Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

inverted commas

Five months ago this week I set up this blog with just one intention. I wanted to help other young widowers find someone who could relate to the hell they were going through in losing their wives. Over the course of time the reach and purpose of the blog have both evolved and I now understand that it is read by men and women alike, young and old, but today I have found myself reflecting on my original intent.

The day I wrote my first post I hoped to find a few guys who could empathise with my situation and I with theirs. It didn’t take too long. Within a fortnight I’d be invited to write for a few newspapers and appear on a couple of TV shows and then suddenly a couple of guys came forward. They’d be searching, with no luck, for the same thing as me. There was relief on both sides when we found one another remotely. Emails were exchanged, virtual friendships were made and many a sleepless midnight conversation was had with subjects ranging from court cases to potty training, anniversaries to animated movies (I find we widowers talk about Finding Nemo and Bambi a lot).

The relationships that have slowly built have been developed from the emotional safety of our own homes. Perhaps it’s one thing for two men to open up to one another at all, but for two to expose their feelings face-to-face is another entirely. But that’s what happened today. I met my first young widower ‘friend’. I use inverted commas not because I didn’t like him, but because until today he was categorised that way by a fairly popular social networking site called Facebook. A resource that is often criticised but that I feel has saved me from going under in what has been the most difficult time of my life. It’s a place that has allowed me to both share my feelings with people I know without having to repeat myself over and over and to acquaint myself with new people who have helped me feel more normal than I otherwise might.

But this morning my ‘friend’ became a friend. We met in person, talked like two guys do and shared stories about our wives and our sons, who were born just two and a half weeks apart. Just two guys drinking coffee and talking about nappies, theme parks, Mickey Mouse, films, relationships, death and anger. The very epitome of light and shade.

It was lovely. Kind of like meeting an old friend but one who didn’t have to ask the world’s silliest question, ‘What you been up to?’, because he kind of already knew. He’d be up to the same things. Being a widower, a dad, a mum, a cleaner, a cook, an employee and a guy who desperately misses his wife.

But it was also tough. Not because I felt like I was taking on more grief, but because a wave of incredibly powerful sadness came over me. And it wasn’t for me. As I looked at him I thought, ‘I just can’t believe this guy’s wife’s dead already. Just look at the age of him.’

I was staring at a guy who was so much like me, just like I wanted to when I started this blog five months ago, and it hurt like hell. Of course I appreciate there are lots of other people just like me out there, but they felt somewhat distant and remote until today. Then suddenly seeing another young widowed dad looking right back at me made the whole thing feel so much more real. And that made me really really fucking sad.

Plenty more widowed dads in the sea

Plenty more widowed dads in the sea

21 comments on “inverted commas

  1. Mark Pierson
    June 5, 2013

    Ben, I thinks it’s awesome you’ve actually met someone close to your age who has gone throught the same experiences you have. I’m finding out there are more than I ever knew. I’m 49 years old & lost my wife 5 years ago. The only other men I’ve met who have been through a similar experience are all in their 60′s or older. So at the young age of, what, 34, you should feel some gladness as well as the sadness you feel, as the 2 of you can greatly help each other.

    Thought I should tell you your blog as well as your Facebook page have been a great comfort to me.

  2. Actually Mummy
    June 5, 2013

    But what you’re doing is good. What you’re doing for him and others, and what they are doing for you is all good. Congratulations on having the bravery to do it :)

  3. Mark Oborn
    June 5, 2013

    Hi Mark and Ben,

    I too am a young widow that 45. My wife of 22 years died very suddenly last month leaving me and my for kids lost, alone and very much like you guys.

    Ben, your blog and website has been a help… Just to know that there are other people in the UK experiencing very similar feelings and emotions to myself is, in some strange way, comforting. That’s not to say I want other people to suffer, far from it, but to know I’m not alone is good.

    The wave of sadness you experience today reminds me of a quote I saw on Facebook this morning. “Grief comes over us like waves, all we can do is ride the waves and keep swimming”

    Keep swimming mate.

