Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

packing up

One of the things that I’ve now come to dread is packing up to leave our home. It’s a stressful, upsetting, anxiety-inducing taste of hell. It feels like I’m leaving my wife behind, like I’m removing my son from all the things he holds dear and, perhaps worst of all, I never actually want to go to the place we have to visit at that particular moment in time, so it doesn’t even feel worthwhile.

This may all sound overly dramatic if you’re reading this having experienced no significant loss, but trust me it’s tough.

Let me explain why:

  • Because my short term memory seems to have been buried with my wife and I can never remember where I’ve left the things that I need
  • Because not being able to remember where I’ve left the things that I need is my least favourite experience at the best of times and instantaneously turns me from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde
  • Because when I’m Mr Hyde I angrily turn the house upside down and find things that I wasn’t looking for
  • Because when I find things that I wasn’t looking for I discover mementos of our marriage that make me upset
  • Because when I’m upset I do things in a rush
  • Because when I do things in a rush I pack my wife’s bag instead of mine
  • Because when I pack my wife’s bag instead of mine and I’m standing at the door ready to leave, my son tells me that I’m not allowed to touch Mummy’s things
  • Because when I touch Mummy’s things and Mummy isn’t there he gets upset
  • Because when he’s upset he’s difficult to travel with
  • Because when he’s difficult to travel with I get stressed out
  • Because when I get stressed out I can lose my rag
  • Because when I lose my rag I hate myself
  • Because when I hate myself I feel like I’ve got nothing left

So in short, it’s just not much fun.

But then who ever said any of this shit was?

All I can do is hope that one day soon I’ll think the trip was worth the pain.

14 comments on “packing up

  1. Alison
    February 2, 2013

    Just sending you both a huge hug xxx

  2. Paula
    February 2, 2013

    in time… will be Ben.Keep strong. x

  3. jinikentmum
    February 2, 2013

    I have been reading your post ever since I came across one of your blog in The Guardian online.Last year I lost my father, he was still young (64) a fit man,did not drink, did not smoke and walked everywhere. I am not from here, my husband is so we’ve made England our home and bringing up two beautiful children.I had to take a 12 hour plane journey alone from UK to Seychelles. That Saturday morning when I got the call, I felt so angry, I told myself it was so unfair, he was a good man… the list will get so long if I keep writing..I could only spend five days with my family back home because my kids and husband were here and I had just started a new job,moved to a new town and kids started a new school. It has been hard, not having my mum, my sisters, my best friends…Your blog made me realised that even if my father was taken from me in space of 15 minutes after complaining of not feeling well, I got to know him for 41 years , I have loads of memories of him but your son got two years to know his beautiful mum. Your blog makes me feel guilty (in a good way if that make sense) and at the same time help me move on with my life. It is hard but it is getting easier…I wrote something on my own blog “Daddy…Mummy is crying” because for the first time since I lost my dad I finally cried for my loss and sort of wrecked my room in the process. I don’t miss him any less but I do believe I will be OK and you and your little one will be OK too someday. I use OK because it will never be same. I will say maybe you need that move…you are not trying to forget your beautiful wife but inviting her back in your new life, on your terms. she will always be in your life because she was part of who you are today and the mother of your little boy. I wish you all the best.

    PS: Maybe one day you will turn your journey into a book. You will help so many people. I love your honesty about how you feel, unlikely me who said I was fine when I was not! I did it to protect my children. You can have a read if you want

  4. Potamos
    February 2, 2013

    Sounds like another tough moment and makes me wonder how many of these moments one man can cope with. Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure there are grieving men out there who treasure your raw and honest blog. But I also hope that putting these things into words helps you releasing them and getting whole little steps at a time. Sending you a smile from Wales.

  5. Dan Sculthorp
    February 2, 2013

    Hi Ben / everyone!
    I’m 37 and a widower of 14 months with a 3 year old son. Every point you’ve made is like a step back in time to exactly how I felt a year or so ago.
    You sound like you’re a fantastic Dad and doing bloody great considering how open you’ve been and what you’ve achieved with this blog.
    Lots of emotions arise when you’re under pressure to do even simple things and as for making decisions!!!!….. I felt like an alien in my own body! I just struggled making any form of decision and ended up feeling under massive pressure!
    I gave myself a hard time trying to be some sort of Domestic God as well as a SuperDad!
    It was Steve Smart who said to me last January – “you can’t do everything” and he’s right! I just do the important stuff – I’m getting to a much better place now and my son seems to be doing great, you and your boy will too!
    Keep talking and sharing – you should be very proud of what you’re doing.
    All the best, Dan

