Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

missing myself

A few weeks again someone posted a comment on my blog asking me if any part of me missed or mourned the person I used to be before my wife died. I’ve taken my time to answer the question but, having given it some thought, I’ve realised the answer is simple. Yes. Every part of me misses him. Not nearly as much a I miss my wife, but the two are completely interlinked.

Under normal circumstances I would probably have stuck a couple of fingers down my throat and made dramatic gagging noises if someone were to say to me that over time a couple can complete each other and become more like one entity than two. However, as my circumstances have become ‘un-normal’ (made up word, so shoot me) my perspective on relationships has changed too. And so have I. In fact I’m almost unrecognisable to myself.

The funny things is, however, it’s not all negative. I sat down on the bus to write this piece thinking it was going to be full of misery and foreboding. But perhaps the London sunshine is photosynthesising my outlook and making me realise something that hadn’t struck me until my fingers started getting busy on my iPhone on the number 12 through Camberwell.

I’ve suddenly recognised that losing my wife has spurred me on to become the man she wanted me more than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, she really quite liked me the way I was but she always strived for us both to be the very best versions of ourselves possible.

She was the ‘you missed a bit’ type but she would always explain how you might avoid missing a bit next time or suggest resources that could teach you how never to miss a bit again.

But I never miss a bit anymore. I put more effort into our home life than I ever did before she died. I get jobs more quickly and efficiently. I take a problem or a project and attack it from every angle until I have a solution or a resolution.

I’ve started a blog, which is something she’d be encouraging me to do (and stick to) for some time and it’s just been nominated for an award. I’ve run a half marathon and a tough 10K and raised thousands for charity. I’ve found, bought and half decorated a house in the space of three months (the ‘half’ part is killing me but I only moved in on Friday). I’m a more considered parent. I’m father to a toddler who lost his mum just five months ago but who seems to still be “such a happy little boy” according to one of her best friends (Annie, that made me cry by the way).

But I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet or toot my own horn, far from it. In fact, in speaking to so many young widows and widowers I’ve realised that this is just what so many of us do.

We do everything we can to honour our late husbands and wives. We become expanded versions of ourselves despite feeling so incredibly reduced. We put our children first and try to do everything in our power to build a happy and secure future for them.

And we do that because, even though we can no longer seek answers from our partners, we still know one thing. That they would be doing exactly the same as us if things had worked out the other way round.


I rarely do this but I think, given some feedback I’ve had to this piece, it’s important to qualify that I take no consolation from anything I’ve achieved since my wife died, however big or small. I feel completely indifferent to it all. I wish I could be the old me again and I wish my wife were still here to push me to improve. I’m merely attempting to point out that many of the widows and widowers I’ve come into contact with over recent months have achieved so much in the face of adversity. 

Desreen and I taking on the universe for Halloween 2012

Desreen and I taking on the universe for Halloween 2012

19 comments on “missing myself

  1. lisagorman3105
    April 24, 2013

    One of your best yet Ben! Can’t help but be gobsmacked you type this blog on a bloody iphone too. BRAVO!

  2. lisagorman3105
    April 24, 2013

    One of your best yet Ben. BRAVO. Oh and you deserve and award for typing this lot out on an iphone!

  3. Ben Dyke
    April 24, 2013

    Well put! In fact I am not sure there is anything you haven’t articulated well about your journey and that’s why I smile when I read, even the harder bits. It all resonates and its just so cathartic.

    I miss my old self but I also hurt to think losing Hannah has been the most significant thing to make me more the man she deserved! But she ain’t here to benefit. Ouch.

      April 24, 2013

      I wonder whether I’m trying harder now because I want my wife’s views to rub off on my son. Perhaps it’s more selfish than that though. Perhaps part of me wants to think I can still make her proud of me.

  4. Debbie Hoare
    April 24, 2013

    brilliantly put and very true in my case i guess too …although weirdly my husband some years ago in one of those late night conversations stated quite categorically that if he wasn’t here id be fine , well im not entirely ” fine” but i cling on to his
    belief in me every day

  5. menelikcharles
    April 24, 2013

    Its seems losing someone one loves is the most painful way to locate other parts of ourselves. I just rather wish I’d never ‘lost’ my other ‘half’ to be honest.

  6. menelikcharles
    April 24, 2013

    Losing one’s other ‘half’ and finding parts of one self is scant consolation, I find, to be honest with you. Bittersweet is not the same as sweet.

      April 24, 2013

      I agree. It’s no consolation for me either. I’m far from happy with the person I have become. The point I’m trying to make it that I’m amazed by how much people who have lost are able to achieve in honouring their loved ones. Naturally I’d rather be the person I was before though. I’d rather be happy again and to be quite frank, while I recognise I’ve been able to fire through a long list of jobs, I feel no sense of pride in myself for any of them. I actually feel nothing.

