Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

getting easier

I gave chocolate and sweets up for Lent once. The first few days were the hardest because that was the time when I thought and talked about the sacrifice the most. Eventually I just got on with it, felt a little better about it, just sort of stopped torturing myself about it, I guess. But at the end of the 40 days I was really ready to indulge. I can’t remember quite how I celebrated but I’m pretty sure I felt sick with pleasure afterwards.

A few weeks ago I had dinner with three friends, each of whom has lost one of their parents in the last three years. We talked about how long it took for people around them to stop talking about or asking about their loss. Turns out not that long. About a year was just enough time for most people to think they should be something like fine. It was no surprise to me that none of us really are, we’ve just got better at hiding it.

Well today I find myself thinking a lot about Lent. Perhaps because I’ve drunk way too much in the last few weeks and it’s time for a(nother) break. But it’s not really that, it’s more about the passing of time. You see, it’s possible for something that you love to be taken from your life and to survive, and perhaps it makes sense that it gets easier on your system over time. But don’t you still want it at the end?

For me time is going by way too quickly. It’s almost ten months since my wife was killed and that’s nearly a year, but the thought that I should perhaps be okay by then appals me. To me it simply means it’s been even longer since I last saw her. And while my system is having to adjust to the lack of fulfilment of her daily presence, my appetite hasn’t diminished in the least.

I’m told it gets easier but I struggle to understand how the not ever seeing her again part can when it always gets longer since the last time I did.

21 comments on “getting easier

  1. Angela Waterhouse
    August 26, 2013

    Very well written and well put. 8 months for me on 4th September and I agree with time going too fast. Our baby will be 8 months old on 1st September and all the milestones my husband isn’t here to share choke me constantly. A lot of widows say the second year is worse as the shock wears off. Thanks for sharing so eloquently. Thinking of you and Jackson.

  2. Deborah Mellish
    August 26, 2013

    Hi Ben, I’ve never posted before but have read your entire blog. I’m so sorry for your loss. My husband died last year at 37, I was 35 and our first baby was ten days old. The time issue is something I’ve thought about a lot, especially since I’ve passed the one year mark. Of course nothing changed. But what prompted me to post is recalling something one of my dear friends said. Instead of telling me it’ll get easier with time, she told me I’ll get used to it being as hard. I found that to be a far less flippant, more thoughtful response. After all, why would we want things to feel easier? On a lighter note, I’ve smiled many times at some of your anecdotes, as my husband Joe obviously shared some of Desreen’s joys – a rather regular visiter to Liberty to name just one :-)

  3. Tricia
    August 26, 2013

    I’ve just passed the 15 month anniversary of loosing my husband, and the pain has not diminished at all. Now I do realise that I’ll never see him again and that really hurts. But I am also getting very good at hiding my feelings from others saying what they expect you to say, that I’m OK thanks!! Someone said to me last week that I should concentrate on the fact that we had 25 wonderful years together and many people don’t ever get that and I should ‘embrace the happiness John and I had and smile with him’. I just wish he was still here to smile with me! Thanks for writing Ben x

  4. Jenny Hunt
    August 26, 2013

    I agree with your sentiments entirely Ben. I hate the fact that is now over 7 years since my adored husband died suddenly without any warning. I feel he is moving further away and I just want to keep him close to me. On the surface, I am pretty much like the person I always was but nothing has healed I have just adjusted to living with the pain. You are doing an amazing job, just keep ii up. X

  5. Katie
    August 26, 2013

    Time is a fleeting thing, yesterday was the 8 year anniversary of the passing of one of my best friend’s dad and i still vividly remember him like id seen him last week. On 24th September this year will b the 2 year anniversary of my mum passing, and although we knew it was coming my mum fought cancer for 7 yrs, nothing could have prepared me for the reality of how it has affected me, the first yr i was shell shocked, numb even but this yr in some ways has been harder because of the general expectation that its bn nrly 2 yrs now surely you’re over it by now? But its only in the last mth ive started bereavement counselling and antidepressants, i feel my life has been so busy i havent allowed myself time to greave, take everything 1 day at a time safe in the knowledge that your desreen is watching over you and my mum is watching over me n my family and that my friends dad is watching over her sending all their love from heaven xxxx

  6. Paul R
    August 26, 2013

    Last Friday I spent some time writing a letter for a friend whose wife died two weeks ago. I shared my experience because after my loss I had so many questions about what this grief process was, how long it takes, etc.

