A story of grief by a man and a boy

like this

I’ve been gradually falling into a low mood for several weeks. The word depressed in its clinical sense is wrong, because I am not ill. But in its way of describing a lowered state it perfectly articulates how I’ve been slowly sliding into a sunken place.

My disposition is taking the pleasure out of almost everything. I’m indifferent to things that used to entertain me. My taste buds don’t really distinguish fine food from fast. Exercise neither aches nor rewards. I don’t care if it’s rain or shine. I’m not sleeping but I’m not especially tired. I want to arrange to see friends but I’m irritated when my phone rings. I can barely be bothered to write.

But I have two things that are keeping me focused. One, naturally, is my son. His well-being and ability to draw enjoyment from life means everything to me. He breaks my sadness and puts a smile back ony face.

The other is my unbroken determination to explain how grief can feel. To try to make others understand. To try to help those who already do understand feel like they are not alone.

If I stopped when I fell to my lowest point I wouldn’t be doing the process justice. I’d be rose-tinting something that is often so very grey.

A few days ago I read a comment on Facebook about a TV appearance I made in January. The chap behind the comment saw me on BBC Breakfast and said, ” Strikes me, if you keep dwelling on something, you will never get over it.”

Perhaps he wasn’t aware that my wife had only died two months before the interview. Perhaps he’s been lucky enough to never have to experience the pain of grief. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that grief is a lifetime’s journey, not something that just goes away or that can be placed neatly in a drawer.

His comment didn’t make me cross, though. Instead it fuelled my fire.

It made me want to continue to explain how, when you have been bereaved, you can’t just ‘pull yourself together’.

It made me think that perhaps we should pull ourselves together collectively to try to better understand the complexity of grief.

Perhaps then the bereaved might stand a better chance of being pulled back together with themselves one day.

33 comments on “like this

  1. Vanessa
    June 19, 2013

    It’s a month today since my dad passed away and to hear you say all what I’m thinking i.e. it’s a lifetime journey is refreshing from the ‘it will get better in time’ or the ‘try and smile’ comments. I did read something the other day that I thought was probably pretty accurate. Yes, you will be okay again, but it’s a different kind of okay than the one you were before and the hard part is learning to get there and what it looks like and how much it changes you as a person and also the acceptance that you will change.

    Keep writing, keep telling it as it is and keep being the amazing father that your wife is so proud of x

  2. You’ll get there – feeling better that is; it takes time and to some extent, you don’t ever get over it fully but you learn to live with it without constantly feeling the pain of the loss. My best to you both, Heather

  3. Sue
    June 19, 2013

    If this helps in some way then it has to be right. You do what is right in your eyes for you & your son.
    ten years on and at times I feel this way, no wrong or right way just my way.

  4. Felicity Wilson
    June 19, 2013

    I appreciate the photos of your lovely Desreen. Could you post some more? Such a simply gorgeous part of humanity (but she truly didn’t like little animals?)

  5. lucygrimstone
    June 19, 2013

    Next No day will be my birthday I will be 31 I am dreading it it is a reminder that I will grow old and Lee my husband will never celebrate another birthday he will remain forever 33…I feel guilty for being alive. On the 29th June it would of been our first wedding anniversary and then on the 31st August it will be 1 year since his death and I can honestly say that I feel not that much different to last year when he died, the pain is still there, so very raw. I lie awake at night and think how much I miss him what I do to just see and touch him again just once… the ache I feel knowing I can’t like a craving that can’t be satisfied…. xxx

  6. Michelle
    June 19, 2013

    You will never get over it but you do learn to live with this feeling and when you do have happy times & you will , you enjoy them even more because you really know how precious they are & they mean so much when you have been so sad.
    When my husband died my uncle ( who had lost his wife too) said to me you will be happy again at the time I thought he was mad but it is true .

  7. Belinda
    June 19, 2013

    Totally true for me too!

  8. Nicki Davis
    June 19, 2013

    Thank you !!

  9. Bill Wright
    June 19, 2013

    I’m on a grim downer at the moment and work has stopped being able to distract me from my intense sadness. Every day on the train in to work I feel like I will get off and head home, but know that I will only beat myself up and feel worse for doing it, so I drag my heavy heart into the office.

    Is part of grief’s journey getting to a stage where you don’t think about the person you have lost every day? Right now I am aware when I don’t think about Anni for an hour and even if work, reading, good company etc distracts me for a period, I still feel the weight of the shadow hanging over me, my longing for Anni, devastation that my beautiful, charming, cheeky two year old has been robbed of the life she deserved to live.

