Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

finding myself

I always used to love the idea that you could take a year out of your life in your twenties to go and ‘find yourself’. Invariably you’d only really find yourself feeling dirty on the Koh San Road, feeling more hungover that you’ve ever felt in your life, and feeling complete distain for any future employer because they were unwilling to make every subsequent year a 365-day holiday.

I never went and found myself, myself. I’ve never found myself with the time to find myself before. But I’m finding myself finding myself now and I am, myself, finding it difficult to find myself without a map.

I haven’t needed one before because I’ve been so damn fortunate to have such a good life. Amazing things have come to me without straying far from the path I was already happily treading. I chose a career, stuck with it and it served me well. I met a beautiful girl completely by accident without even making an effort. A pregnancy test I’ll never forget turned blue on Valentine’s Day 2010 and a wonderful little human being slowly made his way into the world on October 17th that same year. The most incredible wedding day came ten months later.

And after all that I still didn’t need to find myself because I’d already found myself to be lucky, happy, fulfilled and planning things that anyone else in a similar position might. A bigger family – a girl if my wife’s determination were to prove enough to determine the sex – and a house on the right side of the tracks.

But now I find myself off track and I’ve no idea where I’m heading. People who have experienced similar loss tell me, “That was your old life and, like it or not, you have a new one now”.

Well I don’t like it much so far, but I have come to realise that when a child loses one parent too soon, it’s a crime to let the other one go missing as well.

So what’s the new one going to look like?

If someone were able to give you a new life, under less tragic circumstances, what would you do?

Would you carry on as before?

Would you live for today and screw tomorrow?

Would you stay in the same home?

Would you live in the same town?

Would you keep all your old things?

Would you question everything?

Would you try to find yourself?

Or would you wonder if you are already there but just more confused and displaced than you’ve ever been in your life?

18 comments on “finding myself

  1. vivkell
    February 10, 2013

    I’m really sorry about your loss. Very inspiring blog x

  2. Lauren Lake
    February 10, 2013

    Hi Ben,

    I came across your profile through mutual friends and my other half knew your wife I believe he went to school or maybe even college with her. I remember him telling me about the fatal accident that robbed you of your beautiful wife and your little boy of his mum and my partner (Barry Keogh) was completely taken a back. Through a friend I noticed she had liked your page and so I too found myself reading over the blogs and how you are trying to re build your life and carry on without your love.

    To digress I lost my Mum 3 years ago to breast cancer aged 53 and all though my grief is that of an entirely different one I can sympathise entirely with the utter feeling of sheer loss and emptiness.

    I think your page is a remarkable testament to you and what a wonderful example you are setting to your 2 year old.My Mum remains very heavily in the forefront of my mind always and I am of course a completely different person to the one I was prior to loosing my Mum. I don’t think anyone can ever give you any advice as to what’s the best way or how do I deal with this.The truth is a part of you died the day your wife took her last breath however,somehow and someway you find an inner strength that you never knew existed.Life has changed forever Theres no denying that but you do smile again and laugh until it hurts even if it seems impossible.

    I am 1 of 4 children and we have all discussed my Mum every single day since the she passed.We make references all the time whether it be happy or sad.Photos of her flood our home and at times are too much to bear and others so very comforting.

    I just want you to know that you are truly an incredible person,you’re doing your son so proud and you’re learning how to do this on your own which certainly wasn’t the intention.My Dad has just celebrated his 60th bday and always refers to the fact he never imagined doing the job of being a parent single handedly and we are all adults but it still overwhelms him now.

    I just felt compelled to write to you and say keep going,keep strong and keep smiling even when you feel like giving up.Memories are bitter sweet but no one can ever take those from you.

    Wishing you all the very best with your articles and I shall certainly be keeping an eye on them.

    You’re guardian angel is right beside you only you just can’t see her.

    With love x

  3. anniy07
    February 10, 2013

    When life throws up that brick wall in your path and you smash into it?….you just got to bob about n tread water for a bit cause there are no answers yet….just pain n doubt n questions n tears n routine n auto-pilot…
    Time needs to pass..for now, just that.

  4. appleve
    February 10, 2013

    Someone once told me that as long you dwell on the past ,you can’t move on towards to a future !! But I just ask myself let me go back there pick up the beautiful memories on it and build that new path for me to walk through again !!.. A lost in life is the most painful thing and not matter’s what others will said ,only the time can be a healing from the outside ,the inside will always be alive ..!!

  5. Paul R
    February 11, 2013

    It’s been just under 10 months since my wife died and while the questions may have been rhetorical I’ll put in my answers that apply to my situation. As I’ve commented before everyone deals with grief differently.
    So what’s the new one going to look like? I don’t think I’ll know for a long time.

