A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
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.