    All the best

    Mark

    @markoborn

  4. Ben Dyke
    June 5, 2013

    Ben it is so so sad. I remember trying to avoid how I felt in so many ways and the feelings just kept coming up as and when they wanted to(or perhaps I couldnt or didnt want to resist them anymore). I am 3 years and 6 months from when Hannah died and its still desperately sad. My ‘new’ life is great in lots of ways but that doesnt stop the anger, grief, hurt etc about my ‘old’ life being destroyed, and I dont think it ever will. I will always have ‘Hannah’ moments or days when I just feel it all and it just really, really hurts. Last year I met someone who lost his first wife when he was about 30 and had a young son. He is now in his 60s but when I shared my ‘story’ he cried as it took him back. He has since had a whole new life, lovely 2nd wife and kids etc but here he was over 30 years on and still able to cry about it. That spoke to me. It was permission to let this thing really, really matter and I will always need to hear that. Hannah’s life and ‘premature’ death will ALWAYS matter to me, even though I am now remarried and very happy.

  5. sunnyjane
    June 5, 2013

    It’s a roller coaster. You think you have a handle on it, then you don’t. And things that haven’t bothered you for a long time suddenly are the things that you can’t handle. Eventually… it gets better… (at least that’s what I’m told)

    • Mark Pierson
      June 5, 2013

      It does get better. Each passing day allows me to enjoy life a little bit more. At first I was completely lost, but I think I’m going to make it. Sometimes I feel like those little gophers when they stick their heads out of their holes for the first time. What a joy it is feel the sunshine again. And while I’ll never stop loving or missing my late wife, I think it would be an injustice to her memory for me to become a living martyr. And, yes, sometimes situations come up that make me sad all over again, but more and more I’m able to laugh & think, “man, wouldn’t she have loved this?”.

  6. macrothings
    June 5, 2013

    As always, your words touch those that have lost their partner, creating empathy among us.

  7. Bill Wright
    June 5, 2013

    I have been to a couple of ‘Dad’s support groups’ for Dads who have lost children. At 5 months down the road, I am by far the most newly bereaved and 5 or 10 years younger than most of them. I worry sometimes that I get on the other guys’ nerves because I am eager to explore all of our grieving processes when it seems they would probably prefer to talk about their latest DIY project or Football. I go from feeling sympathy towards them for letting their emotional reticence deny them potentially rewarding conversations when confronted with other men in exactly the same situation, to wondering, have they got it right? Maybe we should spend the first hour of the session talking about laying astro-turf?
    Overall I guess it’s about balance. A long session of sharing the worst kind of pain imaginable is too draining and harrowing to sustain without some trivial chit chat to balance things out. Treat yourself to a drink tonight Ben.

  8. Dave Varley
    June 5, 2013

    Ben, it’s great that you have finally met up with someone who knows the pain and sadness that comes with such a loss, and i hope that he is able to help you, as you help others. I lost my fiancee just over a year ago, 3 weeks before we were due to marry, leaving me to bring up her daughter, my future step-daughter alone. At the age of 39, I am the first of my circle of friends to have experienced a loss like this, and this can be very isolating. To be able to relate to someone who knows exactly where I’m coming from would be a great comfort, so I often read your comments and find myself wondering how the hell you have managed to read my mind. It is good to know that all these crazy, mixed up feelings are part and parcel of the grieving process, and not just me losing the plot! I dont think I would have the courage to write so openly, and I for one thank you for letting others know that no matter how isolated it can feel, you are never truly alone.

