Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

your words

Yesterday I published a post about the comments I have received since I started the blog seven months ago. By the end of the day http://www.lifeasawidower.com clocked its 700,000th view – a pretty mind blowing figure given that the subject matter, grief, appeared to me to be something people were afraid to discuss when my wife died nine months ago.

Between the blog, its Facebook page and Twitter feed, my email account and even traditional post, I’ve received many thousands of messages and comments of empathy and encouragement, sympathy and support. The honest truth is that some days they’ve been hard to manage. Sometimes I’ve been so overwhelmed by my own grief that I haven’t been able to muster the energy to face an inbox full of messages. But today I feel pretty strong and I’d really like to ask for some help.

I mentioned yesterday that I was writing a chapter for my forthcoming book about the initial response to the blog. Well I guess I undersold what I was trying to achieve. What I’m hoping to do is draft a section that looks at how opening up about grief can have the potential to help others through it. I’d really like to include some first hand accounts – either named or confidential – about how the blog has assisted in this either directly or indirectly.

I know from the many messages I’ve received that it has enabled some people to better articulate their own grief. For some it has helped them to better understand what their bereaved loved ones are going through. It’s helped others to have a better appreciation for what they have in life and perhaps to count their blessings. I believe it has also connected people facing similar tragic circumstances, which has in turn helped people to build their own support networks.

This is an exercise that I could do on my own from the messages I have already been sent, but I have a feeling that firsthand accounts will be stronger and richer. I understand that many of the messages I’m sent are from people in a lot of pain and the channel they come through very much informs their content. For example, most people who contact me through Facebook Messenger at some point tend to apologise for waffling, but those who write emails often send beautifully worded essays and these frequently form the basis of guest posts.

So if you feel you would like to submit something in your own words that may go on to appear in the book, please do so either as a reply to this post or via one of the channels listed in this link. Although the content starts with the blog, this is not intended as a navel-gazing exercise. What I’m hoping to demonstrate through genuine testimonials is how starting a discussion about grief has the potential to help others through it.

Thanks so much in advance.

Ben

18 comments on “your words

  1. Michelle Edwards
    August 13, 2013

    I’ve love to submit something for you – you’ve been an inspiration on understanding my partner who is going through different stepping stones that sadly comes with grief

    • lifeasawidower.com
      August 13, 2013

      Thanks Michelle. If you could send me something when you get chance that would be fantastic. Doesn’t have to be an essay, just something from the heart that explains how you found it and the way/s it has helped you and/or your partner. Thanks again.

      • Michelle Edwards
        August 13, 2013

        Ok I hope this isn’t too long for you

        For me reading your posts has been a sort of “secret window” for me in some respects. Whoever you talk to be it friends, family no one ever understands the loss you’re going through or what your partner is going through. I felt lost on occasions when I’d speak to those closest to me as they never really understood why I stood by my partner Bill as all they told me was ‘oh why do you bother, he’s not over her yet blah blah blah” and it just didn’t help at all. I met Bill three months after his wife sadly passed away with bone cancer. We were introduced by a friend and we in turn became the best of friends as I had moved out of town recovering from a divorce and he had been recently widowed in a town where his only good friend and companion was his wife. Almost a year later he asked if we could become a couple “officially” and 5 years here we are, in love and together. When I was in the first stages of our relationship it was really hard for me to not feel that ‘twang’ of guilt every time his late wife was mentioned, as I would encourage Bill to talk to me about Laura, his late wife, as I found the more he talked the more he felt comfortable in dealing with this feelings and didn’t feel guilty in doing what everyone else takes for granted.a day trip to the beach, going to see a movie, meeting friends and enjoying yourself, even laughing was hard as sometimes he’d laugh and then stop all of a sudden (all things Bill would feel extremely guilty in doing as his wife was no longer there to enjoy it too). I used to trawl websites on bereavement on how to help him through life to make it easier as well as deal with my feelings. Although I felt extremely selfish doing this.I felt guilty every time he mentioned Laura as although I wanted to encourage Bill to talk about her I would feel extremely guilty as I would feel he loved her more than he did me. I suppose its natural to feel that way but when you care and love someone so much and who you want to help out in any situation, you do, naturally, feel guilty too at the same time for feeling this way as you ask yourself, what right have I got to feel like this? When I first started reading your blog you gave me insight into how Bill was feeling at the loss of his wife as its always been a nagging feeling at the back of my mind into how much he does truly love me, even though he tells me he does there’s still that incy bit of tiny doubt as to whether he does or not as Laura is a discussion we have, be it something silly I do and Bill would say ‘that’s something Laura would do’ or just a generalisation of going somewhere they’ve been together. Although Bill tells me how I helped him through the most difficult time in his life he still explains to me that its not about moving on, as you never move on from such a tragic loss of a loved one, you just direct your life along a different path that would not necessarily have been that path you would have taken. Your blog has helped me take away any self doubt I ever had in our relationship and I now fully understand the path Bill has been taking for all of these years of course he’s going to want to experience new things and reminisce about his life with Laura, isn’t that what we do with friends/family/loved ones when they’re still on this earth so why should I have felt so guilty way back then crazy! Other blogs I’ve read have had other people’s thoughts on a short sharp ‘what would you do?’ sentence and it hasn’t really given me much insight into the forefront of Bill’s raw feelings and that’s what you’ve created and I want to thank you for helping me, or rather our relationship, in being so honest with your feelings and sharing intimate accounts of your day to day life as it can’t be easy. I can only imagine how painstakingly difficult writing your posts are. Whether it be a quick, type it out and send it or re-reading it over and over, with many tears, not caring what you say because of how you feel, however you’ve managed to write your blogs I want to thank you for helping me help our relationship as that little tiny piece of my heart that was broken has been completely restored, pieced back together and mended as I now fully understand whole heartedly why Bill has said and done what he’s had to say/do, why so many times he’s referenced Laura and not myself, why so many times he’s been angry at silly things and then to apologise as he’s having a tough day and making me feel selfish in secretly thinking that he doesn’t love me. I can’t begin to tell you how much you’ve helped me on our way to a fulfilling life together. No matter what people say please don’t ever stop speaking about Desreen, those that mean everything will take the time to listen to your stories, your funny jokes you shared together, the most silliest thing that makes you laugh and most of all don’t ever feel guilty for having that cheeky laugh in the corner as laughter IS the best medicine of all for starting your new journey and pathway in life wherever it may lead. xxxx