    I’m at 15 months since Laura died and a couple of my observations jumped out at me. 1) I didn’t really start healing until I started looking outside of myself and getting involved in the community again. 2) If someone had told me 9, 6 or even 3 months ago that emotionally I would be where I am today, I would not have believed them.

    I think I have seen more acceptance of my loss and moving forward with my life in the last three months, than during the entire year before that.

  7. Christyn
    August 26, 2013

    It’s been just over four months since my husband died and I can’t imagine anything getting easier. The only thing I want every.single.day is to see him again. What Deborah wrote above makes more sense: that it won’t get easier, I will just get used to it being as hard. My daughter is 7 and we talk about Daddy all the time, which makes it easier to pretend the last four months have just been a bad dream. I keep thinking I’ll wake up and he’ll be back with us. Numb, shell-shocked…those are exactly the right words.

    • Jenny
      August 27, 2013

      I feel the same Christyn. I lost my husband in march and I still don’t want to believe it. I don’t think I’ve accepted it yet even though I know he’s not coming back.
      I don’t think there’s a time limit to grief, I’ve had people ‘unfriend’ me as they’re obviously sick of me talking about it on fb, and it’s only been nearly 6 months. 6 months to try and come to terms with the fact I’ve lost my partner of 11 years. Daddy to my two children.

      My bereavement counsellor said something that struck with me, he said you love your family unconditionally, of course you love your parents, siblings, children etc, but your partner was the person you chose to love, to spend your lives together, so it is different.

      I know of course people are only trying to help when they say ‘it will get easier in time’ but I know in my heart I will never get over losing my husband, ill just have to learnt to live with it.

  8. Eric
    August 26, 2013

    My wife (50 yrs old) passed on June 4th this year. I am still struggling with the sadness every single day. Anything I do or even see, my memories of my wife keeps coming up. I keep thinking, she would love doing this or wish she was here to see this. Everyday, I wake up thinking about her and going to bed thinking of her. And brings sadness each time and throughout the day. I keep telling myself and my daughter out loud, how much I miss her.

    They say it suppose to get easier. I feel a bit better, since I seek help from my doctor and the local hospice. But the grieving lingers on all the time. My doctor, said that grieving will be about for 2-3 yrs. But I feel it will last till my time to go. I just can’t imagine being without her for the next 30-40 yrs.

    I enjoy reading your blog and reading every ones comments in here. Hopefully, over time, we can help one another through our losses.

    • Paul R
      August 26, 2013

      Eric, my wife Laura was 51 when she died as a result of a motorcycle accident in April of 2012. It has been 15 months now. I don’t think grieving ever ends. You learn to live with it and how happy you are with your life depends on how much you allow yourself to create new experience and memories.

      That said, if someone had told me that it does get better at anytime in the first 5 months of my grief, I would have turned and walked away. For me better means that I no longer break down and cry when I think of our times together, or think Laura would have liked this. I can enjoy memories of the times we had together. Yes, it is bittersweet because I would far rather have her here, than recalling past times.

      • Eric
        August 27, 2013

        Thanks Paul – since it is only less than 3 months for me, I still have to suffer with my grieving, before time heals me. I am slowly learning with my loss, with lots help from my 4 yr old daughter. She keeps me busy, physically, mentally and emotionally. But still hard.

  9. Judy
    August 26, 2013

    It doesn’t get easier, it just gets different….

  10. Leonora
    August 26, 2013

    My Mum lost her husband of a few years back in 1969. My oldest brother was 2 and she was pregnant with my other brother. Her husband died in tragic circumstances – he was a helicopter pilot with the navy and was killed in a crash on a training exercise. He was her childhood sweetheart and she was only 24 when he died. To have to deal with bereavement is awful, whatever the circumstances, but to have to stay strong for a 2 year old and go through labour and deal with a newborn without your husband by your side too? It makes me so upset to think of what she went through at such a young age.

    Needless to say, the fact that I’m writing this belies the fact that she went on to marry again. She met my dad four years later and they quickly fell in love and married. He became ‘Dad’ to her two boys although they kept their Dad’s surname as a lasting legacy. It has always been talked about it in our house, it’s important for my brothers that we keep their Dad’s memory alive we feel.

