A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
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.
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 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.