    I was at a Dads’ support group last night for bereaved fathers. Only three of us made it this week, the other two guys are 2-3 years down the line, compared to my 5 months. The love they feel for their son and daughter is powerfully clear when they talk, yet they told me they are not sure if they think about them every day anymore.

    It has left me feeling deflated and confused. It doesn’t feel right that at some point in the future I might have a whole day without thinking about Anni, mentioning her to my wife, daughter and son, but what if this is normal? I know that I am unable to sustain this level of morose melancholy for another 50 years, and from what I hear it won’t feel like this ever. But what if part of the deal of not feeling like this forever is having whole days where I don’t think about Anni? I can’t bear the thought of it.

    • Donna
      June 19, 2013

      Bill, I am sorry for your heartbreaking loss. Someone told me that the greiving stage gets worse around 5-7 months and they were not wrong. Me and my family suffered most around this time. I think the numb disbelief maybe rises and you start to come back to a reality that you don’t want to be in. You will never forget your daughter, she will always be there but time I think will help you deal with how you think about her and how much time you will. Read my post below about a box, it may make some sense to you!? I watch my mum and dad suffer without my sister and its hard, but they have slowly rebuilt their lives and they do say they struggle with it sometimes, it would be so easy to hide away, but for their sanity and need for distraction, they carry on and you will too. Maybe not the way you planned but a different way. Good luck XX

      • Bill Wright
        June 20, 2013

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to me Donna, it is very kind. It’s brilliant that you help look after your sister’s twins, it really made my heart swell when I read that. Anni was a two year old twin as well. After getting over the exhaustion of teehing and colic, toddler twins was a magical time. Love to you and yours.

    • Christy
      June 19, 2013

      Bill, the bond you have with your precious child Anni means she is a part of you that cannot be dismissed, not even in death. Perhaps the other members of your support group are not fully articulating, or maybe this is just another way our minds work to protect us from the damaging effects of grief/sorrow/longing.

      Please continue to make a conscious effort to move in a positive direction. Enjoy every moment with your little ones, and find comfort in knowing Anni’s spirit is with you always. My sincere best wishes for you & yours~

      • Bill Wright
        June 20, 2013

        Thanks Christy. I feel like I have been succesfully moving forward since I have been able to manage working f/t again the last month, but now seems like it might be taking its toll trying to keep a lid on my emotions all week. Bit of a wobble right now, but I’ll get back on the horse, Anni wouldn’t want to see her Daddy not trying.

    • J. Shah
      June 19, 2013

      Bill, 120 weeks down the line, I still think about my son every single day. I have found that I get emotional over silly little things much more than I used to…..never been one for blubbering or crying in public.
      His best friend is getting married next month, he was supposed to be the best man and I am in two minds about going to the wedding. I feel sad for myself but the thought that my boy will never experience marriage, fatherhood, etc., makes me sad for him.
      All the best to you and your family.

      • Bill Wright
        June 20, 2013

        I am so glad to hear that you still think about your son every day after over two years, because that is how I feel / know I will be, but a seed of unwanted doubt had been planted, thank you so much for telling me this.

        Good luck with whatever choice you make with regards to your son’s friend’s wedding. I can understand the conflict you must be feeling about wanting to represent your son and being wary of the pain it might cause you to attend. It might be best to not think about it until the week before the wedding and then decide how you feel about it. I’m sure everyone would understand your reasons if you did choose not to go.

    • nornironman
      June 19, 2013

      I’m sorry to hear about your loss. It’s good to hear that you’re able to go to a support group to talk about how you feel. Whilst there are commonalities in how we may feel with grief, everyone’s grief is unique and personal to them – so what you are feeling is ‘normal’ for you but that may not be someone else’s ‘normal’. I think it’s natural to compare where you are to where others further down the line are, and perhaps in some ways that can be a positive (it may give you reassurance or hoope that it is possible to live with your loss) but it also sounds like it’s making things difficult for you to get your head around – it doesn’t feel right for you as you say. Please don’t put pressure upon yourself that you have to feel that way or that you must start taking strides towards it, just take things one day at a time and focus on the here & now. I would imagine that emotionally things must still feel very raw to you.

      Are you able to get any 1 on 1 support from the chair of that support group to talk about how you’re feeling? I’m not sure if you’re based in the UK or not but if you are have you considered using the free 1 on 1 support service offered by Cruse Bereavement Care ( – it may be another option to consider as well as this group that you’re part of. Even if you’re not UK based there is some information and booklets available from the website which may be useful to you.

      Very best wishes.

