Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

expiry dates

Something hasn’t been right with me this week. I’ve felt a heavy sense of foreboding envelop me out of nowhere, and it has taken me ages to figure out why. After spending a lot of time alone thinking, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m anxious about a couple of things coming to an end – things that have helped me to manage my grief over the course of the last year.

A week from now I will have completed the London Marathon. When I originally signed up for the race, I did so for just one reason: to raise money for a child bereavement charity that I believe in. Once I began training, however, I noticed that I was getting so much more from it than that.

I realised I’d given myself a forward-looking focus that could help ease my mind’s preoccupation with the past. I noticed that by taking back control of my body through fitness, I felt more in control of my mind and, in turn, my life. And, for the first time in ages, I felt a sense of achievement through reaching my training goals.

Five weeks from now I will have released a book that I’ve been working on for over a year. When I originally started writing it, I did so for three reasons: to help others suffering the agony of loss to find empathy and feel less alone, to assist those attempting to help bereaved loved-ones better understand what they might be going through, and to enable me to explain things properly to my son when he is old enough to understand. Once I began writing, however, I noticed that I was getting so much more from it than that.

It gave me back a relationship with my wife. Through the words I wrote about her life, I was able to divert some of my mind’s focus away from her death. It brought back great memories. Sometimes, after hours of writing at my desk, I would walk away with a smile on my face, feeling like I’d just spent the day with Desreen. In fact it often made me feel happier. In contemplating everything – both bad and good – that Jackson and I went through on a daily basis in such acute detail, I really noticed that, despite the pain, we still had pleasure in our lives.

Six weeks from now I imagine I’ll be wondering what happens next. Two of the biggest challenges I have ever taken on will, to different degrees, be over. I’m sure there will be those who think that this will give me a good opportunity to slow down, but I can’t help wonder exactly what purpose that will serve.

Earlier this week, a friend mentioned that someone had told him they thought I should probably stop publishing this blog. I rolled my eyes at the second-hand comment but chose not to pursue the line of conversation. I did think about it for some time afterwards, though.

I think it’s probably safe to assume that the person who made the remark believes that it’s time for me to ‘move on’. Once, this very suggestion would have made me angry, but these days I tend to find myself at least trying to see things from the other point view. And, having given it a lot of thought, I really do understand where they’re coming from; I appreciate how hard it is to understand how another person’s grief operates. But that doesn’t make that person right. It probably just means that they are failing to empathise with the reality of loss.

I imagine they quite innocently believe that if I keep picking at the metophorical scab, the wound will never heal. It’s a logical conclusion to draw if you treat the mind as no different to the rest of the body. But unlike a graze, a cut or a broken bone, the mind thinks, reflects and remembers. It doesn’t simply heal and there’s no medicine to completely numb the pain.

And so I’m left wondering what this person thinks might be the benefit of me abandoning the blog. That I’ll stop thinking the thoughts in my head if I no longer type them out on a screen? That my mind will erase its concerns if I stop sharing them with the world? That I’ll no longer suffer the anguish if I don’t raise it again in public? That I won’t need to worry about the impact of my wife’s death on my son’s mental well-being if I get on with it alone? That I’ll stop loving my wife if I stop writing about her? That I’ll meet someone else if I appear to make myself more available to others? That I’ll live my life more like they think they would if they were in my shoes?

In my recent attempts to see grief from both sides, I imagine that this person still sympathises with my loss but is entirely unable to empathise with it. And that brings me to the point of this post: grief is very complicated, terribly difficult to comprehend, entirely personal and all too easily marginalised by people who don’t understand.

Now try to imagine going through it as a child. Take a second to think about how heartbreaking it would be if you lost the person you loved most and the people around you failed to acknowledge the impact it had on your life. Close your eyes and consider how you would feel if you were assumed ‘resilient’ enough to get on with your life without questioning such a significant death.

My grief may be approaching its expiry date for some, but at least I’ve had the chance to speak my mind. Many children aren’t given that same opportunity. And that’s why I’m running the London Marathon for Grief Encounter next week.

Please take five minutes to watch the charity’s new tenth anniversary film below and click this link to donate it you can. Thank you so much to everyone who has already given. I’m truly overwhelmed by the generosity so many people continue to show.

