Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

old life

Today’s been the hardest day I’ve had in ages.

Not because it was the day that I went back to work and not because I decided to embrace my social life for a short while, but because I spent 12 hours revisiting my old life.

And because I realised that that’s what it is.

My old life.

I can’t get it back.

It’s history.

My old life was incredible. It was full of joy, laughter, amazing people and ridiculous amounts of fun.

But that’s my past, not my present.

I’ve said this at least once before but I’m really not fishing. Actually I imagine I’d get quite cross if any well-wishers responded to this post to say that I’ll be happy again one day and that the laughter that once came so naturally would return.

But I’m honestly not angling.

I’m just being honest and I’m not hoping to be placated.

Today was difficult because, in trying to move forwards, I felt like I was moving backwards. And the place I reached felt tricky, uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

All day I’ve felt feelings that I didn’t expect to feel, especially when all I was doing was treading paths that once felt so familiar.

Three such paths made today feel tough.

The first saw me sitting back at my old desk talking shop and drinking tea, feeling kind of normal but at the same time feeling completely displaced. All of a sudden I missed the toy trains that have driven me slightly crazy for the last few weeks because I wasn’t there with their adorable conductor, my son.

The second saw me covering old ground with old mates. I’ve spent the last few months in a bubble surrounded only by my most immediate friends and family. I’d invite more of the people I love in, but intuitively I know that’s not what my son needs. And as his feelings are all I truly care about right now, then mine must wait. So when two friends who I hadn’t had the opportunity to hang out with for a while treated me to lunch, I took a trip back in time and the journey felt rocky. We all needed to catch up and catching up meant revisiting emotions that I thought I’d already put to bed. But l realised that its way too soon for my feelings to take a rest. The last three months have simply seen me drop an emotional pebble into a lake and now I must watch its impact turn into ever increasing ripples. So if I’m to make all the people who care about me understand how I feel, I’ve still got a long way to go.

The third saw me go for drinks with friends, close, casual and new. Don’t get me wrong, I had a nice time but I also felt like I wasn’t really there. I saw a girl wearing a pair of shoes that my wife also owned and I felt sad that they weren’t adorning her feet. I found myself drinking free drinks in a women’s pop-up shop and I was disappointed that I had no one to buy any of the clothes for. I wanted to talk rubbish about nothing with people who didn’t know anything about my situation but at the same time I only wanted to talk about how much I miss my wife and love my son.

And I wondered, where should I stop?

When do I become a bore?

When does my conversation become too difficult to listen to?

And how the hell am I meant to know what shape my new life is supposed to take when I’d barely had chance to structure my old one?

20 comments on “old life

  1. jennifer bonus
    February 23, 2013

    I know what you mean my old life was very structured and now empty im 36yr and my beloved husband died in july i still wonder why did this happen?? I often wonder where is he now everybody says talk to him he can hear you but i cant hear him!!!!! its exhausting just where do i go now where is my life going to lead me? Noel was my life and my future so what now so many questions and no answers. Thanks for you blog it comforts me.
    Jennifer

  2. Caroline
    February 23, 2013

    As they say, ‘take one day at a time’ your doing really well xx

  3. Roberta Yap Rennie
    February 23, 2013

    sometimes reading your posts are like reading about my life 12 months ago. thank you for sharing your perspective and putting into words the thoughts and feelings i have not been able.

  4. Heather
    February 23, 2013

    I don’t have answers for you. I am just a little behind you on my journey. My fiance was also hit by a car in November.

    I just want to thank you for making this blog. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, it makes me laugh and cry, it brings me a lot of comfort. Since I discovered it, you and your beautiful son are often in my thoughts. The love you have for him, and your wife is so palpable. The way that you talk about Desreen makes me feel a bit in love with her myself. I think it is amazing how you are shining her light into so many lives. I only wish I can do the same for my own love.

    I understand your doubts. I posted a few things on my (and his) facebook page (stories and quotes and pictures), but noone else did, and it is easy to feel like noone wants to hear it. But as long as you want to continue sharing here, I for one will want to read it.

    As for the shape of your future life… it’s hard to say. I think people only consider it when something changes and forces them to re-evaluate. For myself, the future I had planned was a very different shape to the life I’d been living, and now all that has vanished. My circumstances are a little unusual, but my future I have to plan again from scratch. In the meantime I am stumbling from day to day.

    But maybe you don’t have to know in advance what shape you will have. Whatever shape your life takes, your son will be at the heart of it, and that is something wonderful.

    Lots of love to you both. And thank you, again.

    xx

  5. Judy S
    February 23, 2013

    Losing someone you love is full of guilt and anger and sadness. The only thing I can say is that in time it will get to be different. No less sad, just different. Take comfort in the fact you are helping many people, most importantly your sweet son and yourself.

  6. Lucille
    February 23, 2013

    Ben, something old, something new….living is mostly a halfway house of divergent feelings….keep on, keeping on.

  7. Caroline Jordan
    February 23, 2013

    Dear Ben,
    Each time I read you,I think the same thing …your wife was the luckiest woman on earth to have you…

  8. Adele
    February 23, 2013

    I too grieve for my old life and for mum who left us in October 2012, she was 63 I’m 38. I often hear people say that the 3 month mark is when people most struggle and for me this is true. I’m back at work and I have dates in my diary of things to look forward to but nothing about my life is the same. I miss my old life but more so I miss my mum. My friends encourage me to do things and often tell me that my mum wouldn’t want me to be sad and that she would want me to get on with my life but I am sad and I don’t know what my life is anymore. I’ve learnt that some days are better than others and at any one time you never know which one grief will deal you.

