Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

don’t ask

I find that some days my grief just grows heavy and intense without any real warning or explanation. These days, however, I try to avoid letting on when l feel this way because people tend to want to ask why. I have learned that it can be hard to simply articulate how I’m feeling without having to go into great depth about exactly what I’m thinking.

‘Why are feeling so bad today?’ someone might ask. If this particular type of grief makes an appearance at the same time as a touch of anger then I really have to bite my tongue. Erm, because my wife’s dead, I find myself wanting to say. I mean why the fuck do you think I feel so bad? I do realise it’s rather hostile to bring something into conversation and then expect the person I’m talking to not to respond, however. This is one of the aspects of grief that can make it such an antisocial emotion. In my experience people tend not to know exactly when to reach out and when to leave well alone. And how can they when the grieving person may not know what they do or do not want until it does or doesn’t happen?

I suppose asking a someone why their grief is more intense than usual is a bit like asking where exactly a person misplaced something that they have just admitted to having lost. Perhaps if they knew the missing item’s location they would be able to do something about its misplacement other than just making a passing comment borne out of frustration, which is usually worst met with a question that so often makes that person want to explode.

If it’s not altogether obvious from the rather irritable tone of this post, I’m afraid to say that today is one of those days. Just don’t ask me why.

11 comments on “don’t ask

  1. Linda Rogers
    January 26, 2014

    Know exactly what you mean. Grief comes back unannounced and with no rhyme or reason. Luckily when this occurs I am able to withdraw and not show my feelings, this must be difficult for you with your son to look after. Your analogy with the lost thing you cannot locate is spot on. Anyone asking what you have lost is likely to irritate as if you knew where it was there’d be no problem. This encapsulates grief as you have lost someone dear and you do not grasp or know where they have gone.

  2. Eldora
    January 26, 2014

    Hey, I feel you, though I know saying this can do nothing much in easing grief. I’m struggling to move on from an ended relationship which I really appreciate. I understand the feeling when people come to show there care by asking us questions when we’re too upset to explain, because explaining is like revising the pain we have. You’re not alone. Take care.

  3. handikwani02
    January 26, 2014

    Ben, it is okay to feel like that. You see people want to travel with you on this challenging journey you are on only they do not know the best way to do it hence the questions. Like Eldora above my struggle was an ended relationship oh! how I resented being asked how I was holding up -I was not holding up my world had fallen apart how can hold that up. After a while I then realised that these questions are the way these ‘loving caring’ people were trying to be there for me all I wanted at that time was for my life to be as it was before.
    Even now nine years after the break up I still have days when I am just lost I have moved on but that loss now and then comes up and I feel like it happened yesterday. Do not beat yourself up it is normal to feel that way because you lost someone very special you do not have to explain!

  4. Celia L. Iannelli
    January 26, 2014

    I get it!! I get youi!!!
    Today is the absolute pits…I tried to hold it together when I was conducting a meeting, and someone asked, “whats the matter?: ” What the hell do you think is the matter my brain screamed, my husband is dead, actually if you really want to know two of my husbands are dead!” I politely smiled instead and said, one of those days……
    She never responded……..

  5. Ben Dyke
    January 26, 2014

    I get it Ben – a lot of the first two years after my wife died was spent repressing rage towards anybody and everybody, with no particular rhyme or reason to its occurring. Its like “your world has carried on but mine’s been destroyed so just go away and leave me alone”. But the rational mind only catches on after the episode has passed or I’ve experienced some genuine love or comfort, so it cant be expressed properly at the time.

  6. Sarah
    January 26, 2014

    I had the exact same thing happen yesterday and i wished id never expressed how i felt. But at the time i needed to, in the hope i could have a rant. Instead i had a retort,”Why is it a shitty day today?” ….. My tounge hurt too where id bitten it.

  7. Amanda
    January 27, 2014

    Even a kindly “so, how are you going?” can set me off. Blech is all I can say some days (well I can say worse but discretion is the better part of valour.

  8. Bill Wright
    January 27, 2014

    I read the attached blog ‘How to talk to a parent who has lost a child’ a couple of days ago, written very well by a lady who lost her daughter 4 years ago. I’m now one year down the road from losing the greatest source of my pride and joy, the great love of my life, my two year old daughter. This lady has completely nailed the eternal agony of it all.

    http://www.mamamia.com.au/parenting/ten-points-i-wish-every-person-knew-about-the-death-of-a-child/

    • J. Shah
      January 27, 2014

      Bill, I was thinking about you and Annie at the beginning of the year.

      Nik’s third anniversary is coming up in February.

      I have found that a lot of people, after asking how you are, do not want to listen to the real answer. I’ve learnt to say I’m ok. Just pretend that you are, because people who have not experienced this heart rending pain will never understand it.

      Another thing – if someone tells you that you still have two other children, ask them which child of theirs could they live without.

      Wishing you all the best.

      • Bill Wright
        January 28, 2014

        Hi J, it’s really thoughtful of you to remember me and I’ve also really appreciated your previous messages to me on here.

        I’m the same, I’ll always say ‘fine’ regardless of how I am actually feeling that day. Then you wonder why people have no idea what you are contending with, when you are telling them that you’re fine!

        Some days at work I have multiple hour long stretches where I just want to go home (this month has been hell, like my insides have been scraped out), be on my own and be utterly miserable, but that it just not an option, unless I want to mark myself out as a ‘flaky’ employee.

        I saw one of those daft inspirational posters on FB the other day telling me that happiness is a choice! ha!

        Best wishes to you and yours, wishing you as tranquil February as is possible.

  9. Jude Thorne
    January 27, 2014

    Ben, I think these people may just be trying to reach out to you and to understand what you are going through, just trying to help in their way.

    I’m certain that everyone around you is only too aware that you are going through hell, particularly because your blog is so honest about sharing your raw emotions.

    I don’t think anyone can understand what havoc grief plays with a person until they’ve experienced it themselves – I certainly had no idea until it happened to me. No one would wish these people to experience bereavement just so that they would know how to say the right thing to the grieving.

    Perhaps it’s better to care and risk saying the wrong thing than to look the other way?

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