Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

accepting help

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. 

11 comments on “accepting help

  1. Ian
    January 31, 2013

    Good to read that you are able to see past a reluctance to get help due to your previous independence. Well channelled help, which you seem to be in control of and blessed with, actually gives you independence if that makes sense.

    You are right about writing, or a blog, being a good self-sounding board. It has certainly helped me understand myself and get better clarity. Writing things down forced me to think about things and feelings from all perspectives. Certainly a form of counselling, but talking to someone also has its merit, and probably its time.

  2. bereavementbuddy
    January 31, 2013

    When my big brother passed away, I called a therapist, within days….. I thought i should go (it’s what everyone does..??….) I was sooo wrong!!
    I decided after the first visit, it wasn’t right and left feeling worse!

    I got home and got out an old empty note book, I put all my thoughts, feelings and fears in it- voila, it made me feel a little less ‘bottled up’!!

    Since my brother died, things have changed, my heart still hurts some days, but the days are becoming less frequent. I am 3 years and 6 months on in my grief.

    I since had a complete career change, I am now a psychotherapist, I was a drama teacher…..

    Life happens all around us even in our darkest days (night times being the worst part).

    Something about the dreaded 4am, The lonely hour…. I used to dread that time of night/day, I took nothing to help me sleep, I just went with it. It was hard as I spent my days like a zombie…

    There is no right or wrong with grief, which I found to be a problem… I wanted a timeline:- what month will I feel better? Is it normal to feel physical pain? Should I be sad after 6 months?
    Guess what.. Nobody could answer that!
    I also wanted someone who felt exactly the same as me, I was so lonely in it all, my parents and other brother and sisters had completly different grief to mine, so I couldn’t connect about it with them?

    In the end I decided that the dreaded grief was going to stick around for a while and I accepted it all!

    Thank you once again for being a person who allows others to not feel how I felt.

    I pray you continue to let your beautiful wife guide you in this amazing way x

    • lesley
      January 31, 2013

      My brother died 21/weeks ago and like you I wanted a timeline for my feelings.i also tried counselling because everyone told me I should. I found it didnt help because I was looking for answers the counsellor couldnt give me. Someone suggested I start writing down how I felt and I found that once I started I couldnt stop. It has. been so helpful as has talking to people about what happened. Though I worry my need to talk isnt easy for many people to deal with. Grief is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with.just when I feel I am getting back to normal it comes back without warning and totally overwhelms me.
      Reading others experiences of grief helps me realise there is no normal and I must just take each day as it comes

  3. bereavementbuddy
    January 31, 2013

    Reblogged this on bereavementbuddy's Blog and commented:
    Honest words!!

  4. Chris
    January 31, 2013

    Insomnia is such a terrible thing. There’s nothing worse than lying in bed at some crazy time of the night, too tired to get up and do something useful but unable to clear your mind and sleep. Then eventually getting up in the morning and feeling like a zombie all day, just to go through the same exhausting horror the next night. It’s one of the times I felt the most alone in the months after my wife died.

    I also found Nytol to be fairly effective (the over-the-counter one not the herbal one) in helping me get some rest, and while I hate to back up your doctor’s seemingly less than helpful suggestions Ben, it’s probably a good thing to avoid prescription sleeping tablets with the accompanying risks of dependency, though if the Nytol stops working I think one should do whatever it takes. I also found that if I avoided drinking alcohol less than 3 hours before going to bed, or at all, I was less likely to wake up at 3:45am. Apparently this is something to do with how the liver metabolizes alcohol, which is enough to wake you if you’re under stress and not sleeping well.

    The other truly helpful thing was a technique called “Autogenic Training” that I had learnt some time before. In simplistic terms it’s a kind of self-hypnosis which is immensely powerful and empowering in that, with practice, it enables you to put yourself in a state of deep relaxation and control. There’s plenty of science and research behind it, some UK police forces use it to help officers cope with emotionally distressing investigations, and the courses are in the main run by medical professionals. You have to dedicate time to it every day to learn it but it’s well worth the effort and it’s a skill you have for life.

  5. Paul R
    January 31, 2013

    Your comments about your GP sound to me like you don’t have a very good one. I was fortunate to have a doctor who listend to me. I explained that I couldn’t sleep because I kept replaying the accident that resulted in the death of my wife. (I was following her when she lost control of her motorcycle.) I thought he would prescribe a tranqualizer or something similar. Instead he explained that I was actually suffering from PTSD and that what I needed was an anti anxiety drug.

    That helped me. I don’t normally like being on drugs and slowly got off that drug over the course of two months. I still replay the accident, but it no longer prevents me from sleeping.

  6. Naomii Chaplain
    January 31, 2013

    I don’t think you will ever understand the degree of help your blog offers readers who have loved and lost too.

  7. Lisa Craig
    January 31, 2013

    My husband died from cancer 2 years and 5 months ago. We have four children – now aged 13,12,7 and 5. I have just read your blog from the beginning and it is so good to hear your thoughts and feelings. It’s a weird place to be – losing your life’s soul mate. Your words, thoughts, feelings – no-one really ‘get’s it’ until they are there and then for each person it is still so different. Thank you for sharing. x

  8. Sharron Gordon
    January 31, 2013

    Thank you Ben
    for answering the questions which I wanted to know the answers to.
    I remember the horror that I felt when it was broadcast on the news in November…
    that every question, every feeling and every thought that I have is raw….
    Thank you so much for sharing the different emotions that you and little Jackson are experiencing… its Honest x

  9. V
    February 1, 2013

    Keep going Ben its a long road. I feel you will make it. I have not suffered a loss in recent years but your blog is making me sit up and rethink my path. Try some active tart cherry juice it promotes natural somnulance. It works for me. I’ve been waking up at 3am ever since my dad died 19 years ago no matter how tired i was. But when i drink this after a day or two i started sleeping through. God bless you and Jackson.

  10. taz3677
    May 14, 2014

    My friend isn’t a great talker and he dosn’t talk a lot about his wife and i sometimes don’t know ifbthats because he dosn’t want to. Or if because his children are there. So never sure whats best to do. X

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