98 comments on “expiry dates

  1. ckramercoaching
    April 14, 2014

    It seems fitting that I find your blog today. This past Monday was the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing and I was reliving the weeks leading up to it for the past few. (She was very sick for a couple of months before passing). My father died when I was 20 months old. My brother was 11 days old and my sister was 2-1/2 years old. None of us remember him but my Mom talked about him a lot. I almost thing it’s better for me to have lost Dad so young because I have no memories of him. I grieved for the “idea” of him, but did not know him as a person. I think your blog is yours alone and although others may have an opinion of their own, that is not for them to say when you should stop. This is actually a really wonderful way for you to document this time for your son. Think of how he will be able to read about it when he gets older and the memories he will have. Be proud. You’ve done a great job!

  2. ceenoa
    April 14, 2014

    I have just found your blog today, through Freshly Pressed, and this post just brings back so many things I have thought over the years. My husband died in 2003, when my girls were 5 and 8 respectively, he had been seriously ill for 3 years before that, and not really present in our reality. My girls do not remember that much about their Dad, but we have always made sure that we talk about him, look at pictures, and think of him as if he were still part of our daily lives, as he is!
    Grief is sill here, I expect it will be till the day I die, there are still bad times, there are good times, there is life. There is no timetable to be adhered to with grief, and each person is different to the next. We are all just trying to reshape our lives around a space that our loved one occupied.
    I look forward to reading more of your blog. Do what is right for you and your family, forget what “everyone else” thinks you should do. I used to get angry too, but now I just go “mmmm” to those comments and go my own way. I am the sum of my experiences and I continue to grow, just in a slightly different shape than I expected to.
    Best wishes.

    • Judah First
      April 18, 2014

      Ceenoa, this line in your comment really hit home for me:

      “We are all just trying to reshape our lives around a space that our loved one occupied.”

      What a beautiful way to put it! Thanks for that.
      C

      • ceenoa
        April 18, 2014

        Thank you for your kind words.

      • fay
        May 8, 2014

        that line does sum up how i feel exactly.

      • wendy
        October 5, 2014

        I agree that line hit home with me too.
        I lost my husband may 2013, trying to build a different life but it’s difficult.
        I think no-one can comment on what you should or shouldn’t do unless they have walked in your shoes.

  3. sikolakjengkol
    April 14, 2014

    Reblogged this on Batok kelapa.

  4. constellationlyra
    April 14, 2014

    Reblogged this on constellationlyra.

  5. theunknwnwithin
    April 14, 2014

    Love it! Very inspiring

  6. thinkyourownlife
    April 14, 2014

    that was written amazing, and it made me cry, laugh and smile. I felt every emotion you we’re writing, there is no time limit on the grieving process, so take all the time you need.

  7. GraySkyHippie
    April 14, 2014

    I have a different sort of loss, and it is helpful for me to see how people deal with it. No one has a right to attempt to stop your voice, good intentions or not. Thank you for writing this post. It has already left and impact on me.

  8. LoveForGrace
    April 15, 2014

    I was so moved by your heartbreaking and touching story…. My heart goes out to you and your son….

  9. Stephanie
    April 15, 2014

    From the widow side, I am so sorry. And there’s nothing that’s helped me more than to keep my husband alive for others, those who knew him and those who never met him, by writing about the ever- open wounds. To borrow from Junot Diaz, the half-life of grief is forever, and that’s not a bad thing.

  10. suchled
    April 15, 2014

    Oh man. Don’t stop. People who say you have to move on don’t understand. That’s why I hate the concept of closure. 45years ago my best mate killed himself. Four weeks ago another friend lost his son the same way. In all my 70 years I’ve had good and bad. And they all make up who I am. Keep writing. I would love you to browse through some of my stuff.

  11. jeannieswordvomit
    April 15, 2014

    Beautifully written. Thank you for not closing up and sharing. My fear is on the opposite side. I haven’t lost the person (my dad) but do everything within my power to keep him alive because I think I can’t handle his death. I’m afraid I’ll end up like you (in the beginning) and I just can’t deal with that. But what am I to do when I want him to live more than he does?

  12. Dish with Mish
    April 15, 2014

    This is a beautiful piece… thanks for sharing! God bless you and your son. Very inspiring!

