Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

male pride

A few weeks ago when I was staying away from home with friends, I asked them if they ever get any genuine sense of satisfaction from their own personal achievements or professional endeavours. ‘Do you ever really feel proud of yourselves?’ I enquired. Both – one male, one female – replied, ‘Yes.’

I’m not sure I know how that feels. Over the last week I’ve acknowledged some things about myself that have taken me a long time to figure out. Initially I blamed my own lack of fulfillment on my wife’s death. I suppose I bought into the idea that a part of me died with her because I noticed that a number of my personality traits did disappear upon her death. But then I gave it a lot more thought and what I came up with surprised me: I’ve slowly realised that I used to push out my chest, put on a face and feign confidence; I used to be quite self-congratulatory as a way of masking my own insecurities. Doubtless some people would have thought me genuinely cocksure, self-satisfied and perhaps even a little abrasive, but it was mostly just an act and an attempt to try to fit in and get ahead.

What I’ve realised in the last week or so is that my wife’s death has indeed taken with it those elements of a confident personality I once adopted, but it has also revealed the sort person I really was inside: vulnerable, insecure, and naturally shy. What complicates – or perhaps complements, depending on how your viewpoint – these traits is that these days I don’t really care about getting ahead. I no longer feel the need to act a certain way to try to fit in. Maybe my vulnerability has become a strength of sorts, allowing me to self-counsel through grief via this blog and my book. My innate insecurity has perhaps prepared me for the psychological challenges of being hit with such force by the bereavement I’ve suffered – questioning everything constantly my whole life has meant that a preoccupied mind isn’t new to me. My shyness, however, has morphed into something entirely different. I no longer attach any real worth to people’s opinion of me, which makes introversion seem almost redundant, which, in turn, makes genuine (if rather tragic) extraversion possible. I suppose it’s rather empowering really.

Pride, however, is a different matter altogether. Self-help books might preach the importance of learning to feel good about who you are. I suspect they would extol the virtues of self-respect, self-worth and self-belief. Each characteristic is, of course, excellent in theory, but I’ve found that it’s not easy to feel good about yourself when you can’t shake the feeling of being quite so frequently low. Pride in one’s self, therefore, remains somewhat out of reach and too great a psychological leap to make so soon. And yet I keep hearing a voice in my head telling me to be kinder to myself. I’m slowly coming to terms with the idea that self-deprecation and failure to recognise any sense of emotional progress made – whether my son’s or my own – doesn’t honour my wife’s death. That same voice has suddenly made me realise that it’s okay to feel okay once in a while, that it’s alright to feel like we’re doing alright sometimes, and that the shame I feel in my momentary flickers of happiness is only a symptom of my grief. It’s not something that I have to embrace in order to believe that my son and I are feeling our loss as deeply as I perhaps think we should.

The only piece of advice I have – and probably ever will – pass on to anyone who has been bereaved of someone they love is to just be: to feel what you feel, to be honest with yourself, and not to try to act how others might expect you to. Well this week I’ve decided to take my own advice and see how it feels to occasionally just be okay – to appreciate the times when Jackson and I are doing well and try to enjoy the moments while they last.

I don’t think I need to feel proud of myself to be the person I want to be right now or in the future. I just need to keep focussing on how proud I am of my son and how proud my wife would have been to see our little baby turning into such a wonderful young child. And that’s quite enough pride for me for now. I know how the saying goes and I’ve grown too accustomed to too many other things that make me feel good being so quickly followed by a fall.

I've realised that it's okay to feel okay once in a while

I’ve realised that it’s okay to feel okay once in a while

6 comments on “male pride

  1. Debs
    March 23, 2014

    Lovely photo of father and son having fun at the park

  2. Bill Wright
    March 23, 2014

    Excellent post Ben. The introspective, scab picking that comes with deep grief has also led to me into dissecting what makes me tick, who I really am now and who I was before my daughter died 14 months ago. During this time I’ve also learnt a hell of a lot about other people too, be it good or bad, I’m glad to be armed with that knowledge.
    Agree with the advice to the newly bereaved to ‘just to be’. It’s natural in the early days to constantly fret and worry about all of the different ways this devastating loss will destroy you and your surviving loved ones. It’s a lot easier if you just deal with what is front of you this very minute.

  3. handikwani02
    March 23, 2014

    I am sure you must by now getting fed up hearing me say the honest way you express your journey and feelings makes your blog come alive. I think the key is what you said giving ‘ a lot of thought to’ come to think about it most people never take time to think I know it is true for me that I want to be the confeident, strong peson because I told myself that is what I think people want me to be. Yet deep inside when I take time to think what I call ‘REFLECTION’ I then realise that I am insecure and very vulnerable (especially when my marriage failed) a thing I never let other people notice.
    If only we can be confident enough to express the true feelings of whta is going on then there is no need to wear a mask, those of us who are following your blogs realise how authentic your feelings are because you have acknowledged there is no point in hiding what is really going on.
    I totally agree with you that the best thing those of us who find themselves lost because of what life has thrown to us can do is to just be ourselves it does liberate as I have found.
    I am so happy for you and your son that you can actual enjoying doing things that makes you happy, which does not ofcourse take away the fact that you lost someone very special whom you wish could have been with you. Like I said before you both are fortunate to have each other. May you continue to explore the things that make you happy!

  4. Greet Grief
    March 23, 2014

    Wonderful, honest and heartfelt post. Those are genuine, feeling “OK” now smiles, glad that you have them forever captured!

  5. Joyce McCartney
    March 24, 2014

    Thank you for this. I’ve spent so much time these many months trying to be someone I do not want to be and, while I do not have a child to be honest for, this reminded me I need to be honest for me

  6. flexiworkforce
    March 24, 2014

    Lovely article. I have only read articles on women raising children by themselves and I think it is male pride that may be why. Admitting life is hard sometimes is not a weakness and you are allowed to feel good sometimes even though it is in the face of a horrible tragedy. I watched my mum raise me by myself and I learnt a type of independence that I don’t think I would have otherwise.

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