  9. Simone
    June 5, 2013

    I’m going to be 59 on Monday. My mother died when I was 8. But my father worked tirelessly to be mother and father, which was an amazing thing to do in the 1960′s and I always felt that I was luckier than most of my friends who had two parents, as he had more love for me and my brother than any of my friends’ parents seemed to have for them. And that’s how you are with Jackson. You are doing an amazing job and he’s so fortunate to have such a fab dad. xx

  10. Natalie hurst
    June 6, 2013

    Hi Ben
    even though you are so sad, you have made all of us feel a little less like “I know I’m not the only one but why I am I the only one I know going through this” – so thank you -and I wish I could take a little bit of your pain away x

  11. Alan
    June 6, 2013

    I’m glad I found this. It seems like I’m soon going to be “one of you”.
    My wife is 45. We’ve been married for 19.5 years and have two boys 7 and 8.
    She has been battling breast cancer for just over 3 years. It was diagnosed after it had already spread to her spine. Recently it spread to her liver. Now it seems to be affecting her brain – still awaiting scan results.

    She’s been my everything since we met nearly 21 years ago.
    There is nobody else in my life that knows me even 1% as much as her.

    I worry about all kinds of random things, like not being able to remember all the facts that she does, if our boys ask in the future. (My memory is below average for all those stories people tell, despite the fact that I love hearing them.)

    We’ve recorded some audio “interviews”, but I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I can’t preserve everything she’s ever thought.

    I feel cheated, and desperately sad that we won’t grow old together.
    That she won’t see our boys grow up.

    I feel jealous when I see old couples together.

    I feel selfish when I fear the impending loneliness, and the sense of being “trapped” in the house at night after the children have gone to bed etc.

    I fear what would happen to the children if I became ill.

    It’s all just heart breaking.

    • Ray
      June 6, 2013

      Alan
      I can associate with everything you say. I am in a similar position in that my wife has been in a hospice since 1March. This dreadful illness has robbed her of so much. She was so fit and active before she fell ill and now can’t communicate with me or get out of bed.
      Ben writes so eloquently and has the ability to convey the thoughts of many of us.
      Thinking of you
      Ray

      • Alan
        June 6, 2013

        I feel for you Ray.
        My wife is now back the hospice, has very limited mobility & has seizures that seem to chip away at what she has left.
        People have mistakenly thought she’s our boy’s gran, not their mum.
        Just 2 weeks ago she could still climb stairs etc. It’s like I’m losing her bit by bit.
        Alan

  12. Mark Pierson
    June 7, 2013

    Alan & Ray, I lost my wife to cancer at the age of 44. I too watched that nasty disease take away the best part of me. A part of me sometimes wishes we would have had children, so I would have a part of her left in my life. Part of me is grateful that we didn’t, as I wouldn’t have been much use as a father when she first died.

    • Alan
      June 7, 2013

      Mark, having children, or not, is a difficult one.
      I’m trying to split my time between caring for my wife & the children, and sometimes think if we didn’t have them, I could spend much more time with her.

      I fear that something might happen to her in the middle of the night & I’d be struggling to find a babysitter at 3am etc. (I suppose that will be true whether she stays at the hospice, or if she’s ever able to return home.)

      At other times, I’m glad we’ve got them, because part of her will, in a sense, live on in them.

      I am scared of trying to bring them up alone in the future, and having nobody to share all those moments with such as “aah look at this lovely picture that he drew”. I often want to cry when I come across their cute drawings of their mum.

    • Ben Dyke
      June 7, 2013

      Thanks everyone for sharing their lives. My wife Hannah died aged 36, leaving me with two kids, Joshua and Charis who were 5 and 2, respectively at the time. What a hell it was, to become a widower, house-husband and single parent all in one go! I started a relationship straight away to try and escape the hell and whilst it brought good to me and helped me enormously with the kids, with hindsight I would have been better facing up to the pain and waiting!

      I am now remarried and my 2nd wife Cathrine is an angel. She has taken on board a still grieving man plus two kids that have lost their mum. The ‘work’ I did focusing on the kids as best I could has created a platform that enabled them to accept a new lady but it was hard work. The week before our wedding my son ripped the wedding dress in total anger at us. We then spent a lot of time with him whilst he was disciplined, listening to his heart and it went like this: ‘If you get married that means you love someone else and hate mummy, and it means you will get naked have a baby and then forget me because that baby will have its mummy and daddy and I wont’ etc

      I used to describe my self after the loss as a man with two legs to stand on: One was the desperate, desperate, anger filled, sad, wounded person, and the other leg represented me embracing new things. Right from the start I would have whole days standing on both legs, then a day standing totally on one of them etc. It really helped me to be kind and understand myself. Anyway sorry for going on!

