A story of grief by a man and a boy

strange intuition

Today is my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday. A day she has been planning since she turned 50. We had big plans. A party with all her friends and family followed by a holiday somewhere hot. But that all changed so suddenly last November. It felt like the party would lack its fun and the holiday would lack its sun.

But we’re troupers and we tend not to let a day like this pass by unmarked. So this morning my son greeted his grandmother at the door with a ‘Happy 60th Birthday’ balloon, gave her a card he’d made at nursery and we had breakfast and gave gifts. Yet something was missing. I knew Desreen couldn’t be here, that’s a given, but I know she’d have spoilt her mum rotten and really gone to town. So I thought about what I could do. Buying pastries in the shop downstairs it came to me.

My wife owned a pretty healthy collection of bags. Many a designer cow perished to furnish her arm. I know she’d be livid if I just started dishing them out to all and sundry (I think I may even be able to remember her once telling me she’d come back and get me if I did) but I also know she’d so badly want to please her mum today. So I took her favourite, wrapped it up and told her mum that it was from Des.

“Did you know?” she asked.

“Know what? I replied.

“That this is what she was going to buy me for my birthday?”

I had no idea but it got me thinking about just how well you know a person when you’re together for so long. She probably didn’t even need to tell me and I could have guessed.

Well they say birthdays and anniversaries are the hardest when you lose someone. I just didn’t expect my mother-in-law’s to hit me so hard.

9 comments on “strange intuition

  1. Ginny Gilmore (@GinGoddess)
    January 30, 2013

    It seems like your beloved wife is looking after you, Jackson and her mother. She sounds amazing, but so are you.

  2. dottyhousewife
    January 30, 2013

    That is just beautiful. Countless times over the years my father felt guided and reassured by my Mum, who died when my sister and I were aged 10 and 7 respectively. Whatever our beliefs, it shows that love lives on and that it can affect things and people long after we are gone, the fact that we loved and knew the person so well changes our behaviour and lives on forever. Your son will grow up knowing his mother through you and all your family and will eventually, as I have, recognise her in himself. I am now grown up with children of my own and I see my Mum in them too. The amazing love she gave to me, I give to them.

  3. Kerry Fox.
    January 30, 2013

    Your blog hits me hard every time I read it, mostly because of all the positivity that people show towards you and each other. It shows that you are helping others as well as yourself which I know was your aim.

  4. SarahM
    January 30, 2013

    Thanks Ben. That’s all I want to say. Reading your blog has become an integral part of my day. Thank you for sharing x

  5. Paul R
    January 30, 2013

    I spent last Monday with my mother in law. It wasn’t a special birthday, but it was the first birthday since my wife died. Laura loved to do birthdays for people, it didn’t have to be a special year. We didn’t have a party, but did lunch and visited about some of the good times we had at crazy birthday parties that my wife, Laura, had put together for people.

    I don’t know if you have a Google account or use Google +, but if so you may want to check out our Grief community:

    Only 15 members, but growing slowly. We share stories, what has helped, what hasn’t helped, and anything else someone thinks the group would be interested in.

  6. Deborah
    January 30, 2013


    Your blog is something I have started to read only recently and the honesty in how you write is heartfelt and just bloody lovely and has brought me to tears on occasions (which is tough being from Yorkshire I can tell you !) but they have made me smile too..

    I hope it gives others going through their own grief process comfort in some way and that it also helps you and Jackson to find your own way through this. You have family and friends who love you and the people you have never known or met on this site that think of you..

  7. Karen Ritchie
    January 31, 2013

    Dear Ben.
    I knew Desreen from a child she started school with my son Christopher O’connor & Scott Griffiths she was the most popular girl in the class and continued to be so
    until she left for Saudi or somewhere. when she returned after 2 or so years the whole class where so pleased Chris said hay mum good new Desreen is back.
    the mums were also pleased to see Bev again. Lots of love keep up the good work for other Widowers. ( write a book ) ps love to Jackson
    From Karen Ritchie and my son Christopher O’connor xxx

  8. Darini Nicholas
    February 3, 2013

    Hi Ben,
    I stumbled on your post that was covered in The Guardian in early January, and was amazed at your ability to share your tragic loss and grief with words. I am single and don’t yet know what its like to start a family of my own and lose someone I love, but one doesn’t have to have experienced this kind of loss to have feelings that resonate with your story, and I continue to come back to your blog from time to time because of the kind of emotional awareness and humanity that exists in your posts that has the effect of quiet grounding in reality for me. For myself its going about my daily routine and my little personal concerns, my work and how it does or doesn’t make a dent on the world….and then I read your blog and bang it manages to put me in a state of silence and reflexivity by such details as the acts inspired by intuition and its power to bring people together…quite magical and sublime actually! Tiny moments that in our rush to make a difference and a living that we take for granted. Thanks for sharing, and I’ve shared your blog with a few my male friends, because I think men in general could learn to cultivate their emotional outlets and hence become more in touch with their own humanity and still without too much effort make a social difference…in sharing your grief your are impacting so many others around the globe more than you probably even realize, and we have the internet to thank for that! Thank you.

  9. Gaby Eirew
    February 5, 2013

    Beautiful. How caring and thoughtful you are. Kudos to you

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