    If someone were able to give you a new life, under less tragic circumstances, what would you do? I honestly don’t know. I had a great life with my wife and didn’t want it to change.

    Would you carry on as before? Probably.

    Would you live for today and screw tomorrow? No.

    Would you stay in the same home? Not sure about this. I’m considering a move because of all the memories here, but that is also another reason to stay.

    Would you live in the same town? I like the town I’m in and yes I have considered selling my condo and looking for another place in town.

    Would you keep all your old things? Mine yes. My wife was a “gatherer” and while I have donated or passed on her clothing I still have many, many things that I could give away or sell. I probably will, eventually, but I’m not ready yet.

    Would you question everything? Constantly after the accident.

    Would you try to find yourself? Not yet, I’m working through the grief, but yes I may go back to school or look for a different line of work. I haven’t decided. I do know that I was coasting along in my work life, because I had such a great personal life with my soul mate. Now I may search for a job that I love, instead of one that I can do.

    Or would you wonder if you are already there but just more confused and displaced than you’ve ever been in your life? This is also true, depending on the time of day and what memories I have in my mind at the time.

    And yes there are many times each day that I just say “life sucks” and then try to move on.

  6. sarah
    February 11, 2013

    Dearest Ben

    I’m lying in bed watching the cursor flashing trying to empty my brain of all the thoughts and emotions that have filled it since I started to read your blog tonight. I desperately want to sleep and yet I cannot because the rawness of your pain has once more woken mine from that place deep inside where I try to contain it, squash it and control it so that it doesn’t rise up and overwhelm me again.

    I always thought that no matter what happened it would be my sister and I against the world. Whatever life threw at us we would be able to fight it together once the protection of our parents was inevitably gone. That’s the beauty of unconditional love isn’t it? That no matter how crap we feel about ourselves, however much we feel we could be better at the job we do, however much we feel we could be a better partner, parent, friend etc that person will always love us no matter what our failings are……..They will face life’s adventures with us, they will make us laugh like no other, they will comfort us like no other, they will be our friend, our soulmate our shelter……

    But I lost her…… 5 years ago to cancer. She too left a husband and a 2 year old (daughter). I remember like yesterday, just after she was diagnosed and one of the few times that I saw her truly breakdown, say to me in tears “but I can’t leave them”. Tragically, she, like your beloved wife, had no choice in the matter and likewise we have no choice but to continue living for the legacy they left behind.

    I cannot lie to you Ben – a lot of the time I feel desperately alone – a deep loneliness that is impossible to describe – despite the fact I have a loving husband, 2 wonderful boys and a niece that I cherish and who reminds me more and more of my beautiful sister everyday. Life is not as technicolor as it used to be, the colours are not quite as rich or as vibrant as they once were, the pain is still visible deep in the eyes of those closest to her but there is still everything to live for and much to celebrate.

    Jackson will keep you whole, he will strengthen you when you feel weak, he will share your pain and your grief, he will teach you and he will drive you forwards when you feel like giving up, to face the unknown, to battle the crap and to come out the other side.

    Thank you for writing Ben, for feeling and sharing as you do, for touching people in that sore place and allowing them to feel raw again; from stopping them from falling asleep and forcing them to write a few words when they least expected to….hoping that they might bring some comfort to someone who has ever lost someone they truly loved.


  7. CK.
    February 11, 2013

    I think the best advice I was given in terms of loss is not to make any changes too soon. Some ‘experts’ say 6 months, after 6 months I was barely capable of making any decisions let alone big ones but I think it takes time and you will slowly learn to adapt and know what you want. It is too soon to do that now. Being bereaved you take things minute by minute, then every 10…slowly you get to getting through each day then each week. Cxx.

  8. fancyacoffee
    February 11, 2013

    What a lovely thoughtful man you come across as. I have no doubt that you will find your way and provide your beautiful son with everything he needs. What a beautiful wife too – I’m so sorry you lost her so soon and so suddenly. No words for this really – life has dealt you one hell of a blow. I absolutely agree that it is your mental landscape that needs to heal; and that needs as much time as it needs. Change things only when you are ready – you never know what will ultimately provide comfort.
    I am so pleased to have come across your site as I was searching for a different voice on grief. Life has dealt me and my family one hell of a blow too. Three years ago my beautiful then 15 year old daughter was diagnosed with an adolescent bone cancer. Now at 18 she is coming to the end of her life. They say it’s easier when you know that somebody is going to die; doesn’t feel that way to me. I too am wondering how to go on. Will life be worth living without her? How will I do it? What will life look like? How does one carry all this pain of a life cut down so shortly. What does one do with all this pain. I have absolutely no idea; but guess we are going to find out.
    I too will probably take one minute at a time and I love the comment you made about making sure that you take care of everybody around you too – of giving more than you receive. I have another daughter and for that I feel so blessed. I also think there is a real need to try and plant and nourish something positive. I can see you doing this and so admire you for this.
    I will be watching your steps; and maybe you would like to watch mine. I will be writing about my experiences. Although I am a journalist I have been absolutely unable to write about any of this so far. It’s like I was frozen in pain.
    Your blog has made me feel a tiny bit less alone and inspired me to start writing again. Thank you and give that beautiful child a huge huge hug. So very precious.

