Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

remembering daddy

This is a guest post by Tanya Leary 

Tanya is mum to two daughters aged ten months and two years and is the writer behind Mumaleary’s Blog. Here she shares her story of losing her father 26 years ago today when he was just 37 and she just seven.

Remembering Daddy

I remember the night my daddy died very clearly. It is possible that my memories of the event are not 100 per cent accurate but it doesn’t matter to me, the results are the same. He died of a massive heart attack, having come home from work complaining that he didn’t feel well.

Our neighbours looked after my sister and me, and in the early hours of the morning our mum came home with a bag of possessions but without her husband. That was 3rd November 1987. That night my mum lost her husband, my grandparents lost their eldest son and my sister and I lost our daddy. Life was never the same again.

I know that it is weird for a grown woman to use the word daddy but I was never old enough call him dad when he was alive. I was only seven.

I have few memories of my daddy and some of the ones I do have are mere snapshots, possibly even imagined memories from the photos I have seen. But I do recall snuggling in his lap while he watched American football. I remember him ‘tidying up’ my ice cream in Parkgate and I remember him teaching me to ride my bike. I missed him dreadfully after he died and I still miss him today.

When I was 16 I had my hair cut short for the first time and I cried myself to sleep, worried that he wouldn’t recognise me when I got to heaven. When I went to uni I worried about my mum being on her own and at every family gatherings there is still a Daddy-shaped hole.

My mum took my sister and I to see a grief counsellor after Daddy died. I can remember a relaxation tape we used to listen to, which helped us to sleep. But mainly I remember us all clinging to one another; all girls together. We are a tight unit and it was pretty tough for people to break into that. I am certain that I would not feel the fierce need to protect my mum and sister if my dad was still here. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, just a different thing.

When I was at school I recall my French teacher asking people to recite phrases like I am sad my dog has died and I am sad my fish has died. When she arrived at my desk and it was my turn to speak, she asked me to say I am sad, my dad has died.  It probably goes without saying that I never really took to the language!
When I went to uni a guy knocked on my door and said, ‘Hi, my dad’s dead too. We should be friends!’ I can think of better opening lines but we did become friends.

Hearing other friends complain about their dads during teenage angsty periods was tough, but telling people to be grateful for what they’ve got it life doesn’t always work. It’s a bit like telling someone to clear their plate because people are starving in Africa. 

I have experienced two significant periods of depression in my life. Who’s to say whether or not these would have happened if my dad hadn’t passed away? But sometimes I think it’s a pointless question to ask because each of us has to play the hand we are dealt. I found a fantastic councillor who made me realise that there is no deadline for grief. It is not silly for me to miss my dad just because he died so long ago or because I have lived nearly 80 per cent of my life without him. It is ok for me to feel sad my daughters, my family and myself because we have to experience life without him. Equally it is ok to not be sad, to forget a specific date and enjoy what you still have.

I am now 32 and a mother of two gorgeous, beautiful, happy, healthy girls. I have a very happy life and I miss my daddy; the two feelings are not mutually exclusive.

I wish that my daddy had seen me graduate, I wish he’d met my husband, given me away at our wedding and made a brilliant speech. I wish he’d held my daughters, I wish he was around to celebrate my mother’s birthday and to share in her joy of being a grandma. But it was not to be. Instead, I have some beautiful memories and many more perfect imaginings of how life might have been if he’d been here. I suppose these musings are pointless but sometimes I still feel I need them and they offer me comfort.

Sometimes I imagined that my daddy had left us and that Mum had told us he’d died to protect us from the fact he’d walked out. Grief can do strange things to your head.

It is strange what the senses recall too. Even after all this time the smell of Brut aftershave and Vosene shampoo remind me of my daddy. The songs Silence is Golden and Walk of Life always make me think of him and my mum together too. I can’t see a wind surfer without thinking My dad liked that. I remember the day he shaved off only half of his moustache just to see if Mum would notice and I remember him taking my sister and I to his office to show us off.

I can’t ever imagine a day that I won’t miss him.

I love you, Daddy.

