Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

it’s unbelievable

Just over two months ago I started writing to begin to explain my experiences of grief. I started to open up about my feelings of loss for my wife and what’s it’s like to care for a grieving toddler. At that moment in time it had been two months since my wife’s death. Back then I painted quite a graphic picture of my emotions (click here to view) to help people to comprehend how grief can be.

It’s now been four months since my wife was killed, so what’s it like now?

Well put quite simply, it’s unbelievable.

I’ve never used that word to describe my grief until now, but that’s probably a symptom of the fact I haven’t been able to believe what’s been going on. And perhaps you can’t un-believe something if you never really believed it in the first place.

Let me explain what I mean.

When I look at photographs of my wife I don’t really get upset. They make me happy. I often lose myself in the pictures and begin to take a trip back to the three dimensional world in which they were taken. I remember our conversations and hear us both laugh. In video footage that focuses on our son dancing and so only captures my wife’s legs, I see her upper body too, her face smiling and her head bouncing from side to side to the beat. I’m back in the moment and we’re a family again. I’m blessed.

So when I put the pictures down, the feelings don’t simply flip from joy to pain. Instead a hangover of happiness lingers for a while. She’s still here. She never left. I’m going to see her again. She’s gone for now but my future, our future, is incomprehensible without her here.

It’s unbelievable.

When my son tells me he wants his mummy, I explain that she’s gone and she can’t come back. But when I tell him, I don’t feel this almighty dark cloud fall over me. Neither his words nor mine stab me in the heart the way I sometimes think they should. I’m just a record on repeat. I’m an automated message. I’m outside looking in. And it’s rarely the worst moment of my day. In fact I’m often almost relieved that we’re both able to spend some time talking about the women we love, that he actually brought her into conversation. But then I think to myself, ‘Shouldn’t that be the most difficult exchange any adult should ever have to have?’, and I suddenly realise that I’m not in my right mind. That it’s not sinking in.

It’s just unbelievable.

And when I lie in bed alone in a way I haven’t done for eight years, being 33, feeling 25 and looking 41, it seems inconceivable that I’m companionless again. It’s like a joke but it’s not funny. I’m just me nearly a decade ago except now I’ve got a child, a furrowed brow and I rarely sleep. But it can’t be so. I just can’t have regressed so far back and yet been catapulted into a scary new life all in one go. My world can’t have shifted from so great to so tough that suddenly.

It’s truly unbelievable.

It’s unfathomable.

It’s unwanted.

It’s too intense to take in.

And then I think what it is to be optimistic. How my glass has always been half full. How I learnt to ask myself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’, a long time ago. How a character trait can’t just disappear overnight. How that trait is mixing itself up with hope and grief and denial and making it impossible for me to see a future entirely without my wife.

And it’s just totally and utterly un-fucking-believable.

13 comments on “it’s unbelievable

  1. Menelik Charles
    March 11, 2013

    Its a sad fact that loss seems to bring out the deepest aspect of our ability to articulate what it is to be human.

  2. Ben you’ve done it again, exactly how I feel, specially the ‘I’m just me nearly a decade ago except now I’ve got a child’ I look at pictures at Lee all the time and think hes not dead just gone for a little while even though I know in my heart hes gone. How do you do it Ben? convey your feelings into words? its truely remarkable…as I read this my eyes welled up and inside I am screaming ‘thats me! thats how I feel!

  3. Paul
    March 11, 2013

    Looking at photographs or watching a sunset and thinking of past sunsets with Laura doesn’t hurt. I think it is because it is looking and remembering with love. It is when I think of the what could have been or what I think life should be, i.e. no accident, with a focus on me that the hurt arises. In some ways it is my selfish desires that result in the hurt.

  4. lucygrimstone
    March 11, 2013

    Ben you have done it again and described how I too am feeling, especially the bit where you say ‘I’m just me nearly a decade ago except now I’ve got a child’

    I often look at photos of Lee and still cant believe hes dead its like my head is telling me hes only gone for a little while even though my heart knows hes gone.

    How do you do it? how do you manage to express exactly how you are feeling onto paper? I am sitting here at my desk at work speechless and in tears thinking ‘Oh my God thats me, thats exactly how I feel’

  5. Karen
    March 11, 2013

    I remember clearly coming from Steve’s grave holding our four year daughters hand and her saying to me, “it’s unbelievable that daddy is dead isn’t it mummy”.

    So I’m guessing from that, I used that word so many times in the first couple of months that it sunk in her brain…..

    Now at nearly 7 months i find my life bizarre more than unbelievable, how can I have gone from single to married to widow in 2.5 months, how can I be a widow with two children who I talk to most days about death! GCSE’s (16 year old son) and hello kitty (5 year old daughter)….


  6. Lucille
    March 11, 2013

    Life, no matter who’s it is and whatever situation you’re facing…is…unbelievable….’cos it’s frustrating, confusing, amazing and exhilarating!!

  7. Sara
    March 11, 2013

    I remember this feeling all too well. It’s so surreal, as if it’s someone else’s life. Even still, nearly 12 years later, I have to say those feelings surface now and again. It’s hard to explain to people, but you did a great job. Thanks for that.

  8. Bill Wright
    March 11, 2013

    What I will take from this, is that I am probably not mad….the first month of grieving for my 2yo daughter, largely consisted of bewilderment and confusion. Constantly wrestling with the ridiculously, absurd notion that my perfect little girl, who made my heart soar and my life complete, was now dead.

    Two months after she died, I now find myself beginning to ‘un-believe’ this fact. I look at photographs of her and marvel at how beautiful, clever, caring, cheeky and hilarious she is/was and it doesn’t make sense that my amazing little girl is not here any more.

    I’d begin to become a little annoyed with my sub conscious for being a little slow on the up take. Thanks to this latest post, I’ve given myself a break from the self chastising. Grief and their bereaved alter egos are not always the most rational of sorts.

  9. Jerry R
    March 11, 2013

    Some of the harder things for me has been, when I see my 5 year old learning and doing new thing’s, I am signing him up for kindergarten, he is expanding his vocabulary daily, and it hurts to know she is not here to see and experience these things with him or with me.

  10. Fiona
    March 11, 2013

    I was driving in my car on my way home today, I was thinking of my husband sitting on the sofa watching tv or on his computer, waiting on me getting home for dinner, then I got a sudden jolt in my stomach like the horrible jolts i got in the early days after his death, and realised that he’s gone, never coming back, this Monday is almost 5 months to the day he died, it is unbelievable and thanks for putting it so well Ben

  11. lesley
    March 11, 2013

    So well put Ben. I cant believe my brother really is gone and that his 2 darling children will grow up without their dad. I cant believe we have managed to get through the 27 weeks since he died.i cant believe we do normal day to day things like going shopping. When I talk about his death I do so without emotion like its just a story I tell.because that is what it feels like – just a story , not a true one either. Like you I feel I have aged ( no I know I have ) but he stays 43. Forever. Its so so hard. And now we are grieving for my mum in law who died just 2 weeks ago. There isnt enough room in my head to grieve for 2 people. And people say oh what a hard time you have had not knowing how unbelievably hard it still is

  12. Karen Wilson
    March 12, 2013

    That’s so true Ben, it’s so un-fucking-believable! All I’ve been thinking of the past couple of days is that if I’d been told this would be the result of all Peter and I had/have together, would I still have gone through with it? Some days I’m so grateful for all that I have especially the kids but other days . . . . it’s too hard!

  13. macrothings
    March 12, 2013

    I feel like a large part of who I was is missing and can’t imagine ever being whole again.

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