      • sarah pointer
        April 24, 2013

        You do these things because you have to. You do things you never had to do before. What hurts so much is that they are not there to say well done x

        April 24, 2013

        Funny you should say that. I miss Dessie not saying well done. I miss her looking at me as if to say, ‘don’t expect a well done from me’ x

  7. Annie
    April 24, 2013

    That was such a good post made me very emotional to read it and I am so pleased that you added the last bit. She only pushed you to improve because she loved you so very much for no other reason and not because she needed you to be any other way. You may be indifferent to achievements and I totaly respect that, but I bet your little boy isn’t indifferent to it and I bet everything you are doing and achieving is making his world a better place. Well done to everything you have achieved.

  8. Zoe
    April 24, 2013

    I hear you on that. 11 years on and I miss the old me more then ever.

  9. Shelly Brown
    April 24, 2013

    Hi Ben. My name is Shelly and i have today been given your link by my friend who lives in France. Obviously i have read the teribble circumstances which led to your wife no longer being able to enjoy a life and i am truly sorry for you and your son…and indeed for her too. Your blog above is like a breath of fresh air to me. I can relate in every way and can honestly say i dont even look the same. (Probably because i chose to dye my hair, drink copious of amounts of alcohol for a year and a half and in general, had no regard for myself!). As you may have guessed, i too was widowed on the 17th june 2011. My husband had an accident on his motorbike 1 mile from our home. I was then 37, we have two boys who were then 12 and 8 and we were together for 15 years. I have not yet come into contact with anyone in the same position as me…being so young and sprightly and all…so to hear you discuss “Missing Me” is just amazing. I miss me, i miss feeling. I miss being a family and i miss being loved by my soulmate. When i try to explain to family and friends “Im not the same person anymore..and dont care to be” they are unable to understand. You see everyone is grieving in different ways and at different stages for different reasons. No one likes change and everyone wants “Shelly” to get back to being “Shelly”. I suppose in their mind im on the road to recovery or even “better” if they see a glimmer of the old me. But that wont ever happen again. I now focus on reinventing myself and the dynamics of family life and am only able to look to the future 6 months at a time. I too like yourself (despite copious amounts of alcohol!) got incredibly busy at times. Before the 17th June I worked full time as a Brain Injury Case Manager, intense work let me tell you! This i could not continue with and so enrolled at college to retrain as an Holistic massage therapist. To cut an incredbly long story short…i qualify at the end of June and plan to work from home so i can be with the kids. Although this is all positive and taking steps to move forward..the point im trying to make is i do it without any real sense of feeling now. Its like ive lost my soul and the essence of who i was has disappeared. Dont get me wrong, i dont need sympathy from anyone who may read this, i just want to make the point that just because our actions seem triumphant..inside we died too. x

  10. Peter
    April 24, 2013

    I don’t think I’ve changed, but then, it’s been less than a month. Our child is 30, so has his own life. I’m partly getting on with what I did before, partly clearing up her bounced Direct Debits, notifications etc and partly doing things slifghtly differently. I’ll go on the cruise she booked, but the cat has to go…

  11. Charlie Proud
    April 24, 2013

    Hi Ben, like us all, I’ve been beyond busy since Gavin died, battling through the constant to do list, getting myself and my two children to a good place (let alone to school in the morning), building my business back up etc. etc. has been epic. In that first year I too felt nothing out of my achievements, it was just a numb process and a seemingly endless mountain to climb. Now three years in, my feeling have shifted enormously, and now I actually do take an enormous sense of pride in what I have achieved, and that feels good. Perhaps it is all part and parcel of that feeling of happiness coming back into my life, and actually feeling that sense of achievement. It’s taken a long time.. but hopefully at some point, you’ll be able to enjoy these things too.

      April 24, 2013

      Thanks Charlie. I’m pleased to hear that. I appreciate that we’re all at different stages and that grief affects us all differently and changes constantly, but it is good to hear that you’re able to feel happiness again. Thank you.

  12. always a mum
    April 25, 2013

    Its amazing what you have done in 5 months, it takes great courage and guts to do just that. I am of the view that although we can’t change what has happened we can make our ‘pain’ count and that helps put things in perspective and make life worth living. Keep thriving!

  13. Kate
    April 25, 2013

    When I was bereaved I remember thinking I would never reclaim my peace of mind nor that general bumbling happiness that you have when there’s nothing truly amiss. I felt robbed of that, robbed of ‘me’, and I longed to have ‘me’ back. I realised that no amount of longing would change what had happened. One day I woke up and I found that my peace of mind had come back. My general bumbling happiness has returned (changed, yes, but there). How it happened, I don’t know – there were no specifics – but certainly it had something to do with placing one foot in front of the other. Which is exactly what you are doing.

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