Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

egg timer

When people who pluck up the courage to ask me how I feel about my wife’s death, I tell them, ‘I’ve accepted it but I simply can’t absorb it.’

What I mean is that although my brain thinks about the fact she’s dead every waking minute of the day, sometimes the same pink matter plays tricks on me and forgets that it is so.

I’ve never been able to articulate this feeling, this phenomenon, until this week. Then all of a sudden it came to me whilst I was engaged in an email exchange with someone I’ve known for some time but who has recently become a friend, generous with their spirit in so many ways.

I compared this cerebral sensation to an egg timer, a kind of grief mechanism that only releases a few grains of understanding at a time so we don’t become overwhelmed or hysterical about our loss.

I’ve had so many conversations this week that would suggest that this is an appropriate analogy, that years can pass and people’s brains still can’t fully accept their tragic loss.

Friends talk about it manifesting itself in many ways: thinking they see their loved one in the street; reaching for their phone to let them know that they have landed when they take a plane to a foreign destination; turning to share a joke that they know would have made them laugh. They’ve gone, we haven’t seen them for days, weeks, months and then, suddenly, years. But shock, self-protection, hope, God only knows what else, doesn’t allow the reality of the situation to be absorbed into our entire physical and mental being.

It hasn’t happened to me for a while but I felt this familiar feeling so suddenly and intensely just yesterday. My friends have taken me away for a couple of days. I heard one of them say it was like being on a stag do when they arrived. My dark sense of humour, perhaps a side of me that is just trying to be light hearted when my heart feels so heavy, has privately referred to it as a ‘widower’s weekend’. Note the position of the apostrophe being before the s rather than after. I’m the only one. We’re all in our early 30s and I’m sure none of the lads that made it to my stag weekend would have thought this situation even possible as we lived it up in Ibiza just a year and a half ago.

As we arrived at our destination yesterday, I unpacked my bag and settled in.

‘I must text Des’, my brain told me as I reached for my phone. But it was me who closed her account with Vodafone. It was me who had to send the company her death certificate as proof that she was no longer alive. The letter explaining that her contract had been terminated and that there would be no further costs was addressed to me. Yet still I wanted to let her know that I was safe. That she’d love the place where we’re staying. That I was thinking about her. That I already missed her when I’d only been away from home for two hours.

Nearly four months on since her death, I can’t decide what’s worse. The reality that she’s gone, or the empty hope in my subconscious mind created by fact this egg timer can only release its sands through the slowest of streams. The hourglass finds itself locked in time and perhaps I will find that these little grains of understanding will never fully empty from top to bottom.

12 comments on “egg timer

  1. Judy S
    March 2, 2013

    Our brains are so programmed to remember patterns and habits. I still wake up with a start some mornings thinking I need to feed my father (he lived next door to me for years and was bedridden for several years) even though he died 3 years ago. It used to make me sad. Now I choose to think maybe I was dreaming of him. It’s certainly better than when I used to wake up crying.

  2. brightonsinginglessons
    March 2, 2013

    Very very moving indeed – and I still get the urge to call my Mum in exactly the same way, so you are not alone. Thanks for your bravery to put this on a public forum…

  3. Niki L
    March 2, 2013

    My Father died several years ago. He is in my iPhone as ‘Dad’. Whenever my stepmother calls I see ‘Dad’ on my screen & feel a sharp pain. I can’t bring myself to change his name to hers.

    • Laura
      March 5, 2013

      I too still have my Dad’s number in my mobile. 2.5yrs on I can’t bring myself to delete it and honestly, don’t see why I should. I’m sure there are lots of us in the same boat.

  4. Paul R
    March 2, 2013

    One of those Kubler-Ross stages is Acceptance. It is almost a year since Laura died and while intellectually I’ve accepted that she has died, emotionally I haven’t gotten there. In the first six months after her death I traveled more than in the past. In part, because when I was away I could have the feeling that Laura was waiting at home, that when I returned she would be there to great me. Even though intellectually I knew that wasn’t true.

  5. macrothings
    March 2, 2013

    Accepting the fact of our loss is logical, but the love bond remains, and when has love ever been logical…..

  6. lesley
    March 2, 2013

    I have just put my mum on the bus home. My first reaction was to ring my brother John and tell him how the visit went. But John died 25 weeks ago. I still cant accept I will never see or speak to him again. Not a day goes by without something happening that I feel the need to tell him about. On occasions I have sent him text messages. I know it is pointless but sometimes I just cant help myself

  7. Jessie
    March 2, 2013

    So true. Almost every evening, I imagine my hubby is due home from work – time to cook dinner…… and it’s been 16 months since I lost him.

  8. James Webber
    March 3, 2013

    i totally agree. I lost my wife just before Christmas. Some days I imagine that she is at work and when she gets home we will discuss our day together.I used to ring her pointlessly once or twice a day just to hear her voice.

  9. Caroline
    March 3, 2013

    I still have my Grandad’s phone number in my phone almost 15 years after he died. I guess to me, deleting his number is acceptance that he has gone but it also helps keep his memory alive. I dont intend to delete his number – I like it being there and although I dont think about him every day and rarely look at his number it being there is just part of the process.

  10. Hilly
    March 4, 2013

    Hi. Ben died on 25th Jan 2013, aged 35. I’m 34 and our three kids are 3,5, just turned 7. Trying to make the best of a sh1t show. I’m such a positive person and this is totally new territory. I’m used to people beaming at me with pride, joy and mischievous intent. Now all I see is thier horror, sadness, pity and despair at the path ahead of me knowing there is nothing they can do. No one can fix this. I refuse to crumble, Ben would hate us being miserable, I want to have fun for the both of us! But it’s harder than it looks… I tried, I went to a concert, left early, food – even sweets don’t cut it, it’s like all the air has been sucked out of my bubble. I still look the same but my insides seem to have walked off in protest. totally numb. Doing well on the fundraising for Charity though! Kids are little lights, my saving grace all three. I miss Ben, I miss everything that he brought to life’s party.

    Good luck on your journeys.

    • lesley
      March 4, 2013

      Hilly your post sums up what grief does to you so well. I have just lost my mum in law, 26 weeks after losing my brother.the numbness and emptiness are back.but I will live my life as best I can. I willl not let grief be what defines me x

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