A story of grief by a man and a boy

grief cycle

On 22nd December 2012, my son drew this picture on an envelope with a ballpoint pen.


“What’s that, darling?” I asked.

“It Mummy”, he replied.

‘Then it’s a keeper’, I thought to myself.

One day soon we’ll put it in a frame and he’ll always know how she never left his mind in the weeks after she was killed.

It’ll be four months tomorrow since his mummy, my wife, was taken from us so suddenly. Two months ago I imagined that the passing of four months would have changed me more than it has. That time would bring peace and that my mind would sometimes distract itself from the denial, the loneliness, the reflection, the suffering and the shear disbelief that I would never see my wife again. I probably thought that I’d be working my way through a sequence of grief and that I’d be able to pinpoint where I was on the journey from denial to acceptance. But I can’t. And I can’t be expected too either, because that’s just not how grief is.

So when I woke up this morning I saw this picture in my head.

‘Yes’, I thought, ‘it depicts my son’s mummy if he says it does, but it also shows what was going on in his head at the time’.

And it’s what’s going on in mine right now as well.

Two and a half months after he committed his thoughts to paper, I’ve just realised that he’d handed me the most perceptive model of the grief cycle that I have seen to date. A random series of lines and circles with a total lack of structure and uniformity. Strokes that jump from here to there and then back again. A little open space that suddenly reaches a spaghetti junction that has never been mapped. A portrait that shows both beauty and pain. A course that, today more than any other time in the last four months, leaves me here unable to absorb our loss or accept that the person who should be lying next to me now will never lie next to me again.

9 comments on “grief cycle

  1. inkellysworld
    March 9, 2013

    Thinking of you both x

  2. Liz
    March 9, 2013

    Hi Ben,

    I’ve been reading your posts for a while now and have found them full of insight and raw honesty. I’ve wanted to respond before but have never quite known what to say possibly for fear of saying the wrong thing, or the right thing, the wrong way… even now I am not sure if what I am going to say is worth saying but my gut instinct says to say it … so here goes:

    A year ago I suffered a loss that affected me greatly, I was in quite a state and while talking to a friend who is also a life coach, I remember blurting out, sort of unbeknownst to myself, that the idea of my loved one ‘not existing’ anymore was just too much to bear …she responded by saying that she believes that we have a lot of dimensions to us, sometimes we only know the physical and emotional dimension but what about the spiritual, the non-visible, the subconscious, the awareness dimension that we really know so little of but that may possibly exist around us and within us and within those dimensions our loved ones may exist, their energy, their essence, their spirit …on hearing this, a sort of veil lifted from me, I grasped on to this idea and began exploring it further, I began imagining my loved one was with me and this led me down a spiritual path that has helped me greatly…it has been and continues to be an amazing journey that has changed my view of death as being ‘so final’… and has led me to a sort of feeling of peace and acceptance that I am learning about daily…I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you but there was just something about your post that touched me deeply and brought back to me my own pain of feeling that death had made my loved one ‘non-existent’ and that was the part that tore me up each time…Ben, I so hope I have not said the wrong thing…I wish you and Jackson peace and courage on this journey, take care, Liz

  3. dottyhousewife
    March 9, 2013


  4. Paul R
    March 9, 2013

    Ben, I’m six months further down the road than you and while I can’t say that things get better they do change. The pain and confusion becomes less, the laughter more frequent, outside interests begin to grow.

    My wife died last April and by the four month point I had just started getting back to work, granted not at 100 percent, and thinking about finding outside interests. I don’t think it was until month five or six that I started volunteering six hours a week and had joined a community choir. Things were still very confused and I’d still experience grief bursts, but not as frequent as before.

    As I passed various milestones I was always questioning myself. Should I be laughing at that? Or when I signed up on a dating site to see if there were people out there that I might like, should I even be considering dating again? And the big question, that I still haven’t answered, will I ever be able to find someone who I will share such a strong connection with as I did with Laura?

    All that being said, as you and many others have pointed out, my six months difference may be the equivalent of three months for you or a year or more. We each make this journey differently.

    I wish you and Jackson the best and hope your journey doesn’t have too many potholes and bumps along the way.

  5. michaela turner
    March 9, 2013

    I have been following your post for sometime now sometimes I agree totally some times I dont as you and I know so well there is no pattern to grief no right no wrong. It will be two years on 26th April when my beloved Bob left me and our three very young sons gone suddenly like a flick of a switch, life has gone on its had to but I know for sure it will never be the same. I myself dont like tis term of accepting it, I dont want to, I never want to. I am however obviously fully aware of it every second of every day. To say I accept it some how seems that I have agreed to it, strange I know. This kind of loss I feel is like I have lost an arm or a leg and now I have got to learn to live in a whole new way and every thing is so much harder. I have times still when I quite often just want to scream in sheer frustation and anger. I miss him so much he really was my everything. I have however found great comfort in reading comments from people who truly know what you are talking about and how it feels. Wishing you all the best x

  6. bedraggledandkicking
    March 9, 2013

    What a brilliant depiction of grief. My heart goes out to you and your son as the two of you continue to weather what has happened. Though I have been reading your blog for a while, when you wrote that it had only been 4 months, I was surprised. You have been writing so beautifully and prolifically about your loss. To me, this in itself is an incredible accomplishment, to be able to pull out and connect a few lines from the tangles of grief that your son drew. Coming to acceptance of such a loss is so incredibly difficult. When I think of myself, 4 months out from my husband’s death, I felt like I could not see straight. I also did not want to see it, the painful reality. At 6, 7 months, I still felt yanked around by the emotional roller coaster of grief, between denial and acceptance, but there were a few openings in the clouds. It has been 10 months now, and there are better days. But I have concluded that the first year of “grief”, whatever path it takes, is simply “survival”. Take care, thank you for continuing to share your insights, and story.

  7. binjameen
    March 10, 2013

    Hi Ben We woke up to your voice on radio 4 this morning. It gave us some quality time to remember Dessie, and to think of you, Jackson and all the family.

    Yours Ben and Diane Xxx

  8. Sjharron
    April 13, 2013

    Through the eyes of a child… That post brought tears to my eyes xxx

  9. jasoncharlesworthJ
    July 31, 2013

    It’s would have been my 20th wedding anniversary today but Ali, my beautiful wife died from breast Cancer in August last year and its almost a year since she died.
    My hope is that every day becomes a milestone and not a millstone dragging me down. I want my life to be shaped by God helping me to to understand my grief rather than letting it shaping and moulding me.

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