A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
Lots of people have asked me if I’m getting help and, only as I type the words, I’ve just realised that a person posing such a question may be asking me one of several different things.
Am I getting psychological help? No. I was and we decided it wasn’t the right time for me. Apparently I’m ‘self counselling’. I’d agree because when I found myself reciting passages from my blog to my counsellor, I kind of concluded that my time might be better spent typing rather than talking about typing.
Am I taking any substances to help? It depends who’s asking. If you don’t include things that you can buy in Boots in that question, then no. If you do, then yes. I alternate between antihistamines that are supposed to help you sleep but don’t touch the sides and Nytol, which is probably exactly the same drug but does. And when the pharmacist in the Peckham branch halfheartedly tells me that I shouldn’t use them as a long term solution to sleep deprivation and that I should visit my doctor for help, I release a rare laugh. I chuckle as I remember my GP telling me to consider cutting down on caffeine and alcohol when I was hoping for an actual remedy. ‘Okay mate, and perhaps you should consider a career change and try your luck as a stand-up’, I mused.
Am I getting any help with my son? Yes. My mother-in-law has been helping every week since the day he was born. She met him minutes after he breathed his first breath, they fell for each other immediately and she’s been a big part of his life ever since. And thanks be to God, because I haven’t needed to ship in a stranger and disrupt my son’s life anymore than the car that hit his mother already has. He goes to nursery a couple of days a week too – less than before because I want him by my side, but just enough to maintain some of what we might call the ‘normality’ in his life.
Am I getting help around the house? I like to clean. I often use the time my son is in nursery to properly scrub the place. Maybe it’s a distraction, maybe it gives me a small sense of achievement to see the place shine when I otherwise feel so dull, but it helps either way. My mother-in-law feels the same so the house is looking okay considering that there has never been more people passing through so regularly.
Are people being supportive? Yes, incredibly so. Since I shared this list all my friends and family have known how to help. They come to see us but they don’t expect to be looked after. They bring shopping, they bring food, they cook it, they serve it, they wash up the dishes and they leave. They make their visits primarily about seeing and entertaining my son rather than simply chewing the fat with me. They buy him books then sit and read them to him. The play with him and his trains while I steal five minutes to have a shave or clean the bathroom. They arrange holidays and weekends away and invite us to come, then they take care of all of the plans. They don’t just send empty text messages asking me how I am, they put thought into what they say. They listen and understand that sometimes that’s all they can do. They still talk about my wife because they loved her too. We laugh about her jokes and we cry about how much we miss her, but the important thing is that we allow her into our conversations. And we say and do things to make each other smile rather than simply to fill the silence.
So, to answer the question, yes, we are getting help.
This has been something that has been very difficult for me to accept because my wife and I were very independent and didn’t really seek much support before she died.
But now I’m slowly discovering that living in the before may be honourable, but honour alone doesn’t do an awful lot to get you through the after.