      (Ben – I hope you don’t mind me posting the link btw)

      • Bill Wright
        June 20, 2013

        Thank you for taking the time to respond to me. I think you make some very good points that I needed to be reminded of, so thank you for that. It is true that we do seek to compare grief, but true that everyone’s grief is different. Even though I knew this, it totally threw me to hear more experienced grievers’ relationship with their sorrow, being different to what I anticipate for me two years down the line. It made me question everything I thought I knew about myself. One day at a time, you are so right about that as well. I am a bit of a planner and have always been guilty of thinking too far ahead. Anni’s death has taught to do this less, but old habits….

        The sleepless night, that over thinking all of this, combined with finding work quite exhausting led to me having a semi meltdown yesterday morning. I ended going home at midday, the first time I have left work early in a month. I’m back today and determined to do at least another month without walking.

        I am now 9 sessions into my bereavement counselling with CRUSE. As you might already know, from the outset I was told that it would be six session course, but my counsellor managed to get this extended to 12. I am now eking out my remaining three dates over the next couple of months. I never walked into these sessions with the expectation of being provided with an antidote for grief, but they have been more beneficial that I expected and I will be upset when I can I have completed my 12th session.

    • Sarah Martin
      June 19, 2013

      Then try not to think about it. Sounds daft I know but just take each day, and know that each day will bring something new. And don’t feel guilt. I think as soon as our bundles are born we feel guilt every day. We need to learn not to. We do our best with what life has given us. Finding our own way to do this is what it’s about. Don’t compare, don’t feel guilt. You know, people say that as a parent you will never have a good night’s sleep again. Well, that’s absolute nonsense. There are so many myths out there – you need to build your own reality, the way you need it. Good luck with that xx

      • Bill Wright
        June 20, 2013

        I can’t disagree with a single word you have said and I’ve told myself most of those things since Anni died, but it really does help to be reminded of these by someone else when the fog descends abd clouds your vision. Thank you.

  10. Ray
    June 19, 2013

    The cliche rings true- the greater the love the greater the loss
    Not strictly a widower but my lovely wife has been in a hospice since 1 March and the illness has robbed her of her mobility and she can’t communicate with me. it has been so painfully to witness her failing health even more so given that she was so fit and active before she fell ill. What keeps me going? The love for my wife and the love for my two sons.
    I can associate with your loss Ben, and you are helping bereaved people with your blogs. Thinking of you and your son. Ray

  11. Donna
    June 19, 2013

    I have posted before, but I lost my sister a year ago now to those that will continue to read this post. I now help look after her 2 yr old twins.
    So many people say time is a healer, you will get over it. Time does slowly heal but you don’t get over it, as someone said above, you learn how to live with it. I said to someone the other day and they said it made sense in a way. I feel I carry the pain around with me always but I keep it in a box now, which sits heavy on my heart but it also keeps it within and helps me to numb the pain to get through each day. Sometimes that box tips over and it all spills out, sometimes the lid is ajar but day by day I manage to keep it closed more. This may sound mad to some but its the only way I can describe it!! You do feel guilty for living, doing normal silly things, eating and laughing. I often think ‘she won’t ever do this’, ‘or see this’ but then try and tell myself that it doesn’t help to think these things. She would be pleased that I am continuing to. But don’t think its wrong to be depressed and don’t be afraid to get medical assistance for a period of time, it just sometimes gives you back the first step of the ladder that you need to climb back up. xx

  12. Sarah Pointer
    June 19, 2013

    Our lives have been shattered into pieces and we have to somehow pick up the pieces and build a new life for ourselves. The only problem is, what was broken was perfect x

  13. Paul R
    June 19, 2013

    I also experience these periods of being down and not really wanting to do anything or having reactions to outside stimulus. It isn’t the numbness I experienced after Laura’s death, but more of a malaise of the spirit. When I realize that’s where I’m at, I use Mindfulness Practice. Many people use it to slow down, but for me it helps bring me back to an even keel.

    Here are some free online mindfulness meditations from UCLA:

    I tried going to a seminar on it once and that wasn’t for me. I like the online meditations because I can use them at any time.

  14. Michaela Turner
    June 19, 2013

    Once again Ben you describe so well the way I feel right now. Thank You xx

  15. El
    June 19, 2013

    Grief cannot be contained within the boundaries of time..
    Emilie x

  16. Louisa
    June 19, 2013

    I love this poem – it kinda says it all about how grief hits you and how irrational it can be – no idea who wrote it but, wow! ……

    Hold me close and go away
    Please visit me and please don’t stay
    Talk to me but please don’t speak
    I need you NOW – come back next week.
    Emotions muddled, needs unknown
    To be with others or on my own?
    To scream out loud? To rant and shout?
    Or hide away and push you out?
    I smile at you – “She’s not that bad”
    I shout at you – “She’s going mad”
    I speak to you – “What do I say?”
    I show my tears – “Quick, walk away”
    It’s not catching, the grief I feel
    I can’t pretend that it’s not real
    I carry on as best I know
    But this pain inside just won’t go.
    So true friends, please, accept the lot
    I shout, I cry, I lose the plot
    I don’t know what I need today
    So hold me close and go away.

