A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
In the weeks following my wife’s death I was consumed by fear for our son’s future. How would he react? How would I tell him what had happened? Could he grow up happily without her? How would I take care of him when I was finding it so hard to look after myself?
I spoke to a number of sources to help find the answers. In hindsight the idea that I would find actual conclusive answers sounds ridiculous to me. But I guess it’s just a force of habit to expect answers to follow questions. When we get ill we go online and there we can find both the symptoms and the remedies. If we need to know how to cook rice we just grab a recipe book from the shelf and learn how. But my questions about grief have rarely had definitive answers. Just suggestions, maybes and potential outcomes. That’s part of what I think makes grief so hard to deal with in our modern quick-fix society. There are simply no shortcuts or absolute solutions. People can only really give your their views or share stories of their own personal experiences. No one can ever really tell you the future with any confidence, though.
A charity called Winston’s Wish, however, did offer me some great advice. They suggested I encourage my son to release any potential anger caused by the loss of his mum in a controlled environment. The last time I spoke of this he was kicking the shutters on a shop in East Dulwich in a state of confusion caused by seeing a young black woman who must have reminded him a little bit of his mum.
Well yesterday a clumsy little stumble over an invisible obstacle on the kitchen floor saw him bang his lip on his desk, which left him crying for Mummy. Daddy simply wouldn’t do.
“I want my mummy to come back to me. Mummy’s gone away and can’t come back. I want her to come back to meeeeee!”
Once he started he couldn’t stop. He’d been storing it up for a little while and it didn’t really stop all day. I was hurt but totally unsurprised. It’ll be seven months tomorrow since we’ve seen her and I’ve felt exactly the same as him all week.
But it wasn’t just his tears that he needed to release, it was his rage too. Fortunately we were in the perfect place. Yesterday was my goddaughter’s second birthday party in the park. The main game at the event was ‘steal the tail from the lion’ (I’ve made that name up because I don’t know what it’s called), which involves the game’s last winner donning a lion hat and a cloth tail and the other players trying to be named victor by stealing back the tail for themselves. Endless fun for kids and adults alike.
It wasn’t long before Jackson himself was dressed like a miniature feline warrior ready to take on the chase. And how could any winning lion resist a loud roar of celebration? Well he didn’t stop at one. He was roaring all day. In the end I had to take him a little deeper into the park to roar with him in an attempt to get what I saw as his grief rage out of his system because I was afraid he was going to bring on a pregnant friend’s labour.
See I believe we all need a release sometimes. I’ve got my blog. I’ve got a voice and a larger vocabulary than him. I’ve got great family and friends and I can articulate myself to them whenever I wish. Sometimes all a child can do is cry, scream, shout or even roar.
So I say keeping roaring, boy. Daddy’s right here for you whether you’re feeling as tame as a house cat or a wild as the king of the jungle.