Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

Our story

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 18.53.23My name is Ben. On 10 November 2012 my life changed forever. Just after 8.00p.m. I left my friends’ house a happily married thirty-three-year-old father. By 9.17p.m. I was sitting in an ambulance on their street, a widower in shock. I only remember the time because I noticed that the hands on the clock were in the same position as when our son was born two years and three weeks before.

My son and I managed to narrowly dodge the car that killed the woman I’d loved for the last eight years. The woman I’d married just the year before. It killed a wife; a daughter; a sister; a friend treasured by so many. But, perhaps worst of all, it killed a toddler’s beautiful and devoted mummy.

How do you even begin to pick up the pieces after such a tragic loss? This question plagued me. I found myself wanting to share my experiences and find answers from people just like me, widowed young and caring for grieving children. My search for those people seemed fruitless. It just made me feel even more isolated.

‘I’m thinking about starting a blog about losing Dessie,’ I told a friend. ‘It worries me that I’m finding so little out there to help men left alone raising kids.’

‘Just do it!’ he responded, immediately understanding my intentions.

So on 7 January 2013, two months after the death of my wife, Desreen Brooks, I published my first blog post. Within a week the Guardian asked me to write a feature, for its Family supplement, about my experience in helping my two-year-old son understand what had happened to his mum. I was also interviewed on BBC Breakfast and ITV’s This Morning on the same subject. Within four months the blog generated widespread media coverage, amassed a devoted UK and international audience, received in excess of half a million views and won a blogging award for making people sit up and pay attention to an issue that could, ultimately, touch any parent.

My original intention was to try to encourage other men to open up, to challenge perceptions of male grief and to attempt to force a reappraisal of the stiff upper lip being a badge of honour when it comes to loss. The blog however, attracted people from different walks of life united in their own immediate loss, or their care and concern for grieving loved ones.

All sorts of people started to get in touch: women and not just men; old not just young; people who had lost their husbands or wives within a week of me and my son losing Desreen; parents who had lost children; partners who had not yet started grieving because their terminally ill husbands or wives were still finding the strength to hang on; teachers who had found some suggestions for how to deal with children who had lost or were facing loss; and people wanting to understand how to help their own loved ones suffering the pain of bereavement.

My aim now is to give a real insight into raw and live grief. I’ve documented everything as it happened. I decided I needed to start writing soon after my wife died because of an analogy that one day popped into my head: if women could remember every ache and pain of labour, perhaps none would have more than one child. Human beings’ capacity to forget pain is enormous, and in many ways that is a good and necessary thing. Morbid as it may sound, though, it filled me with dread to imagine that I would ever forget the agony of my loss. I was even more worried that I might not be able to explain it to my son when he was old enough to start asking serious questions.

The blog explores themes of loss and grief from both my son’s and my own point of view. It also frequently features guest posts about bereavement, loss and grief of all kinds from anyone who has an interesting, thought provoking or touching story to tell.

140 comments on “Our story

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  4. YaRa
    February 9, 2014

    So touch by your story. Thanks for be the healer of so many people who lost some significant other(mother,father,etc) at 2012. As you heal we weal.

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  6. JORGE LUIS GRACCA
    February 24, 2014

    DEAR FRIEND: MY NAME IS JORGE LUIS GRACCA 9 MONTHS AGO AND LOST MY WIFE, I UNDERSTAND THE STRENGTH OF THE MOMENTS YOU TOUCH, AND FROM ME EVERY DAY IS HARDER .. THE DIFFERENT BETWEEN U.S. ONLY YOURS THAT WAS HIT IN CHANGING MY PROBLEM wAS AN aGONY OF 6 YEARS, THE sHE died 2 MAY 2013. I’d like YOU MAIL EXCHANGE AND HELP AND AYUADAR ANY WAY WITHOUT YOU SEND MORE BIG HUG A FRIEND JORGE
    MY MAIL IS JORGELUISGRACCA@GMAIL.COM

  7. Robatsu
    April 6, 2014

    For some reason, I recently wrote about the loss of my first wife and the years thereafter which were very difficult for me, I did not cope well with widowhood. She died 22 years ago suddenly in a car accident. I can assure you that though you will eventually spend most of your time thinking of other things, you will never forget the agony of loss. Even this much later, when I do revisit things, it is every bit as sharp/painful as it was the day she died. Forgetting about it is the least of your worries, IMO.

  8. Anthea
    April 11, 2014

    You sound like a brilliant father. I’m sorry for yours and your son’s tragic loss.

  9. Deepak
    April 13, 2014

    I lost my wife a month ago. I don,t know what to do. I had a terrible past… life in harsh boarding schools… broken family…She was the only one I had…I felt life through her… she gave me hope…made me complete my masters…she used to feed the people in the slums, take care of kids abused, visit orphans…. i was a true fan…Now i have nobody…she was only 27….she used to utter the name of God every time she said something but she found no miracles… now I live the life of a zombie…..

  10. afsheenanjum
    April 16, 2014

    May Allah bless you with patience and hope.
    ameen

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