A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
I’ve decided I’m not going to write about the incident. It’s really easy for people to say, ‘You need to see a counsellor and go over what happened on the night,’ but I’m not convinced. I know what happened better than anyone else at the scene, I know the outcome and I know that I can’t do anything to change it. So why revisit it publicly?
Fortunately the professionals seem to agree. I imagine I’ll replay it in my head every day for the rest of my life, but I don’t think it helps me or others to discuss it at length.
That said, I am seeing a counsellor. In fact I’m seeing about twenty because if you can open up then suddenly your closest friends and family have invisible letters after their names.
But the first three paragraphs of this post are really just a bridge to some points I wanted to voice about grief.
Point one: Grief is fucked up. I’m planning on using swear words sparingly on this blog and only when I really mean them, but in this case I do.
Grief (the shock and numbness phase) made me crack jokes minutes after I saw my wife die. It made me tell my friend off for having a runny nose in the ambulance. It made me apologise to the police for wearing a fleece blanket when my wife would have scalded me for it not being Welsh lambswool. It made me check that everyone was okay for drinks when her best friends came to my house in the middle of the night unsure whether to believe what had happened. It allowed me to plan a funeral for my wife with as much gusto as our wedding. It enabled me to stand up in front of countless people in a packed church and speak about her without really shedding a tear. It’s tempting to say that Valium and rum played their parts too, but in my heart and I know I could have done it without because shock is more powerful a drug than either.
Point two: Grief is totally unpredictable. I wanted to ‘be strong’ on the day of the funeral because I felt it was my duty. People have told me how strong I’ve been or encouraged me to be strong along the way. But it’s really not a badge of honour when your wife has just died, it’s simply a matter of wanting to do her justice.
Now I wonder whether it would be better if people said, ‘Be weak.’ Why? Because if I’m strong the whole time then I’m not letting grief have its way with me and, trust me, we’re all grief’s bitch in the end. It just depends on how long we’re prepared to flirt before letting it have its way with us.
That would be quite a nice thought to finish on but this blog is about men and grief and my last point is more specifically about fathers.
Point three: Grief shouldn’t be hidden from children. If we are only ever strong and hide our true feelings (and tears) from our kids then perhaps they will think they shouldn’t cry or show their feelings in later life. I can only use my son as a reference and I’m no psychologist, but if he hides his tears from me because I was ‘strong’ and hid them from him, then I’ll have failed him.
Sadly for me right now, when he does see me cry he snatches my hanky, wipes fake tears and says, ‘Oh boo hoo hoo, daddy,’ while throwing himself around the room dramatically. One day he’ll know that this would be the worst time to mock his father’s feelings, but for now I just have to believe it’s his way of making me laugh. So it’s just two guys trying to make each other feel better. One two and the other thirty-three.