  13. bluehouseblogger
    April 15, 2014

    People want you to stop writing because they have this belief that they’ve lost you as a person and this is how they would get you back .. They think that because you write about your emotions and your struggles that you are somehow locked away forever, just obsessing.. It has never ceased to amaze me the opinions of the people in my own life and how they think I should feel this way or that way.. Your blog is amazing.. Through your writing you are helping other people while you help you, help yourself.. Don’t abandon your blog..

  14. Desire
    April 16, 2014

    Sending you a great big hug. Don’t let society dictate what you should feel and for how long…. Just be.

  15. alright5455
    April 18, 2014

    Its gonna be almost a year since I lost my mom, she wasn’t quite old to think at the age of 74 except for her osteoarthritis situation that she had been suffering for more than 10 years, though the last 2 years was more intense especially the near 4 months before she left.
    The only consolation about this experience was to think that at least my mom won’t have to suffer the pains and believe that she’s happy up there with the Creator, in fact there was one time that I saw her in my dream that she was walking to my surprise, I shared this story to other friend, she said that my mom send me that dream message to let me know she’s finally happy.
    I always think that I’ve accepted the fact that mom is gone, its true that it will take time to heal especially losing our loved ones. No matter how long they will be gone, one thing will remain, their memory and love will forever stay in our hearts.
    Thank you for your inspiring blog. Keep writing because you have and will continue to inspire others. God bless you.

  16. Judah First
    April 18, 2014

    Congratulations on this post being Freshly Pressed! I’m so glad I ‘ran into it’ today. I’ve been walking through the loss of my sister for the past few months and everything you said resonated with me.

    I am so sorry for your loss. And mine. Thanks for helping so many on our journey through grief. And God bless you as you continue on through yours.

    Grace and Peace,
    C

  17. susipet
    April 18, 2014

    What a moving blog…. I know something of this for myself. Wonderfully written

  18. anacruz07
    April 18, 2014

    Please Keep writing. Beautiful post. Thank you for the courage to write about such difficult emotions. Sadly Bereavment and grief happen and to ignore it is to ignore self.speaking out gives solace to all that grieve, and that is all of us.. Good luck for the marathon. I have ran three half marathons. It is such a wonderful journey in so many ways. LOVE XXXX

  19. helen
    April 19, 2014

    I believe everyone deals with grief in different ways and if writing a blog helps then so be it.

    Personally for me grief doesn’t vanish it just lessens as time passes, but small things like visiting my grandmother and uncle’s grave in the cemetery to place flowers and toasting loved ones on their birthdays etc help then I will continue despite what people think, grief is a personal journey.

    Freedom of expression is a person’s right!

  20. Shutter Nut
    April 20, 2014

    Oh how well you have summarized grief! I’ve gone through a few stages of grief in the past year, the hardest has been trying to deal with people who thought I should have moved on after 3 months or so. Those careless comments hurt deeply and opened new wounds and left new scars on my soul.

  21. chocoeaterviv
    April 20, 2014

    Reblogged this on Rocky road With Treats.

  22. Tarek Elbakry
    April 20, 2014

    Reblogged this on Tarek Elbakry's Blog and commented:
    Family!

  23. LINGZ
    April 20, 2014

    Reblogged this on LINGZ.

  24. rachann12
    April 21, 2014

    Thank you for sharing. My kids and I have been working out our own grief for a few years each dealing with it differently. It is true that no one can know your pain or concerns unless they have walked a mile in your shoes. As a parent the grief isn’t always dealt with right away because we are so busy being strong for our kids we forget about ourselves. I too have taking up running and it helps. Some days are better than others.

  25. rachann12
    April 21, 2014

    Reblogged this on mynewbeginnings2012.

  26. staceyshakti
    April 22, 2014

    I too lost my partner. It was many years ago. What I remember the most about the loss was the insensitivity of some people. You see, people have to rationalize loss because it is deeply triggering. Bad things happen to good people and life is fragile. Everything we believe in opposes this reality. You are brave to move forward and run in the name of compassion. Your well meaning friends may not know what to do or say and only you can know what is right for you. Your story is worth telling because there are people listening.