    My Mum went on to have two more children with my dad. She trained to be a bereavement counsellor, so she could use her experience to help others. I often have to remind myself of the tragedy she has experienced, kind of as part of trying not to take her for granted. She’s an incredibly strong woman.

    The point of my incredibly long post I think is to say that there was a time when she couldn’t imagine it was ever going to get any easier. But it just did. She remembers on the day it happened not allowing herself to go to the loo, as she thought it might not be true if she didn’t. She went from that state of mind to coping and eventually to marrying again. I’m not suggesting you’ll do the same, just that even though it doesn’t feel like it now, it will surely get easier for you too eventually. Perhaps without you even noticing.

    • Angela Waterhouse
      August 26, 2013

      Leanora, what a lovely post. What an inspirational woman your mum is and what a lovely man your dad must be to help her ensure that her late husbands memory live within your family and also that she helps others that have suffered bereavement. My biggest fear is that because my daughter was only 4 days old when her daddy died that she won’t remember him, but I have kept things, written things down, made all of his friends write down their memory’s of her dad, my lovely husband, so that she has lots of different examples of his wit and general loveliness. Thank you so much for sharing & tell your mum she’s amazing. I hope my daughter says that about me one day xxxxx

  11. Caroline
    August 26, 2013

    Well said Leonora xx

  12. J. Shah
    August 26, 2013

    2.5 years yesterday since my 23 year old son died. Ben, I totally understand what you mean by not understanding how the never seeing her again part gets easier.

    It doesn’t. It hasn’t for me. Seems to be getting worse as time goes by.

    What does get easier is how you learn to paste a smile on your face for the world to think you feel better – because most people do not understand how you can still be grieving ‘after so long’. Until it happens to them, people do not understand.

    Cherish your gorgeous boy x

  13. Carrie Dunne
    August 27, 2013

    I’m now 18 months into the grief thing and everything you say remains true. I guess what has changed/got better(?) for me is that I’m used to being alone now and have learned not to feel lonely.
    Wish I was brave enough to give up the chocolate!
    Carrie x

  14. Jude Thorne
    August 27, 2013

    It is nearly three years since my husband died, and I miss him every day in so many different ways, but I have become more used to the fact that he isn’t coming back. I no longer reach for my phone to call him, or make a mental note to tell him about something that would make him laugh.

    I well remember the physical agony of the first year or so, when others were telling me that it would get better with time, but I couldn’t comprehend how that could ever be. Last week I had a flashback to that time – I returned to a place I had last visited when my husband first died and it brought back that terrible, physical feeling of despair once again. It made me realise just how far I have come that I don’t feel like that on a daily basis any more.

    I am thankful to say that, whilst I would give anything to have him back, I am at last able to spend more time feeling grateful for having had such a good marriage with a wonderful man than feeling anguished at my loss.

  15. Anna
    August 27, 2013

    10 years ago when I was 16 my Dad died. I have found it doesn’t go away, it doesn’t necessarily get easier, I always describe it as I’ve learned to live with it (the fact that he’s no longer around) in my life. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or I don’t still burst into tears at a random memory or feel moved when I hear one of his favourite songs on the radio.

  16. sharron
    September 5, 2013

    I never understood those words Ben… How can someone that you have loved and lost… how can their death become any easier……. least we’re talking about it. Its important to dissect these words that somehow we get so wrong when we have not experienced a loss, like me. Although it has never stopped me from asking… how the hell do you carry on. Thank God for the written and spoken word x

  17. Viv
    September 18, 2013

    After six years I agree with the comment “you learn to live with your grief”. There is no time limit, it does not go away after three,nine, fifteen months…., in fact it never goes away. The grief just gets” contained” and you cope with it better.
    There is not a day that goes by that I dont remember Steve in some way or the other but I do see joy in the current times and it is as good as it can get without Steve. I have a new relationship which I never ever dreamed would happen and much as it will never compare with mine of 28 years, it is lovely to have someone to share life with. The loneliness was a killer.
    Also if people are not mentioning your loved one its a natural reaction that they dont want to upset you, not that they dont remember. If you look like youre coping people will think they dont want to ruin that. However if I mention Steve it starts a whole lovely conversation of reminiscing that everyone wants to join in. He will never be forgotten. I know though he would want to see me “alive”, coping and happy.

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