  2. sarah
    August 13, 2013

    hi ben to be honest i have not read all your posts especially the very first ones as having lost my husband in january 2013 some i found hard to read but those i did read more the newer ones i realised one thing which is that there is someone going through all this crappy grief every day and that im not the only one as some days actually most days i feel like im the only one so i just want to say thanks for highlighting this im in awe at how you can open up about how you deal with it and raise a young beautiful son

    • lifeasawidower.com
      August 13, 2013

      Hi Sarah. I can empathise with that. I think can grief can be very isolating. Sometimes it helps to know others are going through similar, but then most of the time I just wish no one else was because it’s too painful x

  3. Annie Turner
    August 13, 2013

    Hi Ben
    I sent you a little story about my Dad a couple of weeks ago. I would be happy to expand on our experiences if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, or you are welcome to use the original response. I do have some hilarious stories about a single dad coping in the 1970’s if you feel it appropriate, and it would perhaps make people smile through their tears. If it’s not what you’re looking for that’s fine too and I look forward to reading the published article.x
    Annie

    • lifeasawidower.com
      August 13, 2013

      Thanks Annie. That one was amazing. I’ll save it in my folder now. Perhaps you’d like to write a guest post some time too.

      x

  4. cath
    August 13, 2013

    Hiya Ben. I have posted a few times and to be honest felt at times I was “gegging in” because losing a parent is more the natural order of life. What I came to realise is that their is no hierarchy of loss. It is what it is to each one of us. Am happy to contribute if I can help in anyway. Much love Cath :)

    • lifeasawidower.com
      August 13, 2013

      That would great and your words echo my sentiments exactly. People apologise to me constantly for telling their stories but it’s not about comparisons and it’s not a competition. It just is what it is to each of us x

  5. Paul R
    August 14, 2013

    Ben, thanks for your blog. I found your blog late last January. I periodically would search for Grief articles to help others who had joined by Google+ community. It was also nine months after my wife died.

    What I have found is that during the initial period of grief, the griever is focused on their grief and how no one can understand how significant their loss is. Once they turn the corner and start looking outside and trying to understand others loss, then blog’s like yours are critical.

    You have such a gift for the language and imparting the rawness of your grief, that it helped me understand my grief and my loss. You had such a way of expressing exactly what I had or was going through. Thank you for your words and your way of expressing your emotions. While grief is not something I wish on anyone, it is something most will experience. Your words have helped me through this journey that can be so lonely.

  6. katherinecolombo
    August 14, 2013

    Ben,

    I would love to contribute should you want my thoughts. I have expressed to you how much your blog has helped and informed my grief journey. Happy to send you something over, just let me know your thoughts.

