing I really care about now.

      Good luck with the future and no doubt we’ll talk again soon.

      Ben

  34. Charlie
    May 20, 2013

    I agree with and closely relate to each and every comment posted here. Ben, thank you for sharing your feelings and Im sorry for your loss. My loss is catastrophic to me. I feel my entire life has been upended and ripped away in a storm not of my making. My beloved wife of 29 happily married years, and 35 years as my best friend, confidant, hero, humorist, better half, you name it, finally had to give up her hope this past March, after 18 long nightmarish months battling head & neck cancer. She didnt drink or smoke and was only 59 yrs old. I am 61. Our radiation oncologist said over a year ago, that when one of us has cancer, we both have it…little did I know what that statement really meant back then, but I do now. As her daily round-the-clock caregiver for the past 18 months, I had to witness her health decline to the point where she was in a hospice room, and drew her last breath with me and my son at her bedside only 8 weeks ago to this night.

    I could describe her ordeal for hours here but we are each suffering in our own hell. I can only hope, HOPE, that we will find a way to have our loved one within us all the time. I dont want to forget my beautiful wife. She was my entire life. People say time heals, but I cannot imagine that now, and after reading some of these posts, it seems that it really doesnt matter how much time elapses. It is more about whether we can make new llives for ourselves with our loved ones gone from our sight, but not our being. Im crying now all the time with every thought of our life lived, our unfulfilled retirement dreams after working so long and hard, and my fear of living the rest of my days without my better half beside me loving life, loving me, caring for others, influencing others. It is too much to bear. I dont want to go on anymore right now – and often wanted the cancer to be in me, and not in my beloved, because I used to think it was easier for women to survive than it was for men, but now I dont believe that and these posts attest to that. My son needs me so I am going to press on for him, and perhaps for me, but we will have to see what lies ahead. Thank you so much for your hope and optimism and Im grateful for finding this site so that I can read everyone’s experiences which helps me feel not so alone in this nightmare. This is by far the most difficult time in my life, by far, and I have had a lot of cancer in my family. But nothing prepares you for the multiple simultaneous losses one experiences when losing your spouse.

  35. Sue
    May 25, 2013

    I really really appreciate what you have written here. I lost my husband nine months ago to brain cancer. He was 52. From time of diagnosis to passing, 8 months – 3 surgeries, almost died twice, 6 weeks of radiation + chemo pills.

    He was my soulmate, best friend and the kindness person yet the boldest person I have ever known. I felt safe with him.

    I feel vulnerable emotionally cause I am on a rollercoaster of happy to sad. I have been taking celexa since for a year, too keep my lows from being too low.

    I feel fragile also. Like I have PTSD. A friend recently lost his wife and I cried fir two days, and I shook and shook, traumatized.

    I feel fuck anyone who disrespects me, no water off this duck’s back. Usually have more control.

    I don’t sleep like I should need 8 only getting 5-6.

    I have hope for new love. Lonely. No hugs, cuddles, kisses, …

    Want out of this sad place.

    Sue

  36. Jon
    May 29, 2013

    Ben,

    I lost my wife of ten years on November 11 last yea,r my son is four and a half. I am day by day at the same point in this you are.. We each grieve differently but so many scary similarities in what you are feeling and what you wrote. Six months on seems worse that 2 months after. The split personality of wanting to feel better and still wanting to remember and feel. The emptiness is what consumes me the most as I feel my future has been stolen. I had no plans without my wife and so now I have no plans. Only daily obligations and responsibilities are left to replace dreams and hopes.

    On feeling happy It is hard for a cracked vessel to runneth over but it can be done, and then you feel guilty for being happy.

    I find the lines in the armin van burren song “this is what it feels like ” especially applicable. “I don’t even know if I am alive” and “I am going to make it down the road with one headlight”.

    Jon

  37. Pingback: eight months | life as a widower

  38. mandiebates
    December 11, 2013

    My husband passed away at 35, taken by cancer after a 6 year battle; I was 10 weeks pregnant at the time.
    That was 19 months ago. I spent the first 6-1/2 months after his death focusing on my pregnancy and for the last 12-1/2 months, focusing on raising out beautiful baby girl. I am just starting to have a hard time grieving now. Maybe it’s that I am due back to work in January and as that approaches I feel like I should have my act together by now or maybe because pregnancy and maternity leave are all temporary stages in life I somehow took a temporary leave from grief? Don’t get me wrong, I am been hurting beyond words all this time, but this feels different now. Now I am feeling the hurt sorrow anger fear loneliness resentment sadness selfishness self-conscious scared numb lost… all coming down at once. I am reading back through your older posts and it is helping me to make sense, or at least set through what is going on. I am having sleepless nights and reading all these and comments are helping to fill the void atm. I am glad this is here for me, although I know that is not the know it is not the intent.

  39. Liz
    June 20, 2014

    Yes, indeed. The range of emotion and all so unbidden; I miss my love and how belief in us grounded me. The best moments are ones of gratitude for what was.

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