  9. EightySixThat
    February 11, 2013

    I’m 27 and honestly I’ve never thought of taking a year to find myself. Maybe I should. For some reason every one keeps reiterating that your twenties are the greatest years ever but why havent I come across them yet?! I feel like I’m in my thirties already having life kick my ass every chance it gets. So what would I do with a new life? I have no idea. B/c change is so scary who knows if I’d have the balls to scrap the old one.

  10. Alex James
    February 12, 2013

    You stand still Ben
    Holding your son who isnt able yet to fathom any of this and for whom there aren’t yet the skills to express himself. He knows mummy is gone …..time is teaching him that it is true but he cannot yet understand the foreverness of it.
    As you try to make some meaning of what is left and struggle to find your way his need is that you are there…… safe
    Stand still for a while, – yes – live as he does in the here and now.
    one step at a time
    Take care

  11. norailondon
    February 12, 2013

    I don’t know. Think I would have been lost. No map would be able to assist.
    I’m sure having children is helpful, forcing a sort of direction, that hopefully, eventually would lead you pack to the path. But I really don’t know.

      February 12, 2013

      Did I just tweet you? Is this totally random or did you already follow the blog?

      • Bill Wright
        February 12, 2013

        So much comforting insight in this post and amongst the comments. I really take heart from the Sarah who said ‘Life is not as technicolor as it used to be, the colours are not quite as rich or as vibrant as they once were’.
        It’s made me feel like I don’t have to feel guilty for thinking that life can never be as sweet without my my pride and joy, my two year old daughter.
        I have a beautiful wife, two amazing other children and I know we’re going to have a great life, so I have felt like I am being melodramatic and selfishly negative when I express this, even though I know those closest to me are not being judgemental.
        I feel a bit more comfortable now with acknowledging what is an undeniable trurth. Life will be great again, just not as great as it was.

        Ben, I followed you on Twitter + FB after your Guardian piece 2nd week of Jan, but only in the last week have I felt the strength to read your blog. I now actively look forward to each of your posts.

        February 12, 2013

        Thanks for sharing that, Bill. It all feels worthwhile when people share their thoughts

      • No, your blog is new to me. Yes, you tweeted me. I followed the link into your blog from Twitter. I live in your area and remember the accident well. And I’m full of admiration of how well you are doing considering what happened to you not that long ago. You are clearly a talented writer too, making this blog quite an inspiration to us all.

  12. Pingback: adversity opportunity | life as a widower

  13. Stephanie
    March 19, 2014

    I know this is an old post, but I had to write, because this is exactly where I am. Realizing that my old life is gone, and the new one is undefined, and can only be written by me. Honestly, I don’t want the dregs of the old life, not without Andrew to share it with. So a new life it will be. New job. New home. New everything. I’m even thinking of taking a few months to travel and “find myself”, as you say. I did it in my 20’s, and although it didn’t do much for me then, it somehow seems like it might be a cathartic way to put some space between where I am now, one month out from my husband’s death, and where I need to be. Wherever that is. Wish me luck, and thank you for blogging.

  14. Sofy Winston
    May 23, 2014

    Would you carry on as before? Not at first no. I threw myself into lots of physical charity things I would never have considered before. As if I ran fast enough I could leave it all behind

    Would you live for today and screw tomorrow? Not exactly but it did stop me sweating the small stuff.

    Would you stay in the same home? I/ we are although I can’t face going back to the house we grew up in.

    Would you live in the same town? I have stayed and in fact now more than a year has passed I feel an over whelming desire to keep the familiar and comfort around me. I’ve allowed my life to become smaller.

    Would you keep all your old things? I have kept all our momentoes, even silly one line emails

    Would you question everything? Absolutely – what is the fucking point!!! everyday and more than once

    Would you try to find yourself? I’m here already but sometimes I do want to lose myself.

    Or would you wonder if you are already there but just more confused and displaced than you’ve ever been in your life? Not confused just profoundly sad.

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