  17. Celia Marszal Iannelli
    June 19, 2013

    Louisa, this poem perfect: It’s the way I feel. I am on this grief journey for the second time; my first husband died, and I recovered..(To those out there you do) of course a piece of my heart was broken and chipped away….Now I took a chance and married again, and second husband died of a rare brain disorder..We only had six good years together… would think I would know the drill…I dont….And I have been wounded in the same place for the second time..
    And to Ben and everyone: There is no timetable on grief. I love it when they say, ( thos who have never experienced this) “You gotta get on with your life” Well, what the heck do they think I am doing…..
    This is a great blog….I look forward to reading it.

  18. Audrey Campbell
    June 19, 2013

    Ben, your blog sums up how I feel just now. I go to the gym, work out, but don’t care. I go to work, do a shift but I don’t care (and I used to care so much about my job). I seem to have lost my ‘get up n go’- my mojo!
    Feel like screaming at those who say ‘time’s a great healer’. Rubbish. Im sure statements like this are made by those who have been fortunate not to have loved and lost. what do they know? I’ve been here before, 12 years ago and like Bill I thought about my child every minute of every day. The raw pain may subside but the heartache remains. Now my darling husband has gone (7 months) I’m grieving for them both. I’ve found a new habit – long sighs! All I seem to do.
    Keep blogging Ben. You are helping so many people. May your fire be endlessly fuelled!! Take care x

  19. Lizzy Maddison
    June 19, 2013

    Dear Ben,

    I don’t know if you read French but this was a poem that someone sent to me when my father died and which i find very moving and comforting
    La mort n’est rien.
    Je suis simplement passé dans la pièce d’à côté.
    Je suis moi, tu es toi.
    Ce que nous étions l’un pour l’autre, nous le sommes toujours.
    Donne-moi le nom que tu m’as toujours donné.
    Parle-moi comme tu l’as toujours fait.
    N’emploie pas un ton différent.
    Ne prends pas un air solennel ou triste.
    Continue à rire de ce qui nous faisait rire ensemble.
    Prie, souris, pense à moi prie pour moi.
    Que mon nom soit prononcé à la maison comme il l’a toujours été.
    Sans emphase d’aucune sorte et sans trace d’ombre.
    La vie signifie ce qu’elle a toujours signifié.
    Elle reste ce qu’elle a toujours été.
    Le fil n’est pas coupé.
    Pourquoi serais-je hors de ta pensée,
    parce-que je suis simplement hors de ta vue ?
    Je t’attends. Je ne suis pas loin.
    Juste de l’autre côté du chemin.

    I think it is by Charles Péguy.

    • Lizzy Maddison
      June 19, 2013

      HI ben don’t need to publish above but just thought if you read french you might find some comfort in it.

  20. Julia
    June 20, 2013

    When I read the comment that was made on FB about your TV appearance, Ben, I thought – how wonderful that you are bringing up Jackson to be such a different kind of man. A boy who will grow to be sensitive, emotionally able and empathetic. I don’t know if you have come across a book called ‘Raising Boys’ by Stephen Biddulph but it talks about just this kind of thing. I have 2 boys and really want to help them to expressive themselves and deal with all kinds of emotions – the good and the ‘bad’. People are fearful of ‘dwelling’ because they are scared of what emotions will emerge. The fact that you let him feel anger, pain, confusion – all the completely normal feelings after losing his wonderful mother is just brilliant. Although I’m sure there are days when nothing much can feel brilliant. X

  21. Jon
    June 23, 2013

    Hi Ben – am a newcomer to your blog, though not your story. I have not had the type of bereavement experience you have suffered, and as you have said yourself, there really is no such thing as “expert” in this field. However, I do have opinions and thoughts, and, for what it is worth, just wanted to offer my support and wish you strength as you continue through the process of adapting to your new life. I am saddened to read of your recent feelings. I guess this is though a specific stage of that process, please keep your chin up that you will move through this to better feelings and better times, getting some comfort from knowing you will always, always keep the memory and celebration of your wife alive; not only for Jackson, but for you and everyone else. Jon

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