  27. Pingback: Staying up late with A.L. Kennedy | Call of the Siren

  28. appslotus
    April 24, 2014

    Reblogged this on Apps Lotus's Blog.

  29. edcol52
    April 26, 2014

    Ben, I found you through the Freshly Pressed section. I fully comprehend the lack of an ‘expiry’ date on grief. 4 months ago I lost my 24 year old son suddenly and unexpectedly. I am going through this unspeakable journey, just a short way down the road. You are right when you say that people who have not experienced such a trauma have no idea how the mind works. There is no ‘healing’, we just learn how to better manage our emotions. Like a chronic disease, there is no cure. Our situations are somewhat different, but our feelings, everyone’s feelings who has lost someone dear to them, are remarkably similar. Don’t stop writing until it is right for you. You owe no one anything. To thine own self be true. I am sure you are. I wish you peace.

  30. Megan L.
    April 28, 2014

    Best of luck with your marathon. I ran the New York Marathon last year and it was an amazingly healing experience of support and self reflection. Your dedication to and writing of your wife’s memory is beautiful <3

  31. Justine Spencer
    April 28, 2014

    I think that you are the only to know if or when to stop writing this blog. It’s obviously an incredibly personal and cathartic pursuit. No one else can direct you on that. Listen to your heart. I personally find your account very touching and incredibly moving. Well done with the book.

  32. nelainedahlia93
    April 28, 2014

    Writing just like singing is a therapy for many people in grief or suffering as this helps them relieve the emotions held inside. I may not know the pain of losing a parents but of a loved one that I do know. I will say continue writing so that your son when he grows older will appreciate the thoughts you put into to make sure that his well care has been your priorities.

  33. iammattknight
    May 2, 2014

    I am so sorry for your loss. Clearly your words reflect your dedication and affection towards your wife. I am with you in spirit and I hope she rests in peace

  34. lloydnels
    May 5, 2014

    Do not ever quit your blog. Your writings WILL give hope to others who are grieving. God Bless.

  35. lloydnels
    May 5, 2014

    Reblogged this on Hot Reliable Health Reviews and commented:
    This is a very, very humble man explaining his grief over losing his wife, and some telling him to “Just get over it”. We need more people like this man to share is grief process with others. Be sure to read the entire article.

  36. pseudonymtheskylark
    May 6, 2014

    I found your blog today, sort of at the right time. It’s been about a year since I lost my mother to cancer. Writing does help, it gives you an outlet, a voice. The prospect of things changing is scary at times like this. I dealt with it for a year because I of the support of family and friends. Everything is changing on a daily basis though, people moving away, I’m going to be attending college soon and my friends are growing up too, not to mention becoming distant. I understand, it is extremely hard. I hope that you keep moving. It’s the only way we get anywhere. I think what you’re doing is brilliant.

  37. mrthomas16
    May 7, 2014

    Reblogged this on T Bone Lai.

  38. Charlotte
    May 7, 2014

    Dearest Ben, I send you and your son love, peace and courage. Grief is its own mountain; nobody climbs it in the same way. Charlotte.

  39. blueneely
    May 13, 2014

    grief truly has no expiry date. I relate as years have passed since I lost someone I loved, yet I have not recovered. Well written.

  40. Moongazer
    July 12, 2014

    I have begun to despise that phrase “move on”. As though somehow you are supposed to leave the person you lost behind you – frozen in the past. But love doesn’t work like that. Grief doesn’t work like that. You live your life as best you can without the person you love, but the love you felt doesn’t die with them.

    You sound like an amazing Dad ((hugs))

  41. Brian L. Spivey
    July 17, 2014

    True. After 30 years I still miss my father

  42. Sharon Pashley
    August 7, 2014

    I was told that my absolute grief was testament to how much I loved my husband. Four years ago he felt a bit off colour and died three hours later with no warning. He was 54 and the shock to me and the boys was tremendous especially as he seemed so fit and healthy. People say things like “you’re doing so well” and “it’s early days” and the awful statement “I think it’s time to move on” I have to believe they mean well in what they are saying, they have not experienced this awful loss, only those who have have some understanding. Thank goodness for our boys who have been amazing and a legacy to their father. You, Ben, are amazing and Jackson sounds delightful, a legacy of his mother. Continue to do what is right for you and your lovely son. Sharon.

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