  7. Bill Wright
    August 14, 2013

    In mid January 2013, a week and a half after the shocking, quick and unexpected death of my two year old daughter, Anni, who died from a brain tumour, I attempted to lift my head from my zombie like haze and read something other than the eulogy for Anni I had written, that I would be delivering in two day’s time. As I used to, in my old life, before Anni died, I accessed The Guardian on my smart phone and began scanning articles, but it was hopeless, I had no interest in reading anything. All I wanted to think about was Anni, nothing else mattered.

    Then I stumbled upon Ben’s piece. The subject matter of grief drew me in; it spoke to me, especially the fact that Ben had a confused two year old son who was upset and grieving. Anni left behind a two year old twin brother, Ed and a big sister a few years older, Bella. I was later to find out that Jackson, Ed and Anni were all born on exactly the same day and that Anni died at the hospital where Jackson was born. I immediately followed Ben on Twitter and Facebook and made a mental note to visit his blog when I felt like I had the strength.

    It would be a couple of weeks before I started occasionally checking in, but very soon, I found myself actively looking forward to each new post. Ben writes so beautifully and effortlessly and manages to achieve the delicate balance of confidently writing about the uncertain randomness of grief, yet in a gentle, non sanctimonious style.

    I found Ben’s blogs speaking to my experiences, sometimes directly and sometimes unwittingly and it began igniting my brain, providing me room to indulge in articulating thoughts that, I might have internally processed, through fear of making others feel uncomfortable.

    Ben’s Blog, played a crucial role in my grief journey. My comprehension of grief gradually accumulated in part due to my own natural introspection, but without doubt, this process was significantly aided by Life As A Widower, which provided such an invaluable menagerie of shared experiences, compassion and understanding.

    Later, I was honoured to be invited by Ben to contribute a guest piece. I was grateful to be given the opportunity to engage with the bereaved community that Ben had created. I had no plans to share my guest blog with anyone outside of this community, bar immediate family and close friends. I felt inhibited by the thought of exposing my painful, raw feelings with a wider audience. But I gave it some consideration and realised that one of the biggest successes of Ben’s blog was getting people to open up and talk about one of society’s great taboos, death and grief. To the uninitiated, it can seem a paradox to equate exposing one’s vulnerabilities with bravery, but I vicariously tapped into Ben’s courage and decided to share my post on my Facebook wall.

    It was a very good decision. When my piece was published, I was four months into my grief and had only managed sporadic attendance at work for the previous two months. It had never felt quite right going in, keeping my head down, trying to act as per normal, when inside my heart and nerves were ripped to shreds. By posting my piece on my Facebook wall I was able to give colleagues a glimpse of what me and my family were going through and I felt so much better for it, like a weight was lifted from my shoulders, I know longer cared about putting on a brave front.

    I’ve since managed to go from strength to strength at work and have been back full time for three months. This has been so vital in improving my state of mind; it’s one less thing to worry about. It’s given me the confidence back, to know that I can still fulfil my self appointed role as protector of Anni’s Mummy, Brother and Sister. I’ll always be grateful to Ben, his blog and his reader’s for the part they have played in this.

  8. Julia
    August 15, 2013

    I have followed your comments, Bill, as eagerly as I have waited for Ben’s articles. You both write so beautifully and you are making huge changes to the way that men articulate very delicate and painful subjects. I hope the days of men feeling inhibited to talk about strong emotions and painful subjects may be very slowly on the decline thanks to this blog and people like you. I have huge respect for you both and for what you are going through and sharing with us all.

    • Bill Wright
      August 16, 2013

      Thanks Julia, I feel quite moved by you saying that

  9. Andy
    August 15, 2013

    Hi Ben, I’d really like to put something back in and offer a contribution. Am a bit stretched for the next week or so. Any deadline for last orders?

  10. Andy
    August 31, 2013

    Hi Ben,

    Heres my account of how your site has directly and so massivley supported me…………

    First up a thanks and secondly a tip of my cap to acknowledge my respect. Thanks because without your blog I am not sure how i would have processed some of the crazy thoughts that i have been faced with since my beautiful wife Claire died in March this year. Respect because you had big enough balls to share yours and Jacksons most intimate story.

    I have to say at times I have felt like a bit of a stalker logging on to your site and hoping for new blogs and following your words so closely for six months now. I hope this doesn’t come across as too weird but in the most early days I took my ipad to bed with me every night in case I couldn’t sleep comforted that if required i could log on and realise i was not alone on this most unwanted journey.

    When I first searched the internet for some ‘self style councelling’ i could not believe that I came across your site. Back in March I was 34, had recently got married in 2011 and then found myself by March 2013 widowed with a 2 and a half year old boy. I could not help but feel an instant connection to you and Jackson despite not knowing you in the slightest other than being a follower of your blog.

