Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

first anniversary

This is a guest post by Sarah Pointer

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my wife’s death but this time last year life was still perfect. Desreen and I rushed home from work to surprise our son, Jackson, with a selection of new trains that I’d bought him from Hamley’s that day. The three of us were so happy. Little did we know that tragedy would strike the next day.

But for somebody else not too far away, it had already happened. Sarah Pointer, 37, lost her husband a year ago today. Since discovering my blog in February this year we’ve contacted each other every 9th and 10th of the month just to say ‘I’m thinking of you today’. We’ve never met but we chat over Facebook regularly and see how each other are coping through our grief. In Sarah’s guest post today she shares her story and explains how she’s feeling a year on. I’ll do very much the same tomorrow – something that I find myself saying a lot since Sarah introduced herself to me earlier in the year. Sarah, I’ve said it many times before but I want you I know that I’m thinking about you today.

On the 9th of November 2012, I was out doing some early Christmas shopping. I returned home to a note that the police had put through my door, which asked me to call them urgently. I felt panicked when I rang them, thinking I must have done something wrong. As I waited for them to arrive I rang my husband, Mark. No answer. When I opened the door a couple of minutes later, two policeman were standing there holding Mark’s phone. It was ringing in front of me. I realised then that my life, as I knew and loved it, was over. Mark had been killed in an accident at a builder’s yard. He was 44, we had been together 16 years and we have two children, aged 5 and 7.

The next few weeks passed in an awful haze. I don’t remember much of that time. I do remember shutting my eyes and letting people talk at me. I was like a child – if I couldn’t see them then this was not happening to me. The next few months were probably even worse because I no longer had the adrenaline pumping through my veins from the shock of such a sudden loss. There were times when I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get myself and my children through. Quite frankly, I wanted the world to end because mine already had. I felt completely broken, cut adrift and alone. I would scream for him; I just couldn’t understand where he was. I blamed myself for being too happy; I was in utter desperate pain. My brain worked overtime worrying about so many different things and replaying the loss over and over. I would do anything not to shut my eyes at night. I began to question everything: my existence, what was the point of me anymore.

Of course the children’s needs stopped me from going completely mad, because as a parent your instincts are primarily to protect your young. I had no idea how I was going to raise them alone, though. Only love and kindness from my parents, friends and neighbours carried me through this period.

I used to ‘Google’ the stages of grief and wonder how far up the cycle I had progressed. I wanted grief to be controllable and above all I wanted the pain to stop. I needed to know that there wasn’t worse still to come. I couldn’t bear to read that grief is something you carry your whole life; I certainly wanted to be feeling something like acceptance a year on. I imagined myself writing a letter to Mark and letting it sail out to sea along with my sorrow come this Christmas. And that is why today is so significant for me. Not because it is the first anniversary of his death – everyday is a day without him – but because I was racing ahead of myself to reach this point. As though by ticking off the so-called major milestones it would be time to start over.

There is no doubt I have come along way in a year: I no longer wake each day feeling like I am wearing a lead coat; I’m back at work; I can hold conversations that are not about my loss; and, perhaps most importantly, I have had moments of pleasure, which I would never have thought possible a year ago. But I am not ‘over it’. My husband’s death still takes my breath away time and time again. It still stabs me in the heart when I least expect it. Sometimes it takes all my effort and composure to walk into my office or up the school path. Sometimes I still cannot believe he has even gone.

I am not the same person anymore and nor will I ever be. I have a very small social comfort zone now and will avoid situations where I see a Mark-shaped whole. I know I am alienating myself from others but for now life’s about self-preservation and staying strong for the kids.

Have I reached acceptance? Not in a way I thought. Acceptance has come to mean a few things to me after a year of grieving. I now realise that grief is not something you can control or rush. Thoughts, memories and worries have had to come along and punch me a number of times before they hit home and it is bloody hard work. I’ll live with grief forever but I’ll learn to control it. Sometimes I have to hold the pain inside just to be able to function. It’s knowing the awful days do pass. It’s knowing I’m still me under the layers of sorrow. It’s knowing I can unburden myself of the heavy load now and again and enjoy myself.

