A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
One time that my sub conscience takes over is when I go shopping. Let’s be clear, Desreen loved shopping, she loved spending money and she loved presents. So when I see something that I know she would have liked, I go to pick it up excited about how she’ll react. Only she won’t, because she no longer can. It’s a little high caused by a trick of the mind that is followed by a crashing low. However, you become grateful of anything that makes you feel happy even for a split second, so it kind of makes it worth accidentally wandering into the women’s department, even if you’ve got no-one to buy for.
It occurred to me before Christmas just how much I’ll miss buying things for her. I’ll miss the excitement I’d see on her face when she’d see a little purple bag from Liberty. I’ll miss the emails she’d send me with some of the ‘small things’ I might like to consider buying her for her birthday that invariably cost a minimum of £300, even though we were meant to be saving. I guess I’ll miss having no-one who’ll love my gestures as much as she did.
So I continue to make them.
Soon after she died I changed both mine and my son’s surname so we both carry Desreen’s family name as well as my own. We became Benjamin Brooks-Dutton and Jackson Bo Brooks-Dutton. She’d never taken my name when we got married because she had built up a great reputation in her industry and because Des Dutton sounds more like a snooker player than a fashion agent. She would have loved the fact that she had stood her ground as a strong independent woman while I became her ‘wife’.
I also did something that I kept secret from my parents and my in-laws, despite the fact I’m 33 and should be able to do whatever I like. I got a tattoo. Thankfully it wasn’t simply decided on a grief-fueled whim. I’d been thinking about it for quite some time anyway. Desreen and I had a family monogram designed for our wedding invitations consisting of ours and our son’s initials – DJB. We were planning on having another child and I’d made her promise that we were stuck on the same name whether we were blessed with a boy or a girl (her reading The Secret meant we were having a girl, apparently). Jackson took my maternal grandma’s maiden name as his Christian name and the next child would take Desreen’s. It began with B so I didn’t need to add another letter or have a difficult conversation with my future child about why I hadn’t gone under the needle on their behalf. So I now have the same design that was used for both our wedding and Desreen’s funeral etched over my heart for the rest of my days.
I’ve also continued to buy Desreen’s favourite flowers for the house. I say for the house, but really I know I’m still buying them for her and it helps make sure our home, once blessed with a woman’s touch, doesn’t start to smell of stinky boys.
I love my new name, I love my tattoo and I even love buying flowers because they bring Desreen’s memory back whenever I sign a letter, undress or walk into my living room. But I always know that the happiness I feel in any such posthumous gesture will quickly be followed by sadness that she isn’t here to give me a gold star.