  6. debbie
    February 2, 2013

    I have read all your posts and didnt feel i had anything to offer you, then i saw a lovely idea that may help you and Jackson. A family who had lost their father had patchwork quilst made from his clothes, so he could “still wrap them with love”, maybe an idea to make a small comfort blanket or pillow for Jackson or you both.
    Take care, x

  7. Muriel keating
    February 2, 2013

    Just love to you both. xxxxx

  8. Paul R
    February 2, 2013

    One of the best pieces of advice I received shortly after the death of my wife, although I didn’t know it at the time, I’ll repeat here.

    “Eventually things do begin to change, do begin to get less bad, and begin to get better. There’s no one-size-fits-all set of directions for getting from where you are to where you’re headed. One thing about where you’re headed is this–you don’t know what it will look like yet.”

    For many, many months I focused on the “less bad” because I couldn’t see things getting better. Better is such a relative term.

    • lesley
      February 3, 2013

      That is such good advice. We cant see how things are getting better /less bad but they do. In the last few weeks I have started reading most people that will be an activity they take for granted, for me it is sometning I couldnt do in the first few months after losing my brother.My grief took all my energy.i couldnt focus on things. I had no interest in anything. Having started reading again I am able to believe that in time I will do all those other everyday things I did before losing my brother. It really is one small step at a time.
      Thanks to everyone who posts on here.finding this has been so helpful for me

  9. Sarah
    February 2, 2013

    I feel so bad for you that you are going through this but reading this makes me feel that at least I am not going mad! You have put into words everything I feel whenever I leave the house still. My little boy was 2 when his Daddy died. People who have no experience of this sort of loss can’t understand the significance of all the things you have listed here. I am back at work after a year off and the stress of getting George out of the house and to the childminder or school on time sends me completely demented…I have sometimes just sat on the doorstep and sobbed because I can’t find my keys or his gloves or my purse then I think how different it would all be if what happened hadn’t happened. What makes me so frustrated is that I know I didn’t used to be so pathetic and so unable to cope. Someone at work said to me one day when I was really stressed “so what if you’re late? what’s the worst that can happen?” Well the worst has already happened so actually she was right! I decided that I don’t care if anyone is annoyed with me for being late or disorganised because in the whole scheme of things it really doesn’t matter. Taken me a long time though and I still can’t find things or remember where I put things. What helps is just people understanding. We have been away for weekends or weeks with friends and its still always difficult but I think it’s getting easier. I feel guilty because I have screamed and shouted at my little boy because I have been so frustrated and angry at times but every day he smiles at me and says “I love you Mum”. At least I know he still loves me despite everything and I hope he’ll forget how horrible I’ve been and only remember the nice days like today…a run on our favourite beach “Daddy’s beach” with the dog in the sunshine. X x

  10. Alex
    February 2, 2013

    you had no time to prepare for your loss…………no warning…….no expectation it would happen then rather than in 40 years……..however you have one little reason with one big heart and one future to live for, and I mean live rather than exist….help your son become the inheritance Desreen left you with…….it wont be easy but it will be worth it………….xx

  11. Sharron Gordon
    February 3, 2013

    packing up Ben… but your also opening up which was, and still is your initial intention… None of the above explanations sound overly dramatic at all.You clearly explain the knock on effect of every emotion that you are going through…God grant you the courage…. x

  12. jacqueline
    February 3, 2013

    one day at a time-x

  13. Helen
    February 6, 2013

    Thank you for this post. I lost my husband of 17 months in November. We were together for 8 years and have a 4 year old and a 2 year old. Today I have had the most shitty day and screamed at my son this morning, all related to trying to get him out of the house on time for pre school. He was fussing about the smallest things and i really lost it. I never used to react like this to him when his dad was here, I was calmer and had more patience. I spent all day feeling terrible, and I still feel terrible now, even though he was fine after pre school, really happy and telling me he loves me etc. I just feel like no one understands what it is like until I read this and realised that other people do understand and I am not totally losing it. I hate myself when I lose it. my sons are so small, they are having a hard enough time, they do not need a crazy mummy too. I discovered your blog tonight and I already feel slightly less mad. So thanks. I will keep reading.x

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