Grief feels like waiting for something to happen; acceptance to me is knowing nothing will. No one else is coming home each Friday night. No one but I can make myself feel better. There are no cure-all miracles around the corner. Fulfilment has to come from being a tight triangle with my two little ones, and I do feel complete again thanks to them. Acceptance is knowing that all I have is in my hands and I will make our life good again.

In all honesty exhaustion has probably now taken its toll and recently the fight has left me. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that, although I will never let go of what happened to my family, I will try to let go of my expectations of how my life should have turned out. I will try to stop questioning the universe and just let my children’s and my life unfold.

But most of all, I want to look back and think that, despite our loss, we did alright. We had fun. And we rocked.

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‘I imagined myself writing a letter to Mark and letting it sail out to sea along with my sorrow come this Christmas’

17 comments on “first anniversary

  1. Fiona
    November 9, 2013

    I can relate so much to this, especially the feeling that once the anniversaries have passed that life will be back to some kind of normal. Today is my first birthday without my partner and it’s a day to endure; the anniversary of his death comes in December and I know now that it won’t make any difference to how I’m feeling. I am changed forever and that’s been a hard thing to accept. Thank you for sharing and hugs to you for today and to Ben & Jackson for tomorrow xx

  2. margaret jack
    November 9, 2013

    Having reached the first year in April I can relate to everything you’ve said. I honestly thought I would never get through it, but I did. The days when the haze appears and lasted for what seemed an enternity have got much less frequent.
    Now its the realization that he’s never going to walk back through the door or that I’m going to wake up from this dream/nightmare that I have to deal with
    I have achieved so much this year and I’m sure you have done the same. The woman that he left behind will never come back as I don’t have my other half to cover my back and stand by my side. Its a new me that needs to flourish and grow now . Life has changed for us for ever now but we need to try and live the life that our other half would have wanted for us. Thinking you x

  3. Alice
    November 9, 2013

    Sarah,

    This is a fucking amazing piece of writing. I know your pain is something most of us can only imagine, and that it’s yours, and no one else has the right to cry over it, dammit…but, bloody hell, girl.

    This broke my heart, but I couldn’t stop reading. For me, though I read with a little more insight into you as a person, it felt like grief had blasted a crater in your life, and bit by bit, you were learning to grow into it. And I suppose, that links into what you wrote about acceptance. The hole was there, it wasn’t going anywhere, and by accepting, some days you’re able to fill that hole with love and life again.

    Wow.

    Fucking floored. Ben is going to love it, and though I didn’t know him for shit, I reckon Mark would be soooo bloody proud of you right now. In fact, I reckon he is.

    Hippie hug.

  4. Chris
    November 9, 2013

    Hey, I lost my wife in Feb and what you describe resonates so much with me. Always helps to not feel alone on this pathway to who knows where. (And Ben without access to all this amazing work I would be lost) – thinking of you both x

  5. Anita Edwards
    November 9, 2013

    Hi Sarah we haven’t met yet but we know of each other through friends and FB and I just want to say that I think you are absolutely amazing. I haven’t experienced the loss of a partner but as you know I have a very close friend who has. Reading your posts and Ben’s posts have given me an insight and a better understanding of how my friend and anyone who has lost someone must feel.

    With all my heart I wish that this just did not happen to people, but a sad fact of life is the loss of our loved ones. The type of loss though that you guys have experienced when people are there one day and gone the next is particularly brutal and most certainly the one that must be the hardest to cope with or try to make any sense of.

    I admire you, Ben and the other contributors to this blog, so brave and courageous to share your thoughts, feelings and emotions to give courage to others and to let people know that they are not alone.