Tanya xxx

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16 comments on “remembering daddy

  1. cassandralj
    November 3, 2013

    What beautiful memories you have! Thanks for sharing this beautiful story. x

    • Mumaleary
      November 3, 2013

      Thank you for taking the time to read it. x

  2. Bill Wright
    November 3, 2013

    Thank you for sharing this, gives me a little bit of hope that my eldest daughter will remember and miss her little sister

  3. Ben Dyke
    November 3, 2013

    Thank you Tanya for sharing your story. I am sorry you lost your dad! I am 40 now and my kids were just 2 and 5 when there mum died on Jan 1st 2010 aged 36. I am moved to hear things a bit from their side through you!

    God bless you.

    • Mumaleary
      November 3, 2013

      Dear Ben and Bill, I am sorry for your losses too. I am glad the post gives you hope.
      Lots of love. xxx

  4. Mark Lorne
    November 3, 2013

    Guess I must have been 9 or 10 at the time Tanya, in the same class with Soraya. I can actually vividly remember this time, hearing about your Dad’s passing from my Mum and then from I think Mrs Poole in school, possibly even at assembly. I can clearly recall how sad this time was for all the family & friends in school. I never met your Dad but remember Soraya talking about what a lovely man he was, strangely even though I never knew him, I always thought of him as being such a great Dad.
    Thought your writing was very poignant & insightful. In a way also actually helped me think about how to deal with my own feelings, since losing my Mum almost 3 years ago. Rather than having tears reading your words, I genuinely smiled because of the happy memories you wrote of and positive thoughts.
    Take care and belated congratulations on your wedding and birth of your daughters.
    Mark xx

    • Mumaleary
      November 3, 2013

      Thank you so much Mark, I am sorry to hear about your mum too. There are so many inspiring quotes that come to mind to support people when people are grieving but sometimes the best thing is just to be with them and love them.
      xxxx I am sure you have many happy memories too.

  5. Nic
    November 3, 2013

    As always you make me cry and smile at the same time with your inspiring blog xxx

    • Mumaleary
      November 3, 2013

      Thank you so much Nic. I am glad it moved you. xx

  6. Curving Toward Joy
    November 3, 2013

    Thank you for writing. My daughter turned seven just a few months before my husband, her Daddy Bear, died this past April. We are still struggling through being here without him. Every day, we talk about him and laugh about the funny things he did. We keep him alive in us as best we can, while missing him desperately. My daughter expresses things in such a black-and-white way, so it was comforting to read your line “I have a very happy life and I miss my daddy; the two feelings are not mutually exclusive” because it feels like that’s where she’s at right now.

  7. Hannah
    November 4, 2013

    I lost my Father when I was 12 and this is exactly how I felt, and at times feel. My heart often skips a beat if I see someone that looks like him in the street. I too told myself he’d left us and saying he’d died was easier to explain.

    Thank you for sharing your story xx

  8. sarah
    November 4, 2013

    Aww you made me cry. .aged 7 is so young to loose you daddy x I lost my dad in 1988 aged 16. . I still remember it like yesterday! Still heartbroken that my boys will never see their grandad. . Cried buckets on my wedding day. . I often think I may see him walking down the road as if he was still alive somewhere. . Miss him so much still. . Time doesn’t help. . You just got used to it and miss them more xx

  9. Tanja in Finland
    November 4, 2013

    Thank you for sharing this! My husband died last year when my daughter was aged 6 and son 3 and I keep thinking and also worrying how this will affect their lives. Their dad died of brain tumour so it was sort of expected and not so sudden. I cry when I think about the coming graduations and weddings that their dad doesn’t get to see and share. I cry about how my son was too young to remember his dad clearly, at least his healthy dad. My heart just breaks for them. :'( I wish you all the best in life!

  10. clare bulmer hough
    November 4, 2013

    I remember when I moved next door to you and was told about your Dad by Richard and Mary and feeling so sad for you and your Mum. Losing a parent is a grief that never goes, you just have to learn to live with it. It can become unbearable at times and for those times when you are happy and then suddenly remember them you feel guilty but we shouldn’t because those parents that we have lost would never want us to be sad. I am so happy that you and Sorya have a wonderful Mum. Reading your blog today has reminded me how much I miss my Dad xxx

  11. Mumaleary
    November 6, 2013

    Thank you so much to everyone for all of your kind words. So pleased I’ve been able to share with you all. Xxx

  12. Pingback: What a to do!! ‹ Mumaleary

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