    I’ve read your blog over the past few weeks and its made me both smile and cry. I wish both you and your son continued courage x

  9. Lisa
    February 23, 2013

    Life becomes what I describe as a ‘ new normal’ but new normal sucks! I would quite like my old life back with our future and our plans. But like you, I have two fabulous boys who I have to carry on for and I thank my luck stars every day that I have them.
    Wishing you lots of love and hugs and thanks for your blog xxxxx

  10. Michelle
    February 23, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this Ben this is just how I felt some years ago when my husband had died it must be very hard sharing this but thanks x

  11. Cath
    February 23, 2013

    I am not really a religious person but there is a saying that is taken from religious text “Life is changed not ended”….I didnt really get it at the time of losing my Mum because I felt life had ended. Another one ” Its life Jim but not as we know it” Mr Spock to Captain Kirk that equally applied to the loss of my beautiful Mum. We are changed by the loss and have to join a club that we never voluntarily subscribe to. I know losing a parent is expected – there is I believe no hierarchy to loss but I cant begin to imagine what you are living with. Minute by minute hour by hour or day by day… go at your own pace in your own way. Its yours and your little lads journey. No rules no normal. Its what it is. Much love xx

  12. Emilie Adams
    February 23, 2013

    Hi Ben, when I have a bad day I look at my old life from a different perspective: I try and focus on what I have left instead of what I have lost. Remember that Desreen gave you the gift of a new life with your son and some wonderful memories during your 8 years together. Your old life may be history but it is also unforgettable.
    Emilie x

  13. Alison
    February 23, 2013

    It has been nearly 4 years since I lost my husband in a road accident.
    In the ‘early’ days I can remember feeling so alone even when I had my closest family and children near me. However I find it very strange that when I look back and ask myself did i go to this place without him? Or did we buy this together or not? it seems I can’t always pin it down do pre or post loosing shaun, it seems like he is always and always will be there.
    So while I am not in denial that he is no longer here the way I so desperately want him to be, my relationship is still as strong as ever and I still keep making memories with him.
    I am sure you will keep making memories with your wife, just in a different way………

  14. Paul R
    February 23, 2013

    I found work to be very hard to get back to because it indicates an sense of normal that just isn’t there. When it was time to talk about going back, I told my manager that I didn’t know what I wanted to do or if I even wanted to stay with the company. He didn’t press my return and a few days later approached me about a lateral move in the company.

    I’m glad that I did accept the move. My first weeks back were learning the new processes and tasks. I knew the names of the people in my new team, but didn’t really know them. I still interact occasionally with my old team, but I find the new environment helps with getting back on track.

    You may not be in a company large enough for that flexibility. If not, then talk with your manager and your managers manager about references and pointers to positions with another company. Either that or tough it out at work.

    Things do get less bad and eventually I hope they get better. But better is still in my future as well.

  15. Diane Townsend
    February 23, 2013

    Ben, I lost my darling husband very suddenly at home on the 26th May 2010 & since then I too have been lost, not seeming to belong anywhere anymore.Then 8 months after that my best friend of 20 years decided that I was too much of a bother & walked away from me & I have not seen her since.However, the one & only thing that keeps me going & brings me any joy, is my son, Robert. He tried to save his Father that terrible day & since then has been my rock through some of my darkest hours, as well as pursuing his degree & now his Masters as well. People tell you it’s time to move on, but move on to what, I still don’t know. I belong to a support group run by the local hospice & have made some good friends who have had similiar experiences & also gone on to form new relationships as well, however, that’s not for me. Work has helped & people are kind but they do forget your pain but you cannot.x

  16. susan walker
    February 24, 2013

    not only do you lose the love of you life,your heart feels like is been torn out,,you head ransacked…. the future you had planned ,,you had it all mapped out,, all your goals set achieved …20 yrs down the line both of you looking after the grankids,you could see it all …you just filled in the finer details going from day to day.. now your lost ,,not knowing which way to go..now even thinking about tmorow is sometimes to much,,never mind next week ,,month,,,,,,,and how come bad days seems to last so long and good days fly by,,,,
    smiles hugs (for you and jackson )and someone here who wlll always listen ,,, even if you do turn out to be a bore(your words not mine) down the line

  17. Alexandra
    February 24, 2013

    My heart goes out to you but there are, of course, no fixes for what you’re going through. It must be difficult beyond belief to have an indeterminate period ahead of you that is about enduring and surviving. I wish you strength, patience and warmth from friends and family and I hope you and your son will have as many light moments as possible under the circumstances.
    All the best, Alexandra

  18. Indiana Wilson
    March 2, 2013

    Dear Ben,
    I forget how I came across your work, but i’d just like to let you know my thoughts are with you and your family and I wish you the best for the future.Your work is touching and shows true emotion, I can’t begin to imagine how much strength it would take to be able to write to the world about your pain.

    I’m 19 years old and from London, last October I lost my little sister of 15 years old, unfortunately my family did not have the option to talk to the world about it, the world talked about it to us. The press are all over it, and I only dream that my little baby sister is blind in heaven as then she would not see the disgusting nature of some humans when they write about lost ones. It’s so lovely to see that your wife is written about in honor, respect and love.

    The loss of one thing, seems to change all things.
    My love is with you,
    Indiana x

  19. Pingback: adversity opportunity | life as a widower

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