  13. Mark
    June 7, 2013

    Ben and all,

    I stumbled upon your site and read it for the first time. When reading your postings and the comments, they truly touch me and I’m sitting here misty-eyed. I’ve been widowed almost 8 years and have dated a few women.

    However, when they hear that I’m a widower, it as if I have some sort of terminal condition. Granted, I’ll soon be in my 60s but I must admit that your blog is very helpful and reassuring. After reading it tonight, it has replenished my hope that someone will be out there.

    There are those times (birthdays of my late wife, anniversary dates, etc) when I do drift into that ‘saudade’ (thank you for that word from your blog) condition, where the constant questions of the “would of/could of/ should of” things invade those alone moments.

    Trying to explain to someone the experiences that we’ve had are difficult at least.

    Most don’t want to understand or comprehend, to have been bluntly told “We’re damaged goods.” I prefer to think of myself as just being more of surviving something, that nobody chooses to experience.

    Those experiences that we all share and that fate has decided that we’re all members of that shared experience.

    My friends, if I may call you that, thank you for your time, thoughts and support.

    • Alan
      June 7, 2013

      Mark
      I struggle with the thoughts about ever dating again or remarrying.
      I imagine the house turning into a sort of museum of everything my wife owned, which would leave no room for someone new.
      Sometimes I almost envy people that did not get along with their wives – where their marriage ended in divorce.
      I’ve been “unlucky” in that I’ve never wanted anyone else.

      Alan

      • Mark Pierson
        June 7, 2013

        Alan, my wife and I were best friends, leovers, everything else that’s great about a marriage, until the day she died. As far as dating/remarrying, there is a page on facebook called “widowers dating again”. You should really read some of the posts on that page. I had posted a note about feeling guilty about dating and one of the other members of the group posted this reply. It really helped me look at things in a different light:

        “With that said, I would like to say congratulations to you and Cissy (my late wife). YOU WON!!! When you got married, most likely you made a vow that you would love, honor cherish and protect each other…UNTIL DEATH DO WE PART.”

        “If you are still married and loving each other when death seperates you, you made it!!! You won. You survived the many pitfalls that cause marriages to end in divorce or bitterness. Well done.”

        “When you are ready, get back out there. While there will probably be people who wish you would live your life as a living memorial, you mat be surprised at how many people will be supportive. The guys here at the group sure will be”

        When I read that response to my note, it was like a huge weight had lifted off of my shoulders. It wasn’t something I didn’t already know, just something I had never thought of that way.

      • Mark
        June 7, 2013

        Alan,

        I understand completely about what you mean by “being unlucky in that you’ve never wanted anyone else”. While I have met a few nice people, the chemistry was not there. I feel as if I’m cheating or possibly desecrating the memory of a ‘perfect’ relationship. At least it was ‘perfect’ for us (my late wife and me).

        I’m not consciously trying to replace or compare her with someone else. Honestly, I try to judge everyone by their own merits and lack there of. Especially since, what has happened has changed me.

        I must move on to survive, and for my children. I like the words written by Alan (above) :
        “I feel cheated, and desperately sad that we won’t grow old together.
        That she won’t see our boys grow up.

        I feel jealous when I see old couples together.

        I feel selfish when I fear the impending loneliness, and the sense of being “trapped” in the house at night after the children have gone to bed etc.

        I fear what would happen to the children if I became ill.”

        I too agree with all those statements. There was a time when each of us was a couple, and we made those plans to be an old couple, walk life down a path together, only to be where we are now.

        My faith and hope that I find someone extra special to walk life with keeps my going. However, the loneliness is one hell of a debt to pay.

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