    I wish you and your gorgeous children, strength, hope, happiness and love always

    Anita x

  6. Eleana
    November 9, 2013

    Beautifully put, my son and I are on round two of the anniversaries without my husband and we’ve come along way. All any of us can do is just keep going and it looks like you are doing that brilliantly x

  7. Caroline
    November 9, 2013

    A beautiful piece of writing, well done Sarah. Somebody once said to me that ‘The view from the highest mountain, is always worth the climb’. I suppose it means that no matter how hard the battle, no matter how challenging the days, no matter how lonely the heart is, one day in the future, there will be a plateau to stand on and look back at how far you have come. My sister lost her husband 16 months ago aged 35. By reading your words it helps me to understand how she might be feeling, because she finds it so very difficult to speak at all. I wish you strength and peace for the future xxx

  8. Sarah Pointer
    November 9, 2013

    It feels so strange writing a comment on my own guest piece when time and time again I have looked and found inspiration from Ben and all those that have replied to him here. All the likes and comments have kept me going for the best part of the day and for that I am truly grateful. It is such a lonely journey and yet loss is all around and if I have helped just one person today, I am happy. I end the day on a low though as is often the way and I keep hearing a song that was playing as we drove to the hospital a year ago today, Crowded House, “it doesn’t pay to make predictions, sleeping on an unmade bed, finding out wherever there is comfort there is pain, only one step away, like four seasons in one day”. Love to you Ben x

  9. Heather Shawley
    November 10, 2013

    Hi Sarah, I’m so proud of what you have achieved. You are a remarkable lady and I wish I had your strength. At times, I am strong but at others, it gets too much for me again. Take care of yourself and the kids – Heather xx

  10. Bill Wright
    November 10, 2013

    Hi Sarah, I’ve always found your comments on Ben’s blogs compassionate and insightful and your emotional intelligence shone through again in this piece. Thank you for sharing your experience, as the anniversary of my 2 year old daughter’s death approaches I read your piece with a little morbid fascination. We spend so long building up to milestones and anniversaries, wondering how we’ll cope, what it will feel like, it’s like an outer body experience at times.
    Wishing you and your family a peaceful Sunday.

    • Sarah Pointer
      November 10, 2013

      Bill you have made me cry and smile at the same time. Wishing you and your family peace and sending love x

      • Bill Wright
        November 10, 2013

        Thank you Sarah x

  11. Jan Cooper
    November 11, 2013

    Dear Sarah, you are such a remarkable lady and I know that because you have shared so generously and so openly that you will not only touch many peoples hearts but also help them to feel a little less alone..Thinking of you and yours and sending very best wishes x

  12. Julia
    November 11, 2013

    Sarah – I have read your piece a number of times, each time marvelling at how beautifully and openly you write. I then sent it to a friend whose partner was killed last year; her children are a similar age to yours. You are really helping others feel less isolated and give those around them the ability to support them on a frequent basis and not just the ‘big days’. For my family the sadness and loss lies around endless struggles with mental health and your words: I will try to let go of my expectations of how my life should’ve turned out – have made a big impression on me; they resonated so much. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you and your children love and peace.

    • Sarah Pointer
      November 11, 2013

      I am so touched to have been able to reach out to others, thank you for letting me know x

  13. Sarah Pointer
    November 11, 2013

    Jan, I don’t remember much of the early days but I do remember very clearly you telling me what to tell my kids, how to support them, the words to use and above all, that my kids would be ok and that is exactly what i needed to hear. Will always remember and be eternally grateful for that and for all the further help you and CHUMS gave me and the kids x

  14. Tariq M
    April 15, 2014

    My name is Tariq my wife Sofia passed away May 11, 2013 at the age of 43. She lost her battle to breast cancer. I fully understand your feeling i cried a lot and feel lonely from heart. But with time and keeping myself involved in different things help me to move. I have three beautiful kids now life is totally devoted for my kids. Just stay busy there is no short cut. stay strong. regards

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