Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

lonely business

I’m growing accustomed to – if entirely frustrated with – the crashing lows I suffer as a result of experiencing more upbeat times. Sometimes I’m actually tempted not to bother trying to seek any pleasure or respite from grief, but having a little boy to raise makes me realise that I really must. He deserves a happy life and I understand that I have a fundamental role to play in helping build that with him. Others can assist, too, but I have to be willing to let them. And that’s why I decided to start accepting some of the invitations to get away with Jackson, which I frequently receive from the people I love.

Over the last few days we’ve holidayed with friends and family and it has been great. I’ve been able to catch up with my best mates, my brother and my sister-in-law, and Jackson has bonded with other kids: his little pal, Albie, and his cousins, Reuben and Willow. My son’s once overwhelmingly evident distress at being away from home seemed to have gone; his discomfort in the hands of other kids’ mums little more than a bad memory. He has been playful, cheerful and contented, and I, for the most part, have, too. And yet the buoyancy I feel from this kind of pleasure one day usually leaves me drowning in grief the next. My body feels heavier, my mind conflicted and my mood dark.

I think that the infinite nature of death dawns on me most when I’m in company. Spending time with other couples seems to accentuate my status as a widower. I enjoy our time together but ultimately they go back to their lives with their partners and I return to my home without mine. Being in the company of other parents and their children can also hurt. I love watching my nieces and nephews and my friends’ kids develop and grow, but it often stings me, too: the times when they reach out for their mums and they are there, the moments when their dads can’t seem to offer the solace they need. Their progressive stages from infant years to almost adult age make the realisation that I will experience all of the phases of my son’s childhood and adolescence without his mum all the more acute. Parenting alone can be a very lonely business at times.

A few weeks ago a friend and I were speaking about the birth of his second daughter. I asked how tired he was from having a toddler and a baby to take care of. He seemed to take it in his stride: ‘The days are long but the years are short,’ he mused. This sentiment really touched me. It made me realise how precious the time I have with my son really is. But in practice this week made me feel differently again. Spending time with children years older than Jackson reminded me just how much of his childhood there is still to come. As a father I am delighted and quite unphased by this thought, and I already want the clock to slow down because I feel as though my son is growing up so fast. And yet I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I am more than just a dad. And when I take another look at myself as a bereaved husband, I realise that the time that appears to be going by so quickly also all too often appears to stand completely still.

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9 comments on “lonely business

  1. Annabelle Talbot
    February 27, 2014

    Such poignant words Ben. You are almost a year ahead of me in the widowed status, but gives me an insight into what is to come. Yesterday, for the first time, Tilly (2 yrs old) said “I want daddy back”. This led to a dark day for me as I couldn’t get her words out of my head.

    I also experience what you spoke of; leaving other families knowing they will get on with their 2 parent life whilst my girls & I have to get on with our lives without daddy. It’s getting harder, I still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel but have to trust that it’s there.

    You’re doing a great job and your blog is inspiring and gives me some hope. Keep it up.

    Annabelle xx

  2. Hannah
    February 27, 2014

    I always read your blog but have yet to comment, your words touch me so much I never really know what to say. Your friends words were very true. This journey will always feel difficult even more so at times I’d imagine. You’re a very good caring father with a wonderful little boy x

  3. Sarah
    February 27, 2014

    Its the realisation that no one else quite has the hopes and dreams you both had together for the children. That the unconditional kove you both had for the children now falls on one pair of shoulders. That others do care and want to help is wonderful, fantastic… but ultimately the one pair of shoulders carry a lot and alrhough those up beat days are good, the realisation crashes back. You’re spot on again Ben. It is so hard Xx

  4. beth
    February 28, 2014

    I am sure you have hear this many a time- but I cannot begin to imagine the grief and loneliness you feel…the responsibility as a parent to be happy, to teach and comfort your son when those feelings are entwined in your whole being…thank you for sharing and for showing those who do not have the words to express themselves. My own concerns are insubstantial. your actions and dear son are testament to your own strength- keep it going and look to the future- you are both an inspiration, especially to those of us not realising how fortunate we are x

  5. Luci
    February 28, 2014

    Ben
    This happens in a non-bereavement situ like divorce. I experience pangs of loneliness whenever I’m in the company of married friends or other family set-ups. It’s a tough old road to travel and is always the “less travelled”. You will never get over this….but as you rightly say….you have to make a happy life for Jackson. Know that there are many people who walk your path, share your grief and help ease the load.

  6. Diana
    February 28, 2014

    I was totally orphaned in what seemed to me like an instant almost three years ago. My mother died so suddenly and a couple of months later my dad followed suit. For a while I stayed away from my friends and family as I felt no one quite understood where I was. When I finally started getting out, I came to the painful realisation that the real journey had just begun. My heart broke a million times over every time I walked through the streets and saw other girls shopping with their mums or just generally hanging out. I postponed my wedding a couple of times as I could not fathom a wedding without my mum and dad. I am starting to slowly pick up the pieces but every time I make a leap forward, I am clawed back by a crippling pain and sadness. There’s so many things I’d love to tell my mum, on so many morning I have yearned for her bear hug in vain. The pain of loss never leaves me, just when I think I have moved on, i am reminded once again how wrong I am. Reading this blog has contributed to better days for me, Ben you have such a beautiful way of expressing how you feel and have somehow made it ok to grieve.

  7. parlow16
    March 5, 2014

    A little late in reading this post, but it’s struck a chord. Just shy of two months as a widower, (married 24 years) and talking about my wife in the past-tense makes me feel like a ghost. Thanks Ben, you’ve alighted a path that was growing very dark. I look forward to more posts.

    • janette devitt
      May 8, 2014

      Its coming up to four years this september when my husband died we had been together 29 years two wonderful children what you have said about being more alone when you are in company at family gatherings .I feel sad for my children that they have lost out on a lot of things their dad not seeing how well they are both doing. What you have spoken about is so true i thought so bad about how i was thinking now i know this is normal i have had counseling but you have touched on this so well thankyou for making things a lot better Ben

      • janette devitt
        May 8, 2014

        Its coming up to four years this september when my husband died we had been together 29 years two wonderful children what you have said about being more alone when you are in company at family gatherings .I feel sad for my children that they have lost out on a lot of things their dad not seeing how well they are both doing. What you have spoken about is so true i thought so bad about how i was thinking now i know this is normal i have had counseling but you have touched on this so well thankyou for making things a lot better Ben

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