Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

the apprentice

New feelings have taken hold of me this weekend. Untold pain from running up steep hills in the biting cold at a 10K race in Greenwich Park on Saturday morning. An overwhelming urge to laugh and make people laugh on Saturday afternoon. And something quite like happiness today.

Running with new friends and then drinking with old ones on Saturday meant that I spent most of the day away from my son. I missed him terribly and thought about him the whole time. So when I woke up on Sunday and heard him rise soon after me, I rushed to greet him.

He made me laugh immediately. Standing in the hall sporting a new, if accidental, asymmetric off-the-shoulder pyjama look and sodden from an over active night bladder, he was only interested in putting his arm back in his sleeve.

“You’re soaking, Jackson. Let’s get you bathed and changed.”

“No dank you, Daddy.”

Happy as a pig in shit (or perhaps a kid in piss).

Breakfast, second breakfast, train time and then we hit the park where we went to feed the squirrels. I haven’t seen my son so contented, confident or cooperative in weeks. He indulged himself in fun and play for an hour and emitted joy that soothed my soul. For the first time in months I allowed myself to live in the moment and we just had fun. Simple as that.

This playtime paved way for a little friend’s birthday party. Unable to avoid analysing his behaviour whilst in the company of other kids and parents (fuck it, I mean mums) I was worried for a few minutes. While the other children sang songs and passed the parcel, my son’s eyes darted round the room and weighed up his two-parent peers. He looked cross. He seemed confused. My heart sunk.

But then he was suddenly back in the room. The boy he had always been showed up and made me wonder whether he hasn’t actually really changed that much. He didn’t respond that well to the organised fun at the party, but then he never did. He shirked it at his last birthday party when his mum was still alive in favour of some quiet time sitting on a window ledge entertaining himself with his trains. Today he chose to pass on pass the parcel and instead pass his time dancing to the stop-start house beats that accompanied the classic party standard. But that’s him. A true individual, slightly antisocial at times, knows his own mind. Two going on 42. Loving, sensitive, mostly happy, a touch grumpy, won’t be cajoled into doing anything that doesn’t appeal at any particular moment in time. In short, quite like his mum.

I suppose I was in a slightly better mood than I have been for quite a while today. But allowing myself to see my child for what he is rather than torturing myself about how he might feel helped me to chill out and enjoy my day too. Of course he’s sad, of course he’s tortured and of course he’s confused. But I realised this week that his pain comes in waves that appear to last for five or ten minutes before he moves on. But then his pain transfers to me and I cling onto it for hours.

So right now I find myself thinking that if I spend the rest of my day pouring over his five or ten sore minutes he’ll only get to live with a miserable and sullen dad. And he deserves better than that. So while I can’t just switch off those feelings or the sensation of being stabbed in the heart when observing his anguish, perhaps I can try to be more like a child. After all I feel like I’m starting my whole life from scratch anyway, so why not?

It’s said that young children are better than adults at dealing with immediate grief because they are more able to live in the moment. Perhaps they have something to teach us.

My little apprentice is slowly becoming the master.

JBBD Portrait 3 02.04.13

6 comments on “the apprentice

  1. lesley
    April 7, 2013

    Ben this post comes the day after I spent the day with my 7 year old nephew whose dad (my brother ) died last September. I was so happy that he was able to enjoy our time at the park and then the was the most fun we have had since losing john. His being happy made me happy. Every other time I have been with him there have been periods where he has become quiet and has gone into himself. I have then spent hours worrying about how he is dealing with his grief.your post offers such good advice.I need to try to be more like a child and live in the moment rather than analyse the feelings of all those grieving for john and think I can make it all ok for them. I cant do that but then no one can

      April 7, 2013

      I’ve been saying the same thing to people close to me. Don’t try to make it okay because you can’t. And while people stare at me waiting for me to be fine, all I feel is unwelcome pressure.

  2. Paul R
    April 7, 2013

    Thanks for the happy post. Today is one year since Laura’s accident and in another 20 days it will be the anniversary of her death. While I dwell on the past today it was good to read about joy and happiness.

  3. Naomii
    April 7, 2013

    Warming post. x

  4. Trish
    April 8, 2013

    Thanks for todays post. i always read your posts ever since i found your blog. i have never seen your wife but ur writings made me love her so much that i keep on reading how you and your son is doing. today you hav said a great truth that each of us should learn. i myself had learned a lot from my four year old son when i felt distressed and lost. they hav a great power to recover from their pain in their own way. love to you and your son….Desreen must be very proud to hav both of u….and definitely will always be with u through her blessings.

  5. jennifer bonus
    April 8, 2013

    i went away on my first holiday with my little girl since my husband died at times i just wanted to curl up and die myself but i didnt because she needs me more than ever, there were times i went away by myself and cried because i was lost without him. I am back home now but coming in to an empty house filled with total loss but tonight i realised its just her and me now so we are closer than ever and we will be okay well as okay as we can be.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on April 7, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: