A story of grief by a man and a boy

imagining it

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to since 10th November 2012 has told me that they can’t imagine what I’m going through. My stock response has become, ‘Don’t try. You wouldn’t like it.’

But people feel the need to fill the silence even if they don’t know what to say. I’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t have the words in English because we’re not very well trained in dealing with death. Yet nearly everyone attempts to console loss through comments and cliches.

Just to be really clear, this is not a dig at anyone who knows me. We all do it. I find myself doing it with my wife’s family and friends. The reason I’m writing about this is because I’ve learned that it’s not what you say, it’s what you do that makes a difference to a person who has just lost their partner. When I work out how, I’m going to publish some advice on this blog from a charity called Care for the Family. It’s a great resource to send to friends to help explain how they can help you through grief. In the meantime email me if you’re desperate and I’ll send it to you.

I’m jumping around as promised. The main thing I wanted to cover in this post is what it feels like to lose the one you love so suddenly. No-one seems to be able to imagine it, so I’m going to tell you. The important thing to remember is this is only what it feels like for me. Grief treats no two people the same from what I can see, but maybe some of what I say might make other people feel more human if they are ever unfortunate enough to experience the same emotions.

It feels like guilt. Guilt that I’m still alive and she isn’t. Guilt that the papers called me a hero for saving our son, Jackson, when my wife still died. Guilt that my parents still have a living son, but her parents don’t have a living daughter. Guilt that Jackson will be brought up by the less natural parent. Guilt that Desreen carried our son for nine months, took ten months out of her career to care for him and took him to bloody Rhyme Time every week when he may now struggle to remember her for real.

It feels physical. Physical because it’s not all just in my head. I need the toilet more. I’m hungry but you can’t always eat. I’m thirsty but I often can’t drink. My stomach aches from the pain. My head hurts through lack of sleep. My tears have become more saline and they sting my eyes.

It feels like anger. Anger because my temper is out of control. God help any glass or crockery you own if you if the break the ring pull on the tin of spaghetti you’re trying to feed your child after your wife dies. Anger because what used to be a tantrum that we would both have rolled our eyes at (and maybe laughed at a little), just erupted a volcano inside me. In fact each time my son has a tantrum he transfers it to me and I’m stood letting it loose in the park in front of all the parents from nursery.

It feels like confusion. Confusion because I think she’s still coming home from her Saturday morning run when I look out the kitchen window. Confusion because I find myself sitting in my favourite seat on the bus on a route I travel every day, reading something in a newspaper that I know will make her laugh and I reach for my phone to call her. This despite having spoken at her funeral and thinking about little other than her death for weeks.

But most of all it feels selfish. Selfish because I don’t think I should allow myself to indulge in grief when I have a two-year-old son to take care of. Selfish because I feel like I’m getting the lion’s share of sympathy when her parents have lost their daughter, her brother has lost his sister and her mates have lost a irreplaceable, loyal, witty, funny, kind and outrageous friend.

How can anything be so cruel? You lose your wife, the head of your family, your child’s mum, your best friend and the person you’d planned the rest of your life with and grief comes along and makes you feel worse than you already do. It makes you feel bad about feeling bad. It tells you you’re selfish to think of yourself.

Grief is Gollum.

13 comments on “imagining it

  1. Sara
    January 7, 2013

    wow. I can’t speak to that specific guilt, but I think we all have our own guilt…about something, when we are widows/widowers.

  2. Janice Lambert
    January 20, 2013

    I sure know what you mean, it’s hard to deal with on a daily basis isn’t it, yet we keep waking up, and putting one foot in front of the other. I feel for you.

  3. Peter Wortgington
    January 29, 2013

    I lost my husband to suicide about a year and a half ago, just a few days shy of our first year wedding anniversary. The guilt is crippling and I don’t suppose I shall ever really get over it, though I have learned not to flay myself with it. The hardest thing, even more than a year later, is to hold him close to me and let him go at the same time. His death has taken away my spiritual faith, even as it has left me yearning for contact. I wait to talk to him in a dream, but that moment never comes. Every moment I am alone, I think of him. My eyes still leak spontaneously in the strangest circa trances. I know I will never stop missing him. Haven’t yet figured out if that will ever allow me enough room to be truly happy again.

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  7. sharron
    September 5, 2013

    No words……………. just a huge hug for all of you x

    • Peter Worthibgton
      September 5, 2013

      A little over two years now. I miss him so much but I wish I’d never met him. A huge life-sized hole where my heart used to be. It makes me cold to other people’s sufferings.

  8. L Clark
    December 23, 2014

    I don’t mean to sound awful, but I am so glad for your blog. Although I cannot express how deeply sorry and saddened I am for your loss, I am so grateful that you have shared in such raw and unrelenting emotions and grief. For many years I was ashamed at how powerful and seemingly irrational my pain has been from losing a loved one, but this blog has opened up worlds to me. As I have gotten older, naturally I feel like I handle my grief better, but there are some days when I cry so hard that I can’t imagine any other sound on Earth. I always say that the greatest lie I was ever told was ‘it will get easier’. This is complete rubbish. I can’t even say, ‘it doesn’t get easier, you just learn how to deal with it better’…because this would also taste a lie. The only thing I can say is that some days when I wake up and it’s not the first thing on my mind – those moments are bliss – but it’s only a matter of moments before I am slammed back into reality knowing that I will always have a sadness in my heart. But I am happy, despite the grief. I accept that some days I am a pit of despair (sorry to sound dramatic!) but just accepting the pain when and wherever it happens seems to help me recover quicker. I always think a smile is a precious thing, but a tear can also be just as precious. There is nothing wrong with feeling the pain that we feel from losing out on true love. To me, true love is life’s purpose…and it’s an utter tragedy to lose it. Your little boy is beautiful by the way. He was lucky to have such a beautiful mother, but is equally as lucky to have such and inspiring father. All the best, much love xx

    • Susan Gould Borroughs RN MSN
      July 21, 2017

      I dont know if i can keep goung through these “anniversaries”. I list my husband of 21 years 6 months ago tomorrow. I cant stop crying (wailing really) and it makes me feel so so sad

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  11. Laura
    August 16, 2018

    Like many I have become a “widow”. Cancer was the cruel mistress that took my husband of 48 years in less than 6 weeks. Each day since his passing (6/2/17) I get up missing his silly jokes, his smile, his intelligence. Like many I was told it would get easier with time but I also find that it is NOT easier it just gets to be more accepting of the thing that no one can change. Then 5 months ago my sister in law joined me in this thing called “widow”. She keeps asking me if its going to get better, that the loneliness will get better, the despair will get easier, the tears will stop at the most inopportune times. The best I can say is I don’t know it hasn’t for me yet. Sleep is evasive, eating alone is just the thing you do, the grief process never stops!

    Thank you for writing this post, love your little one and take what joy you can in!

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