    My own story goes like this……… I met Claire in 2007 and instantly fell in love. We had both been on the wrong end of bad relationships previously, had partied hard in the interim and as a result were both happy to settle down quite quickly. We got engaged in your home town at the Dorchester Hotel in 2009 and were both so so content planning our future together as man and wife and eventually parents. Regarding parenthood our situation was complicated as Claire was diagnosed with lupus when she was 17 and had previously lost a baby born still born with her ex. Despite the lupus being in remission for 20 years we took the advice of the docs and progressed down the adoption route as putting Claire’s or a baby’s health at risk was just not an option. After nearly two years of intense interrogation (could write another chapter about our journey to finally adopting) we were approved to adopt and in November 2011 we met our gorgeous baby boy. I don’t think I’ll ever top 2011 when I got married, moved house and adopted my son all within 7months. Without doubt 2012 was our year. No added stress, just me Claire and our boy. So when Claire started to be under the weather late in the year we both thought it was nothing other than the usual seasonal colds which had to managed carefully given Claire’s lupus. What we never thought in a million years thought is that by February we would be walking in to the A&E unit, 2 weeks later Claire would be in intensive care and another 2 weeks later I would be consenting to switch off my wife’s life support machines. Could go in to much more detail here but will keep it simple and say that I along with Claire’s Mum, brother and closest family I have experienced things In that hospital that i hope I never have to experience again. At the very end whilst getting some fresh air to compose myself and consider how I was going to cope with Claire’s last few remaining hours I most randomly bumped in to a close friend who was at he same hospital with his pregnant wife for a 12 week scan. Never before have I been exposed to 2 people being in the same place for such dramatically contrasting days. Hitting my mid thirties is proving so incredibly tough but what hurts me the most is that my son has lost a birth mum, a foster mum and an adoptive mum all by the time he was 2 and a half. Although i intend to tell him repeatedly i guess for a long time he will never really fully know that his ‘Mama’ Claire has set him up in the most loving network of family and friends for the rest of his life. It is my absolute intention and mission now to ensure that our boy converts such tragic adversity to all out strength.

    Anyway that’s our story. One thing i have learnt in the last few months is that grief is such a unique and personal experience that it cannot be compared to be either better or worse than anyone else’s story. Everyone experiencing grief is 100% on the exact same level of shitness.

    All things said I guess the real reason I really wanted to put something back and contribute my story to your blog Ben is to reiterate and support some of the things you have already said, some of the things your site has taught me and if i may perhaps add a few of my own..

    Some incredible things i have I learnt from you and also of myself along the way….

    1) The single biggest thing you i have taken from all your blogs……….Always tell it has it is and never hide your own emotions from your child. I categorically believe I am a better father for this advice. I have sobbed my heart out with my son and he has sobbed his heart out with me. Each time our roles as griever vs comforter have reversed. I am so very proud that my son can express his emotions to me.

    2) Never under estimate what a young toddler understands. As they learn to talk they will vocalise emotions you thought had passed by with time.

    3) A 5 minute outburst of emotion from a 2 year old can set a 34 year old back for days.

    4) Children instinctively know when you are struggling with your own grief. They will not demonstrate their own grief until you are beginning to cope with your own. This was 2 to 3 months in for me and my son.

    5) Don’t try to be a hero. Accept offers of help. If you don’t they will disappear.

    6) If your employer will support it take the right amount of time out from work and when you do go back phase back in. After the initial pleasantries are over and once your bums back on that seat you are fair game.

    7) Not for everyone i know but counselling did really help me compartmentalise my thoughts. As an incidental bonus it was paid for by the retail trust charity which is set up to help anyone who works retail.

    8) last one……people say to me all the time “your doing so well Andy”. In return I say “you tell me what choice have I got? I either use this as an excuse for the rest of my life or I let my boy see that I am strong enough to cope with life” Every now and again a decision is an absolute no brainer however to maintain it plenty of brave faces are required for so many occasions.

    Never have I respected someone so much without meeting them but the reason why is I know from all your most articulately written blogs is that you have taken with great courage a similar kind of stance.

    Don’t get me wrong i so so wish it was different. I wish i had never heard of your site, or Winston’s Wish or cruise or any post adoption support managers for that matter but to be really blunt the simple fact is that every single person on this planet will have to face grief at some stage in their life. You just least expect it when you’ve only just begun.

    Thanks once again Ben for blogging with courage, integrity and honesty. I know you set out with the intention to help at least one more man in a similar predicament. I will vouch for that one man in a similar predicament but whats so clearly happened is you have achieved so so much more. Credit where credits due in my book.

    I sincerely wish peace, love and happiness for you, Jackson and all your family and friends.

    Andy.

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